Arguing ad argumentam in an ad hominem world

I had a long enough response to Ken’s Honesty and Hypocrisy that I decided to post it as an article instead of a comment. The following all sounds far  more confident and oracular than I feel – please apply “maybe”s and “sorta”s liberally as you read. But it’s the response that comes to mind.

Short version: 

Q: “Do people think I should just be a punching bag because it’s the price you pay for wanting to try and convince people of something like climate change… ?”

A: Yes, I’m afraid so.

1 The expression “tone troll” exists for a reason

2 There are unreasonable people everywhere. As an issue gains prominence, they are attracted to the conversation. Therefore the greater the effect you are having, the more frequently you can be expected to be treated in an unreasonable way

3 There is no shortage of BS. For various reasons much discussed on this site and elsewhere, the playing field is tilted in favor of nonsense in climate-related topics. A key one is that people who actually understand the physical outlines of the problem well are few on the ground, and those willing to engage with the legitimate skeptics still fewer. To make a hockey analogy, professional NHL teams have an “enforcer” role sometimes – a player who is quick to fight and effective in a fight, who doesn’t necessarily skate or shoot or steal the puck very well. The purpose of the role is to intimidate the other team. Encouraging disengagement from people who understand the picture is one of the motivators for the rudeness. But you can’t win this battle by being rude back – there is nobody on the naysayer team who is interested in science and abhors politics to discourage. Hardly anybody at all.

4 The law of shallow metrics applies. When people do not have time or skill or attention to use deep metrics, they default to shallow ones. One buys the laundry detergent one’s mother used, because one has many decisions to make and is not inclined to research detergent alternatives. People base their opinions of climate on shallow metrics, just as climate experts base their opinions on other matters on shallow metrics. For example, I *think* GMOs are safe for consumption but are causing environmental damage in large-scale deployment. But that “thinking” is not the sort of informed thinking I apply to areas of my real expertise; it’s based on the tone and attitudes that most resemble those of people I find reliable in my own experience.

5 That is, democratic decisions are based not on reason but on networks of trust. The key atrocity in Lamar Smith’s attack on Thomas Karl is that the network of trust between the supposedly responsible Republican Party and the supposedly responsible NCDC has broken down to a point where implications of sinister conspiracy appear in Congress and the Wall Street Journal. The problem is not that Smith is crazy (though he may be) nor that Karl is evil (I rather doubt that he is in the Darth Vader league where he is placed by so many). The problem is that Smith’s social metrics have failed so spectacularly as to see or to be able to paint Karl as a politically motivated creature because he does some (rather accessible, straightforward) science.

6 My sixth grade teacher Mrs. Adair once said “It’s not enough to *be* good. You also have to *look* good.” It’s the only thing I remember about Mrs. Adair. I resented her for saying this. It was one of the first times I resisted what an adult told me, which may be why I remember it. But she’s right enough in a political context, because people rarely judge you ad argumentam and usually ad hominem. There are too many things to think about. We simply can’t think about all of them very well. Shortcuts are evil, but they are a necessary evil.

7 “Do people think I should just be a punching bag because it’s the price you pay for wanting to try and convince people of something like climate change… ?” Yes, I’m afraid so. Sort of. As you become more effective you will not be able to keep up with all the outrages. Imagine what Mike Mann is facing. I find that in the cases which you find hardest to ignore, the most effective thing to do is say “I’m too angry/upset/offended to respond effectively.” Sometimes you can ask someone else to stand up for you.

8 It’s a snarky world. Arch mockery is the best strategy for dealing with unfair attacks if you can pull it off well. Again this cannot really scale.

9 But if you become effective in communicating a message people do not want to hear, there is no alternative but to ignore most of the crap that the most ill-raised children fling at you like frustrated chimps. For those of us who want the world to grow up, the very worst possible thing is to fling the crap back.

10 W: “There’s an asymmetry between the two roles for sure. In all the sports where you are only allowed to tackle the ball carrier there is such an asymmetry: when you have the ball, you can’t tackle.” Indeed. What’s more, in this peculiar game, for most spectators the ball is invisible. If you try to tackle you are telling them you haven’t the ball.

11 So what should we do? The issue comes down to scale. While the things we are trying to explain are not that complicated, the initial condition is that most people are inexpert and confused. As the inexpert and confused become engaged, vast amounts of nonsense flow. A serious person trying to make sense of it has considerable difficulty separating the wheat from the chaff.

12 In a functioning society, IPCC and the press would be key to resolving this, but that strategy has apparently not achieved sufficient success.

13 In my opinion, if there’s a foreseeable solution in a (small d) democratic context, it involves the internet. Obviously blogs aren’t sufficient. Indeed the blog medium has surely done far more damage than repair in the climate world. But that’s no reason not to try to use it to help matters. Blogging by the sane and informed can be helpful.

14 Though prominent public lies need quick responses, I think it works best if we preferentially engage with those we find most interesting, rather than those we find most enervating. We should relish real challenges and minimize attention to crap flinging. The people flinging the crap really are trying to distract you from addressing the real challenges. In the end, ClimateBall is the problem, not the solution.

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97 Responses to Arguing ad argumentam in an ad hominem world

  1. Q: “Do people think I should just be a punching bag because it’s the price you pay for wanting to try and convince people of something like climate change… ?”

    A: Yes, I’m afraid so.

    As much as I might hate to admit it, you’re probably right.

  2. anoilman says:

    If you stand up, someone’s going to fling something at you.

  3. Joshua says:

    ==> “1 The expression “tone troll” exists for a reason”

    What is the reason?

    ==> .”Encouraging disengagement from people who understand the picture is one of the motivators for the rudeness. “

    I doubt that motivation is very explanatory. I think that often people express their views aggressively because it serves an deep, identity-protective purpose. I think that the motivation to “intimidate” is too sophisticated or formalized to be realistic.

    Often, at “skeptic” sites, I’m told that my intent is to “distract” or to “intimidate.” Neither is true. My intent is to express my views, and with people who are willing to engage, to explore differing perspectives. I think that the same tribally-tinted misconception occurs in the other directions. “Realists” say that “skeptics” intent is to “de-rail.” I doubt it. I think that they are reinforcing their sense of identity. In part, that is by demonizing or dehumanizing those that they disagree with, which I can see some might think is similar to “intimidate.” But I doubt it. In part, because there is absolutely no evidence that I can see that such attempts to “intimidate” in the blogosphere have any such effect whatsover. Instead, the aggression is met with equal aggression..

  4. If you stand up, someone’s going to fling something at you.

    Yes, but sometimes I get complacent.

  5. Q: “Do people think I should just be a punching bag because it’s the price you pay for wanting to try and convince people of something like climate change… ?”
    A: Yes, I’m afraid so.

    I’m afraid people have to lock their doors. We should still promote a society where people do not steal.

    If America does not get its climate ball/culture war under control, it will be a main reason for its end as a world power. What do the other think, if America would elect the most moderate of the Republican candidates as their president, would the Atlantic alliance end and Europe shift its allegiance to Asia?

  6. mt says:

    “what is the reason” for tone trolls? Because the strategy can be effective.

    http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Tone%20troll

    “I doubt that motivation is very explanatory.”

    It doesn’t motivate the individual behavior, but it contributes to the prominence and acceptability of the behavior in our deranged public discourse. That is, the most egregious rhetorical excesses substitute for reason because people do not restrain perceived political allies from indulging in it.

  7. Magma says:

    Excellent comments, possibly understating one key point: global warming ‘skeptics’ would garner little more attention than creationists if not for the fact that they provide cover for politicians to dismiss risk and block action on reducing GHG emissions. Every year of delay, which in many fields of science is hardly relevant (e.g., whether the interpreted Higgs boson discovery happened in 2012 or 2032 would be of little consequence even to most scientists), compounds the risks we are taking with the climate and ecosphere.

    Not coincidentally, each year that business as usual plays out is money in the bank for fossil fuel interests. It is difficult to avoid the comparison with the actions of tobacco companies: deliberate, cold-blooded PR and disinformation campaigns that led to millions of preventable deaths.

  8. mt says:

    “would the Atlantic alliance end and Europe shift its allegiance to Asia?”

    I think the unraveling of the Atlantic alliance is well under way and likely will proceed even under a relatively benign 2016 election.

    Americans are not concerned about this prospect, and will not notice it until decades after it happens, partly because the Europeans are motivated to pretend it isn’t happening and partly because Americans are so oblivious to the rest of the world. In my opinion it’s a dangerous outcome for the whole world, not just for America. But it’s probably off topic for this site.

  9. Joshua says:

    ==> “Because the strategy can be effective.”

    I know that the definition of the term is. Personally, I think that in application, the application of the term is almost always an aggressive act, based on a very subjective application of criteria (as it the term “troll” more generally).

    Besides..effective at what? How are you measuring the effect?

    ==> “It doesn’t motivate the individual behavior, but it contributes to the prominence and acceptability of the behavior in our deranged public discourse.”

    It’s acceptable because reading someone else be an aggressor with my “enemy” makes me feel good about myself.

    ==> ” That is, the most egregious rhetorical excesses substitute for reason because people do not restrain perceived political allies from indulging in it.”

    I’m having a hard time understanding that. It seems to me like you’re giving an observation of what happens as an explanation for why it happens. The fact that people do not restrain political allies from aggressive behavior doesn’t, it seems to me, speak to whether “intimidation” is a very explanatory motivator. Again, my view is that they don’t restrain political allies from engaging in that behavior because they derive some satisfaction from watching it take place. It makes them feel good about themselves. It makes them feel good about their group. It makes them feel justified for thinking badly of the “other.”

    As a method of intimidation, it seems to me that it doesn’t work. If anything, it anti-works. Who do you know who is intimidated by aggressive behavior in the Internet? I suppose some scientists are intimidated about expressing their views because they see other scientists subjected to aggressive behaviors. But again, I doubt that intimidation-effect is a motivator the explains much in comparison to the identity-satisfaction people derive from being aggressive towards the “other.?

  10. mt says:

    I understand most of where you are coming from but vehemently disagree about the discouragement.

    A graduate student I know was urged by his advisor to stay off the internet with the pig wrestling analogy. “You both get covered in mud but the pig enjoys it”. Most climate scientists try to avoid controversy.

    Thomas Karl slipped up; he said something provocative about the “hiatus”. Pity that’s what his data told him. He should have let others connect the dots.

    How do you suppose he feels about that now? I wonder. Do you suppose a congressional inquiry motivates anyone else to say “well, actually there isn’t that impressive of a hiatus after all”, even if they think so?

    My response to the discouragement was rather than to shut up, to stop trying to do funded science. I have to say trying to do both was actively terrifying.

  11. Magma says:

    Note that my preceding comment implicitly indicates that I consider anthropogenic GHG emissions to be a key cause of global warming/climate change, that AGW/ACC poses serious risks to human and natural environments, and that action on this front is often opposed for mercenary or ideological motives that assign little value to the scientific process. (As well as by perceived self-interest, but that is not unique to contrarians.)

    The combination of the three statements may serve to pigeonhole me, but are not made casually. The first two are based on my own evaluations of a wide range of primary and secondary technical sources as well as some first-hand observations as a geoscientist, and the last on years of careful observation of contrarians in the popular media, blogs and social media forums.

  12. Joshua,
    I certainly get a sense (talking to colleagues) that many simply stay out of these kind of online debates. I don’t know if is specifically because of the supposed intimidation, but certainly many can’t see much point in engaging in discussions that are likely to degenerate. I certainly feel perfectly capable of wrestling with the pigs, but I don’t particularly enjoy it, and I typically later regret it if I do.

  13. Michael 2 says:

    MT writes “For various reasons much discussed on this site and elsewhere, the playing field is tilted in favor of nonsense in climate-related topics.”

    An excellent exposition. The playing field in ANY topic (IMO) is tilted against the expert; few experts exist and millions or billions of non-experts exist. Normally or traditionally the rest would not consider themselves expert but the internet has changed all that. Now everyone can be an expert in anything; just watch some youtube videos. Neither is there anything particularly wrong with doing so; I learned a trick for removing stuck disk brake rotors watching a youtube video (tap the screw holes, drive in a couple of 10 mm bolts to push against the hub and it pops right off).

    The important difference with my example is that it takes only a few minutes of experimentation to see which youtube videos on automotive mechanics are correct and which ones are wrong; but in climate science, the doom isn’t scheduled to arrive until the year 2100. Kinda hard for backyard mechanics to decide who is correct, beyond using the LOTW (*) method.

    * LOTW: Look Out The Window.

  14. > professional NHL teams have an “enforcer” role sometimes

    The new NHL is making this role disappear. Most good teams these days focus on speed. There are no more red line, and stretch passes (from one’s goal line to the opponent’s blue line) are now possible. Also, it’s a very competitive league, where any team can win against any team any single night. Today’s scores resemble more soccer’s scores. There are now an extra penalty to instigators, and power plays score between 20 to 30%. This means that getting into fights can lose game.

    ***

    > In the end, ClimateBall is the problem, not the solution.

    Caricaturing ClimateBall ™ like that is becoming ludicrous. ClimateBall ™ is the common denominator: everyone does it, including the hollier-than-otters. Even Andrew Adams plays ClimateBall ™.

    The real question is not if we play ClimateBall ™, but how to play it.

    ClimateBall ™ denial has to stop.

  15. OPatrick says:

    I decided to post it as an article instead of a comment

    I, for one, am very pleased that you did. If nothing else, it will stand as the clearest possible indication to casual readers of which sites deserve to be read in this debate. I contrast it to what might be read on ‘Climate Sceptic’, but then I may not be entirely neutral in that.

    With regards to the ‘encouraging disengagement’ argument, I would say:
    1) It is not necessarily a conscious motivation, more an evolved strategy. I believe those who use it have discovered that it is successful, and others acquire this behaviour in turn.
    2) It is not the intimidation that is primarily responsible for the disengagement, rather a despair at the state of humanity, which people feel the need to shield themselves from.

  16. mt says:

    I suppose it is a matter of definition. Treating climate discourse as a team sport is very unfortunate and we should resist the tendency, not indulge it.

  17. Joshua says:

    I guess that my point is that while intimidation may be a result to some degree from the aggression of “skeptics,” it’s not likely to be the motivation. Perhaps that’s not all that important a distinction, but If there are people who are intimidated, I don’t think that we can work backwards to conclude that is because of the intent of “skeptics” as compared to other drivers, such as identity defense/aggression. And if there are some who are intimidated, I’d say that there are just as many whose motivation is to continue to counter “skeptics” aggression. Surely, if “skeptics” are following some deliberate strategy based on cause and effect, they’d see that also. There are probably other things, as well, that “skeptics” would do differently if they were following a calculated strategy. I think that the aggression we see is deeply rooted in characteristic behaviors of humans, that don’t follow a clear strategy or logic, and certainly not one that is designed and targeted to have a particular effect on climate policy.

    I doubt that Smith, for example, likely thinks that scientists are going to stop presenting the evidence of risk from continued ACO2 emissions because he’s tracking down emails. Of course that won’t stop happening. He’s motivated by his own beliefs that the evidence is fraudulent and that he’s going to expose that fraud, and by political expediency by virtue of appealing to his constituency.

    Again, part of what informs my opinion on this is reading the same logic on the other side of the climate wars. I find it laughable when “skeptics” are 100% certain that they’re being persecuted for their views, that people are seeking to “silence” “skeptics” in some devious, deliberate and designed plan to prevent them from exploring science by virtue of intimidation, that what motivates “realists” is a desire to “distract,” “disrupt,” “divert,” etc. They think that “realists” are investigating the ties between research and industry merely to shut them up and prevent them from their brilliant scientific efforts. The symmetry is extremely obvious, and I don’t see how it can be so laughably wrong on one side and meaningfully correct on the other side.

    Anders –

    ==> “but certainly many can’t see much point in engaging in discussions that are likely to degenerate”

    Well, sure. But maybe that’s not such a bad position. What is really gained through all the mutual exchange of vitriol in the climate-o-sphere? Who ever changes their minds in these discussions? For all the (embarrassing amount of) time I’ve spent observing the “climate-o-sphere,” I don’t think I’ve hardly seen anyone change their mind on pretty much anything. So what’s the point in getting covered in mud? Many “realists” seem to be convinced that online refutation of “skeptics” has some differential effect on public opinion. I have my doubts. In general, at least in the U.S., people’s views on climate change are pretty easily predicted by ideology. What takes place in the climate-o-sphere, IMO, is an effect of the polarization, not a causal influence on the polarization or a mitigating influence.

  18. Steve Marshall says:

    If I may reach back to my previous life and quote the first principle of war:

    “Selection and maintenance of the aim.”

    This is a good principle, all too often poorly applied by the military themselves. The thing is what is your actual aim in contributing to the debate? Is it the right aim? If it isn’t then decide on a better one or stop. If you have decided on the right aim what must you do to maintain it? Communicate clearly, base your arguments on what you know you can defend, keep the initiative by not dancing to your opposition’s tune; so don’t get angry when provoked or if you do, don’t let it show because…..

    From Soviet military doctrine, “reinforce success”. In otherwise don’t waste your time on lost causes trying to convince those whose view has been made up. In all that you communicate keep in mind your actual target audience, even if it is a rebuttal on an opponents site or comment don’t try and impress him because you won’t, his mind is made up; think of the silent reader, it is s/he you must influence.

  19. Treating climate discourse as a team sport is very unfortunate and we should resist the tendency, not indulge it.

    Yes, I agree. It’s one reason I particularly dislike piling on.

    Steve,
    I suspect that that is a variant of ClimateballTM.

  20. > Treating climate discourse as a team sport is very unfortunate and we should resist the tendency, not indulge it.

    Pontificating is boring, and hiding under the “climate discourse” chimera the fact that people play games on climate blogs is yet another ClimateBall ™ move.

  21. Karl Rove strategy #3: Accuse your opponent of your own weakness

    If the mitigation sceptics do A. They will also wrongly accuse us of doing A. For an observer it looks like two groups both accusing each other of A and in most cases the observer will not investigate which of the two claims is true.

    Observer Joshua advices us not to say anything about A any more. Which means that the mitigation sceptics can do B to Z, just claim we do B to Z and no one would be allowed to call them out for their misbehaviour. I am sorry Joshua, I understand it is hard and takes time, but there is a moment when you will have to investigate the truthiness of A to Z. Otherwise you will get conned.

  22. Michael 2 says:

    Willard writes “Pontificating is boring”

    Unless it is brief (see above) 😉

  23. Fixation, hatred, cesspit, projection.

    Quite a climate conversation we’re having here.

  24. Joshua says:

    Victor –

    ==> “Observer Joshua advices us not to say anything about A any more. “

    What is A, and where have I advised against saying anything about it any more?

    ==> “…and no one would be allowed to call them out for their misbehaviour.”

    In what way does my advise not to say anything about A (assuming that I’ve done so), translate into you or anyone else not being allowed to do A-Z? Do I have some powers I’m not aware of? I gotta say, this is something else that I frequently see at “skeptic” sites… If a person voiced an opinion it gets translated into others not being “allowed” to do something.

    ==> “but there is a moment when you will have to investigate the truthiness of A to Z. Otherwise you will get conned.”

    What truthiness have I gotten conned about?

  25. Paul & Elder argue against the “but ClimateBall” meme:

    [The public’s] goal should be to recognize fallacies for what they are – the dirty tricks of those who want to gain an advantage. You will withstand their impact more effectively when you know these fallacies inside and out. When you are inoculated against fallacies, your response to them is transformed. You ask key questions. You probe behind the masks, the fronts, the fostered images, the impressive pomp and ceremony. You take charge of your own mind and emotions. You become (increasingly) your own person.

    http://web.archive.org/web/20120510030543/http://www.webster.edu/medialiteracy/journal/FINALKARLROVE.pdf

    H/T VictorV’s post.

    It even talks about a Rovian playbook.

  26. mt says:

    Granted this all is boring pontificating, undefended assertions on my part. I apologized at the outset for that.

    It’s what I think I’ve learned from my experiences in this field, stated without proof W.

    Proof would be a book – this just lays out the thesis. But that isn’t the book I am writing right now. So I just state my position as a position, a statement of my beliefs, not as an argument in their defense.

    If you’re so focused on debate that you assert that collaborative discourse is chimeric, though, we need to have a debate about that.

  27. anoilman says:

    Willard, at times like this I like to look at private islands for sale. (FYI, there are a few in your neck of the woods.)
    http://www.privateislandsonline.com/

    Of course, it reminds me of sea level rise, and snaps me back to reality.

  28. > If you’re so focused […]

    ***

    > I apologized at the outset for that.

    Sorry, but

    ***

    > It’s what I think I’ve learned from my experiences in this field […]

    Look at me:

    ***

    > we need to have a debate about that.

    Since it’s harder to prove a negative existential, you go first.

  29. Joseph says:

    In general, at least in the U.S., people’s views on climate change are pretty easily predicted by ideology.

    In general that’s true but the numbers do shift with time and I don’t think the numbers are set in stone at any given point in time either. I saw this graphic from a Pew poll. How would you explain the 36% of Republicans who think that global warming is a serious problem (with 35% believing it is human caused) or the the 40% of moderate Democrats who don’t think it is a serious problem(with 45% believing it is human caused)? What group are they identifying with? I also have noticed that the numbers do change over time, so that probably means people are changing their minds.

  30. Joseph says:

    oops forgot the graphic and that should be 45% of moderate Democrats think it is not human caused

  31. Joseph says:

    Another poll where maybe you can explain to me who is identifying with what group.

    In contrast to the current goal of Republican leaders in Congress to block EPA regulations on carbon dioxide, half of all Republicans (56%) support regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant, including conservatives (54%). Moderate and liberal Republicans are particularly likely to support the policy (74% and 71% respectively), while only 36% of Tea Party Republicans support regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant.

  32. mt says:

    I like Kloor’s tweet and retweeted it, I’m sure this will drive Eli to distraction.

  33. [W] People are bloody ignorant apes. He rises painfully, goes limping to extreme left, halts, gazes into distance off with his hand screening his eyes, turns, goes to extreme right, gazes into distance. MT watches him, then goes and picks up the boot, peers into it, drops it hastily.

    [MT] Pah! He spits. W moves to center, halts with his back to auditorium.

    [W] Charming post. (He turns, advances to front, halts facing auditorium.) Inspiring prospects. (He turns to MT.) Let’s go.

    [MT] We can’t.

    [W] Why not?

    [MT] We’re waiting for the conversation.

    [W] (despairingly). Ah! (Pause.) You’re sure it was here?

    [MT] What?

    [W] That we were to have it.

  34. mt says:

    Well, finding a respectful example of mutual learning on climate blogs is not too easy. Sadly I admit that. But I have had decent conversations in real life. Honest.

  35. Magma says:

    @ willard: studies show that 97% of climate scientists do not instantly recognize Beckett quotes.

  36. Michael 2 says:

    willard: “Perhaps it’s possible to prove a negative existential”

    Agreed, but it seems to require to exhaust the search space to show that it is not hiding somewhere.

  37. Michael 2 says:

    anoilman “at times like this I like to look at private islands for sale. … Of course, it reminds me of sea level rise, and snaps me back to reality.”

    It doesn’t seem to bother Leonardo DiCaprio, warning against sea level rise while building a resort at sea level.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/05/realestate/an-idea-hits-the-beach.html?_r=0

    http://climatestate.com/2014/09/23/leonardo-dicaprio-warns-un-about-global-warming/

  38. “As the Internet took hold, secondary orality started to sound pretty inadequate. We don’t aurally orate to each other online, after all—we chat, we type, we text. One of the key attributes of orality is its instantaneousness: There’s no delay between utterances, as there would be in a conversation among letter writers or columnizing pundits. Yet online writing often assumes the same instantaneousness. As Ong put it in an interview late in life: Online, “textualized verbal exchange registers psychologically as having the temporal immediacy of oral exchange.” In other words, we process chatty words online (whether on Twitter or Slack or gchat) like we process someone saying them to us in front of us.”

  39. “The new NHL is making this role disappear. ”

    it’s the end of hockey

  40. Ken Fabian says:

    It can be worthwhile exposing and exploring the tactics and strategies in an attempt to vaccinate against the more virilent sorts but I tend towards the view that responsiblity rests with those in positions of power, trust and responsibility and the tone of blog debates reflect the failures of those in such positions to act responsibly – ie seek to be well informed and think critically and communicating it. Electorates demand on the basis of what electorate knows and media, politicians, corporate and community leaders feed views to the electorate more than they like to admit even as they claim to be reflecting community sentiment

    I think the most potent fear is of loss of livelihood and that is a fear that too easily takes people across lines of responsibility and ethics; climate problem requires or appears to require economic sacrifice and businesses don’t want it to be them, their staff don’t want it to be them, their customers don’t want it to be them. Media don’t want to alienate their customers – businesses that advertise. Politicians don’t want to alienate the businesses that donate or the various peoples who don’t want to bear the burden of costly change. Climate science denial, whether overt or cloaked in lukewarm garb looks like a way to justify doing whatever it takes to conserve and preserve the livelihoods that supports their families. But people who hold positions of trust and responsibility are letting us down by failing to look being those immediate concerns.

  41. Lars Karlsson says:

    In the context of the Lamar vs NOAA business, I noticed that ATTP and Joshua have been active in the comment thread of Judith Curry’s latest atrocity.

    Curry:
    “I’ve heard enough behind the scenes (including discussions with NOAA employees) that I am siding with Rep. Smith on this one.

    The politicization of climate science has gotten extreme. I don’t know where to start in trying to ameliorate this situation, but Congressional oversight and investigation into what is going on in government labs does not seem inappropriate under these circumstances.

    It’s a sad state of affairs that climate science has come to this.”

    The unintended irony is enough to make your head explode.

  42. anoilman says:

    Michael 2 says: “It doesn’t seem to bother Leonardo DiCaprio, warning against sea level rise while building a resort at sea level.”

    Seriously… Ad hominem? That’s your response. You believe that a human has to live like a saint before you’ll believe them? Get real. No wait.. Maybe you should listen to the pope;
    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/sep/23/pope-francis-climate-change-white-house-speech

    No huh…

    I’m tired of the the stupid meme that people can’t exist in our society (or enjoy its benefits) in order to comment on it. We have natives for that, and look how we treat them. Would you listen to them? Nope…

    Everyone who voted out Child Labor enjoyed its benefits up until it vote was taken. Although that didn’t prevent free market loonies and libertarians from complaining about interference to the bitter end. I’m curious but did you send your 7 year old child to factories to fix meat mixing machines? I mean… it is the free market credo and you’d enjoy a better life style, right? Nope… didn’t do that huh?

  43. Michael 2 says:

    Lars Karlsson “The unintended irony is enough to make your head explode.”

    Exploding heads is a left-wing phenomenon (*) therefore I am probably immune.

    * Exploding heads is one of the most frequently mentioned metaphors at Huffington Post.

    * Google “head explode” About 385,000 results

  44. snarkrates says:

    Gee, Michael2, does that mean rightwingers heads implode?

  45. anoilman says:

    Michael 2: A few right wingers were snarking on about ‘progressives’ in an incredibly negative way. Essentially accusing me of being such.

    So I asked if they thought being regressive was better…

    I assume that after they got out their dictionaries they understood the fallacy of their logic.

    In fact Michael 2, your support for libertarian free market ideals makes me wonder if you’re angry that you didn’t get put into a factory as a child. I mean other people (wholly without connection to you) interfered with the free market’s ideal use for you. That’s got to be upsetting. You should have been used up, spent and broken by 30. Someone prevented that from happening.

  46. Michael 2 says:

    anoilman “So I asked if they thought being regressive was better…”

    It’s a label. It means what you want it to mean, and others mean it the way they want to mean it. This is, in my opinion, an example of “doublespeak”, progressive *is* regressive; back to nature is not progress — unless you think it is, then it is, but only for you.

    Any movement from perfect is toward imperfect and the direction of movement is largely irrelevant. This is the fundamental calculus of conservatives: “Change is probably bad”. Humans have developed morality over millions of years and in only ten, change all of it. That isn’t progress. It might also not be regression. It’s just change; often for worse, but that too invokes your personal judgement and my personal judgement.

    “I assume that after they got out their dictionaries they understood the fallacy of their logic.”

    Unlikely. Dictionaries seem not particularly useful with logic.

    “In fact Michael 2, your support for libertarian free market ideals makes me wonder if you’re angry that you didn’t get put into a factory as a child.”

    I will answer your wonder. I am not angry. I had a wonderful childhood out in the desert, a land of canyons and sand dunes. A consequence of this is less dependency, real or imagined, on other people as compared to city dwellers; but with that also less adaptability to city dwelling which I prefer to avoid.

    “I mean other people interfered with the free market’s ideal use for you.”

    Inescapably true starting with my parents, teachers, and circumstances. OR it may be that all of it *is* the free market at work and play. Perhaps you presume to know what the free market intended for me or still intends for me. I apprenticed somewhat in the profession of my father in the realm of electronics and my mother’s father (a Scot) was a pioneer in radio technology. Had my parents worked in factories, then it is nearly certain I would also work in a factory. But they didn’t so I don’t.

    “That’s got to be upsetting.”

    Upsetting is interference and that is socialism. Socialism is upsetting, freedom is merely dangerous.

    “You should have been used up, spent and broken by 30.”

    At the age of 30 I was in the Navy at Pearl Harbor and by work and luck a system programmer on a mainframe computer.

    “Someone prevented that from happening.”

    Thank you for not crediting the government. I suppose that’s “progress”! Many people have come into my life, some advancing me in various ways, some interfering, but even the interference advances me in some ways.

  47. A guest says:

    I would rather not get drawn in here. I am out of my league.

    Please see the “what’s the difference between global warming and climate change” page, at climate.gov. If you see the page I see, you will see one whose approver wants a job in coal.
    For the climate blog “game” to be avoided, we need governmental climate communications that work to inform about the basics of climate change and climate policy. Who would you like to see as NOAA’s climate communications director?

  48. jfchilds says:

    “Q: “Do people think I should just be a punching bag because it’s the price you pay for wanting to try and convince people of something like climate change… ?”

    A: Yes, I’m afraid so.”

    This is the problem with trying to convince people. Trying to convince people to do something is rarely ever something to be taken lightly. It is because, by definition, a person is attempting to change another’s behavior. This cannot be done without taking on some role of authority. And thus it must always come from the sanctimonious. Who likes anybody telling them that they should do things differently?

    Compare to informing people about climate change. Or educating. It simply says, “Want some info? If so, then here is what is going on. You decide what you want to do, if anything.”

    It’s quite remarkable how people respond when they are empowered themselves instead of demeaned by proselytization.

  49. This is the problem with trying to convince people. Trying to convince people to do something is rarely ever something to be taken lightly.

    Hmm, except I didn’t start this with the goal of convincing people to do something. At best, I started this with a goal of convincing people that some of the “science” that people see on blogs is very simply wrong. Given that, they could then make/support whatever decision they would like. I had intended to do that purely by discussing this topic.

    Now, I realise that that was naive and did not (and probably will not) work. However it still doesn’t change that the goal was to actually convince people to do something. The way I see it now is that if I want to seem credible I need to prevent myself from degenerating to the level of those who choose to make ad hominem arguments. Easier said than done though.

  50. Joshua says:

    It’s hard to convince someone about what you think is right by focusing your argument on your view that their current beliefs are erroneous, let alone ludicrous, based on denial of science, or indifferent to the starving of millions of poor children.

    ==> “The way I see it now is that if I want to seem credible I need to prevent myself from degenerating to the level of those who choose to make ad hominem arguments. Easier said than done though.”

    Easier said than done for two reasons. The first is structural: It is simply difficult to affect assessments of your credibility by regulating your use of ad homs. (IMO) particularly in a polarized context,you can pretty much predict how someone’s going to assess your credibility by determining their larger ideological orientation relative to yours. I doubt that for very many people, the operative variable is your use of ad homs. For example, how many “skeptics” assess Judith’s credibility or Ridley’s or Anthony’s on the basis of their use of ad homs? When those folks use ad homs their credibility remains intact, because as the thinking goes, their use of ad homs is justified (because they’re just accurately describing reality).

    Yet they would be very likely to justify deeming you as not credible if you use an ad hom.

    Of course, the second reason is (as you probably were referring to) that it requires discipline to not degenerate into using ad homs.

  51. jfchilds says:

    We all want to be able to convince people. Look at what churches do. The guys standing on the corner with a megaphone preaching of fire and brimstone is out to convince people to go along with him. In his heart of hearts he means well. I’m convinced that the people who knock on my door actually want to see me saved.

    I could try to convince you that nothing needs to be done. It’s trying to convince. That, by its very nature, causes conflict. Why? Because you’ve identified a difference and used that difference a the basis for the interaction. Most of the world hates that.

    My goal in life is to find ways to stop conflict. I know that convincing people that handshakes are better than fists would mean a quick end because it would be me attempting to impose my will and beliefs. Rather than convincing people that the science is wrong, simply putting the correct stuff out there for the interested people to see may not reap short term rewards but will have long term benefits.

    It’s easy to prevent ad hominem. Really. IF the goal is to show that science is wrong then there is no need to attack a person. The science does not say this. The science says this.

    If the goal is to convince others that people are wrong (i.e., this blogger is wrong) then ad hominem is unavoidable.

    It comes down to a choice. Are you attacking the person or explaining the error? The latter does not get blog viewership but provides the information. The former gets loads of viewership and leaves a bad taste in the mouth of a good person.

    Cheers

  52. It’s easy to prevent ad hominem. Really. IF the goal is to show that science is wrong then there is no need to attack a person. The science does not say this. The science says this.

    Hmmm, it’s certainly easy enough to simply point out what the science says and why what someone else has said is not consistent with the evidence. Does this achieve much? Not sure. My suspicion is – in general – no. On the other hand if you really think that it’s easy for scientists who engage publicly about a contentious topic like climate science to not lose their cool and say something that might be regarded as an ad hominen, then you must think that scientists are emotionless automatons. Fortunately, we’re not.

  53. Willard says:

    > It is because, by definition, a person is attempting to change another’s behavior. This cannot be done without taking on some role of authority.

    While this is sometimes true, I don’t think it’s the main relationship, since it requires a “parent” (in transactional analysis’ parlance) talking to a “child” while most ClimateBall ™ exchanges are (or rather should be) among peers:

    As with most games, both enjoy the game so much, completion can result in the relationship deteriorating, such as when a long courtship ends in a disastrous relationship. Throughout the game, an equitable balance needs to be maintained with appropriate reciprocity so that both can travel hopefully. If either gives or tries to take too much, then the other will give up and game fails.

    http://changingminds.org/books/book_reviews/two_step.htm

    ClimateBall ™ is mostly a dance.

  54. jfchilds says:

    “if you really think that it’s easy for scientists who engage publicly about a contentious topic like climate science to not lose their cool and say something that might be regarded as an ad hominen, then you must think that scientists are emotionless automatons. Fortunately, we’re not.”

    Understood. I’ve written that one of the problems with scientists is that they are people. And it’s also the best part about it. They are people.

    Science is impersonal. Science doesn’t have an opinion. It doesn’t care what people do or don’t do. Science never gives subjective opinions.

    Science doesn’t say we need to hold warming under 2 degrees C. Science can tell us expected effects of 2 degree versus 2.5. Science can tell us the expected cost and benefit of holding it to 2.5 or 1.5. At the base, however, is people (including lay and experts) deciding what their individual level of risk is. And science provides projections on the basis of the political policies.

    Politics and science are not a layer cake with climate. They are marble cake. Some science and policy all mixed in without any clear boundaries. If a scientist wants to advocate policy, the scientist enters that realm of politics. With all the benefits and costs. Yes, the heavy cost that comes from it. There is a reason why narcissists dominate politics – they don’t care what others say or think. That’s the world a scientist enters. If a politician enters the science realm, he better prepare for the “results matter more than image” thing.

    If scientists advocate, I there there must be a distinction between science and politics. That means clearly delineating. “The science says that at 4 degrees, the following things will happen. As a person, I believe that this would be disastrous. We know as a fact that CO2 causes temperature increase. Thus I believe that it is necessary to cut emissions to prevent what I and most of my peers think would be disastrous.”

    Mixing policy with science provides fertile grounds for attack. A scientists can be a scientist. A politician can be a politician. When either tries to mix it up, that’s when the heat starts. It takes conscious effort to separate one’s subjective belief from objective fact. Clearly distinguishing the two will go a long way towards insulating oneself from attack. And make it easier to avoid the pratfalls.

    Thank you for hearing me out. I’m really interested in the climate field because I see how climate communication as it has been for the last twenty years has served to divide and alienate. When I look at it, it’s not even a scientific argument for 95% of it.

    The arguments is 95% about policy. What do we do. It’s like “what do we do about ISIS?” Is it worth sending our troops to destroy them? Is it worth collateral damage? All agree ISIS is a problem and unpleasant. But opinions are everywhere as to the cost and benefit of fighting it. There is no right or wrong answer.

    Just like climate. From a scientific point of view, there is no OBJECTIVELY factually correct answer about what to do about climate change. Only subjective opinions. And reasonable minds can differ.

  55. I’m really interested in the climate field because I see how climate communication as it has been for the last twenty years has served to divide and alienate. When I look at it, it’s not even a scientific argument for 95% of it.

    Sure, but it would be interesting to know why you might think this has happened. I have my own views, but would be interested in yours.

    Just like climate. From a scientific point of view, there is no OBJECTIVELY factually correct answer about what to do about climate change. Only subjective opinions. And reasonable minds can differ.

    Sure, but science can allow us to estimate/determine (with uncertainties, of course) what will happen if we do – or don’t do – something. For example, many seem to regard the statement “if we want to minimise the risks associated with climate change, we must reduce our emissions” as a form of advocacy. It’s not really, though. It is precisely what the evidence is telling us.

  56. jfchilds says:

    “I’m really interested in the climate field because I see how climate communication as it has been for the last twenty years has served to divide and alienate. When I look at it, it’s not even a scientific argument for 95% of it.

    Sure, but it would be interesting to know why you might think this has happened.”

    Okay. Because of this:
    “For example, many seem to regard the statement “if we want to minimise the risks associated with climate change, we must reduce our emissions” as a form of advocacy. It’s not really, though.”

    Whether you like it or not, it is a form of advocacy. Here is another statement which, by your definition, is not “advocacy” but is rather “precisely what the evidence is telling us.”

    “Our findings show that if we stay on our current emissions path, the Midwest will likely experience significant economic impacts from climate change.” – http://riskybusiness.org/reports/midwest-report/executive-summary

    This is a statement of exactly what their findings tell them. It’s taken straight from Heartland. Is it advocacy? I would say that it absolutely is. As I would also say that your statement above is advocacy. It suggests a chosen effect, suggests that the effect is a problem, and proposes a solution.

    In fact, it’s exactly what advertisers do. Identify a condition. Tell you it’s a problem. Propose a solution. Look at ANY drug ad and see it.

    Next thing that I bring up frequently with people: the use of the term “the evidence.” As you wrote, “precisely what the evidence is telling us.” Can you imagine those words coming right out of the mouth of a shyster lawyer? The problem is that “the evidence” says all kinds of things. Is there evidence of adverse climate events in the last decade? You bet! Is there evidence that humans are handling climate change as a species well? Yes.

    “The evidence” is entire. It is concrete. It is whole. It leaves no room for counter argument or reasonable inference to the contrary. That’s the problem. The evidence leads itself to different interpretations.

    I’d like to see a different term used. Recognize the limitations – if you don’t point out contrary evidence the other side will and then attack you for leaving it out. It then becomes attack on motivations. Flame war results. People get embittered.

    So I’d suggest that instead of “the evidence” say, “In my opinion, as well as that of the community at large and with obviously some exceptions for those who want proof beyond a reasonable doubt, the weight of the evidence shows x.” Or, “There is, of course, evidence on the other side. While I see it, and recognize it’s worth, I don’t find it to be enough to overcome the rest of the evidence showing precisely this.”

    There you have it. It is longer than “the evidence” but is more precise. And more accurate. It leads to more credibility. It effectively cuts off a main avenue of attack because doing so identifies what is subjective.

    It’s REALLY hard to do. It requires a step outside of ego because when we believe we are right in our core we don’t understand how others can be so foolish. I think that to make steps towards effective climate communications, we have no choice but to see things from the other side and acknowledge them. Even acknowledge validity where there is a chance.

    Then set limits. Want to have an exchange of fact? Let’s go. Opinions? You call me on mine and I’ll call you on yours. Find out where we agree. And move forward with that. It’s amazing how much agreement can be found.

  57. anoilman says:

    M2: Progressive: Or you could use English, and look up the meaning.
    https://www.gwu.edu/~erpapers/teachinger/glossary/progressive-era.cfm

    Nope, can’t see ‘back to nature’ in any of that. Logically, I’d say you’re wrong. Maybe you were thinking of the Klingon definition?

    As always… its been a laugh looking at what you type. I still think you needed to work in a factory instead of complaining about the benefits you personally enjoyed from Progressives.

  58. Whether you like it or not, it is a form of advocacy. Here is another statement which, by your definition, is not “advocacy” but is rather “precisely what the evidence is telling us.”

    The climate change risks come from our emissions. Avoiding them requires reducing our emissions. That’s not advocacy. It’s science. Proposing that we actually do so would be advocacy. So, if a scientist said “we must reduce our emissions because we must minimise these risks”, that would be advoacy. Simply pointing out what we would need to do to avoid them is not advocacy unless you actually propose doing so.

    It suggests a chosen effect, suggests that the effect is a problem, and proposes a solution.

    No, it didn’t. Try reading it again.

    In fact, it’s exactly what advertisers do. Identify a condition. Tell you it’s a problem. Propose a solution. Look at ANY drug ad and see it.

    Yes, but my statement did not propose a solution, or even say anything about whether or not we should do something to minimise the risks. You seem to have made some assumptions based on things I didn’t say. I simply said if, I didn’t say that we should actually do so.

  59. Joshua says:

    jfchilds –

    ==> “I’m really interested in the climate field because I see how climate communication as it has been for the last twenty years has served to divide and alienate. “

    It’s seems to me like you might be describing a questionable causality there. If I’m right, then can you describe how you determine that climate communication divides and alienates? Another possibility is that people who are divided and alienated use climate communication to justify their polarization.

    In fact, I’d say that there’s quite a bit of evidence in support of the latter description.

  60. Willard says:

    > So I’d suggest that instead of “the evidence” say, “In my opinion, as well as that of the community at large and with obviously some exceptions for those who want proof beyond a reasonable doubt, the weight of the evidence shows x.”

    The latter is three lines long, while the former is two words long. The former also implies the latter. Or not, if we distrust the fact/value dichotomy.

    ***

    > It’s REALLY hard to do.

    Those who like me distrust the fact/value dichotomy would argue it’s impossible to do. It’s not what is said that matters, but what is heard, and what is heard is filtered through values.

    Take any drug ad. Hear the values. More importantly, see them in the images:

  61. jfchilds says:

    I will try it this way. I’ll take some liberties with this, but I was to demonstrate (I realize I may be entering “convincing” here!):

    Original: “The climate change risks come from our emissions. Avoiding them requires reducing our emissions”

    Here’s how I put it: “Fact: We are emitting carbon. Fact: increasing carbon in the atmosphere increases global temperature. Fact: increasing temperature affects weather patterns in ways we are not certain, but our understanding of it points to x, y and z. Sure, there are some benefits, which are 1, 2 and 3.

    “To avoid these changes requires either mitigation of the effects of carbon in the atmosphere, removing carbon from the atmosphere, or to stop putting it in the atmosphere.

    “Mitigation of temperature increase could be done for a few billion dollars by putting sulfur aerosols in the stratosphere. Science says that is doable. But science also says that it will cause acid rain and I can direct you to science showing the effects of that.

    “We can try to remove carbon by such things as land use policies (reforestation, etc.) and finding other methods to sequester what is in the atmosphere. Technologically it’s a problem, and I’ll show you the engineering and economic impacts that are forecasted with that. Geoengineering hasn’t been mastered, and comes with economic and political costs.

    “The other option is to stop putting it into the atmosphere and let nature clean up what is there. Science suggests anywhere from a few decades to a couple thousand years to be rid of the anthropogenic component, and I can point you to more information. On the other hand, it will create economic costs, like the sequestration, and global solutions will require some politicking as to how to balance the emissions.

    “This is why there is a meeting in Paris in three weeks. Because the political bodies of the world have decided that the third option is preferable, with some sequestration added in.

    “Unstated option is to maintain status quo. On the one hand, it has less up front costs, but projections suggest economic costs in the future, including moving billions of people inland from a rising ocean. On the other hand, the effects are uncertain and have a whole range of possible effects.

    “So it comes down to risk management. Each person has his own risk tolerance. Some want a lot of proof to move from the status quo. Others require less.

    “If you want my opinion as a person about what I would do, just ask.”

  62. Willard says:

    Thank you so much for your concerns, jf. They still falter on the fact/value dichotomy, which honest brokers usually reject.

    I’d like a rephrasing of this, pretty please with sugar on it:

    The alarmists are horrified by a finding that actually supports the theory because their rhetoric of sea level rise was trumpeted for the last two decades.

    https://conflictresolutionpro.wordpress.com/2015/11/07/antarctic-ice-chaos-in-climate-community-or-just-science-on-the-cutting-edge

    Strawmen may not have such profund mind states, and bogus explanations are bogus.

  63. jfchilds,
    You’ve slightly lost me. I’m no longer quite sure what you’re trying to illustrate. My point was that there are things one can say that are consistent with the evidence, provide information, and do not specifically advocate (either that we actually do something, or what we should do if we do want to do something). You’ve presented something much more complex. Sure, we can go from what the science says, to what we should/could do given that information, but that’s not really what I was getting at.

  64. Willard says:

    Here, AT:

    Unfortunately, the calls of climate doom have become clich[é]. It has become expected that any form of severe weather event will be attributed to the effects of climate change.

    This has led to a polarization of sorts in the US. It has also led to rampant politicization of the issue. The fighting continues as the stakes increase. The stakes increase as time goes on. Agreement becomes more difficult because the stakes have increased.

    https://conflictresolutionpro.wordpress.com/2015/10/20/a-measured-approach-taken-over-time-will-get-further-than-bold-action-not-taken/

    The authority concern is from Junior’s playbook, the polarization concern is from Dan’s, and the advocacy concern comes from Judy’s.

    Just be thankful and move on, or learn your goddam ClimateBall ™ playbooks.

  65. Michael 2 says:

    jfchilds, seeming to be quoting something, wrote “Because the political bodies of the world have decided that the third option is preferable”

    Maybe. What is self evidendent is that the third option is indeed political consequently it is what political bodies are inevitably going to choose. It hardly matters what is the catalyst be it global warming, global cooling, or any of several colorfully named forms of influenza.

  66. Michael 2 says:

    Joshua writes: “Another possibility is that people who are divided and alienated use climate communication to justify their polarization.”

    Agreed, mostly. That people are clustered around a few Attractors or personality types is nearly obvious. Climate (and religion and education and…) is used to identify the boundaries of these groups.

  67. jfchilds says:

    I understand that. I know what you were getting at. When you wrote that avoiding the consequences “requires reducing emissions” I wanted to demonstrate that the statement was advocacy. Science and engineering show other solutions are out there.

    An advocate would say, “If global warming is the greatest threat then immediate reduction in temperature is the foremost thing to do. This requires increasing albedo and this requires sulfur aerosols.” Another advocate would disagree.

    The educator puts forth the facts. You don’t know what I’m getting at because I haven’t stated my own position. I laid out the facts. Your statement that it “requires” emissions reductions is falsifiable because other options exist.

    This is where the attacks come in. It’s why I laid out four options for dealing with the perceived problem, including doing nothing. It was to demonstrate that, no, stopping or slowing emissions is not “required” as a fact. I also wanted to show the main viewpoints.

    The disagreement comes from which of the four options to take. Not the underlying science but the political response. A scientist, I think, should put out all the options. Science is fact. Advocacy is the realm of opinion.

    If you think the best option is slowing emissions, then fine. If it is phrased as “requires reducing emissions” then the phrasing of an opinion as a fact will be problematic and subject you to attack

  68. I understand that. I know what you were getting at. When you wrote that avoiding the consequences “requires reducing emissions” I wanted to demonstrate that the statement was advocacy. Science and engineering show other solutions are out there.

    Careful. Reducing emissions mean “net”. Emitting into the atmosphere and then removing from the atmosphere is a form of emission reduction. So, we can reduce emissions by not using fossil fuels, by capturing and storing the CO2 before it reaches the atmosphere, or by emitting into the atmosphere and then removing some from the atmosphere (a negative emission). Even if we do this via land management, or some other natural process, it’s still us. The only other possibility is some form of geo-engineering, but that too has risks, so I still maintain that the statement if we want to minimise (or, maybe reduce) the risks associated with climate change, we must reduce our emissions is a statement that is consistent with the scientific evidence, and is not a form of advocacy.

  69. jfchilds says:

    Indeed, Willard. I’m not immune. And I think you’ll see that I was reflecting on what Holthaus wrote. I think he had a great point. Tone it down.

  70. Joshua says:

    jfchilds –

    If you get to it, I’m still interested in what evidence you use to attribute causality:

    https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2015/11/04/arguing-ad-argumentam-in-an-ad-hominem-world/#comment-66513

  71. Michael 2 says:

    ATTP writes “The climate change risks come from our emissions. Avoiding them requires reducing our emissions. That’s not advocacy. It’s science.”

    I propose that as you have it structured it is logic. A comes solely from B. To achieve Not A, pursue Not B.

    However, A doesn’t come solely from B. Therefore, Not B does not guarantee Not A.

    Science is measuring the emission component leading to “A”, the part actually produced by “B”. Science neither seeks or avoids “A”. Words such as “risk” ought not to appear anywhere in science. What is a risk to you may well be a benefit to me, therefore it is not a property of “change” but rather a property of “me”.

  72. snarkrates says:

    Unfortunately, It is inevitable that climateball will degenerate into ad hominems because one side deals in evidence while the other has none to present. The denialist’s only defense is to assume that all the evidence against them is fabricated by an evil cabal of leftie-commie-pinko-fag-junkies.

    Now, perhaps the appropriate response for the scientists would be simply to shake their heads sadly or perhaps to point and laugh. However, being human, we will tend to respond “to the man” when the man attacks us on a personal level.

  73. snarkrates says:

    Michael2: “Words such as “risk” ought not to appear anywhere in science.”

    Say what? Dude, do you realize that I am a scientist whose very day job is estimating risks for space vehicles due to on-orbit threats? Just because science is applied doesn’t mean it ceases to be science!

  74. Michael 2 says:

    jfchilds wrote rather a lot, I comment on: “There you have it. It is longer than “the evidence” but is more precise. And more accurate. It leads to more credibility.”

    It is a LOT longer. TLDR; Too Long, Didn’t Read. You will have lost an unknown but probably large portion of your readers. Commercial advertising fits in 15, 30 or 60 seconds blurbs.

    “Climate change sux. Your SUV sux. Here is the cure.”

    Easy peasy, no precision needed; it needs to persuade/convince barely more than 1/2 of any legislature and the public itself is largely irrelevant in any country.

  75. Willard says:

    > I’m not immune. And I think you’ll see that I was reflecting on what Holthaus wrote. I think he had a great point. Tone it down.

    Not only you’re not immune, jf, but you can’t be. That follows from the lack of dichotomy between facts and values. Unless you’re new here, you ought to know that you’re reinventing the wheel.

    The “you’ll see” assumes that I don’t, which is false. Besides, it sounds quite authoritarian, more so when coupled with the order in the final sentence. Holthaus’ point amonts to the rediscovery of the CAGW meme, and makes me feel all lukewarm inside.

    Speaking of which:

    This [Paris] is the antithesis of modern democratic government. It is practically an axiom of political spending, that the benefit should be focused while the costs should be spread out, preferably with the costs to be realized far into the future. This would be the opposite: the benefit will be spread out into the future while costs will be paid up front. The benefits will be qualified and the costs will be quantified. Politics hasn’t worked like this in democracies for a very long time.

    https://conflictresolutionpro.wordpress.com/2015/10/14/the-paris-conference-will-likely-fail-the-reason-is-simple-politics-wont-allow-it/

    Please, do continue to tell AT how he ought to communicate.

  76. Joshua says:

    As someone who occasionally refers to conflict resolution principles and methodology in discussing polarization on climate change, I just want to say that jfchilds professional conflict resolution advice and advocacy don’t seem to reflect the conflict resolution principles I have been referring to.

  77. Joshua says:

    M2 –

    ==> “That people are clustered around a few Attractors or personality types is nearly obvious. Climate (and religion and education and…) is used to identify the boundaries of these groups.”

    Individual cases aside…what people (in general) believe about climate change does a pretty good job of predicting their (ideological) identity boundaries and in most cases tells you more about who people are than what they know about climate science.

    That’s a basic framework that I think needs to be accounted for whenever people propound and advise w/r/t influencing public opinion on the topic. What’s interesting to me is how often I see people propounding and advising without such an accounting.

  78. Willard says:

    > It’s easy to prevent ad hominem.

    This implies that rephrasing sentences starting with “An advocate would […]” and “The educator says […]” is easy.

    Is it?

  79. jfchilds says:

    @Joshua:

    You wrote that “Another possibility is that people who are divided and alienated use climate communication to justify their polarization”

    I think this is huge. One thing the internet has done is allow anybody to find like-minded individuals. For anything. I think much becomes a group mentality and groupthink. Which becomes us versus them. The people involved then further polarize as they get validation and encouragement.

    This is my anecdotal thought.

  80. Willard says:

    More on conflict resolution:

    The Cook Paper was a Logical Fallacy – Consensus Belief does not Mean Truth

    https://conflictresolutionpro.wordpress.com/2015/09/24/climate-scientists-duke-it-out-with-logical-fallacies-about-a-logical-fallacy/

    I’m not sure where C13 says that consensus implies truth. In fact, I’m quite sure they accept that empirical science is falsifiable. I’ll check and report.

    Strawmaning your interlocutor may not be the best way to resolve conflicts.

  81. Michael 2 says:

    Joshua writes “what people (in general) believe about climate change does a pretty good job of predicting their (ideological) identity boundaries and in most cases tells you more about who people are than what they know about climate science.”

    Agreed. That is the substance and conclusion of Dan Kahan’s cultural cognition project. I believe it works as a proxy for identity because climate science is not well defined in most human cultures and therefore can stand in as that proxy.

  82. Joshua says:

    M2 –

    ==> ” believe it works as a proxy for identity because climate science is not well defined in most human cultures and therefore can stand in as that proxy.”

    Do you consider evolutionary science to be similarly poorly defined?

  83. From the horse’s mouth:

    Isn’t science decided by evidence?

    Absolutely! There is a quote by John Reisman that aptly sums up this sentiment: “Science isn’t a democracy. It’s a dictatorship. Evidence does the dictating.” That humans are causing global warming has already been established by many lines of evidence. A number of independent measurements all find a human fingerprint in climate change. Our study establishes that the scientists agree that humans are causing global warming and that their agreement is expressed in the most robust venue for scientific debate – in the peer-reviewed literature.

    Consensus doesn’t prove human-caused global warming. Instead, the body of evidence supporting human-caused global warming has led to a scientific consensus.

    http://theconsensusproject.com/#evidence

  84. anoilman says:

    snarkrates: M2 doesn’t know what science is, nor has he ever done it. I find it funny that he chooses to comment on it though. He spent, 14 years configuring CISCO routers, so he’s not exactly educated;
    https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2014/08/13/some-kudos/#comment-28807

    Yes… risk and risk analysis is pretty much all you do in attempting to evaluate any results.

    My wife is an epidemiologist, and in medicine ‘babies will die’ is pretty much how you attempt to sum up results.

    As an engineer I recently had to evaluate someone else’s digital filters, and while we couldn’t achieve perfection with our lab work, we had to make a somewhat subjective analysis of risk. “Probably won’t cause any serious damage, we’ll just have to monitor the live results closely I guess.” (FYI, this is a rev 1 prototype… flaws have been identified, and we’ll improve things in rev 2. None of the flaws appear critical but the first field test was only partially successful.)

  85. Michael 2 says:

    snarkrates “Say what? Dude, do you realize that I am a scientist whose very day job is estimating risks for space vehicles due to on-orbit threats?”

    I do not realize this. If you wish me to believe that is what you do, you could assert that it is what you do rather than testing my knowledge of what I believe you do. I feel that a scientist will be more precise in language reflecting his precision in thought and action.

    Risk assessment is a method, an art. Using science in your art does not make the art science. “Intelligent design” creationists use science, but the result is not science or even scientific; it is a derivative work, a blend of fact and fiction.

    “Just because science is applied doesn’t mean it ceases to be science!”

    Science is a container, a word that describes knowledge acquired through measurement of physical entitites, and to a certain extent perhaps also extrapolations based on Real Knowledge of Real Things.

    I performed risk assessments in on computer systems in the Navy. I was amazed at how much guesswork is involved. What exactly is the frequency of occurrence of a thing that has never happened? Mathematically it is undefined (zero over zero) but uncommon sense says it will happen eventually, so what is the risk? So I do the best I can and use other people’s published estimates of frequency and cost-per-incident so that my risk assessment is at least somewhat similar to that of others.

    It is similar to and uses probability theory but you must assign probabilities even where theory doesn’t help.

  86. Michael 2 says:

    anoilman “M2… spent 14 years configuring CISCO routers, so he’s not exactly educated”

    Non sequitur. Shall I presume that you are educated and therefore cannot configure a Cisco router? My cite, which I am delighted you remember, speaks to the meticulous accuracy and logic that goes into being able to do such a thing.

    Shall you presume I am NOT educated because of my proficiency at Cisco routers? Indeed you did; but it is not logical. (I mentally render this in Leonard Nimoy’s voice)

  87. Michael 2 says:

    Joshua “Do you consider evolutionary science to be similarly poorly defined?”

    Yes, provided that one uses a similar point in the diffusion of that knowledge. The implication is that a substantial minority of Americans are not *ever* going to fully accept climate science as they also don’t accept evolutionary science; but it is not binary; any particular person knows and accepts some of it especially if you avoid triggering identity clauses (http://www.culturalcognition.net/kahan/)

    Anecdote: I grew up with no religion in my household beyond that of my father being the only god. But in society I was also immersed in the 7 days of creation, Christmas and all that. So while not taught expressly about a 7 day creation, I was familiar with it, part of the background knowledge obtained by immersion and osmosis, so to speak.

    But I also had science training and I loved it. Instead of religion, I had the Life Science Library from the age of 7 on; also Life Nature library.

    Curiously, these two worlds seldom collide unless one forces them into collision, and this is not as easy as one might suppose, they repel each other.

    For me the big moment was sitting on a rock in the mountains and observing that it was composed almost entirely of cone shells about two inches long in a black matrix. I tried chiseling one out and accomplished nothing; the black rock was incredibly hard, possibly harder than the chisel itself. I knew enough science by then to realize that these cone shells at 7 thousand feet elevation were once under water and it was a very, very long time ago. Not only were they under water, they were under a lot of sediment; thousands of feet of sediment whose pressure and heat produced the rock I was sitting on.

    Now THAT is proof, or at least evidence I can rely on.

    The only way to suppose it was created by God was that he created everything, ex-nihilo, complete with the seeming of antiquity, proper dating techniques and everything. But if you go down that road well we might have been created yesterday or maybe we don’t “exist” right now, this very moment.

    But that’s pointless to go down that road, it leads nowhere. So, while I accept the existence of god, I also accept the existence and certainty of antiquity, that seas once covered mountains (they weren’t mountains then), with living things that no longer exist anywhere on Earth. True science and true religion cannot conflict; they are two sides of one coin. Each challenges the other; the science to greater precision and accuracy, religion to cast off some guesswork and assumptions.

  88. “We should relish real challenges and minimize attention to crap flinging. The people flinging the crap really are trying to distract you from addressing the real challenges. In the end, ClimateBall is the problem, not the solution.”

    Exactly right. My hat’s off to the folks that take time to systematically expose the errors in deniers’ claims, but it’s important not to waste scarce resources in crap-returning. As you pointed out on your blog, Michael, every day ~10,000 people become aware of the climate issue for the first time. Far better to raise their awareness and educate than to argue with nitwits.

  89. anoilman says:

    Careful Michael 2, my only dealings with CISCO were face to face with the head of R&D, and way above your pay grade.

    I’m saying that its not exactly science to configure a router. You might like to pretend it is, but it isn’t. It starts with a healthy dose of reading the friendly manual, often written by an engineer. Furthermore thinking with an actor’s voice will not lend you any authority.

    You can presume what you want. That seems to be pretty much all you do in fact.

    I’m an engineer, I’ve never explicitly said what kind, but I do work in oil and gas. I spend a lot of time going through journal articles and patents to understand what my industry is doing, and how to do it better. My role in the company is distinctly different from my title… I’m the scientist. I evaluate the science and technology and try to think up new ways to do things.

  90. Michael 2 says:

    anoilman writes “I’m an engineer, I’ve never explicitly said what kind”

    I believe you have described yourself as an electrical engineer or EE (also known as double-E); an exceptionally challenging and highly respected qualification requiring considerable knowledge of mathematics. I have a foot in that door, just a foot, enough to appreciate the real deal. I had my First Class FCC commercial ticket in the 1970’s. I had to learn what EE’s create.

  91. Joshua says:

    M 2

    ==> “but it is not binary; any particular person knows and accepts some of it especially if you avoid triggering identity clauses ”

    I don’t know what you mean by this. There are people who say that they believe that God created the Earth 10,00 years ago that humans and other animals were created in their present form and that more specifically, humans did not evolve from earlier species,that radio-carbon dating is a flawed process and that dating of geological formations beyond 10,000 years are invalid, etc. Indeed, one of the leading Republican candidates for president thinks that the very theory of evolution was inspired by the devil.

    I don’t see how you could attribute those beliefs to some kind of vague understanding of the science behind the theory of evolution.

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