Guest post: Can we end the antagonistic ‘climate debate’?

This is a guest post by Richard Erskine, who is a regular commenter here and also writes EssaysConcerning. As should be clear, it’s a comment on a recent paper by Amelia Sharman and Candice Howarth that considers why climate scientists and “sceptical” voices participate in the climate debate. Richard’s post starts now.

Guest post: Can we end the antagonistic ‘climate debate’?

Amelia Sharman and Candice Howarth have published a paper “Climate stories: Why do climate scientists and sceptical voices participate in the climate debate?” (Public Understanding of Science, 1-17, 2016; DOI: 10.1177/0963662516632453). This post is an initial reaction to the paper, which I hope is suitably self-reflexive. Note that the paper uses the designations CS (Climate Scientist) and SV (Sceptical Voice)

I have to say that any attempt to try to bring peace and goodwill, whether to Palestine or to the ‘debate’ on Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) should on the face of it command our admiration, even if it runs the risk of being caught in the cross-fire. So please excuse this possibly rash reaction to the paper, and Issues I have with it (see Issues #1 to #3 below).

The paper starts with a rather laboured introduction that tries to characterise scientists …

“… this reflects a desire to uphold the pre-eminence of the positivist scientific tradition as a basis for evidence-based decision making”

and then goes on to observe that:

“… individuals are more likely to pay attention to evidence that supports their own viewpoint (and dismiss the validity of evidence that doesn’t)”

implying this is a tendency of all ‘actors’ in the debate. This all smacked of an underlying viewpoint that the authors did not explicitly declare: relativism.

David Wootton in his recent book “The Invention of Science” is highly critical of philosophers of science such as Shapin and Schaffer, who he quotes from (from their book “Leviathan and the Air-pump”):

“As we come to recognize the conventional and artificial status of our forms of knowing, we put ourselves in a position to realise that it is ourselves and not reality that is responsible for what we know. Knowledge as much as the state is a product of human actions.”

Wootton contradicts this extreme form of relativism:

“My argument has been that responsibility for what we know lies both with ourselves and reality. Science is not like the state, which is entirely of our making … Columbus was not ‘responsible’ for the existence of America, nor Galileo for the moons of Jupiter … Reality has its part to play.”

So, at a trivial level, the paper is implying that all opinions are of equal value and we just need to find common ground, like at marriage counselling.

Issue #1 – This ubiquitous form of relativism is an unstated assumption that undermines the paper.

Nevertheless, the paper does note that the debate on the science is often a ‘surrogate’ debate, and the important one should be in the realm of policies and actions, where values play a bigger role (and where an analysis of feelings and attitudes is more applicable). But its conclusions are rather simplistic, with the graphic showing a not so surprising correlation between those who recognise that AGW is real and those that see policy and action as important!

Let’s not forget what Gavin Schmidt said in his excellent 2013 AGU Stephen Schneider Lecture “What should a climate scientist advocate for?”. He clearly laid out the separation between the “Is” (the Science) and the “Ought” (our values) and the “Should” (the advocacy that arises from applying our values to the science).

He said that as long as the scientist is clear about their values, and does not let these pollute their science, then there is no problem them moving from the laboratory into the council chamber to advocate for actions. As Sherwood Rowland said: “What’s the use of having developed a science well enough to make predictions if, in the end, all we’re willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true?”.

And if people then don’t listen, or won’t listen, what then? Who is going to do the (informed) advocacy that the politicians require? Why exactly did President Lincoln set up the National Academy of Sciences?

Hiding in an ivory tower hoping that the translation of base science into policy will happen without any help from the scientists best able to articulate and qualify the science, is a dangerous illusion on the part of some scientists.

There are many examples of how complex science and policy can be dealt with in a sane and sensible fashion respecting these separations.

The sadly departed, wise and wonderful, Lisa Jardine, when head of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), led a highly successful public consultation on Mitochondrial Replacement Therapy, intended for use on rare disorders.

http://www.hfea.gov.uk/9359.html

The consultation process was designed to clearly separate the science from values. There is a need to ensure everyone understands what the facts are that will underpin their decisions, even while recognising that their values will lead to different conclusions on the policy and ethical questions.

It is perfectly right and valid for a clergyman to express concerns about the ethical implications of such therapies. What is not permissible is to distort the science to misinform people by using “3 parent babies” headlines, to suggest things that are untrue.

In the paper, this line between knowledge and values is blurred to an unhelpful extent.

They also use the designation ‘Climate Scientist’ (CS). I ask, what is a CS? Does it include every discipline known: Meteorlogy; Geology; Marine biology; Climate physics; Paleoclimatology? Atmospheric chemistry; Glaciology; … ?

These all provide pieces in the jigsaw that demonstrate AGW? By effectively treating the goal as some agreement on a notional single question “Is AGW real?”, the authors create a problem, because it is oh so easy to find something to question in any of these disciplines. So what’s the issue?

Issue #2: Failing to distinguish between the areas that are clearly established ‘text-book’ science within each discipline from areas where there is consensus but on-going research, and finally, from leading edge areas that have significant uncertainties remaining.

This is how a Matt Ridley can outrageously ignore the effect of water vapour in the Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity (ECS) despite this being as text book as almost any science one can think of (See Note 5 here ).

If I want to get knowledge on how Greenland might react to a 2C warming I might try to corner Professor Richard Alley who has spent a life-time studying the behaviour of large lumps of ice on this planet of ours. Why would I expect some equivalence of knowledge from someone with superficial knowledge garnered from Google searches and blog comment threads, but has a social network persona as a “SV”?

But the final and most egregious of issues is with the use of the word “Sceptic”.

Scientists by their very nature are sceptics. Why is it that the work of Fourier (1827), Tyndall (1861), Arrhenius (1896), and so it went on, took so long to reach the point where the scientific consensus was formed that AGW was both real and serious.

Indeed in the first 50 years of the 20th Century, work by Angstrom and others helped propagate the belief that there would be a saturation of the greenhouse effect from CO2, and that H2O would swamp the effect of CO2, and also that the Oceans could soak up any increase in atmospheric concentrations of CO2.

Our better understanding of radiative physics and of the carbonate chemistry in the oceans revealed that these beliefs were just that: beliefs not reality.

And when the ice cores confirmed what theory would lead us to expect, as revealed in the record of the ice ages, it became clear that we really did have something to worry about …

“Broeker was foremost in taking the disagreeable news to the public. In 1987 he wrote that we had been treating the greenhouse effect as a ‘cocktail hour curiosity’, but now ‘we must view it as a threat to human beings and wildlife.’ The climate system, was a capricious beats, he said, and we were poking it with a sharp stick.” (From “The Discovery of Global Warming”, Spencer Weart).

Far from rushing to judgment, you could say that scientists were almost glacial in recognising the reality of AGW. But that is unfair. They were displaying the care and scepticism that characterises good science.

But whereas the various disciplines have been developing the details that must be explored (e.g. the nature of that imponderable lump of ice, Antarctica, and how it is responding to warming), they have moved on from the revelation of the 1980s, whereas the so-called ‘SVs’ are scientifically, for the most part, stuck somewhere in the 1920s if not earlier.

Issue #3: SVs are not sceptics for the most part, displaying an obdurate ignorance of text-book science, and a failure to engage in normal scientific processes to truly explore scientific questions (and hence their tendency to question the motives of scientists, their establishments or even the scientific method itself).

In conclusion:

A debate about mitochondrial replacement therapy or action on global warming requires in both cases an agreed basis of science to inform both public debate and policy development. Many policy outcomes are possible based on different values applied to the shared scientific basis.

By conflating evidence, values and policy outcomes, it makes it much harder to reach any kind of positive way forward. This paper does not provide much help in de-conflating these.

The SVs have questioned what is text-book science (e.g. radiative transfer) as a surrogate for their dislike of the implied policy responses.

Instead of engaging on areas of the science where there is indeed a need for further research (isn’t there always?), they continually revisit well established areas. The “CSs” have patiently explained the text book science on many occasions, and there is ample material for those with a genuine desire to learn: this is a space for questioning as a student does (“please explain why saturation is not an issue?”) but not for an arrogant attempt to simply tear up the text books.

The fact that this learning process has failed to happen amongst those who identify themselves as SVs can only put into question their good faith in the so-called debate on global warming.

Thankfully, true scepticism lives on in the scientific community, as part of their day to day work.

Until the so-called SVs demonstrate a desire to acquire the knowledge they need to participate in the real debate we should be having – on how we decarbonise our economy etc. – they will be be increasingly marginalised as bad faith actors in this debate.

CSs might decide not to play, but they can be forgiven for not letting pseudo scientific ‘blog science’ pollute the blogosphere, and have every right to point out errors. No one would be happier than them to be moving on to the “Should”: to the actions we require to address the global warming that is upon us.

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110 Responses to Guest post: Can we end the antagonistic ‘climate debate’?

  1. Richard, thanks for the post.

    I’ll make two comments. One is that I had naively thought (when I started engaging in this topic) that most serious academics accepted the mainstream scientific position (even if they weren’t natural/physical scientists). I was therefore very surprised when I encountered social scientists who seemed to be introducing what seemed to be a false balance; some equivalence between the views of recognised experts, and vocal, non-expert dissenters. It was as if they perceived themselves as outside observers who were going to judge this on the basis of some kind of social science procedure, rather than recognising that there is a difference between the credibility of a large group of experts and a (possibly large) group of non-experts.

    The other point I was going to make relates to this post I wrote some time ago. I sometimes feel that social scientists don’t always define their underlying assumptions when doing this kind of work. For example, it often appears that they assume that the goal of science communication is to convince people, rather than to simply engage the public and policy makers and – hopefully – to help to better inform people about a scientific topic. If people (public/policy makers) choose not to accept the mainstream scientific position, that may not be the fault of science communicators and there may be little that they can do; they’re not trying to market a scientific position, they’re simply trying to provide information about a complex topic.

    It’s certainly my view that science communication is about informing the public and policy makers, not convincing them and, hence, claims that it has failed often misses – IMO – that it’s being judged on the basis of something that was never the intent. It’s not up to scientists to decide if the public should be convinced; that’s up to policy makers who – at the moment – seem much happier with an ill-informed public, than an informed one.

    I’ve, however, struggled sometimes to get the above distinction across to some. It’s possible that I don’t explain it that well, but in some cases (Dan Kahan being one example) I seem to simply annoy the other party who then resorts to insults.

  2. Steve Marshall says:

    A useful post, I like the idea of science, values and advocacy or is-ought-should. People are often surprised at my underlying right-wing views on many things as they tend to assume, given my position on AGW, that I’m a sandal wearing, lentil eating, tree-hugger. From now on I think I’ll try to outline my political and personal values first, before stating my position on the science in order to justify my understanding of what needs to be done.

  3. Jim Hunt says:

    Forgive me if I seem overly antagonistic, but I’d like to take this opportunity to exercise my right to point out errors:

    P.S. I’m certainly not a CS, so I suppose that makes me a sceptical voice?

  4. I suspect there are quite a lot of climate scientists who are primarily interested in public communication of science simply because they find it interesting and enjoy talking about it even if they don’t have strong views on politics or policy. Scientists are not an homogeneous group and are rather varied in their motivations just like anybody else. The difference is that their training gives them better skills than most (but still imperfect) at preventing those motivations from influencing their scientific views.

    I think part of the problem is that “science” has become almost synonymous with “rational”, such that people try to present their views as scientific when they are not based on science, even though they are rational. As a result I think the general population has a rather confused idea of what science actually is.

  5. snarkrates says:

    In part, I think that the relativism we see in social studies of science is a reaction against the overly optimistic positivism of Russell, Whitehead and Schopenhauer. The relativists trumpet that science is a social construction as if this were some sort of revelation and then jump to the utterly irresponsible conclusion that it is equivalent to any other social construct. Relativism only works when the two positions or approaches are not distinguished by their results or efficacy.

    Science happens to be a social construct that works. If the pseudoskpetics don’t like the conclusions of the science, they always have open to them the possibility of developing a better scientific theory. Their utter failure to do so speaks to the weakness of their position.

    As to the antagonism, I am afraid it is irremediable. Scientists are duty bound to counter falsehoods in their area of expertise, and since the facts are all against the pseudoskeptics, they have no recourse but to lie and attack the scientists and indeed science itself.

  6. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:

    Excellent post.


    So, at a trivial level, the paper is implying that all opinions are of equal value and we just need to find common ground, like at marriage counselling.

    But this is not a trivial point. Many strategies, tactics, and intended aims of the climate ‘debate’ flow from this unstated implication. Divorce or re-vamped sex-life, it matters not – neither will change the laws of physics and the fact that the matrimonial house is getting awfully hot inside.

  7. Jim Hunt – I expect, like me, you are an AV (Another Voice)!? 🙂

  8. Yvan Dutil says:

    Relativism is the bread and butter of social sciences. If you remove the relativism, you remove the debate and they loose interest. Any discussion I had with people in social science invariably ended with the sentence «Science in biased.». By training, they must be good and evil in any debate. Here we speak of climate change, but in other group you have any insinuation than Mosanto has done something evil, or nuclear energy is killing everyone will be considered as the truth without any analysis.

  9. Snarkrates – as I understand it (from old friend from Cambridge, a philosopher of science, who is my guide on such matters), the “strong programme” of Shapin et al. has become the orthodoxy in the philosophy of science. Wootton’s book is very much a counter-blast to this orthodoxy. My feeling is, as you have alluded to, that it seems to influence a lot of social science, to be point of being a pervasive assumption. It may be unfair of me, but I got a strong whiff of it from this paper.

  10. Jim Hunt says:

    Richard – I was rather hoping to be classified as a “Surrealist Voice”, but that 2LA is already taken. AV it is!

    My ex wife is a psycho(therapist), who didn’t much care for “marriage counselling”. That possibly explains why I have an unhealthy interest in the psycho(logy) of the climate change “debate”. I suppose psychology should be classified as a “social” science? Be that as it may, I cannot help but wonder what it is that the SVs are all afraid of:

    https://archive.is/syz5k#selection-1151.0-1163.27

    Do you suppose this recent article in Vox has any bearing on the matter?

  11. Bård says:

    CS=climate scientists
    You didn’t define the acronym SV. Sceptical Voices, right?

    I agree there seems to be some false equivalency going on here. But on a deeper level the point may be well worth embracing, although in most practical senses this may be sophistry worth ignoring. Debating and communicating about climate change shouldn’t need discussing too much the philosophy of science.

    It’s my impression, listening to this podcast about that book by Shapin and Schaffer that their relativism isn’t as extreme as one might get the impression of in this post. As historians of science they are interested in the social context and the epistemiological debate of the philosophy of science. Even accepting a strong empiricist philosophy and epistemiology of natural sciences, as I’d think most would, even in social sciences, it wouldn’t do away with the fact that theories are mediated and abstract constructs. They are not imminently knowledgeable without trusting others’ facts and interpretations. That details and facts and various bodies of knowledges certainly may add up, but that the scientist’s self-perception and thinking of her/his own work is largely premised on the social environment etc is still a relevant measure in the history and philosophy, and yes also of a sociology of science.

    You can accept that Newton was 99.9% right about his reasoning of X, yet still ask sociological and philosophical questions about why he might have thought X, just as much as people eagerly seek such explanations henever some “silly character” in the history of science has believed some “wrong” principle.

    How many parts of our knowledge and wisdom can a person ascertain without reliance on 2nd order theories or facts undemonstrable by yourself? If any person questions just one chain in the big network of knowledge, the rest of the scaffold is liable to scepticism. This is not to question any part of well-established science, but to say that the social structure these forces (like SV vs CS) shape the conversation immensely. And I could probably forgive a person for thinking that many CSs are “shouting” a lot of facts unaware of their true rationale/motivations (like probably more self-serving than they may think) for doing so and that they could benefit from engaging in a more equitable, respectful manner towards some of the “sceptic” community.

    @aTTP In line in part with what I’ve been saying above, I think you’re idealising science communication, and not seeing that it also has an agenda. Also, a lot of the science is, as objective it’s methods may be, funded by government and private interests and the subjects chosen aren’t impartial to a wider context of society dealing with the results of those investigations. Furthermore, science communication is not just science reporting by an impartial observer, which I kind of felt you partrayed it as. It seems to be more in the vein of science advocacy, promotion/information. These stereotypes are rife when it comes to science communication to the public: -This is important!/very interesting/weird/fantastic/very promising! Critical science reporting is hard to come by in most news media, and press releases(science communication(!)) typically overstate results, relevancy etc. On a more positive note I do feel that many scientists themselves are cautious and humble while also making their voices heard in a mostly responsible manner about important issues concerning their fields.

  12. “I think you’re idealising science communication, and not seeing that it also has an agenda”

    What is the agenda of a paleontologist engaging in science communication, or that of a string theorist? Some science communication may have an significant agenda, beyond communication of the science, but that doesn’t mean that all science communication has an agenda (even within a policy relevant subject such as climatology).

  13. Bard – I may need sometime to digest your comment (and Wales are playing England at Rugby, which takes priority!), but on your specific point regarding Shapin and Schaffer

    “… that their relativism isn’t as extreme as one might get the impression of in this post”

    You may want to take a look at Wootton responding to criticisms of him that he is fighting straw men or old battles, see his comments at …
    http://philipball.blogspot.co.uk/2015/12/talking-about-talking-about-history.html

    I think his case is strong.

    I wasn’t wanting to get into the philosophy of science per se, but noting the pervasive nature of relativism, and my feeling that the paper in question is infected by it, to a degree.

  14. Bard,

    In line in part with what I’ve been saying above, I think you’re idealising science communication, and not seeing that it also has an agenda.

    Yes, I realise this and I wasn’t trying to suggest that science communication is somehow inherently objective and perfect. However, that doesn’t change (in my view) that much of the social science judgement of it seems to be based on whether or not it promotes some kind of action. Even if it doesn’t, that doesn’t mean that science communication has failed, or that it’s somehow ineffective.

    The point that I’ll stress again is that if you think that science communication is only effective if it somehow convinces people to take action on something, then that would seem to suggest that science communication should ultimately be seen as a marketing exercise. I don’t think that many scientists would see that as acceptable. I certainly don’t.

    Your comment, however, reminded me that I had intended to say that it is quite possible (quite likely really) that I don’t really understand some of the details/subtleties in some of this work. However, I do think that any researcher should be able to discuss the motivation behind their work, their underlying assumptions, something of their method, what their results are and what they’ve concluded. I have found this very difficult in some cases, in particular when it comes to those in STS. It’s almost as if we aren’t even talking the same language when it comes to things that should be pretty basic and easy to explain. As usual, it could be me 🙂

  15. Vinny Burgoo says:

    That was pretty much my point.

  16. BBD says:

    Vinnie

    That was pretty much my point.

    What was? That scientists are over-egging the pudding for ulterior motives?

  17. Ethan Allen says:

    Pedagogy
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pedagogy
    Andragogy
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andragogy

    I had enough problems as a young student just trying to understand what was being taught, let alone the ability to question what was being taught.

    But as an adult, a relatively old adult now, I’ve acquired a rather large set of luggage.

    Why do you think some parents have such problems with a modern (and proper) STEM education?

    It’s called baggage.

    Some children just get loaded down with their parents acquired baggage.

    You just have to teach adults in a different way than you teach children. That much I do know.

    Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey

    Sometimes I think I’d be better off dead.
    No, wait. Not me, you.

  18. Eli Rabett says:

    You are coming to about the same place that Eli did when considering science as a social activity. Kuhn points out that consensus among practitioners is unique to science and it is what allows science to progress. This unique willingness of scientists to work within the consensus of their field is what drives scientific progress. Policy communities, economists, social scientists are intellectually less constrained and less demanding of consistency.

    The existence of a scientific consensus in a field implies a knowable nature.

    Scientists made a classic mistake when they put this base truth up for auction. Popper has much to answer for.

  19. snarkrates says:

    My strongest objections to the relativists derive from the fact that they provide a rationale to climate denialists, glibertarians, creationists, anti-vaxxers and all the other anti-science imbeciles out there. Indeed, even worse, they have wound up being the answer that all the anti-intellectual and anti-progressive forces have been looking for since the enlightenment.

    One of the shrillest screams we hear from climate denialists is that “denialism” dumps them in the same bin with holocaust denialists. Well, why should it be more acceptable to deny scientific facts because you don’t like their political implications than it should be to deny historical facts because you don’t like their political implications?

  20. Brandon Gates says:

    Richard E.,

    Nice post.

    CSs might decide not to play, but they can be forgiven for not letting pseudo scientific ‘blog science’ pollute the blogosphere, and have every right to point out errors.

    This. It’s possible to point out error (and more importantly, attempt to teach correct principles) while being … polite. However, NOT cramming lying bullies’ bullshit right down their own gullets in the name of reducing the antagonistic nature of the debate is not likely to encourage the same to stop spewing it.

  21. It’s possible to point out error (and more importantly, attempt to teach correct principles) while being … polite.

    Easier said than done, I will admit.

    However, NOT cramming lying bullies’ bullshit right down their own gullets in the name of reducing the antagonistic nature of the debate is not likely to encourage the same to stop spewing it.

    I’m not convinced that there is any strategy that will stop some from spewing it.

  22. Ethan Allen says:

    Time for some head banging, err, banger music …

    Only you can set me free

    Feed my eyes now you’ve sewn them shut

  23. Brandon Gates says:

    I’m not convinced that there is any strategy that will stop some from spewing it.

    I agree. Letting it stand unchallenged seems a losing move even if it stokes their followers into greater moral outrage.

  24. Brandon Gates says:

    Ethan, 2nd one now playing at 11.

  25. Brandon Gates says:

    Let it not be said that Willard is always difficult to understand. 🙂

  26. John Randall says:

    Any conversation between those who understand the reality of AGW and those who reject that reality should begin with each side answering the question, “How do you think the climate works?” Responses that digress from this question should be rejected.

  27. John,
    As much as I agree, there are two main problems. One is that trying to get some to stick to discussing science specifically is virtually impossible. There are also some who are convinced tht the do understand how the climte works, despite being horribly wrong.

  28. Thanks for the largely positive comments.

    The AMISSVs (Angry, Marginalised and Ill-informed So-called Sceptical Voices) – and that is my made up new designation – do my head in too.

    But, from a personal perspective, I am spending more of my free time involving myself in face to face activities. People naturally self-censor their language when meeting someone in person. That includes ‘conservative’ people (i.e. those that might read some of the nonsense published in The Daily Telegraph or Daily Mail) who will raise their points such as “But isn’t there about to be a mini ice age …” in a civil manner, and a conversation ensues. Almost always civilised. People behind a drivers wheel can get pretty aggressive; a keyboard on the web seems to have the same effect.

    I think the odds of me being able to change a AMISSV’s views are small, but if I can reach several 100 people who genuinely want to understand what is going on, who are within my locality, that feels like I’m is doing something useful.

    The CS’s who regularly comment on ATTP are an impressive bunch, and better qualified than me to unpick the nonsense of the GWPF and elsewhere – both in terms of their scientific content but also in their ability to recognise the silly game that AMISSV’s play.

    But for every one of you, there are many more people like me with a sufficiency of scientific insight and (in my case through a consulting career) some communication skills, able to reach their communities. No need for Climateball here, just a willingness to get out there on cold wet evenings in Town Halls or wherever. A modest goal you may think. But we all have to do our bit.

    The antagonism may be unavoidable with the AMISSVs, but there is 99.999% of the population out their dazed and confused and often keen to engage. For them, antagonism is neither warranted nor productive.

  29. Fortunately you can also play Climate ball by not playing, because not saying anything is also communication. Some nonsense is really too silly.

  30. Mal Adapted says:

    I grew up as the son of a scientist (biochemistry) in a community of scientists, and pursued my own fascination with “natural history” as far as two years in a doctoral program before I decided I didn’t want to work that hard and found an easier way to make a living. Three decades later I still think of myself as a scientist, though, because Science is above all a way of trying not to fool myself. I’m convinced there’s a real world out there, and I want to see it plain. I prefer the painful truth to a comforting illusion. “I don’t want to believe, I want to know” (Sagan).

    The twin foundations of empiricism and inter-subjective verification make Science the most accurate method humans have invented for seeing the Universe as it is, not just as we wish it was. Science forces us to recognize how little we can know for certain, while letting us know some things with reasonable confidence; the rest, we must be content not to know. It’s not direct apprehension of reality, but it must be more than a social construction, if only because it’s more successful at predicting the future than divination with a sheep’s liver.

    What do I, as an existential scientist, advocate? Humility before nature. Seeing things as they are, not as we wish them. Acceptance that while the Universe has properties we can understand, it has no concern for our welfare. It’s the only way we, as individuals or as a society, can anticipate the future well enough to shape it more to our liking, and only if we refuse to fool ourselves.

    AGW a social construction? I refute it thus.

  31. sisisisisi says:

    Hahaha, you tellem bloodthirsty relativists ATTP! What’s clearly needed is two sets of Gods, one for those who can measure the amount of fractures when kickin a boulder and one for those who discuss (is it actually dis-cuss?) how much pain pete may feel deep inside for doing such a dstupid act on demand! Sorry for this excursion to religious matters, but simethings need to be said. Delete if that’ was impolite, or you feel this needs moderation. for pete’s sake, a boulder won’t negotiate.

  32. Oale says:

    “Several overlapping rationales are identified including a sense of duty to publicly engage, agreement that complete certainty about the complex assemblage of climate change is unattainable and that political factors are central to the climate debate. ”

    Apparently ‘rationale’ does not have anything to do with rationality. And that the authors think ‘a complete certainty’ is in some cases attainable.

    Like it was all debate. Well, maybe it is, a debate of which facts are more relevant to policies, the ones based on realities of physics and nature, or the ones based on… well what? Are there some common facts the so called SV-people are adhering to? No? Is it all noise? Yes?

    Mainly I wonder who were the CS-people they interviewed, of the SV-people, it does not matter one 1000th of an inch.

  33. “Indeed, ClimateballTM, the only losing move is not to play.”

    But if you are not playing, then there is no “losing” ;o)

  34. Joseph says:

    There are also some who are convinced tht the do understand how the climte works, despite being horribly wrong.

    Yeah, it’s amazing to me how so many “skeptics” with so little knowledge of climate science think their understanding of science is superior to that of the vast majority of climate scientists

  35. Reich.Eschhaus says:

    ““… individuals are more likely to pay attention to evidence that supports their own viewpoint (and dismiss the validity of evidence that doesn’t)””

    Seems correct. However, this:

    “implying this is a tendency of all ‘actors’ in the debate. This all smacked of an underlying viewpoint that the authors did not explicitly declare: relativism.”

    seems to assume too much. Is there any more evidence in the paper for this? (Did not read.) From what you present here it appears that you are over-interpreting.

  36. Reich.E, I may well have mis-read it, but I did at least read it. Which puts me at a slight advantage (although in the blogosphere, only marginally so 🙂 )

  37. Oale – if one has spent a little while looking at this, one can make some educated guesses at at least some of the “CSs”.

  38. Reich,
    It’s possible that the intent wasn’t to invoke relativism specifically, but there does appear to be a sense of false equivalence – 11 climate scientists, and 11 sceptical voices.

  39. Willard says:

    > I think that the relativism we see in social studies of science is a reaction against the overly optimistic positivism of Russell, Whitehead and Schopenhauer.

    That does not look like a standard conception of positivism.

    ***

    > Relativism is the bread and butter of social sciences. If you remove the relativism, you remove the debate and they loose interest.

    Good grief.

  40. Reich.Eschhaus says:

    @Richard If you want to make the claim of (undeclared) relativism you should at least use a more conclusive quote from the article to make the case. (I started reading, didn’t see any evidence yet, but not through yet.)

    @attp
    “It’s possible that the intent wasn’t to invoke relativism specifically, but there does appear to be a sense of false equivalence – 11 climate scientists, and 11 sceptical voices.”

    To me it seems they are investigating reasons why people are engaging in the debate as it is occurring here and elsewhere. Therefore using equal numbers from each side is reasonable in this case.

  41. To me it seems they are investigating reasons why people are engaging in the debate as it is occurring here and elsewhere. Therefore using equal numbers from each side is reasonable in this case.

    Indeed, but what would seem more equivalent would be 11 non-skeptical voices, and 11 skeptical voices (and, of course, I dislike using skeptical in this context, but I’m not sure what other term to use). By matching 11 climate scientists with 11 sceptical voices it gives the impression of an equivalence.

  42. Reich.Eschhaus says:

    @attp

    If you are investigating the motivations of the participants of the debate between agw “relativists” and climate scientists, what other option do you have?

  43. Phil says:

    ““… individuals are more likely to pay attention to evidence that supports their own viewpoint (and dismiss the validity of evidence that doesn’t)””

    Seems correct.

    The problem with the original quote from Sharman and Howarth is that it doesn’t quantify that “likeliness”. It seems to imply that CS’s have an equally high bar to not paying attention to contradictory evidence as SV’s. My contention is that the “S” in CS makes that bar, whilst not zero, significantly lower for them than it is for SV’s.

  44. Reich,
    One alternative would be non-climate scientists who accept the mainstream position.

  45. Reich.Eschhaus says:

    @attp

    Yes, but that would be another study!

    Still don’t really get what is criticized here 😉

  46. Let’s consider the opening few lines of the abstract

    Public perceptions of the climate debate predominantly frame the key actors as climate scientists versus sceptical voices;

    Okay, this may be true, but it’s not obvious. There are plenty of high profile people who publicly promote/accept the mainstream position and are not climate scientists. I might argue that what is more likely are skeptical voices who portray themselves as providing some alternative to climate science. It’s not obvious that climate scientists who engage publicly see their role as to combat what is promoted by the skeptical voices.

    however, it is unclear why climate scientists and sceptical voices choose to participate in
    this antagonistic and polarised public battle

    Okay, but there are also climate scientists who are “skeptics” (although not many) and non-climate scientists who accept the mainstream position and have a public profile.

    One could argue that the authors of this paper have accepted the “skeptic” framing of it being skeptical voices versus climate scientists, while climate scientists who engage publicly would not regard this as a fair reflection of their role.

  47. Reich.Eschhaus says:

    @Phil

    Nobody is saying that scientists by training might be less likely to fall in that trap. That doesn’t make the general observation less true.

  48. Yes, but that would be another study!

    I agree. That doesn’t change, though, that in choosing to do this study they’ve presented what appears to be some kind of equivalence between climate scientists and skeptical voices. I’m not necessarily saying that this means that the study shouldn’t have been done or is somehow flawed because of this.

  49. On the other hand, that the paper chose to portray the debate as “skeptical voices” versus “climate scientists” may indicate (again) that there are very few climate scientist “skeptics”.

  50. Reich.Eschhaus says:

    They are investigating the actual debate between the so-called SV an CS, trying to figure out motivations. This is a research question that is interesting in its own right.

    Doesn’t matter the bullshit SVs utter, or the exactness of that what the CSs bring to the debate.

  51. They are investigating the actual debate between the so-called SV an CS, trying to figure out motivations. This is a research question that is interesting in its own right.

    Yes, I agree. However, I still think that by framing it in this way creates the impression of an equivalence.

  52. Reich.Eschhaus says:

    @attp
    Their is equivalence of opinions.

    Comparing individuals bearing opinion A with inviduals bearing opinion B would ideally have similar group sizes.

  53. Comparing individuals bearing opinion A with inviduals bearing opinion B would ideally have similar group sizes.

    Yes, but there are either more than two groups or climate scientists are a subset of the group that accepts the mainstream position. Also, many climate scientists who engage would argue that they aren’t simply presenting their “opinions”.

  54. Reich.eschhaus says:

    They are investigating the debate, not the facts.

  55. Comparing individuals bearing opinion A with inviduals bearing opinion B would ideally have similar group sizes.

    In fact, isn’t this essentially relativism; the idea that there isn’t some kind of truth, that all ideas have some kind of equivalent value.

  56. They are investigating the debate, not the facts.

    Sure, but there is much more than simply climate scientists and skeptical voices. Hence I would argue that the opening line of their abstract is not necessarily correct.

  57. Reich.E … maybe I have been out of academia too long, but the following (part of the final paragraph of the paper), seems to be a master class in saying the obvious and saying nothing all at the same time …

    “This research also shows that whereas inevitable differences of worldview exist, greater commonalities also exist than may be acknowledged in public forums. Building on cultural interpretations of the many different understandings of climate change, we suggest that a focus on potential overlaps between underlying (and/or manifestly expressed) rationales behind climate opinions may encourage constructive discussion even with actors who had previously engaged in purposefully antagonistic exchange. Identifying even one or two such commonalities in motivations and opinions could provide a valuable source for collaborative dialogue and to facilitate a further exchange of ideas. Based on the common themes identified above, and in order for this to progress in practice, we suggest that it is critical that the purpose or frame of the debate is made more explicit (i.e. whether scientific or political factors are the focus of contesta-tion) so that participating parties may be nominated appropriately.”

    Relativism? Well, as I said, not explicit. But a kind of woolly “If only they could both attend marriage counselling, everything would be ok”. All opinions are valid. Just be nice.

    Maybe I am more pragmatic than most. Before we discuss that Arctic ice story can we just agree we agree on the following (it avoids all that back-a-mole tiresome stuff) …

    Is CO2 a greenhouse gas? Yes (agreed)
    Is H2O a greenhouse gas? Yes (agreed)
    Is the Clausius-Clapeyron relation valid? Yes (agreed)

    (long list)

    The Monckton’s of this world struggle to get through High School Physics syllabus before saying “No!” (the debate continues) that’s wrong, and I have 100s of cranks who agree with me!

    No amount of flowery academic prose on speculated “commonalities” will replace … “Do you agree with the text books over here” (I point to a large library)? If not, then really, why call this a “debate”?

    As I said, I agree with peace and goodwill, but ignoring the fundamental issues is simply papering over the cracks.

  58. Phil says:

    That doesn’t make the general observation less true.

    That misses the point spectacularly.

  59. Willard says:

    > Still don’t really get what is criticized here […]

    The idea that everyone can suffer from confirmation bias or, more generally, motivated reasoning. Here’s the full paragraph:

    In the case of climate change (albeit identified by Oreskes and Conway (2010) as also occurring in other scientific controversies), it is critical to recognise the extensive literature discussing politically motivated dispute. Referred to by many authors as ‘denialism’, this argument suggests that ‘deliberate distortions’ (Diethelm and McKee, 2009: 3) are made by SVs within the climate debate in order to advance particular agendas and motivations (Dunlap and McCright, 2015; Jacques, 2012). In this framing, scientific evidence is presented in order to obfuscate certain knowledge claims and advance others to achieve specific goals related to political ideology or financial gain. While it is entirely plausible that such motivated actions exist, and which are explicitly and rationally recognised (i.e. the actor in question is aware of making these distortions), it is, however, also important to recognise the vast literature on cognitive biases in the interpretation of scientific evidence. Not only do Kahan et al. (2011) show that individuals are more likely to pay attention to evidence that supports their own viewpoints (and dismiss the validity of evidence that doesn’t), Kahan et al. (2012) show that polarisation can develop with an increase in scientific literacy.

    While it may be possible to entertain a relativistic standpoint regarding viewpoints, I’m not sure relativism follows from any of this. Which relativism anyway?

    ***

    > There are plenty of high profile people who publicly promote/accept the mainstream position and are not climate scientists.

    I don’t think the authors expressed that all the actors are climate scientists, only that ClimateBall ™ opposes an established viewpoint, the one endorsed by climate scientists, and a contrarian viewpoint, promoted by contrarian voices. Those who aren’t climate scientists defer to them anyway. So the framing should indeed be a showdown between climate scientists and concerned contrarians.

    The beginning of the introduction only establishes that contrarians aren’t skeptics in the standard usage of the word. I don’t think it’s worth being established. I’d rather refer to contrarian voices.

    We need more editors than we need auditors.

  60. Reich.Eschhaus says:

    Quote:

    “(I.e. whether scientific or political factors are the focus of contesta-tion)”

    Wouldn’t that be great to know?

    Why critique this study as you do when you can learn from it?

  61. Wouldn’t that be great to know?

    Yes.

    Why critique this study as you do when you can learn from it?

    Fair point. However, I’m still not sure what I’m learning from this paper. I shall endeavour to read it again though.

  62. Reich.Eschhaus says:

    “I’m not sure relativism follows from any of this. Which relativism anyway?”

    You are making my point Willard:)

  63. Reich.Eschhaus says:

    @Phil

    “That misses the point spectacularly.”

    What is your point then? There is an abundance of evidence of scientists pointing to evidence that works their way and trying to argue away evidence that points in the opposite direction. Why should this be a point of contention?

  64. Michael Hauber says:

    I find amusement in the first paragraph of the introduction which I paraphrase as: Scepticism is an investigation based on observation, questioning and evidence. However climate change scepticism is about being antagonistic.

    And when the authors discuss the fact that cognitive biases result in filtering out evidence according to viewpoint, this is after a discussion on whether SVs should be labelled as deniers or not. I interpret this as justification for the authors assuming that the SVs may be honestly distorting the facts instead of deliberately lieing.

    Finally the authors interview the climate scientists and find that they are largely motivated by a desire to do good for the environment. I would have thought that the scientists would be also motivated by love of knowledge, or even just the necessity to find a career and thats what they are good at. I’m not sure if the authors left this part of the scientist’s response out. Or the questions led the scientists away from such a response. Or perhaps to be successful in the climate field you have to have a real passion and love for nature.

  65. John Hartz says:

    Meanwhile, back in the real world…

    “This is really quite stunning … it’s completely unprecedented,” said Stefan Rahmstorf, from Germany’s Potsdam Institute of Climate Impact Research and a visiting professorial fellow at the University of NSW, noting the NASA data as reported by the Wunderground blog.

    The blog’s authors, Jeff Masters and Bob Henson, described February’s spike as “a true shocker, and yet another reminder of the incessant long-term rise in global temperature resulting from human-produced greenhouse gases”.

    ‘True shocker’: February spike in global temperatures stuns scientists by Peter Hannam, Sydney Morning Herald, Mar 14, 2016

  66. Use of “skeptic” to describe unskeptical deniers of the basic and obvious material that is the beginning of wisdom about climate science is unhelpful at best, like a nail on a chalkboard. Scientists are skeptic. These people are not. It’s painfully wrong.

    Although there are people deceived by this material, at the core is a highly professional organization that simulates the real thing and is largely based on bad faith. Heartland, NIPCC, WUWT, the Kochtopus, all the interlocking entities identifies in Sourcewatch, at DeSmogBlog, Mooney’s Republican War on Science, have been busy with conferernces, glossy publications, lists of speakers, “experts” for hire fpor Congress etc.

    Endless attacks focus on specific targets. This is neither random nor innocent. For example: Al Gore is fat and has a big house. It’s all a vast conspiracy to create a world government and take your money. Mike Mann is evil. The temperature record is flawed unless it goes down.

    This is not accidental, it is not innocent.

    It is bad faith.

  67. Thanks to MT for referencing that article. I find if anything I am saying the same thing less coherently, but the dragon’s teeth spring up everywhere demonstrate that, sadly, no, we cannot end the antagonism or debate.

    All this communication about communication is going nowhere very very very very slowly.

    Scientists think more facts will fix it. Psychologizers think better psychology will fix it. Everybody wants an honest broker, and some people are pretending they know how to do that but they are often the least honest of all. Everybody is desperately worried, but nobody’s allowed to say so for fear of scaring the horses. I call baloney.

    Then ALEC and its tame tea party dittoheads are busy fixing it, as in “the fix is in.”

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/05/21/1210599/-How-JPMorgan-ALEC-The-Koch-Brothers-Are-Turning-Police-Forces-Into-Corporate-Goons
    http://www.desmogblog.com/2013/08/07/exposed-alec-s-new-anti-environmental-agenda-unveiled-chicago-week

  68. Jim Hunt says:

    Meanwhile back in the surreal world….

    Bill the Frog welcomes feedback on the pre-publication draft of his refutation of the continuing “18 year pause” assertions of the 3rd Viscount Monckton of Brenchley:

    http://GreatWhiteCon.info/2016/03/how-to-make-a-complete-rss-of-yourself/

    If Mr Monckton’s sausages leave an awfully bad taste in the mouth, it could be due to the fact that they are full of tripe.

  69. Franktoo says:

    “Let’s not forget what Gavin Schmidt said in his excellent 2013 AGU Stephen Schneider Lecture “What should a climate scientist advocate for?”. He clearly laid out the separation between the “Is” (the Science) and the “Ought” (our values) and the “Should” (the advocacy that arises from applying our values to the science). He said that as long as the scientist is clear about their values, and does not let these pollute their science, then there is no problem them moving from the laboratory into the council chamber to advocate for actions. As Sherwood Rowland said: “What’s the use of having developed a science well enough to make predictions if, in the end, all we’re willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true?”.

    There are 7.4 billion people on the planet with values. Why are Gavin and climate scientists so egotistical as to think that anyone cares about what they think we “ought” or “should” do? They have no special qualifications with respect to values. The values found in elite academic ivory towers certainly aren’t typical of most of the citizens on the planet or in any Western country.

    What Gavin and other climate scientists say is special and valuable ONLY when they are talking about what IS – science. And the only kind of science I am interested in hearing about is “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth with all of the ifs, ands, buts, and caveats” – Schneider’s standards for ethical science. I am fully capable of applying my values to the scientific information that I receive. Unfortunately, activists like Gavin are so interested in promoting their personal values about climate change that I can’t trust them to tell me about their science the way Schneider tells us ethical scientists should communicate with each other. FWIW, my skepticism about CAGW began with a defense of Al Gore’s movie at RealClimate: It was acceptable to ignore “correlation is not causation” when Gore presented the correlation between CO2 and temperature in ice cores. And it continues to the day, when Gavin discusses the mistakes and weaknesses of Marvel (2015) and Nic Lewis’s criticism. Energy balance models may indeed be incapable of reporting the correct ECS for our planet. However, I see a scientist who wants to sweep all of the “ifs, ands, buts and caveats” about his work under the rug. Like the MWP, EBMs must be discredited.

  70. There are 7.4 billion people on the planet with values. Why are Gavin and climate scientists so egotistical as to think that anyone cares about what they think we “ought” or “should” do? They have no special qualifications with respect to values. The values found in elite academic ivory towers certainly aren’t typical of most of the citizens on the planet or in any Western country.

    This is a strawman. You are misunderstanding/misinterpreting the context of what Gavin was saying. He wasn’t arguing that people should “care” about what they were saying. He was presenting an argument in favour of scientists being able to speak out without being criticised for doing so simply because they also happen to be scientists. He was not arguing that somehow what they choose to say should be given some kind of special preference.

    FWIW, my skepticism about CAGW began with a defense of Al Gore’s movie at RealClimate:

    Then you do not mean “skepticism” as a scientist would understand it. What you mean is probably mnore like “I became dubious”. Also, CAGW is essentially another strawman. Scientifically there is AGW with the possibility of a C if we simply continue to pump CO2 into the atmosphere.

  71. Joshua says:

    ==> The values found in elite academic ivory towers certainly aren’t typical of most of the citizens on the planet or in any Western country.

    Values?

    Which of Gavin’s “values” do you think are atypical w/r/t most of the citizens on the planet?

  72. The values found in elite academic ivory towers

    I was going to ignore this, but Joshua’s comment has made me rething that 🙂 I’d love to know more about what people who say things like this really think about how universities work. Does Frank, for example, really think that universities are these places where we’re all lauded and put on a pedestal and deal of what we do is pretty normal and mundane. We also have families, morgages, have to get to work, have to get home, etc, etc. I don’t think it is wildly different to many other jobs. Priviledged in some respects (a great deal of freedom) but very standard in other respects.

    However, I see a scientist who wants to sweep all of the “ifs, ands, buts and caveats” about his work under the rug.

    Who are you talking about here? This is largely my impression of what Nic does (in the sense that he seems reluctant to publicly discuss the caveats even if he does mention them in papers). However, it is quite normal for scientists to defend their work and judging a discipline on the basis of some scientists not behaving precisely as you think they should just suggests that you’re expecting super-human behaviour from people. This is why we ultimately trust the overall method, rather than the people involved.

  73. Willard says:

    > I’d love to know more about what people who say things like this really think about how universities work.

    I really don’t understand why you fall for Frank’s peddling, AT.

    But CAGW. But activists. But Nic.

    The list goes on and on.

  74. John Hartz says:

    ATTP:

    Also, CAGW is essentially another strawman. Scientifically there is AGW with the possibility of a C if we simply continue to pump CO2 into the atmosphere.

    At the risk of being pendantic, “catastrophe” , like “beauty” is in the eye of the beholder.

    From your perspective, what would constitute CAGW?

  75. Willard,
    I don’t know either. I still live in hope 🙂

    JH,
    The point is that AGW is something that we can define in some kind of scientifically reasonable way. CAGW, on the other hand, isn’t really and – in this context – whether or not something that we might describe as catastrophic happens will depend on what choices we make in the future. It’s not set in stone.

  76. John Hartz says:

    ATTP:

    From the perspective of Newtok, Alaska, a Yupik village of about 350 people, AGW is already “catastrophic”.

    America’s climate refugee crisis has already begun, Op-ed by Victoria Herrmann, Los Angeles Times, Jan 25, 2016

  77. paulski0 says:

    One element to antagonism which I think is little discussed in comparison to its importance is the feeling of being blamed on the part of “skeptics”, although it might apply more to the silent majority rather than vocal SVs. That’s a feeling of blame being apportioned directly at their self-identity and socio-political grouping as the cause of AGW, rather than humanity as a whole. Since they’re “the good guys” it obviously can’t be true, therefore AGW is simply a tactic being used by their political opponents.

    See this recent comment on reddit for an example: https://www.reddit.com/r/climateskeptics/comments/4aab2j/rall_goes_full_retard_on_1937_agw_claim/d0yrx4s

    One problem is that this feeling of blame appears to be largely self-inflicted, and in some cases desired. There’s no real reason that I can see why someone would perceive blame falling on a particular socio-political group (other than rich countries obviously) as the cause of anthropogenic climate influence. As obfuscaters and impediments to dealing with the problem, sure, as it turns out. But not as the cause of it. Of course, the antagonism over obfuscation feeds back into the feeling of blamed.

    So, how do you deal with a situation in which a powerful socio-political group has put themselves in a positive feedback loop of perceived blame, which they believe they’re fighting against? I guess one possibility is to emphasise a “We’re all in this together” type message, emphasising collective responsibility for the problem. Whether or not that would have any effect, I have no idea.

  78. John Hartz says:

    paulski0: In the U.S., a signiifcant portion of the population who reject the scientific body of evidence that manamade climate change is real and happening now do not place a high prioriy on the Common Good.

  79. Willard says:

    > I guess one possibility is to emphasise a “We’re all in this together” type message, emphasising collective responsibility for the problem. Whether or not that would have any effect, I have no idea.

    I think we already have indirect evidence that it could work:

    Presentations about climate change that encourage people to consider its human health relevance appear likely to provide many Americans with a useful and engaging new frame of reference. Information about the potential health benefits of specific mitigation-related policy actions appears to be particularly compelling. We believe that the public health community has an important perspective to share about climate change, a perspective that makes the problem more personally relevant, significant, and understandable to members of the public.

    http://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1471-2458-10-299

    Dan’s research seems to indicate that a diluted version of that kind of framing works even for Floridians.

  80. Jim Hunt says:

    Meanwhile, back in #WingnutAlternateReality:

  81. Andrew Dodds says:

    Things that would be catastrophic..

    – WAIS undergoes gravitational collapse and turns into a large bunch of very big tabular icebergs over the course of a decade.

    – Reorgansation of the atmospheric circulation due to AGW dramatically changes the climate for everyone, causing worldwide >50% crop losses and agricultural zones move almost overnight.

    – The Siberian Permafrost dries out, melts and catches fire in a feedback loop releasing an epic amount of carbon in short order.

    There are others. Very much in the ‘Very unlikely to near-impossible’ area. No mainstream climate scientists that I know about regard these as likely outcomes, though.

  82. John Hartz says:

    Andrew Dodds: Thank you for the examples of what you consider to be catastrphic events caused by manmade climate change. I have a couple of follo-wup questions:

    Why do the particular events tha you have a listed qualify as “catastrophic”?

    For whom would these events be catastrophic?

    (Please bear with me as I am trying to flesh-out some of my rather fuzzy initial thoughts on this topic. I am not challenging or judging what you say.)

  83. John Hartz says:

    ATTP and/or other climate science wonks:

    Has the IPCC or another prominent scientific organization developed a multi-dimensional framework for cataloging the impacts of manmade climate change?

    By “multi-dimensional” I mean one that includes attributes such as:

    – Temporal (past, present and future)
    – Spatial (Newtok, Alaska vs global)
    – Climate system component affected (biosphere, atmosphere, cyrosphere, etc)
    – Others?

  84. MartinM says:

    And it continues to the day, when Gavin discusses the mistakes and weaknesses of Marvel (2015) and Nic Lewis’s criticism. Energy balance models may indeed be incapable of reporting the correct ECS for our planet. However, I see a scientist who wants to sweep all of the “ifs, ands, buts and caveats” about his work under the rug.

    That says a lot about you; not so much about him. He could have completely ignored Lewis, but instead chose to directly address his criticisms in a blog post on which the public, Lewis included, are free to comment. That’s pretty much the polar opposite of trying to sweep anything under the rug.

  85. Andrew dodds says:

    For the first one, we are talking about sea level rise hitting a rate – perhaps 5 m a decade – where there is no readable gradual adaptation. In the first world, millions would lose everything and become homeless. In the third world, millions would die. Obviously there is a sliding scale here.

    In the second, the concept is that farming becomes untenable, at least for a while. Global food reserves might stretch for 6 weeks. Mass famine could result (again, the third world gets it worst)

    The third would see just very rapid acceleration of effects already seen.

  86. John Hartz says:

    Andrew: For the first two at least, your metric seems to be the impacts on homo sapiens. Is that correct?

  87. Andrew dodds says:

    Yes.

    Catastrophic is a human concept, really. Wipe us out, give it 10ma and the rest of nature won’t know AGW or humans ever happened.

  88. John Hartz says:

    Andrew dodds:

    Does that mean climate impacts that wipe out other species are not “catastrophic” unless they negatively impact homo sapiens in a substantial manner?

  89. Andrew dodds says:

    If polar bears are wiped out (as an example) then they would go the way of thousands of other species in a similar niche over the geological past. Sad definitely, and bad for any humans who wanted to see them, but something would re evolve. I’m not convinced that it would be catastrophic unless humans paint it so.

  90. Jim Hunt says:

    Meanwhile, over in the #WingnutAlternateReality omniverse @Bill_The_Frog has been promised a hotline to the 3rd Viscount Monckton of Brenchley:

  91. Michael 2 says:

    “individuals are more likely to pay attention to evidence that supports their own viewpoint (and dismiss the validity of evidence that doesn’t)”

    In what way is Richard Erskine immune from this?

    “Issue #3: SVs are not sceptics for the most part, displaying an obdurate ignorance of text-book science, and a failure to engage in normal scientific processes to truly explore scientific questions”

    Well there’s a good way to end antagonistic debate; accuse your opponent of obdurate ignorance. I expect a small delay will arise from having to look up “obdurate”.

    “Stubbornly persistent, generally in wrongdoing; refusing to reform or repent. ”

    And there you have it. You prejudge your opponent; not as to scientific error, but moral error.

  92. Franktoo – I never said that scientists had superior values. I agree with ATTP that they are allowed to have them! But my point was strong. As in the Sherwood Rowland case (hole in Ozone layer), or Lisa Jardine case (needing to engage public and policy makers on cell therapies), and Gavin Schmidt’s case (needing to communicate climate science), they do have better science than the policy makers and so necessarily get embroiled in communicating it. But when they do, they need to be aware of the values they also bring while doing that science-to-policy communication.

    It ain’t that hard!

  93. John Hartz – I really do not know if it fits your requirements but I understood that IAMs (Integrated Assessment Models) might at least to aspire to doing what you outline.

    I always find it rather odd that Global Climate Models get a lot of attentions whereas IAMs seem to get barely any attention in the media, but their economic outputs have significant potential to influence policy makers.

    IAMs are not without their critics, e.g. Nicholas Stern:

    “Because the IAMs omit so many of the big risks, SCC [social cost of carbon] estimates are often way too low. As a first step, the consequences being assessed should include the damages to human well-being and loss of life beyond simply reduced economic output. And the very large uncertainty, usually involving downward bias, in SCC estimates should always be made explicit.

    There is much that can be done to make the assumptions in standard IAMs more realistic with respect to the scale and nature of damages. But to give policymakers the reliable information that they need when implementing the Paris agreement, incremental improvements7, 8 to the present generation of IAMs may not be enough.”

    http://www.nature.com/news/economics-current-climate-models-are-grossly-misleading-1.19416

    But even the exponent of IAMs, Richard Tol (who makes brief sardonic excursions into ATTP from time to time, and I feel another might be coming!), acknowledged the wide degree of uncertainty in the modelling of the cost of carbon:


    RH: There are many, many estimates, of course, as to the true cost of CO2 and they vary massively, don’t they? From a few dollars to hundreds of dollars and …

    RT: Actually they vary from minus a few dollars to thousands, tens of thousands of dollars .

    http://www.carbonbrief.org/in-conversation-roger-harrabin-and-richard-tol

    [light the fuse, now step back and enjoy the fireworks …]

  94. Jim Hunt says:

    You prejudge your opponent; not as to scientific error, but moral error.

    A bit like this you mean?

    What’s the definition of “obdurate ignorance” again?

  95. John Hartz says:

    Michael2:

    Perhaps it is time for you to quit trying to push water uphill. Your snarky posts lost their entertainment value many moons ago.

    Richard Alley wasn’t pulling any punches Saturday morning.

    As the Penn State professor and environmental scientist addressed the crowd at the MU Life Sciences and Society Symposium, he made it clear that he was not interested in a debate about whether climate change was occurring or whether people have caused it. Instead, he wanted to give people context and talk about paths to wider use of new sources of energy to substitute for fossil fuels.

    He held up his cellphone in front of the crowd, an example, he said, of how humans have used science to make incredible things out of sand, oil and “the right rocks.” But, still, some people bristle at ideas put forth by the scientific community.

    “I have gotten emails that say ‘you scientists are evil liars. I hope you suffer personally. … I am trying to get you fired,’” he told the crowd. “And the irony of doing that with a cellphone seems to be lost.”

    Repercussions of climate change, not debate over its existence, dominate MU conference by Alicia Stice, Columbia (MO) Daily Tribune, Mar 13, 2016

  96. John Hartz says:

    Richard Erskine; Thank you for your response to my query. Until I read it, i did not know that IAMs (other than a brand of pet food in the U.S.) existed.

  97. Oale says:

    In a word. NO. I believe there are always some stupid enough people in the world to have an antagonistic debate with about anything. Argument sketch of Monty Python comes to mind. Someone please link it.

  98. Oale says:

    This is almost as entertaining as the wage negotiations. See the sketch here https://youtu.be/kQFKtI6gn9Y

    Added the link to my blog if people want some middle earthly reading after this.

  99. Willard says:

    > Someone please link it.

  100. It’s a fair cop, for sure.

    I love John Cleese’s question … (which I have adapted for present company):

    “Is ATTP arguing in his spare time?” … the Contrarian HR Dept. are interested in answers!!

  101. Pingback: Ending the antagonistic climate debate | …and Then There's Physics

  102. MikeH says:

    A bit late perhaps but this is an interesting article that discusses an aspect of the impact of climate change on the social sciences from Clive Hamilton who is a member of Australia’s Climate Change Authority.

    https://theconversation.com/climate-change-signals-the-end-of-the-social-sciences-11722

    >The modern social sciences — sociology, psychology, political science, economics, history and, we may add, philosophy — rest on the assumption that the grand and the humdrum events of human life take place against a backdrop of an inert nature. Only humans have agency.

    >Everything worthy of analysis occurs in the sealed world of “the social”, and where nature does make itself felt – in environmental history, sociology or politics – “the environment” is the Umwelt, the natural world “over there” that surrounds us and sometimes intrudes on our plans, but always remains separate.

    >So the advent of the Anthropocene shatters the self-contained world of social analysis that is the terrain of modern social science, and explains why those intellectuals who remain within it find it impossible to “analyze” the politics, sociology or philosophy of climate change in a way that is true to the science.

  103. John Hartz says:

    MikeH: Thanks for bringing Clive Hamilton’s excellent article to our attention,

  104. Pingback: Three years! | …and Then There's Physics

  105. Pingback: 2016: A year in blogging | …and Then There's Physics

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