The calibre of climate “skepticism”

I’ve been largely staying out of the blog wars, but thought I might delve back in for a while and highlight a relatively new venture in climate “skepticism”. It’s a blog called Climate Skepticism and is run by a number of the more prominent UK-based (or mainly UK-based) climate “skeptics”. Okay, maybe they’re aren’t that prominent, but they seem quite vocal and are certainly some of the more prominent UK-based “skeptical” voices on social media.

I thought I would highlight some of their more recent articles. They discussed our new Consensus on Consensus paper in a post titled Cook and Lewandowsky tell the truth, but that is accompanied, on their homepage, by a doctored image of Stephan Lewandowsky and John Cook with their pants on fire. They then have an article about one of the co-authors of our consensus paper called dog bites man: climate careerist in bald faced lie shocka. Apparently this person said something in an interview that illustrates that they don’t know how science works and hence shows that they are a f**cking fraud. I actually asked in the comments if all those associated with the site where happy with the tenor of this post. Apparently they all were; proud even.

This then lead to me getting my own post called to whom it may appall, because I called the earlier post “appalling”. Apparently I said something stupid a few years ago on another blog, and this then makes me a failed w**nker. Charming. The piece de resistance, however, is a post where they discuss how Katharine Hayhoe is trying to connect. Katharine Hayhoe apparently says that she is trying to connect with the very people who most doubt her research. However, she has also blocked a number of the people who are associated with this new venture. This apparently makes Katharine Hayhoe a dishonest, hypocritical, liar. This is despite the fact that the claim that she is trying to connect with her doubters, comes from the summary of an article about her; it doesn’t appear to be something that she has ever actually said.

So, I must admit that I’m quite pleased that I’ve blocked – on Twitter – a number of those associated with this site, and banned some from here. I’d be pretty happy – given the chance – to ban and block the lot of them. If this is the calibre of climate “skepticism” in the UK, it would seem best ignored.

I’ll finish by mentioning that I was commenting today on Lucia’s blog and noticed that some were complaining about how I run this blog and that I also block some people on Twitter. I can only really speak for myself, but I do quite enjoy discussing science with other people. I especially enjoy discussing science with the general public, and learn quite a lot doing so. However, I’m not a politician, or a public servant, or a salesperson, so I don’t have to put up with people who can’t bother even trying to be civil. The same applies – I suspect – to many other scientists who choose to engage publicly. If some would like to engage with scientists on social media, but get upset if they get moderated on blogs, or blocked on Twitter, maybe they should try harder to be more civil.

I’ll stop there, but I will add that I didn’t write this so that we can all pile on to a bunch of UK-based climate “skeptics” who seem to think that their new Climate “Skepticism” site is something of which to be proud. I think I mainly wrote it for the record; to illustrate what one has to put up with if one decides to engage publicly in what is clearly a contentious topic. A few years ago I would have been utterly flabergasted that anyone could write posts such as those on Climate Skepticism. Now it barely raises my eyebrows. I find that a little disappointing, to be quite honest.

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58 Responses to The calibre of climate “skepticism”

  1. As I said in response to your last post, I think you are onto something. 🙂 I’m blocking deniers quite freely on Twitter–they can annoy me once, but that’s it. And I’ve always felt engaging with them was a time sink. Time is very precious, and I want to spend it educating people who don’t yet understand the seriousness of our situation, not debating with paid shills and ideological cranks.

  2. Katharine Hayhoe need not worry too much, she commands huge respect even from atheists like me, and while the trolleratti may want to create a space to share their delusions, most people are ignoring them. I visited their site briefly following your tweet, but never again. Better to deny them the oxygen of publicity. The haters are really quite irrelevant, and this proves how irrelevant.

  3. climatehawk,
    Indeed. What is remarkable is, having read the comments on some of the blogs about how warmists censor and block, very few – if any – seem to think that it’s because they’ve been less than civil. It’s almost always because we just can’t deal with the arguments that they’re presenting, and hence have to try and silence them.

  4. Richard,
    Indeed, I imagine she doesn’t even care, or maybe doesn’t even know. I did consider not writing this on the basis that maybe it would be better that some weren’t even aware of the site and those posts. However, I do think there is some merit in highlighting what some seem to think is acceptable.

  5. John Hartz says:

    ATTP: As we say on our side of the pond, Keep on trucking!

  6. dana1981 says:

    Katharine certainly is trying to reach skeptics/doubters who are open-minded enough to potentially be persuaded by a ‘trusted source’ (i.e. someone who shares their faith, who has expertise in the subject). That obviously doesn’t mean she’s trying to reach everyone, including abusive closed-minded deniers.

    Personally, I use social media Block buttons quite freely, because I don’t have the time to waste on those sorts of folks.

  7. Dana,

    That obviously doesn’t mean she’s trying to reach everyone, including abusive closed-minded deniers.

    Exactly. Reaching out to those who doubt, doesn’t mean everyone who might be regarded as doubters, and almost certainly doesn’t mean those who are probably unconvinceable.

  8. anoilman says:

    Tabloid quality work. Print it and line your bird cage with it.

  9. Andy Skuce says:

    I haven’t blocked many people on my blog or on Twitter, but I do try to avoid wasting time engaging the unreachable. Most of these guys—and they are mostly men or boys—have no real interest in open discussion or advancing knowledge. It’s all about impressing their mates and it’s all rather sad.

    Although some of them are obviously not stupid, they do seem generally to be underachievers. They don’t realize that if they occasionally had something interesting, witty or constructive to say, people outside their little circle might pay attention. That Carbon Brief Twitter map showed what a small and isolated echo-chamber they live in.

    I’ll mostly just ignore them, since blocking them or banning them from commenting on my blog seems to win them some points in the schoolboy-level community they live in. However, if they are persistently boorish, I’ll hit the mute button without any regret.

  10. What if every time a scientist or science communicator were trolled they:
    Reached out to an old colleague they haven’t heard from in a while.
    Posted something interesting about their field on social media.
    Sent a journalist a note about forthcoming research.
    Emailed their scientific society to ask about upcoming public outreach opportunities.
    Went for a nice walk outside.

    Constructively dealing with trolls in science communication

  11. John Mashey says:

    Life is short, and there is still no general replacement for the USENET KILLFILE..
    One of the simple rules for a mental KILLFILE is:
    if someone clearly self-identifies themselves (by their actions) as a sever Dunning-Kruger afflictee, forget them. While D-K say it is possible to recover, I have not seen it happen.

  12. John Mashey says:

    Oops, and as a reminder, Pseudoskeptics are not skeptics.

  13. Mike Pollard says:

    Who is Bad Keyes? Seems he got some sort of degree from Sydney Uni and then some sort of Masters from who knows where. One thing he does have in spades is verbal diarrhea, making him an exponent of bullshit.

  14. Nick Stokes says:

    I think you are right about the site. I looked at their list of recent posts:
    Fools or Knaves?
    To whom it may appall
    To whom it may cheer up
    When Did Quantitative Risk Assessment Become “Key Evidence”?
    Skuce Cooks Own Goose In Skuce’s Goose’s Own Juices
    While my guitar gently weeps
    Katharine Hayhoe is trying to connect
    Dear onco-analogists: your stupidity is showing
    Climate dumb and dumber
    We live in a finite head— ‘peak reason’ may already be here

    All just insulting someone or other – dumb and dumber seems to be all they have to say. They say of their site “ideas under construction” but here are no ideas – just denigration.

  15. Magma says:

    The caliber of that site and its contributors seems close enough to zero that a negative value cannot be ruled out.

  16. Willard says:

    > Who is Bad Keyes?

    His name is Brad. We get along quite well. His style may sound strange to many, but I rather like it.

    Let us thread lightly, please.

  17. anoilman says:

    Mike, Bad Keyes is on my kill file list.

    His style of engagement is really about filling a comment thread with crap. Yours or his, it doesn’t matter. He certainly doesn’t care what he’s talking about, and he’s very very rude.

  18. Joshua says:

    Personality politics.

  19. Anders, here I shamelessly crib from Janice Moore and (I think) dbstealey over at WUWT: when you’re taking flak, it means you’re over the target.

  20. … and I probably said the same to you a few days ago or the other way ’round. Damn my brain. Still, it bears repeating.

  21. I don’t take advice from people who talk about “the” scientific method. Is the method used by a theoretical physicist the same as an analytical chemist, or a palaeontologist? I think not.

  22. fragmeister,
    Indeed, most who seem to spend a lot of time talking about the scientific method appear to have never actually applied it.

  23. izen says:

    There is a hierarchy of subjects that arise in reports, philosophy, politics and blogs.
    Ideas,
    Events,
    People.

  24. verytallguy says:

    That’s a pretty repulsive blogpost.

    It emphasises that climate change denial is currently in a rather desperate state.

    Judith Curry, pleased that her involvement with a Marc Morano propaganda film(!) will annoy some scientists:

    I’m sure people will criticize me for participating in this, but then these are the people that have pretty much already sent me to Coventry, so . . . so what.

    Christy scraping the very bottom of the barrel for temperature trends:
    http://variable-variability.blogspot.co.uk/2016/05/christy-mcnider-time-series-summer-surface-temperature-alabama.html?_sm_au_=i6HSHTQsW3tr1wfN and
    https://tamino.wordpress.com/2016/05/03/cooling-america/

    Attempts to challenge the science in court dismissed:
    http://scienceblogs.com/stoat/2016/05/02/peabody-coals-contrarian-scientist-witnesses-lose-their-court-case/

    Plus right here on your other thread we see Richard Tol thrashing about desperate to cast doubt the fact of a scientific consensus by any means possible.

    Meanwhile temperatures continue at record highs, Arctic Ice at record lows and coral bleaching showing the real impacts.

    So we’ve got the blogosphere reduced to simple gratuitous insults, the leading “scientific” lights of the movement seemingly increasingly marginalised, the natural world refusing to play along, all bookmarked by first the negotiation then ratification of the Paris agreement.

    It may have the smell of a movement in final retreat, but beware: natural variability plays both ways and the current indicators, driven by El Nino are almost certain to go the other way at some point and provide ammunition to the denial fraternity.

    Plus, much more meaningfully, the actual level of emissions reduction in the real world is still almost negligible. Indeed, we’re doing so little it’s tempting to say that denial has moved on from the science to the policy arena.

  25. VTG,
    Tamino’s post is excellent. I hadn’t really kept track of the Peabody story. Amazing that Lindzen and Spencer are willing to promote such rubbish. Okay, maybe not that amazing.

  26. Harry Twinotter says:

    I am not even in the slightest bit tempted to comment on that blog. It’s tone explains all, really – their common argument against the science of global warming is if you believe in the science of global warming you are an idiot, dishonest or whatever.

    What strikes me about climate change deniers is their cowardice. They are too frightened to discuss facts, so they resort to a set of grubby little rhetorical tricks.

  27. Willard says:

    > [M]ost who seem to spend a lot of time talking about the scientific method appear to have never actually applied it.

    That’s their way to talk about INTEGRITY ™, AT.

    “But Feynman” and all that jazz.

  28. BBD says:

    Amazing that Lindzen and Spencer are willing to promote such rubbish. Okay, maybe not that amazing.

    🙂

  29. Willard,
    I get the impression you enjoy this 🙂

  30. Willard says:

    I don’t have much time these days to enjoy it, AT. I’m not sure I would, to be honest.

    Joshua said all there needs to be said.

  31. Andrew Dodds says:

    Harry Twinotter –

    It’s the ‘Are you a denialist? test’. Very simply, can you accurately describe the position of your opponent in a dispassionate manner, without having to resort to distortion, mockery or abuse.

    It’s quite effective. Anyone who decries a mainstream scientific theory as incorrect without being able to describe what that theory actually is, is not worth listening to.

  32. Jim Hunt says:

    The calibre of climate “skepticism” is not what it once was, particularly in the cryoblogosphere. The fairy stories concocted by the “skeptical” denizens thereof get ever more desperate. By way of example you might perhaps start with part one of:

    “Steve Goddard” Busted

    So there you have it “Steve”. Thanks to the sterling (albeit uncredited!) efforts of the all volunteer members of the Arctic Sea Ice Forum and the (presumably still paid?) scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center you can now explain the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth of the matter to your own loyal readers.

    Needless to say nothing of the sort has transpired (yet?).

  33. Ethan Allen says:

    Hmm, err, about this graphic from their website …
    https://cliscep.com/about/

    Pyrrho
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyrrho
    Pyrrho (/ˈpɪroʊ/; Greek: Πύρρων Pyrrōn, c. 360 BC – c. 270 BC)

    The image dates to the early 16th century (e. g. 1520’s), and typifies the type of sailing ship from that era called a Carrack (The la Nina, the el Nino and the Sanity Clause, which ole Kris Kringle used to discover the Americas for at least the 3rd time) …
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carrack

    The image shows a four masted carrack which I’s SWAG has a LOA of 10m (either that or homo sapiens were 3m tall at that time). I seriously doubt that that image depicts a stable ship (e. g. negative transverse metacentric height), in other words it would capsize.

    Of course, such ship designs did not exist at the time of Pyrrho …

    So basically, Pyrrho is on an impossible four masted 10m long carrack that post dated his existence by ~1,800 years. Obviously only fake septics would endorse such nonsense.

    That website has taken certain liberties in there ‘hoover you’re mouse over das image’

    “The picture shows Pyrrho, the founder of the sceptical school of philosophy, in a storm at sea. Unworried by this spectacular example of climate change, he points to a piglet who is nonchalantly munching his breakfast, and says (in Latin and German): “Whoever wants to exhibit real wisdom, shall not mind trepidation and misery.”

    This part -> Unworried by this spectacular example of climate change <- methinks that I am very skeptical of, as fake septics are always confusing weather with climate. Go figure.

  34. Soosoos says:

    Good grief. What a sad and gruesome spectacle that blog makes.

    I winced when I first read Andy Skuce’s scathing comment above, but he’s quite correct:

    “Although some of them are obviously not stupid, they do seem generally to be underachievers. They don’t realize that if they occasionally had something interesting, witty or constructive to say, people outside their little circle might pay attention. That Carbon Brief Twitter map showed what a small and isolated echo-chamber they live in.”

    Would engaging with civility rather than slur simply expose the intellectual poverty of their brand of “scepticism”? Are blogs like theirs a cruel inevitability? As you have said yourself, ATTP: we need a better class of climate “skeptic”. We haven’t yet.

    https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2014/07/08/we-need-a-better-class-of-climate-skeptic/

  35. anoilman says:

    …and Then There’s Physics says:
    “May 3, 2016 at 6:39 am
    fragmeister,
    Indeed, most who seem to spend a lot of time talking about the scientific method appear to have never actually applied it.”

    Anders, John Mashey an equally poignant observation about Free Market Evangelists.

    Usually, it’s someone who has never actually participated in useful competitive free markets and who claims that all problems are solved by the market, and there should never be government rules for anything. Many are employed by think tanks funded by industries that privatize profits and socialize the losses.

    http://www.desmogblog.com/2015/05/28/climate-science-deniers-and-free-market-activists-backing-bjorn-lomborg#comment-2056133700

  36. You know, for people who claim that science doesn’t proceed by consensus, they don’t half spend a lot of effort worrying about it and trying to show a consensus wrong. You’d think it might be because they don’t have a scientific argument they could use.

  37. MikeH says:

    Brad Keyes? I get the impression that he did not study science at Sydney University despite his frequent invocations of “Feynman”. His rather pompous and verbose style laced with long winded insults suggests something from the Arts department. (Which is fine by the way but leaves him at somewhat of a disadvantage when discussing climate.)

    e.g. here he is recently announcing that a butterfly can change the *climate* by flapping its wings.

    “When you announced a truism that follows from the fact that a butterfly can change the climate by flapping its wings, the banality was on purpose?”

    https://theconversation.com/consensus-confirmed-over-90-of-climate-scientists-believe-were-causing-global-warming-57654#comment_952769

  38. Steven Mosher says:

    View story at Medium.com

    interesting to watch them hunt to confirm a cause of death.

    some days I think climate science is a lot like forsenic science.

    what would popper or feynman think? should we care?

  39. Steven Mosher says:

    Pyrrho?

    They are hardly Pyrrhonists. no wait I’ll suspend judgement on that.

  40. semyorka says:

    They are having a touch of a lean spell. In the early 2000’s “its the Sun” had a degree of credibility, into the mid 2000s they lost “the satellites show cooling”, but that was replaced by “its just UHI effect” and then “climategate” could generated miles of column inches, in the 2010’s “the pause” was where all the action was. Until a second pause is declared they will have to do some heavy lifting to manufacture talking points. The less creative and knowledgeable will have a hard time with that.

  41. Ha, thanks for the comments! I resisted clicking on the link as I’ve found the best defense is a strong filter.

    You are right, I certainly didn’t write that article. What I do say (frequently and publicly) is that there is little profit to engaging with category 6 of the Six Americas of Global Warming, the dismissives, and while I admire and appreciate the fortitude of those who do, I personally have made an explicit choice not to waste my time in that way because it does not align with my purpose. My mission is to change minds by connecting our values with the impacts of climate change; not to argue with those who, even if confronted with angels from God with tablets of stone stating “global warming is real” in flaming letters of fire, would cry “hoax”.

    That said I don’t block people on twitter for disagreeing with me; but I do block them for being jerks and, unfortunately, the Venn diagram of those two groups overlaps about 99.9% — so I understand how some may mistake correlation for causality!

  42. Katharine,
    Thanks for the comment. I contemplated not writing this as I did consider that maybe you’d rather not be aware of that post. So, it’s wise that you didn’t click on it. I’ve found that I’ve developed a thicker skin, but I’m not sure that that’s a good thing.

    not to argue with those who, even if confronted with angels from God with tablets of stone stating “global warming is real” in flaming letters of fire, would cry “hoax”.

    Indeed, I’ve learned that lesson the hard way.

    As far as Twitter goes, I just have a threshold. If anyone throws out some kind of slur or insult, I just block them. They might just be having a bad day, but they can always talk with someone else.

  43. John Mashey says:

    It is well worth reading the Six Americas material that Katharine mentions.
    While US-specific, some insights may apply elsewhere.

    See 2009 report, which goes through demographics in detail.
    Dismissives are very hard to reach.

    Combine that with Hamilton and Saito(2014), one of my favorite papers, because it:
    a) Does 4-way split: D, I, R, T
    b) Asks questions about science knowledge
    c) Asks a self-assessment on science knowledge

    Guess which group knows the least, but think they know the most.
    Figure 1 summarizes this, well worth a look.

  44. John,
    Thanks. I’ll also highlight that Lawrence Hamilton wrote a post here, that seems relevant.

  45. Willard says:

    > I personally have made an explicit choice not to waste my time in that way because it does not align with my purpose.

    This kind of choice seems to be accepted among contrarians, e.g.:

  46. Willard says:

    As for blocking, it also seems that blocking is sometimes warranted:

    As long as one does not block permanently but only forgets to unblock, all is well.

  47. Physics: As far as Twitter goes, I just have a threshold. If anyone throws out some kind of slur or insult, I just block them. They might just be having a bad day, but they can always talk with someone else.

    Tough luck if they behave like that on a bad day. If they had a better character their worst day would be better.

    Just came by some people trolling the #StandWithScience hashtag of ClimateFeedback. A beautiful occasion to block and mute a few nasties.

    I did not have day yet where I did not know what I should investigate and needed to go to twitter for inspiration from rude political activists with no interest in science.

  48. [Mod : I hadn’t seen this until angech’s comment. I appreciate that it is topical (May the fourth) but I think I will moderate it nonetheless.]

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  50. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:

    When I encounter climate science ‘skeptics’ I’m often reminded of this:

  51. angech says:

    The humor in the last two comments is good humor I guess as opposed to the humor used in the Bizarro world ATTP visited. Personally having visited a lot of sites on both sides it is all a bit of Tweedledum,Tweedledee.
    Genuine discourse free of barbs is unlikely to be found on partisan blogs of any color.
    Brandon is a little over the top I fear with his post but it does display the venom that can come with having one’s views questioned. He is perfectly entitled to put it up but , in the context of this post, how would one treat it if it was put up at the other post???.
    The Far Side cartoons even reached Australia and the unintentioned fun in this one is obvious, thanks Jebediah.
    I might leave it up to Jebediah to work out why.

  52. angech,
    I hadn’t seen Brandon’s image till your comment (I don’t get to see images if I’m just checking the comments on my phone). I do think, though, that there is a difference between generalisations, and personal attacks. Having said that, my impression is that many do not seem to see the distinction, in that mild criticism from one side is seen as an attack by the other.

  53. verytallguy says:

    Personally having visited a lot of sites on both sides it is all a bit of Tweedledum,Tweedledee.
    Genuine discourse free of barbs is unlikely to be found on partisan blogs of any color.

    I think you’re flat wrong angech. Barbs yes, but I defy you to find any blog run by a mainstream pro-consensus scientist that tolerates calling people who disagree “fascists” and “evil”:

    https://judithcurry.com/2016/04/10/twilight-of-the-climate-change-movement/#comment-777640

    The discourse is skewed by acceptance of this kind of poison from skeptics.

    On Judith’s (and most “sceptic” sites), this is just entirely normal.

  54. semyorka says:

    There is no real contrarian equivalent of a Skeptical Science or a Real Climate, places that have very coherent visions of the scientific argument they are laying out and defending. Most tend to focus on attacking science or trying to undermine its credibility than pushing a clear, coherent agenda. Few that I can think off also aim for the tone of those kind of sites. More over there is nothing remotely like the many climate MOOCs available to push a coherent contrarian message.

  55. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:

    angech says:

    Genuine discourse free of barbs is unlikely to be found on partisan blogs of any color.

    That could explain why we call them ‘partisan’.

    Speaking of genuine discourse, free of barbs, The Friends of Tol are standing on the street corner, looking for your money…

    http://www.desmog.uk/2016/05/06/uk-climate-denial-think-tank-gwpf-global-warming-policy-foundation-sets-us-fundraising-arm

    Mind the bazooka.

  56. Mal Adapted says:

    I was delighted to see Dr. Hayhoe’s comment here. I’m an atheist myself, but I too have tremendous respect for her. While it appears certain pseudo-skeptical scientists have let their faith cloud their scientific judgment, AFAICT her scientific integrity compels her to accept the evidence for AGW, and her faith inspires her to act on it.

    I was surprised at first that she’s made the choice not to engage with the “dismissives” as defined by the Six Americas report. While they comprise only 7% of the population, they are the most likely to describe themselves as Evangelical. At first glance, one might assume that would give Dr. Hayhoe leverage with them. Clearly, though, only a saint would persist in trying to persuade people who

    even if confronted with angels from God with tablets of stone stating “global warming is real” in flaming letters of fire, would cry “hoax”.

    An incisive observation!

    The report shows that the “cautious”, “disengaged” and “doubtful” categories contain high proportions of Evangelicals too, and together make up over 40% of the population. One hopes Dr. Hayhoe can make more headway with these groups. Keep up the good work, sister 8^)!

  57. angech says:

    Thanks ATTP. Looks better. Sorry to have been a pain.

  58. Phil Clarke says:

    Yes, the ‘alarm/warm-ist sites censor arguments they cannot refute’ meme is a common one, RealClimate are the usual targets. Of course it is trivial to copy/paste your text as an insurance against censorship, something I used to do when I still held the delusion that posting at WUWT was a good use of time. Something like 50% of my posts there never appeared, until I started cross-posting at Sou’s place…. when it became more like 75%.

    There is a site that was set up specifically to enable people to post texts that were deleted at RC and other climate blogs. Last post was 2011 ….. So much for that argument.Ho ho.

    https://rcrejects.wordpress.com/

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