## Not even giving physicists a bad name!

credit : xkcd

When I’m trying to have a bit of a dig at physicists (of which I’m one) who think they somehow know better than climate scientists, I’ll post the cartoon on the right. When I came across this interview with William Happer, who may become Trumps’s next science advisor and who is also covered in this Guardian article, I immediately thought of it. However, I don’t think it’s quite right. The cartoon is – I think – meant to illustrate that physicists come sometimes be rather arrogant. They can think that physics is very difficult, that everything else is quite simple by comparison, and that they could step into other fields and easily solve what’s been puzzling others for ages. Happer doesn’t come across as a physicist who is just a bit arrogant; he comes across as someone who has completely forgotten how to do science altogether. A great deal of what he says is simply untrue, and demonstrably so.

For example, he says

In 1988, you could look at the predictions of warming that we would have today and we’re way below anything [NASA scientist Jim] Hansen predicted at that time.

You can look at Hansen’s 1988 paper. The prediction was that we’d warm by something between 0.4 and 1oC between the late 1980s and now. We’ve warmed by about 0.5oC. You can even plot the temperature datasets over Hansen’s predictions (H/T Nick Stokes) and it’s clear that we’re not way below anything predicted. This Hargreaves & Annan (2014) paper actually says his forecast showed significant skill. Furthermore, he considered a number of different possible future emission pathways; we’ve followed – as far as I’m aware – one closer to the middle of what he considered, so it’s not surprising that his high emission scenario forecasts more warming than has been observed. Also, his model has an ECS that is towards the high end of the range that is considered likely. Overall, his forecast is quite remarkable.

Happer continues with,

the equilibrium sensitivity, is probably around 1 degree centigrade, it’s not 3 1/2 or whatever the agreed-on number was. It may even be less. And the Earth has done the experiment with more CO2 many, many times in the past. In fact, most of the time it’s been much more CO2 than now. You know, the geological record’s completely clear on that.

Well, this is utter nonsense. The geological record is consistent with an ECS of around 3oC and is largely inconsistent with an ECS below 1oC. You can find the various climate sensitivity estimates here. We’ve already warmed by about 1oC, are only about 60% of the way towards doubling atmospheric CO2 (in terms of the change in forcing) and are still not in equilibrium. It’s utterly ridiculous to suggest that the ECS might be below 1oC. How anyone can suggest this is bizarre, let alone someone who is meant to be a highly regarded physicist.

Possibly the most bizarre thing he says (which is quite something, given all the other things he’s said) is:

I see the CO2 as good, you know. Let me be clear. I don’t think it’s a problem at all, I think it’s a good thing. It’s just incredible when people keep talking about carbon pollution when you and I are sitting here breathing out, you know, 40,000 parts per million of CO2 with every exhalation.

What’s exhaling got to do with it? The reason CO2 is accumulating is the atmosphere is because we’re digging up carbon that has be sequestered for a very long time, and burning it in a very short time; releasing CO2 into the atmosphere. Us exhaling CO2 would be entirely carbon neutral if we weren’t digging up and burning fossil fuels. Also, how can he know that it is good? This is almost entirely about risk. The more fossil fuels we burn, and the faster we do so, the more we will change the climate and the faster it will change. Can we adapt to these changes, both in terms of the magnitude and the speed? The answer may not be definitive, but there is pretty convincing evidence to suggest that continuing to emit increasing amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere may produce changes that will be very difficult to deal with. This doesn’t definitively mean that we shouldn’t do so, but suggesting that it is not going to be a problem at all, is nonsensical. There are scenarios under which parts of the planet essentially become uninhabitable.

What Happer says is so beyond anything reasonable, that I don’t think it’s fair to regard him as giving physicists a bad name. Even if physicists can sometimes be a bit arrogant, I don’t think they’re so arrogant as to say things without bothering to check that what they’re saying is actually true. It’s unbelievable that he’s being seriously considered as a science advisor. Oh, hold on, it’s for the Trump administration; I take that back, he’ll probably fit in perfectly.

Update:

Skeptical Science has a nice post that discusses Hansen’s 1988 predictions. He also made predictions in 1981, that are also pretty spot on.

Nick Stokes has a more recent post comparing Hansen’s prediction with observations and also has a post that discusses his scenarios.

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### 69 Responses to Not even giving physicists a bad name!

1. You can look at Hansen’s 1988 paper. The prediction was that we’d warm by something between 0.4 and 1oC between the late 1980s and now. We’ve warmed by about 0.5oC. You can even plot the temperature datasets over Hansen’s predictions (H/T Nick Stokes) and it’s clear that we’re not way below anything predicted.

Nick is to be commended for developing online tools.

However, the model data are available, so we don’t need to rely on plotting over an old scanned image. ( http://www.realclimate.org/data/scen_ABC_temp.data )

Comparing the observed trends (blue) with the modeled trends ( red,orange, and yellow )
from 1988 ( the year of testimony ) yields:

The observed 1.71 K / century is not zero, and indicates warming.
But it is also considerably less than the 2.86 K / century trend of Scenario B.

2. TE,
It also illustrates that his claim that we’re way below anything Hansen predicted is clearly wrong. Agreed?

3. Ethan Allen says:

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, comes more “fake nudes” from Trumpkin …
Trumpkin Kicks Off His 2020 Reelection Campaign on Saturday
https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/02/trump-kicks-off-his-2020-reelection-campaign-on-saturday/516909/

And on our Trumpkin teevees, there are not one but two campaign ads that have been running over these past two weeks, one, for Trumpkin nominations for cabinet positions (call Congress and free pass all of them) and two, pro-Trumpkin SCOTUS nomanee.

Never ending Trumpkin campaign, call it CampaignBall(TM).

4. TE,

5. Joshua says:

Same shit, different day.

So, first we have this:

=={ I think toning down the rhetoric would help a lot. }==

And then we have this:

=={ And it has been very uneven….baskets of deplorables….And I think the climate alarmists have been most guiltybecause they have complete control of the media…they hijacked all the major scientific societies… }==

As per usual, I can’t understand the science well-enough to evaluate Will’s scientific arguments. But I can evaluate those statements above.

He makes statements that describe some vast difference in the landscape that defies basic common sense. The world is full of rhetoric in need of toning down on his “side;” huge arms of the media, powerful politicians, huge corporations, and a sizable % of the public. He brings in a political reference to the last campaign via Clinton while selectively ignoring similar completely un-toned down rhetoric from Clinton’s opponent. He stoops to a juvenile “they do it more” rhetorical device as if it would somehow justify a vast disparity in un-toned down rhetoric even if it were true. He make a paranoid statement about scientific societies being “hijacked” and compounds that by exaggerating his justification for paranoia (“all the major scientific societies”).

The thing is, despite the facile reliance among “skeptics” of the “appeal to authority” rhetoric, and often a selective/hypoctical dismissal of the importance of “experts,” I tend to think (as someone not particularly bright) that it actually can be meaningful when clearly brilliant people weigh in on complex issues. But the weight I might give it when someone brilliant like Happer weighs in becomes significantly diminished when they trot out just flat-out terrible arguments with, apparently, no awareness of just how bad those arguments are and apparently no self-imposed requirement that they test their theories for obvious bias.

In the end, beyond Will’s brilliance, I am left to wonder what could explain why someone who thinks that the rhetoric should be toned down would then utilize such non-toned down rhetoric?

6. Something that I tried to get at in the post, but will repeat here, is that Hansen’s model has an ECS of about 4.2C, which is within the likely range today, but on the high end. Best estimates are probably more like 3C. Hence, even if his predictions are a bit on the high side, it’s not really an indication that climate sensitivity is somehow lower than we expect.

The plot below is a just a crude attempt to illustrate the above. I’ve simply plotted the Hansen predictions scaled by a factor of 0.7 (i.e., an ECS of about 3C) with GISTemp.

Sounds about right, but what is the value of including the hindcast?

8. Sounds about right, but what is the value of including the hindcast?

Because the hindcasts also include the known change in forcing. If scenario B is close to what has actually happened (as I think it is) then by including the hindcast you get the long-term response to the emission/concentration pathway.

Admittedly, the observed 1960-2017 trend is somewhere around 0.15 – 0.16K/decade, so it is still below scenario B. However, Hansen’s model is quite sensitive (as I’ve been trying to illustrate above) so it’s not that surprising that the predictions are a little above what actually happened. That doesn’t somehow justify arguing for a lower climate sensitivity (we now regard it as on the high side) and it certainly doesn’t justify claiming that we’re way below anything he predicted.

9. Actually, I might be getting something wrong (it’s getting late here). The Hansen et al. 1988 forcings are relative to 1960, not 1750 (as in AR5). So, I think the actual pathway we’ve followed isn’t even quite as high an emission pathway as scenario B. It’s probably closer to being between B and C.

10. Sherry Mayo says:

This is the comic you should be posting – Its a classic on the topic and particularly relevant to Happer (I share it often at times like these and I’m a physicist too)
http://www.smbc-comics.com/?id=2556

11. Sherry,
I did think of that one, but I decided against it on the basis of not wanting to be accused of suggesting that we want to put Happer down 😉

12. JCH says:

‘I knew people would misuse this.’ – J.J. Bates

13. Chris-tuffer says:

haha but its so true though, it doesn’t just come down to a blanket set with systems as complex as that.

14. don’t feed the turbulent trolls. Happer is quite foolish and he will show up in history next to James G. Watt. it really is too bad that these fools are given any power where they can be the puppets of economic interests that operate with impunity in our culture.

15. Joshua: “In the end, beyond Will’s brilliance, I am left to wonder what could explain why someone who thinks that the rhetoric should be toned down would then utilize such non-toned down rhetoric?

The innocent onlooker just sees two groups making the same claims. Nearly all will not get into the weeds to determine who is right, but simply adopt the opinion of their peers. A quite effective strategy in an amazingly tribal tribe. Unfortunately.

Defence: explain the strategy and diffuse the accusation with humour.

16. dana1981 says:

Yes, we’re between Hansen’s Scenarios B and C.
https://skepticalscience.com/A-detailed-look-at-Hansens-1988-projections.html

Also, everyone always forgets Hansen et al. (1981), whose forecast was spot-on.
https://skepticalscience.com/lessons-from-past-predictions-hansen-1981.html

17. numerobis says:

Why assume good faith from Happer? He’s well aware of the scientific value of the product he peddles. He just prefers its financial value.

18. Nick Stokes says:

There is a more recent post on the Hansen graph gadget here, although the older post has updated data. And I’ve discussed the scenarios here. Basically, CO₂ and N₂O evolved at about B levels, while CH₄ and CFC’s followed scenario C.

19. So, I think the actual pathway we’ve followed isn’t even quite as high an emission pathway as scenario B. It’s probably closer to being between B and C.

That’s correct:

Scenario C had emissions completely stop in 2000.

For 1988 through 2014, observed trends were less than even scenario C.
2015-2016 bumped the trend up above Scenario C.
I suspect there will be regression back to the mean, but we’ll see.

20. Magma says:

Happer looks and acts a decade older than his 77 years… (cranky emerititus)^2 is a terrible thing to see. He even muddles the physics aspects of applied climate science, confusing atmospheric molecular oxygen microwave emission with mid-infrared blackbody emission of the sea surface in his last Congressional appearance.

The contrast with two of this year’s three likely Nobel laureates Kip Thorne and Rainer Weiss, razor sharp in their late 70s and mid-80s is like night and day.

21. Magma says:

I suppose the title of this post is a nod to Pauli?

22. Willard says:

> Why assume good faith from Happer?

Because it makes more sense. Establishing motive requires the kind of work that leads you into the very kind of games ClimateBall contrarians relish. More than that – it condones when they do.

JohnB’s episode should at the very least teached you not to get agitated over any of this.

23. Keith McClary says:

The Scientist interviews Happer

WH: I don’t know. I told you it was an anecdote, but my impression is it’s been in the last 10 years. I don’t even know whether it’s true, but I certainly know lots of other programs that simply would not exist [if they didn’t produce results that indicated a central human contribution to climate change].

TS: What are some examples of such programs?

WH: There are lots of big climate models. If you were to come up with your computer modeling, with results that indicated that increasing CO2 really doesn’t have very much effect on the climate, you would not be renewed. It’s very clear you would not be renewed.

What could he mean by this? A model that fits the last century’s climate data assuming 1917 CO2 levels. I think one could get FFunding for such a project. Or perhaps not, since they believe that no computer models are valid.

24. Dana,
Thanks, I hadn’t seen that Skeptical Science post. Very nice.

Nick,
Thanks.

Magma,

I suppose the title of this post is a nod to Pauli?

Not intentionally.

Keith,
Thanks, I did see that one too.

25. Hautbois says:

ATTP – “We’ve already warmed by about 1oC, are only about 60% of the way towards doubling atmospheric CO2 (in terms of the change in forcing)”

I’m pretty basic to intermediate on climate science and this is an obvious gap in my knowledge… is the forcing front-end loaded over a doubling period?

From an 1850-1899 baseline for global climate anomaly and CO2 concentration:
a) temps have gone up around 1 degree of warming as you say,
b) CO2 ppm goes from 290 ppm (1850-99 average) to around 405 ppm today, which is only a 39% increase.

If you then do a scatterplot of those two variables and the extend the straight-line linear regression, the temperature anomaly gets to about 2.9 deg.C once CO2 has reached 580ppm (i.e. doubling). But would that be an incorrect procedure?

26. Hautbois,

I’m pretty basic to intermediate on climate science and this is an obvious gap in my knowledge… is the forcing front-end loaded over a doubling period?

Yes, it’s logarithmic. If all we’d had was a change in atmospheric CO2 from 280ppm to 400ppm, then the change in forcing would be

$dF = 5.35 \ln\left(\dfrac{400}{280}\right) = 1.9 W m^{-2}.$

However, there are also other greenhouse gases and there are aerosols (that have a negative forcing), so the best estimate for the net change in anthropogenic forcing between 1750 and 2011 is about 2.3W/m^2. Given that the change in forcing due to a doubling of CO2 is about 3.7 W/m^2, we’re about 60% of the way there, even though we’ve only increased atmospheric CO2 by about 40%.

The figure below is the most recent radiative forcing estimates from the IPCC.

27. Hautbois says:

I see, thanks for that.

28. BBD says:

Happer:

the equilibrium sensitivity, is probably around 1 degree centigrade, it’s not 3 1/2 or whatever the agreed-on number was. It may even be less. And the Earth has done the experiment with more CO2 many, many times in the past. In fact, most of the time it’s been much more CO2 than now. You know, the geological record’s completely clear on that.

Just wrong. Assuming good faith, he’s completely clueless.

29. Assuming good faith, he’s completely clueless.

Assuming good faith, he’s that dangerous combination of arrogant and clueless.

30. anoilman says:

I have to ask… What Happer was paid to do that article? He discusses how to hide his payments for other activities and make it look like he’s not getting paid.
https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/2642410-Email-Chain-Happer-O-Keefe-and-Donors-Trust.html

His reasoning for promoting CO2 use is that he considers it immoral not to use fossil fuels. So his motivations are not in any way scientific. Its something else + money…

31. Steven Mosher says:

“Why assume good faith from Happer? He’s well aware of the scientific value of the product he peddles. He just prefers its financial value.”

happer’s intransigence may be more related to his perception that he was unfairly maligned and had his motives unfairly questioned.

It’s pretty simple to take him at his word and point out his lapses in scientific rigor.

The best example is his odd over confidence in a value of ECS around 1.

So I imagine if an interviewer left all the crap about motives aside, and just drilled down on why
he is so certain that it is 1, and how he comes to that conclusion, you might have a snowballs chance in hell of exposing an underlying scientifc blind spot.

The same goes for his wild claim that c02 is a net benefit. You have two choices: call it nutty / self interested, or patiently ask him for a detailed exposition of his scientific rational.

Here is the thing I found. If I play a pure denial game, I can always come up with something.. because it’s really a form of philosophical skeptcism, but the minute you try to establish a counter theory ( ECS is low, the harm in minimal ) you are exposed to actually having an argument that can be questioned.

Given that he has come out and accepted the AGW mechanism and stated an estimate of ECS it naturally opens him to a dialog of why he holds this view so strongly and uncritically.

But that dialog never seems to happen because folks hear the out of the ordinary claim and they try to understand why ( motive wise) he holds that, rather than asking about a detailed scientific justification.

While I hold little hope for this approach, at least one avoids the highly speculative mess of trying to impute motive.. so basically you preserve your intellectual rigor. FWIW, and you avoid perhaps initiating lines that result in climateball end games.

32. numerobis says:

If Happer was, like Soon, a struggling scientist trying to not perish in a soft-money position, I’d have more inclination to believe he might be suffering from motivated reasoning, rather than just lying for money.

But he’s been a well-respected physicist — tenure at Princeton in physics is no small feat! — then starts publishing laughably weak analyses exactly when he starts getting paid by an institute that’s long been known for denial activities. I smell a rat.

33. Joshua says:

=={ happer’s intransigence may be more related to his perception that he was unfairly maligned and had his motives unfairly questioned. }==

Or, it could be that his perception that he was unfairly maligned may be more related to his intransigence…or more likely, IMO, his ideological (not limited to political) identification.

Anyhoo:

=={ so basically you preserve your intellectual rigor. FWIW, }==

Agreed – for this observer, at least. A point that, IMO, is very much lost in the climate wars.

=={ and you avoid perhaps initiating lines that result in climateball end games. }==

Yes, perhaps, but that would be very much out of the ordinary, IMO. Part of being a climate warrior, IMO, is that you don’t wait for an invitation to engage in battle.

34. Joshua says:

numerobis –

=={ If Happer was, like Soon, a struggling scientist trying to not perish in a soft-money position, I’d have more inclination to believe he might be suffering from motivated reasoning, rather than just lying for money. }==

This confuses me. It seems that you are simultaneously saying that financial interest stimulates motivated reasoning and indicates that it doesn’t apply.

Anyhoo, I would say that a relatively small fraction of motivated reasoning is rooted in financial interest.

35. Joshua says:

oily –

=={ His reasoning for promoting CO2 use is that he considers it immoral not to use fossil fuels. So his motivations are not in any way scientific. Its something else + money… {==

Hmmm. I would think that there are many scientists who simultaneously have a scientific goal, want to protect starving children in Africa by promoting fossil fuel usage, and like getting paid.

IOW, how do you know his motivations? FWIW, see Steven’s comment above about intellectual rigor.

36. Joshua says:

oily –

I should offer a correction…I don’t think that there are many scientists who want to protect starving children in Africa by promoting fossil fuel usage….but I do think that there are many scientists who want to protect starving children in Africa…(and a few who think that promoting fossil fuel interest is a legitimate way to do so)….

37. Ken Fabian says:

If the new US President’s intentions with respect to energy and climate were not clear enough, we get William Happer. Happer’s science credentials will be exploited to give climate science denial a sciency seeming legitimacy. In part this helps embed ongoing public uncertainty about the reality and seriousness of the climate problem thus limiting the potential for the US to rally to address the problem from being realised and encouraging confusion and apathy, but I’ve come to suspect credentialed scientists who are willing to misrepresent their peers and the state of climate science are more valued for providing legitimate seeming justifications for those in positions of trust and responsibility to wilfully fail in that trust and make irresponsible decisions. It’s not about the validity of climate science, it’s about climate responsibility avoidance as a means to avoid the near term costs of having to do something about it.

38. Bob Loblaw says:

anoilman asks “I have to ask… What Happer was paid to do that article?”

Well, if you were to ask him, he might get angry and tell you that he didn’t get paid at all.

39. anoilman says:

Joshua: Happer states his motivations in his emails with green peace.
https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/2642410-Email-Chain-Happer-O-Keefe-and-Donors-Trust.html

I don’t think its motivated reasoning or money. He just thinks he’s doing the right thing by supporting CO2. When you start with the perspective that you are doing the right thing, then everything else that follows is OK. I’d argue that there is no reasoning in what he says, as he has already determined the conclusion.

Personally, I would think that one should look objectively at the data, and leave the cost benefit discussion aside. There is plenty of wiggle room in the “do something about it” category. Its not like ‘civilization’ cares about what happens in the third world today, and they are the ones who will take the brunt of Global Warming. Richard Tol has said exactly that on this blog.

The science denial that Happer is actively engaged in is inherently corrosive on every level.

40. Steven,

So I imagine if an interviewer left all the crap about motives aside, and just drilled down on why
he is so certain that it is 1, and how he comes to that conclusion, you might have a snowballs chance in hell of exposing an underlying scientifc blind spot.

Indeed, and it’s a pity that Andy Revkin (who has been involved in this topic for long enough to know that suggesting an ECS below 1C is odd) didn’t push him harder.

41. semyorka says:

There is a whole sub set of great scientist who believe wacky things
http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Nobel_disease
http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Inverse_stopped_clock

They are always with us, just this one is being given prominance by an administration that is openly supporting the MMR\autism “alternative facts”.

42. Susan Anderson says:

43. Susan Anderson says:

Link for that was: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tULDE_gYmuc . It was “moments before Ted Cruz’s ‘Data or Dogma’ hearing on climate change.”

I would not assume good faith.

44. BBD says:

Susan A

I would not assume good faith.

Nor would I, but I think the point Willard and Steven Mosher were making was that more productive ClimateBall exchanges are possible if you don’t invoke motive, just drill down to the scientific errors. I don’t always agree with Steven, but on this he has a point.

45. Steven Mosher says:

“Indeed, and it’s a pity that Andy Revkin (who has been involved in this topic for long enough to know that suggesting an ECS below 1C is odd) didn’t push him harder.”

Yes, you could even stroke happer a bit. no harm playing him, there are plenty of other who can handle the gutter journalism

“You know Dr. Happer, You’ve had a wonderful storied career, example example, example,
to explain in detail what your scientific position is, and why you hold it. So, for this
interview, I am going to refuse to bring up any of the vicious attacks on you, let’s just focus
on the science, on what you personally hold, and why you hold it. Let’s get down into
your evidence, and enlighten our readers. And if I bring up personalities, just call me on it
and if you bring up personalities, I’ll do the same. Let’s do the actual science, me and you.
Fair enough?

I mean just sideline the whole discussion of personalities, politics, etc.. take away his climateball as well. Revkin needs an inner willard.

My bet, he wouldnt be able to stay on point.. You have to be a tough questioner, to keep him
focused

My sense, correct me if im wrong, is that I could sit down with you ATTP and ask you to explain
the detection of exo planets in person, and you could verbally explain in detail most everything
you believe and why you believe it. You might even being to do a Feynman like explanation..
( simple terms etc) Because you have internalized that truth. You actually believe it and know why you believe it. You can do this because you have to use that foundation every day to do your work.. you live it and breath it. Its working knowledge.. and I bet you could do the same thing for AGW.. no charts, no links, maybe a few sketches on the paper..

I doubt if Happer can do the same..because his “theory” ECS is 1 and benefits are great, is basically just tactical.. its not a working knowledge has no firm foundation. He’s not out every day working on exploring and expanding that theory.. finding more evidence… retesting what he believes.. challenging his own beliefs ( ie doing science) No. he doesnt hold his beliefs like you hold your beliefs.. They are his clothes not his bones. and exposing that, if one could, would be fun and it would require a good command of the science.

46. Steven,

My sense, correct me if im wrong, is that I could sit down with you ATTP and ask you to explain
the detection of exo planets in person, and you could verbally explain in detail most everything
you believe and why you believe it

Yes, I would like to think that I could do this, or get pretty close.

47. numerobis says:

Per Peter Sinclair, Happer’s fee is a mere $250/hr: https://climatecrocks.com/2017/02/19/the-weekend-wonk-tobaccoclimate-denialist-to-be-trump-advisor/ Holy shit. It might actually be a labour of love. That’s a normal consulting rate for an assistant prof at a second-string school in the US. Happer is a former head of NAS, prof at Princeton in physics, and that’s all he’s charging? 48. In case of consulting you pay for the labour that when into gaining the knowledge. To spout utter and pure nonsense without any consistency 250$/hr is a high rate.

If there is anyone out there willing to pay me 250\$ an hour to talk about the grammar of the Hopi language or the love life of fire ants, please contact me.

49. anoilman says:

BBD: Willard: Steve: I almost always look at the source of information before digging deeper. Otherwise, its just a lot of work to no end;
http://www.populartechnology.net/2009/10/peer-reviewed-papers-supporting.html

Having a discussion with someone starts with an assumption that that is what is occurring. When its not and they are just making stuff up, there isn’t a lot to work with. The fact is that Joe Public can’t understand the arguments, and the damage has already been done to the credibility of real scientific work.

The damage was done when the journalist even spoke with Happer in the first place. I guess its just not as interesting as talking to one of many many cubical dwellers who’ve been studying the data for decades.

50. Susan Anderson says:

Readfearn of the Guardian is more thorough on what’s wrong with the picture. Chemtrails? Monckton? I’d be with anoilman except we’re stuck with the tinfoil hat brigade (stick it in the microwave to get it hot, if you don’t believe science works) come hell or high water, thanks to Trump, so we do have to know our enemy. Every amplification does fall under the rubric of there’s no such thing as bad publicity.
Trump’s potential science adviser William Happer: hanging around with conspiracy theorists

51. Willard says:

> I almost always look at the source of information before digging deeper.

Me too, Oily One. Everyone does.

My point is not to report what you find as an argument.

52. anoilman says:

Willard: I suppose its not an argument. But then in so many cases, what they are presenting is not an argument either… Happer isn’t even a pseudo skeptics engaged in motivated reasoning.

53. Willard says:

> But then in so many cases, what they are presenting is not an argument either

Holy tu quoque, Batman!

There’s something true in what you say: when William says that he doesn’t think AGW will lead to adverse consequences, there’s very little argument there. It’s just a talking head spouting some talking points.

Yet if you want to beat talking points, you need better talking points. The best ones I know all are, wait for it, arguments.

Or see it another way – Happer minimizes AGW’s impacts. You then have some choices: you talk about Happer’s speech patterns, you talk about minimization, or you talk about AGW’s impacts.

Which choice will you lead to present more science?

54. John Mashey says:

2009 Daily Princetonian: Professor denies global warming theory

“Physics professor William Happer GS ’64 has some tough words for scientists who believe that carbon dioxide is causing global warming.

“This is George Orwell. This is the ‘Germans are the master race. The Jews are the scum of the earth.’ It’s that kind of propaganda,” Happer, the Cyrus Fogg Brackett Professor of Physics, said in an interview. “Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant. Every time you exhale, you exhale air that has 4 percent carbon dioxide. To say that that’s a pollutant just boggles my mind. What used to be science has turned into a cult.””

<b.2009 APS Petition
Also in 2009, {S. Fred Singer, Hal Lewis, Will Happer, Larry Gould, Roger Cohen, and Robert H. Austin} led a petition to the American Physical Society to turn their climate statement into mush. Of 47,000 members they got about 200-ish signatures, but were very upset that their views were not accepted. The petition of course, was not a peer-reviewed publication.

This was was the first climate-nonsense petition I’d seen where:
a) The people were readily identifiable, since most were published physicists.
b) They published the list as it grew, not just in one final list.
These offered a rare opportunity to explore the social network behind such things, so I watched it, and published this report.. Among other things, it showed that signatories differed greatly from APS membership as a whole, being mostly old guys.
The petition is on p.7 of that report and lsit of signers on p.2. People will recognize many names.
Studying this was incredibly valuable to me in understanding the tactics and people, so I have to thank Happer for that.

Happer was displeased and later gave Eli Kintisch quotes for a 2011 article in Science. I loved them!
“Will Happer, a physicist at Princeton University who questions the consensus view on climate, thinks Mashey is a destructive force who uses “totalitarian tactics”—publishing damaging documents online, without peer review—to carry out personal vendettas. … Happer says Mashey’s tactics are “contrary to open inquiry. …
Mashey drew Happer’s ire with a 128-page report in 2009 critiquing a petition from Happer and other members of the American Physical Society urging the society to revise its call for cuts in greenhouse gas emissions and instead to question the existence of anthropogenic warming. It was a solo effort that analyzed the petitioners’ political donations, their co-authorship on papers, and their connections to various nonprofi ts or companies. Mashey suggested that the petition was intended “to create and maintain doubt in the public” about the consensus on anthropogenic warming.””

55. Steven Mosher says:

“Yet if you want to beat talking points, you need better talking points. The best ones I know all are, wait for it, arguments.”

it’s taken quite a while for that to sink in.

56. Joshua says:

willard –

=={ My point is not to report what you find as an argument. }==

I don’t usually like referring to dictionary definitions in blog discussions, but in this case I think it might be useful:

ar·gu·ment

1.
an exchange of diverging or opposite views, typically a heated or angry one.

2.
a reason or set of reasons given with the aim of persuading others that an action or idea is right or wrong.

Looking at the second definition, looking at the source of information and communicating about that source isn’t an argument in itself, but if someone is engaged in that second type of argument, reporting on the source of information is….well…information….that could be relevant and maybe even indispensable to an argument.

Is there evidence of the second kind of arguing in the climate wars?

IMO, what I see predominantly are people talking at each other in service of advancing an agenda, and angrily exchanging diverging views. If someone is engaged in the first type of argument, then perhaps reporting on the source fits the bill.

57. Joshua says:

And this:

=={ “Yet if you want to beat talking points, you need better talking points. }==

I don’t understand how talking points can be “beaten.” It seems to me that “skeptics” think that “skeptic” talking points are NEVER beaten, no matter how much better their interlocutors think that their own talking points are.

Perhaps an objective observer might be persuaded by what a “realist” considers to be a better talking point, but I suspect that objective observers are rather like unicorns, or maybe more accurately, like white whales.

58. Willard says:

> Is there evidence of the second kind of arguing in the climate wars?

Of course there is, dear sealion.

***

> If someone is engaged in the first type of argument, then perhaps reporting on the source fits the bill.

One can argue by using arguments, of course. There can even be arguments about the credibility of ClimateBall players. The point is that once you do social-network analysis, your goal ain’t about SoundScience anymore.

***

> I don’t understand how talking points can be “beaten.”

59. Joshua says:

=={ Of course there is, dear sealion. }==

I guess you might just call me a sealion again, but if you don’t mind speaking to animals, I would appreciate an example (No need to bark, I have an add-on for my browser that translates English into barking).

60. Willard says:

I am tempted to link to my last comment, Joshua, but instead I’ll link to this one:

Just about any post by AT would do for scientific arguments.

We use arguments all the time. The difficulty is in making arguments explicit.

61. anoilman says:

But Willard that’s so much hard work! 🙂

I guess if you caught me 4-5 years ago I’d take on the details, but now I just can’t be bothered to look up and decipher all the minutia, of the flavor of the day. Their collective statements aren’t just repetitive, they’re banal.

I guess for me I very quickly (as in weeks) realized there was something else going on besides actual technical arguments. So I’m often more concerned about the politics and motivations behind their statements.

62. Joshua says:

=={ I am tempted to link to my last comment, Joshua, but instead I’ll link to this one: } ==

What kind of argument is apophasis, willard?

I was asking for an example of “argiment”

63. Joshua says:

Oops…hit post accidentally.

… example where true persuading of others was taking place….

Yes, exchange of diverging viewpoints takes place on all these threads. Arguments are presented. Towards what end, I never can quite figure out.

64. Willard says:

> example where true persuading of others was taking place…

That was not implied by “I would appreciate an example” of one of the two definitions presented.

Perhaps this, then:

***

> Towards what end, I never can quite figure out.

By chances audits never end, Joshua.

I surmise that we all mostly agree on just about everything. We come here to talk about the 3% that remains. Sometimes we even argue.

I’m here for the argument.

65. Willard says:

You’re all welcome.

#17 is just for you, J.

66. Steven Mosher says:

At first willard annoyed me. Then three things

1. c5
2. WVOQ
3. Walton

67. anoilman says:

Steve, I find he’s even handed as well. Friendly misspeaks are not tolerated any more than deniers.

You on the other hand… I dunno.

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