Beyond climate consensus

I’ve had a chance to read the recent Beyond Climate Consensus paper by Warren Pearce, Reiner Grundmann, and colleagues. I’ve only just realised that it cites my blog, which might be a first. The paper itself is a Commentary, rather than a piece of original research, but is (as I understand it) peer-reviewed. The basic argument of the paper is essentially that consensus messaging/arguments

misunderstand the relationship between scientific knowledge, publics and policymakers.

and that it is

[m]ore important is to focus on genuinely controversial issues within climate policy debates where expertise might play a facilitating role.

Let me try and clarify three things related to consensus messaging.

  • That there is a strong consensus amongst relevant experts, or within the relevant literature, about anthropogenic global warming is essentially true. Most experts and most relevants papers accept/endorse that humans are causing global warming (or some suitable variant of this).
  • There is a misconception among the public about the level of agreement; the public perception is that the level of agreement is considerably lower than it actually is.
  • Consensus studies aim to quantify the level of agreement amongst experts, or within the literature. The results of these studies suggest that the level of agreement lies somewhere between 90% and 100%, which depends somewhat on what/who is surveyed and what question is asked. Since I’m advertising some of my own papers, I’ll add that it is probably not as high as 100%.
  • Consensus studies are clearly motivated by the public misconception about the level of consensus and an aim is to provide information for the public and for policy makers.
  • Some will clearly use this information if they regard it as useful and if it allows them to support their views. There’s nothing wrong with this; the reason we do research is to provide relevant information. Some might mis-use it, but this does not mean that one shouldn’t provide it. It may, however, be important to correct this misinformation

At the end of the day, the goal of consensus studies and consensus messaging is very simple. Consensus studies aim to quantify the level of consensus with regards to humans causing global warming and consensus messaging is simply a strategy aimed at addressing public misconceptions about the level of consensus. It’s not intended to be the only messaging strategy; it’s not intended to replace, or undermine, alternative strategies; it is intended to be complementary to alternatives and aims to provide a very simple message about the basics of this scientific topic.

Given the above, a great deal of the Pearce et al. commentary appears to be simply savaging strawmen. Of course there are complexities that consensus studies/messaging does not address. It isn’t intended to address these complexities, nor is it intended that these complexities should be ignored. There is no claim (explicit, or implicit) that there is a consensus about all aspects of this topic; the only claim is that the level of agreement about the basics is high. If anything, a goal of consensus studies/messaging is to get people to accept this high level of agreement about the basics so that it becomes easier to discuss the complexities. In fact, I don’t even really see how you can start addressing the complexities if there isn’t an acceptance that there is a lot of agreement about the basics.

There is also a suggestion (which I’ve also seen elsewhere) that there is too much focus on consensus messaging and that this can be harmful (both in terms of preventing alternative messaging strategies and in terms of the resulting policy decisions). Well, there may be some truth to this, but I find it a little odd. I’m not really convinced that consensus messaging is as prevalent as is claimed. It clearly does play quite a big role, but there is an awful lot of information out there. Also, if it is quite prominent, but does more harm than good, why have those who choose to use it not worked this out yet? It seems slightly odd that something that’s supposedly ineffective and harmful, can then play such a supposedly prominent role.

Okay, this post is getting rather long, so I’ll try to wrap up. The Pearce et al. commentary end with

we have argued that repeated efforts to shore up the scientific consensus on minimalist claims such as “humans cause global warming” are distractions from the more urgent matters of knowledge, values, policy framing and public engagement. We maintain that researchers concerned about the relationship of knowledge to policy would be better advised to invest their efforts in these areas rather than in exercises of quantifying consensus about tightly drawn statements of scientific fact.

It’s not all that unusual for researchers to argue that there are important research questions that are not being addressed by their field, but the above seems more a value judgement, than a suggestion that there are important research topics that are being ignored. Can Pearce et al. give some examples of important research questions that are not being addressed because people are focussing too much on studying the consensus? If there are important research questions that are not being addressed, why don’t they actually address them, rather than spending their time criticising a messaging strategy that essentially promotes information that is true? One way to reduce the supposed reliance on consensus messaging would be to present an alternative that would clearly be more effective and more appropriate.

A final note. If one is concerned about matters of knowledge, values, policy framing and public engagement then maybe one shouldn’t publish papers that get highlighted by the Daily Caller and Watts Up With That, but that’s just my opinion.

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217 Responses to Beyond climate consensus

  1. There were two things that I didn’t touch on in the post. One irony about this is that if someone focuses on providing more and more information, they get accused of deficit model thinking. Focusing on consensus messaging and you’re engaging in a strategy that is polarising and harmful. The only certainty – as far as I can see – is that whatever you do someone will find a reason to criticise. This is why I find myself getting quite frustrated by some of the critics who should – in my view – have enough understanding of the complexity of this issue to recognise this.

    The second thing I wanted to discuss was a comment in the Pearce et al. paper which says

    Rather than securing certainty that was absent before, this exercise has invited intense scrutiny to the judgments underpinning their claim, and generated further doubt.

    This seems a bizarre thing to suggest. Consensus studies are scrutinised, leading to further doubt, and this is somehow the fault of those carrying out consensus studies? It’s almost as if they’re suggesting that they shouldn’t be done in the first place because of how the responses to their studies will confuse things. An alternative might be that those who study the role of science in society could help to reduce the level of confusion, rather than enhancing it. Worth a shot?

  2. “[m]ore important is to focus on genuinely controversial issues within climate policy debates where expertise might play a facilitating role.”

    Do the authors accept the existence of the consensus?

    If not, it is a controversial topic they say we should talk about.

    if yes, do they think scientists should withhold the truth from the public? I would be curious if they also advocate being dishonest about other questions.

  3. Mal Adapted says:

    @aTTP,

    One irony about this is that if someone focuses on providing more and more information, they get accused of deficit model thinking. Focusing on consensus messaging and you’re engaging in a strategy that is polarising and harmful. The only certainty – as far as I can see – is that whatever you do someone will find a reason to criticise. This is why I find myself getting quite frustrated by some of the critics who should – in my view – have enough understanding of the complexity of this issue to recognise this.

    IMO, The best reason for AGW-deniers of all species to criticize knowledge-deficit arguments is that they are accurate for a sub-population of the remaining uncommitted public.

    AGW-deniers must be taking the deficit model and consensus messaging seriously or there wouldn’t be so much fossil fuel money invested in keeping our target audience’s heads filled with counterfactual noise. Sophisticated disinformation specialists command top dollar for their ‘non-profit’ services, and one assumes smart businessmen would want to see positive ROI.

  4. Victor,
    Good point. If the existence of a strong consensus is not controversial, then why not make that clear so that we can move on? If it is, then by their own argument it should be studied (unless there are some contoversial topics that should, and some that should not, but who would decide?).

  5. If there was not so much anti-consensus messaging there would be no need for the consensus message as a response. By ‘anti-consensus messaging’ I of course mean the usual, “scientists don’t agree” lie that seems to be such a vital element of any ‘sceptical’ speech, newspaper op-ed, or on-line comment.

  6. BBD says:

    There is also a suggestion (which I’ve also seen elsewhere) that there is too much focus on consensus messaging and that this can be harmful (both in terms of preventing alternative messaging strategies and in terms of the resulting policy decisions). Well, there may be some truth to this

    As you have pointed out above and previously, consensus argument are counter-arguments to a persistent contrarian meme and so will remain in currency until that meme expires. It is therefore extremely unreasonable to object that consensus arguments are overused.

  7. BBD says:

    John, we crossed. Sorry 😦

  8. John Hartz says:

    Seems to me that the overwhelming and ever-growing body of scientific evidence confirming the existence of manmade climate change may be as important as consensus among scientists.

  9. jacksmith4tx says:

    People are wired* to believe in A.I.(technology’s godhead) because our technology changes their reality.
    If a climate A.I. system validated the scientific consensus* you will change the debate.
    The skeptics will find arguing with a A.I. system very risky position to defend.
    *B.R.A.I.N. project
    https://www.braininitiative.nih.gov/index.htm
    *There is more than CO2 to worry about.

  10. Willard says:

    > Rather than securing certainty that was absent before, this exercise has invited intense scrutiny to the judgments underpinning their claim, and generated further doubt.

    When doubt is your product, what else is to be expected?

    Still, this seems to be an empirical claim, so a citation might be needed.

    Or not. Let’s see: hadn’t there been any consensus messaging at all, there would be less doubt about consensus messaging.

    So to eliminate all criticism of the claim that God exists, all one needs to do is never to say God exists.

    Simple, when you think about it.

    Lew Made Warren Do It.

  11. hadn’t there been any consensus messaging at all, there would be less doubt about consensus messaging.

    Indeed, I noticed this irony too.

  12. Steven Mosher says:

    “The only certainty – as far as I can see – is that whatever you do someone will find a reason to criticise. ”

    death taxes and nit pickers

  13. i think willard wins logic smackdown of the week, but its only monday

  14. Magma says:

    There is a misconception among the public about the level of agreement; the public perception is that the level of agreement is considerably lower than it actually is.

    That’s the key point, I think. If, say, only2% of the public thought anthropogenic climate change was a hoax, who would care? They’d be lumped in with flat-Earthers and the like. But when decades of funded disinformation leaves a large minority in the U.S., the UK (and maybe other countries) thinking that even the basics are unsettled among experts and this is used politically to justify inaction, then it becomes a problem to be addressed.

    The fact that climate change denial groups have attacked the scientific consensus so consistently and so vehemently suggests they recognize it as a threat to their disinformation campaigns.

  15. Griff says:

    How can you have policy debate when the other side do not act in good faith?
    To generalize those opposed to action just bog the conversation down in nitpicking detail, disputing findings, rabbiting pratt’s and squirrel hunting.

    Consensus messaging is an attempt to limit the debate to discussing policy to resolve the issue.

    Black swans.
    https://www.newscientist.com/article/2141605-mysterious-mega-swan-once-waddled-through-new-zealand/

  16. David B. Benson says:

    Off topic, I suppose, but a useful opinion piece based on the End Permian event:

  17. Even when consensus is mathematically determined, there are debates over risk

  18. Steven,

    Even when consensus is mathematically determined, there are debates over risk

    Of course, but knowing whether or not there is a consensus is still a useful piece of information.

  19. dikranmarsupial says:

    “Given the above, a great deal of the Pearce et al. commentary appears to be simply savaging strawmen. “

    Indeed, and my interaction with Dr Pearce rather amplified that. I asked:

    which seems a reasonable question to me. Dr Pearce didn’t actually answer that question, but responded with:

    Now ” However, relying on consensus as #scicomm…..plank self-defeating.” seems a bit of a straw man to me, as for instance John Cook, in addition to publishing some rather good papers on the consensus, also has run a well-known website (skeptical science) which for a long time has been discussing just the sort of uncertain issues that Dr Pearce refers to, and ran a MOOC on climate change denial, so he is clearly not relying on consensus messaging, it is just one programme of activity (but an important one). So I asked who is relying on consensus messaging, and the responses included pedantly (the pedantry was O.K. as it was technically correct, but not answering the question rather less so), shifting the goal posts, “when did I say anyone was doing that?” and finally “well you are misinterpreting a tweet [i.e. it is my fault!], which is very easily done. Best to read the article.”, it wasn’t about the article, it was about what he tweeted.

    I find it remarkable that intelligent people find it so difficult just to say that they mis-spoke, or admit that what they wrote was incorrect/unfair, and just double down or engage in evasion (c.f. Richard Tol here, Roger Pielke Sr at SkS). When someone asks me a quiestion about my work, I generally give my best attempt to answer it directly and as fully as I can, even when it is poking holes in it (all research has holes in it, and you can’t patch them up unless you know about them, they are doing me a favour).

    It wasn’t as if that was the only straw man. I could easily have asked “who is ‘insist[ing] on accepting…science as point of passage.’?”, as I don’t think consensus messaging is doing that either. Also regarding the “There are huge amounts of uncertainty within climate change that can be used as leverage in advocacy arguments “ Genevieve Guenther‏ gave the reasonable challenge:

    as far as I can see with no reply (which suggests it was a bit of a bluff because, while there are indeed important uncertainties, AFAICS they do not really have a great deal of impact on the basics of what we should probably be doing about it).

    It is deeply ironic that people should be criticising a reasonable approach to communicating relevant information that some people* will find helpful in deciding what should be done about climate, and not see that their own communication on this issue is rather flawed.

    *yes, some will find it divisive, but frankly if you find being given factually correct information to be divisive then I suspect there is little chance you will engage rationally and constructively in any discussion on this topic, regardless of the approach.

  20. I find it strange that people claim that people are relying on consensus messaging. I don’t think this is true. When Doug McNeall was asked who he associated with consensus messaging, he mentioned John Cook. Has he never looked at the Skeptical Science site (it is possible he has not)? It clearly does not rely on consensus messaging; it’s a site that presents all sorts of other details about the topic. I don’t think anyone who is associated with consensus studies/messaging thinks it should be the main plank on which science communicating relies. Then there is, of course, the irony that if you do focus on the details and provide more and more information you get accused of deficit model thinking.

    So, here’s my challenge to Pearce et al. Explain precisely what it is that people should be doing because apart from not doing certain things, I don’t know what they think we should do. If they’re the experts at how best to communicate, then surely they must be able to present their arguments in a way that even I could understand.

  21. dikranmarsupial says:

    Thanks for fixing the tags and inlining the tweets, much appreciated!

  22. dikranmarsupial says:

    Indeed. I think it is undeniable that there has been a good deal of misinformation on whether there is a consensus or not, and it is absurd to argue that aligning yourself with the balance of expert opinion is a reasonable approach for problems where you do not have the required expertise to form a rational, considered opinion, so if we are not allowed to do consensus “messaging” (it is the “messaging” that I find uncomfortable), just what are we do do? This is the obvious question and the onus is on those arguing against “consensus messaging” to come up with an approach they think is better.

    “better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without” is a useful maxim.

  23. dikranmarsupial says:

    Co-author Reiner Grundmann doubles down with uncharitable characterisation of my position and another straw man 😦

    This suggests to me that perhaps their objectivity on this is perhaps not 100%

  24. I’m waiting with bated breath for some evidence that these are people who are best placed to advise on how to communicate a complex topic. I think I’m going to have to stop holding my breath pretty soon.

  25. dikranmarsupial says:

    I’m afraid experience (of Twitter in general) means that I am not holding my breath on a constructive response from Prof. Grundmann on my replies (which point out that my motivation is for the debate to be well informed, and that I want areas of disagreement to be discussed and if miscontrued then the misunderstandings explained, and that he didn’t answer the question).

  26. Dikran,
    Indeed, I’m not expecting much. Would be nice, however, if those who do present these views actually spent some time engaging with those who are trying to undertake science communication, especially as their work is essentially a critique of work in which we’ve been involved.

  27. jacksmith4tx says:

    Looks like DARPA is going to use A.I. to filter out B.S. in scientific publications. This is a necessary precondition to build a robust climate A.I. system not to mention many other fields of research.
    https://www.wired.com/story/darpa-bs-detector-science/
    Can’t wait till they feed the WUWT archives through it. I bet we see that 97% of it is B.S.

  28. Willard says:

    Wait. If talking about CM is self-defeating, is criticizing CM a bit self-defeating too?

    Criticizing criticism of CM too would then be self-defeating.

    It goes without saying, for had I said it it would have been self-defeating.

    Somehow related:

  29. Willard says:

    Why read Tim Harford’s problems with facts:

    when we could factcheck Warren’s “we argue” is substantiated in his editorial?

  30. Joshua says:

    willard –

    Re: your 10:19

    I was struck by the sentences you quoted there…. re-posing a comment of mine on that article from Dan’s crib:

    –snip–

    Oy. This is also rather dubious.

    Rather, these arguments demonstrate the pitfalls of attempting to quantify consensus in the scientific literature in the manner of C13 in order to produce “proof” for persuading the public. Rather than securing certainty that was absent before, this exercise has invited intense scrutiny to the judgments underpinning their claim, and generated further doubt. This was a predictable outcome on the basis of STS studies which show that doing more research on politically controversial, high-stakes policy matters typically increases uncertainty (Collingridge & Reeve, 1986 Collingridge, D., & Reeve, C. (1986). Science speaks to power: The role of experts in policy making. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press.

    I haven’t chased down their references, but I suspect that they have not sufficiently cited solid enough evidence so as to distinguish between “provokes criticism ” and “increases uncertainty.”

    IMO, I have seen this same problem crop up many times. They are a assigning a causal role for consensus messaging to create backlash from those who are ideologically aligned against both the messaging and the messengers. What is truly causal there? How is the difference between consensus messaging acting as a mediator or a moderator established?

    ‘Fraid to say, this looks like an article written to confirm a bias.

    Meanwhile, methings there’s quite a bit here that helps to frame the arguments about CM.

    http://nautil.us/issue/49/the-absurd/why-your-brain-hates-other-people

    it is hard for me to get past seeing the practical implications of CM and “anti-CM” as being mostly about “us vs. them” – even if the proximal or operational goals may be something else.

  31. Francis says:

    When anyone writes anything along the lines of: We maintain that researchers … would be better advised to invest their efforts in these areas

    the only possible response that makes any sense is “Go Pound Sand. I’ll study what I want. You go ahead and invest YOUR efforts in those areas”.

    Seriously, isn’t the whole point of being a scientist, professional or amateur, to research what you want?

  32. Francis,

    the only possible response that makes any sense is “Go Pound Sand. I’ll study what I want. You go ahead and invest YOUR efforts in those areas”.

    I agree, maintaining that researchers…would be better adivised to invest their efforts in others areas is worthy of disdain. On the other hand, it’s not uncommon to have people highlight areas that are of interest and not being fully considered. However, that may provide interesting opportunities, rather than some kind of prescription that they do something different to what they’re currently doing.

  33. John Hartz says:

    FWIW, attacking the scientific consensus about manmade climate change is not one of the four actions identified in…

    4 ways critics plan to attack climate science by Scott Waldmam, E&E News/Climatewire, July 28, 2017

  34. Willard says:

    > I haven’t chased down their references

    There’s only one in your quote – Collinridge & Reeve, 1986.

    Warren has a knack for obscure and expensive references:

    Your “but simplistic dichotomy” is a poor excuse to peddle your own pet topic and to handwave to your own field of study. Speaking of which, I think the Harvey Graff’s book costs forty-five US bucks plus shipping :

    https://jhupbooks.press.jhu.edu/content/undisciplining-knowledge

    This specific “exchange of ideas” around interdisciplinarity does not come cheap. It certainly doesn’t look transparent to me.

    http://blogs.nottingham.ac.uk/makingsciencepublic/2016/03/30/transparency-lewandowsky-bishop-socialscience/

    The blog is called Making Science Public. I kid you not.

  35. Willard says:

    In response to my comment, Warren leads by example and shows how to “engage,” whatever that means:

    That’s certainly a perspective. Thanks for sharing.

    http://blogs.nottingham.ac.uk/makingsciencepublic/2016/03/30/transparency-lewandowsky-bishop-socialscience/

    I’m glad that I have a perspective.

    And to echo Francis’ suggestion:

  36. Joshua says:

    Has anyone been engaging with Warren regarding their paper on a non-twitter forum?

  37. Yes, Dikran and I exchanged a few tweets with Warren.

  38. Joshua says:

    Non-twitter?

    I’d like to ask Warren how he measured an increase in uncertainty, but I’d rather not enter the world of tweet.

  39. Sorry, mis-read. I don’t know if anyone has; I haven’t. You could always send him an email.

  40. I should add that that is an interesting question and I would also like to know the answer.

  41. Steven Mosher says:

    ATTP.

    There is a difference between the fact of consensus and consensus as an argument.

    you dont beleive in agw because of the fact of consensus and neither do i.

    personally i find it hard to use or endorse an argument that doesnt inform or add to my reasons for believing.

    my sense,from watching some people argue, is that they believe because of the consensus. they should stop talking and let those who have better arguments talk.

    yes yes when a dunce asserts that many scientists doubt the theory ,citing the fact of consensus is a good response.

  42. Willard says:

    Warren has a blog, Joshua:

    http://blogs.nottingham.ac.uk/makingsciencepublic/

    He should have a post up soon enough, if only to make sure we’ll talk more about CM.

  43. Joshua says:

    JH –

    When Bernie is speaking in that clip, he seems to have been cut off. Of so, then what did he go on to say, and why was it cut off?

  44. Joshua says:

    Willard –

    I went there but it looked like a shared blog, without a directly relevant post. I’m about to email him.

  45. Vinny Burgoo says:

    97%!

  46. Joshua says:

    Vinny –

    I’ve been impressed by your arguments in the past, but that one is just too freakin’ good. You might as well just drop the mic and stop commenting any further.

  47. John Hartz says:

    Joshua: I dunno.

  48. Ken Fabian says:

    Steven Mosher > “There is a difference between the fact of consensus and consensus as an argument. you dont beleive in agw because of the fact of consensus and neither do i. ”

    Yet most people do not possess the skills to assess the science on it’s merits and must rely on the institutions and professional practices and standards of science, which may be seen as accepting the consensus; to refuse to accept the validity of the studies and reports produced within those institutions and standards until and unless confirmed by personally examining and critiquing them is a way to reject the expert advice in practice with a justifiable excuse. Yet, for anyone holding relevant positions of trust and responsibility to act this way when the expert advice – the formal reports commissioned by governments in lieu of personal expertise – has been consistent and clear it is not justifiable caution, it is negligence.

  49. angech says:

    …and Then There’s Physics says:
    “Good point. If the existence of a strong consensus is not controversial, then why not make that clear so that we can move on?”
    Moving on is the answer and explains why trying to justify the consensus and beat people about the head with it is the wrong move.
    It is not controversial as at least 98% of climate scientists who have published 20 papers at more are convinced that more than half the warming of the earth (possibly up to 110%) is being caused by human activity.
    Since this is incontrovertible and accepted by virtually all the people who count (above) why should we make a fuss about it.
    A small minority of misinformed skeptics is surely not even worth noticing.
    Just get on with the scientific discussion already and drop the consensus stuff .
    Just watch where your walking as the ground is not level.

  50. Just to clarify, ‘Making Science Public’ was a team blog for a research programme that ranged over a wide variety of topics, one of them climate change (scepticism). The programme has now ended and I mainly use the blog to write stuff about anything science/science comms that comes along. I have written some posts about consensus on the blog which are a bit different to the approach taken by Warren et al: http://blogs.nottingham.ac.uk/makingsciencepublic?s=consensus

  51. MikeH says:

    Warren has an article in The Guardian. Comments are off which makes sense since the article is little more than dishonest trolling.

    https://www.theguardian.com/science/political-science/2017/aug/01/well-never-tackle-climate-change-if-academics-keep-the-focus-on-consensus

    But I did like this

    >Our commentary prompted a tetchy reaction in a newsletter from Climate Nexus, a climate communication organisation dedicated to “a constructive search for solutions”. Rather than engaging with the arguments or providing counter-evidence, they described us as “fluffheads”, “no men in no man’s land between reality and denial” (half of us are women), and said that our arguments should not be publicised in the media.

    “Fluffheads” – very accurate IMO. And “no men in no man’s land” is the name of a song from the Phish.

    Here is a copy of Climate Nexus article that he is complaining about.

    They don’t say “our arguments should not be publicised in the media”. They say “So we expect the paper to be uniformly ignored by reporters …” [because it is crap is the gist].

    It is unvarnished Pielkeism (not surprising given the ecomod tinge to this paper) – if you criticise me, you are suppressing my free speech.

  52. It is unvarnished Pielkeism (not surprising given the ecomod tinge to this paper) – if you criticise me, you are suppressing my free speech.

    This may have come from Pielke, as that is how he described it. As you say, it’s not arguing they should not be published, it’s suggesting that they will be ignored. Also, that Climate Nexus piece was retracted and there was an apology.

  53. A question to those involved in ‘consensus messaging’. Am I right in assuming that the aim of CM is not so much to provide more information to those already well-informed (and already persuaded to act) but to counteract the misinformation that is disseminated by some in order for the well-informed to have doubts (and persuade them not to act) and for the not so well-informed to be misinformed? I just wanted to get that clear in my head.

  54. dikranmarsupial says:

    Somewhat ironic that they couldn’t find an image for the guardian article that actually used consensus messaging or had 97% on it! ;o) More ironic is that this is the first mention of consensus I have seen in the media for ages!

  55. MikeH says:

    Good then that Matthew Nisbet made a copy because I thought they nailed it. 😉

    I can understand though why they might not want make enemies of the ecomod crowd who can be very persistent whiners when play the victim.

  56. brigitte,
    My understanding of the goal, is that the first step is to get people who think there isn’t a consensus to at least accept that there is (about the basics – humans are causing global warming). If you can achieve that, then the idea is that you can more easily engage about other information, and also counteract some of the misinformation – happy to be corrected by those who are more informed than me. It certainly seems hard to me to discuss the science in any more detail if there are still many people who think that there isn’t even agreement about the basics.

    It does seem as though a great deal of the criticism of consensus messaging is criticising something that is not the intent (strawmanning). For example, Warren’s pience ends with

    More importantly, consensus messaging is an attempt to win political arguments with scientific numbers and risks a further politicisation of science that the US can ill-afford. It is less about informing democracy and more about reducing engagement to the level of a trivia quiz.

    No, it is very simply about addressing claims that there is not a strong consensus. Warren seems to be arguing that we should accept that some people hold the view that there is not a strong consensus (about the basics) and accept this for the good of societal harmony. What about an alternative argument that people should accept things that are true for the good of society, rather than excusing those who hold views that are not.

    I must admit that I’ve been writing and deleting tweets about this all morning. His final paragraph, coming just after mentioning the uncharitable Climate Nexus piece (that was retracted), seems like a master class in irony – essentially equating those who engage in consensus messaging with climate “skeptics”.

  57. dikranmarsupial says:

    The parting shot at the end of the Grauniad article

    “More importantly, consensus messaging is an attempt to win political arguments with scientific numbers* and risks a further politicisation of science that the US can ill-afford. It is less about informing democracy and more about reducing engagement to the level of a trivia quiz.”

    is a deeply unfair misrepresentation of the citizen science team behind the TCP (singled out in the article), and John Cook in particular. Given John is the founder of SkepticalScience.com and organised a MOOC on the reasons why people are sometimes in denial about climate change (which included material on what the science actually says), he has done hugely more to “inform democracy” than most. Very, very dissappointing, and I think an apology is in order.

    * this is also a misrepresentation.

  58. Dikran,
    Indeed, especially given the information provided on sites like Skeptical Science.

  59. MikeH says:

    You have to wonder whether the research for their paper extended to actually reading any material relating to the Consensus Project?

    This is from the website FAQ – http://theconsensusproject.com

    “Isn’t science decided by evidence”

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

  60. MikeH,
    It seems to me that however many times you tell some people that consensus studies aren’t intended to demonstrate that the science is right, and that consensus messaging isn’t about closing down the debate but is simply aimed at getting people to recognise the level of agreement, some will still go off and make up all sorts of nefarious intentions.

  61. “I’ve only just realised that it cites my blog, which might be a first.”
    I’ve cited your blog before they did.

    Oh, and your opening post is just a rehash of the tired old, long discredited, thoroughly debunked linear model of science-policy communications.

  62. Richard,

    I’ve cited your blog before they did.

    I couldn’t quite remember. I remember getting an acknowledgement, don’t remember you actually citing the blog.

    Oh, and your opening post is just a rehash of the tired old, long discredited, thoroughly debunked linear model of science-policy communications.

    Yes, I realise that you would rather the public and policy makers were ill-informed (this may seem unfair, but given your association with the Global Warming Policy Foundation, is almost certainly not), but I’m going to stick with trying to present information that is “true” and let the public/policy makers decide what to do, given that information.

  63. @Brigitte
    That’s exactly right as far as I’m concerned. SkS confirms it: https://skepticalscience.com/tcp.php?t=faq#importance

    Proof that there is a consensus is clearly a really annoying fact for some, otherwise they wouldn’t spend so much time trying to dissuade scientists and the climate concerned from mentioning it.

  64. dikranmarsupial says:

    Brigitte that is also my understanding.

    Note: Consensus messaging is not particularly my thing, I contribute to SkS but had no significant involvement in TCP (although I wish I had as I think it is a useful piece of research). However if there is a better way of dealing with misinformation about the consensus, then I am happy to hear about it, but I think ignoring it is not an option. I do however take exception to people misrepresenting the work of others (especially when they are my friends, I am human) and I think it is reasonable to object to it when I see it.

  65. There are two ironies to this type of scenario (and Warren Pearce’s article isn’t alone in doing this). We regularly see arguments that “facts aren’t enough” which is then based on other “facts” (evidence from social science). Well, if facts aren’t enough to convince people, then why are those who are highlighting this relying on “facts” to make their arguments? The other is that consensus messaging is devisive and polarising, followed then by an argument that essentially insults those they’re criticising (Pearce’s article is basically accusing those who engage in consensus messaging of damaging US democracy).

    If people like Warren Pearce want to make some kind of argument about how best to engage in discussing a complex topic publicly, then maybe they should avoid the very things that they claim are the problem in the first place.

  66. dikranmarsupial says:

    Brigitte, I suspect there are also those who just don’t have the information, but who have not been greatly swayed by the misinformation either. I would have thought that many people are not really bothered about climate change either way, and are entering into the topic without a great deal of information.

  67. @wottsy
    “I’m going to stick with trying to present information that is “true” and let the public/policy makers decide what to do, given that information.”

    That is the neatest little summary of the linear model.

  68. Yes, of course, I bet for a lot of people climate change is the least of their worries, as far as they can see…However, it would be good to think that if it becomes a worry or concern there is stuff out there that they can go to for evidence-based information (in order to fill their ‘deficits’ – we all have those and we all will fill them one way or another!)…

  69. Richard,

    That is the neatest little summary of the linear model.

    Indeed, but I’ve yet to see a convincing argument as to why researchers should really follow some other model. Maybe you think the goal of science communication is to specifically influence a particularly policy, but I tend to think that researchers should aim to inform, rather than influence. Of course, as citizens, they can do what they wish, but they should try to distinguish between their role as researchers who are communicating publicly, and citizens expressing their own personal views.

  70. Brigitte,

    However, it would be good to think that if it becomes a worry or concern there is stuff out there that they can go to for evidence-based information (in order to fill their ‘deficits’ – we all have those and we all will fill them one way or another!)…

    Indeed. What I find odd is how much effort some people put into telling others what they shouldn’t be doing. If people want to spend their time presenting information that is essentially true, that should be fine even if it won’t necessarily achieve much (I would argue it has its own value, even if there isn’t a direct influence on policy). Also, if people think there are more effective strategies, they’re free to go ahead and try them. Would seem more constructive than telling others what not to do.

  71. dikranmarsupial says:

    Brigitte wrote “However, it would be good to think that if it becomes a worry or concern there is stuff out there that they can go to for evidence-based information”

    Indeed, and evidence-based information on the existence/degree of consensus is valuable as it is a reasonable basis for a stance on a topic where we do not have the expertise to judge the science directly (which includes myself). Different people will want to engage with the science at different levels, so ideally we want accurate information made available to suit everybody’s requirements, from those that are happy to simply align themselves with the balance of expert opinion to those who want to get into the fine details of how ECS is estimated or where our fossil fuel emission actually end up and over what timescale or what the recent apparent “hiatus” means in policy terms.

    The real problem here seems to be the uncharitable characature of consensus messaging as being an attempt to ramrod policy aims through on the authority of the scientists, rather than the provision of correct information (or dealing with misinformation). This suggests to me that perhaps they need to have a bit more dialog with those doing consensus messaging and find out what their aims actually are. Sadly the approach taken in the Guardian article is bound to be divisive/polarizing unlikely to facilitate productive discussion (ironic huh? ;o).

  72. This suggests to me that perhaps they need to have a bit more dialog with those doing consensus messaging and find out what their aims actually are.

    Indeed, but I get a sense that there is a reluctance to do so.

    On a slightly different point. One of the arguments seems to be that consensus messaging ignores the complexities and makes it more difficult to discuss areas where there isn’t agreement, or where there are large uncertainties. I would argue that you can’t really discuss the latter if you don’t also know how much agreement there is about the basics, and have some idea of areas where there is little disagreement and where the uncertainties are less severe.

    Dismissing the importance of consensus messaging would seem – in my view – to make discussing the complexities more difficult, rather than easier. To be fair, if your goal is to highlight the areas of disagreement over areas of agreement, dismissing consensus messaging may well be an important step, but my own view is that that is more likely to misinform, than inform.

  73. dikranmarsupial says:

    Most explanations of how the greenhouse effect works ignores the complexities of what is actually going on, but difficult to explain e.g. continuum absorption if the audience doesn’t already have the simplified overview. I have seen cladograms criticised as being “reductionist”, focussing on the differences between organisms, and if you look at it from the root to the leaves, that is what it shows, but if you look at it from leaves to root, it shows the patterns of similarities between organisms. I don’t see how you can discuss disagreements without discussing agreements as well.

    I’d be interested in hearing about the uncertainties that potentially have a substantial effect on policy. Most of the uncertainties have little relevance to centennial scale policy (e.g. the apparent “hiatus” in GMSTs) or only change the big picture if you cherry pick (e.g. ECS might plausibly be low, but it may also plausibly be higher than expected, and the non-linearity of impacts means that the possibility of low ECS is not as reassuring as ruling out high ECS would be). So what are they?

  74. Willard says:

    By mentioning that the linear model has been discredited, Richie at best abides by the linear model. I say at best because it may be a strawman, in which case it may contain Gremlins. The Gremlins model of communication is not the best. It’s the very best.

    I say a strawman, but there may be two: the linear model and Richie’s mention of it. Or three, if we count the fact that the so-called linear model is not even a model in the first place. In contrast to Richie’s Gremlins model, which every Freedom Fighter should emulate.

    The linear model is simply the assumption that the more people know, the better they decide.This relationship should be linear, somehow. The linearity bit “proves” (h/t MattN) that those who use the expression may be abiding the Gremlins model. In any case, this assumption has been shown false times and times again – Richie’s overall career should offer a good countermodel.

    The only ClimateBall player I’ve seen holding that linear model is Scott Adams. Everyone else seems to have enough self-awareness that more, better, truer information seldom suffice to move anyone. I mean, there is a Denizen at Judy’s who still maintains that America provides universal health care to its citizens, even after being shown many, many evidence to the contrary.

    That this Denizen would get more antagonized by more and better information would argue in favor of some other kind of linear model.

    In any case, if we accept that communicating more and better information is a Bad Thing, I suggest most stop doing that thing called Science. Richie may continue, of course. He only has to promise to follow up on his Gremlins model.

  75. Steven Mosher says:

    “Yet most people do not possess the skills to assess the science on it’s merits and must rely on the institutions and professional practices and standards of science, which may be seen as accepting the consensus”

    err no.
    there is no imperitive that you even have a position on science you dont understand.
    there is no “must rely”
    you choose to have an opinion on a subject matter you know nothing about. Let me ask you what is your opinion on the bitcoin scaling debate?do you agree with the 130 experts at blockstream and think segregated witness is the right path or the 3 guys at BU
    who prefer scaling through a blocksize increase? do you even need to have an opinion.?must you have one? And if you choose to rely on experts recognizing that this is a lesser form of epistemic warrant do you feel at all comfortable arguing that others too must follow your path?i believe in agw because physics. if you dont understand ,my suggestion is that you learn physics. if you try and fail my next suggestion is that you suspend judgement and remain quiet. if you absolutely demand to have a belief about the matter i suggest you find one or two excellent explainers of things. listen to them.
    then remain quiet. purge yourself of the desire to correct others or to inform them. limit yourself to explaining how you came to accept the science. dont demand that they follow your path. change your lifestyle to reflect your new belief. be an example. dont try to change peoples minds. leave that to the people who have belief based on stronger grounds. retire from the internet debate. its not your job to correct people.
    as a last resort if you refuse to find a tutor then by all means trust the consensus and delete your accounts.

  76. dikranmarsupial says:

    “dont try to change peoples minds.”

    for instance to make them interested in bitcoins? ;o)

  77. dikranmarsupial says:

    I agree that people don’t have to align themselves with the consensus view if they don’t understand the science, however they do have to take responsibility for how they vote (or if they choose not to vote) and climate is a political issue. This implies that if you don’t want to abrogate your democratic duty, you do need to have a position. IMHO, of course.

    ” if you absolutely demand to have a belief about the matter i suggest you find one or two excellent explainers of things. listen to them.”

    Sure, what could go wrong? I choose James Dellingpole and Viscount Monckton, clearly climate change is all a liberal/communist hoax and the scientific community are all corrupt/incompetent. Err… ;o)

    Rhetoric can make someone an excellent explainer of things that are not actually true, examples abound, e.g. BREXIT.

  78. Joshua says:

    I don’t understand the science of climate science well enough to interpret that science.

    I don’t formulate my opinions on climate change simply on the basis of whether or not there is a consensus of opinion among experts.

    However, the broad consensus of opinion among experts (I don’t care about the exact magnitude of that consensus, and I am dubious that anyone can quantify that magnitude with much precision) is information for me to use in weighing the probabilities related to the outcomes of continuing to pour ACO2 into the atmosphere.

    That there is a consensus is useful information, even if it isn’t dispositive.

    Of course it is, just as it is in so many other situations where I lack the knowledge or skills to evaluate the evidence myself.

    This is a standard heuristic that I use, that I think that most people use in any variety of circumstances.

    I will note, however, that I have seen evidence that suggests that there are many people who think that they understand the science well enough to interpret that science, where I think that to be highly unlikely. It just so happens that “skeptics” of the Tea Party pursuasion seem to be disproportionately represented in that group. That, I consider to be useful information, also.

  79. dikranmarsupial says:

    In statistics/machine learning we often use ensembles of models/estimates as they tend to give more accurate predictions/estimates that individual models/estimates as the errors of the component parts can often be expected to be uncorrelated to some extent and hence cancel out when you average them. Hence the opinions of groups of scientists/experts tend to be more reliable than those of individuals, which is why looking at reports by professional/academic bodies, such as the RS or the IPCC or information on the consensus view is likely to be better than listening to one or two individuals (which may be good choices or not so good choices). Not always good at detecting humour though, so not sure how much of that was meant seriously.

  80. @wottsywotts
    You cast yourself in the role of Pielke’s “pure scientist”.

    I must say that I find that less than convincing.

  81. You cast yourself in the role of Pielke’s “pure scientist”.

    I must say that I find that less than convincing.

    Not really, and I’m sure you do. All I’m really saying is that I would rather present information that I regard as “true” (or defensible) than avoid doing so because it might annoy some people who think we should – for some reason, or other – avoid pointing out these truths. Also, whether or not doing so achieves some specific policy action isn’t really my reason for doing so. Of course, I do think that it’s better if people are informed, rather than misinformed, before making a decision, but what they decide (given that information) is up to them.

  82. dikranmarsupial says:

    RichardTol wrote “I must say that I find that less than convincing.”

    says the professor who repeatedly evades technical questions relating to his academic work. I don’t think you are in a great position to be commenting on the “pure scientist”, somehow! ;o)

  83. Dikran,
    To be fair, Richard wasn’t arguing that he is one; he was suggesting that I’m not (which I don’t reallly claim to be).

  84. dikranmarsupial says:

    True.

  85. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:


    Everyone else seems to have enough self-awareness that more, better, truer information seldom suffice to move anyone. I mean, there is a Denizen at Judy’s who still maintains that America provides universal health care to its citizens, even after being shown many, many evidence to the contrary.

    It’s even worse than Judy’s denizens, Willard…


    Common sense is the most fairly distributed thing in the world, for each one thinks he is so well-endowed with it that even those who are hardest to satisfy in all other matters are not in the habit of desiring more of it than they already have.

    – Rene Descartes

    Hell – Some people are so eager to avoid cognitive dissonance that they won’t believe their own
    lyin’ eyes.

    There are plenty folks on the coast of Florida and Louisiana that don’t believe that sea level is rising – and even if it is, well, teh Donald will make everything OK.

    I blame the less than convincing, tired old, long discredited, thoroughly debunked linear model of science-policy communications.

  86. Pingback: In Italia no? - Ocasapiens - Blog - Repubblica.it

  87. Joshua says:

    I don’t happen to believe that “consensus messaging” has much of a differential impact on public opinion…

    … But I do think that it is important to keep in mind that papers such as Warren’s, in the topic of CM, be viewed in full context. And part of that context absolutely must be analysis of the effects of anti-CM messaging. Let’s take a look at a slice, shall we?

    How about some analysis related to that source of messaging, for many Americans, including quite likely the single person most influential for policies, on climate change.

  88. @wottsywottsywotts
    Maybe this is a good time to pick up a copy of “The Honest Broker” as you evidently did not get the reference.

  89. Richard,
    I got the reference fine.

  90. dikranmarsupial says:

    “@wottsywottsywotts” ah, the sophisticated humour of the senior academic at its finest.

  91. dikranmarsupial says:

    Can’t wait to see if “@wottsywottsywottsywotts” is next! The excitement of it all! ;o)

  92. izen says:

    @-W
    “Wait. If talking about CM is self-defeating, is criticizing CM a bit self-defeating too?”

    No, those citing 97% and those criticizing CM have opposing goals.

    Which team is more convincing ?
    One cites 97% as evidence that people who are rational and want to base their policy on as large an evidence base as possible should accept the mainstream climate science conclusions about AGW.
    The other team claims that citing a consensus proves that the whole AGW issue is group-think. By relegating uncertainty in observation and disagreements about climate processes to ‘details’ that do not change the ‘basic underlying’ science, CM reveals that its is more concerned with dogmatic orthodoxy than engaging with doubts.

    A linear model of science/policy communications is clearly refuted by the GWPF. So insensitive is advocated policy to the level of scientific information that I doubt that a doubling would cause any change at all.

  93. Joshua says:

    izen –

    ==> . So insensitive is advocated policy to the level of scientific information that I doubt that a doubling would cause any change at all. <==

    That might depend on the amount of countervailing information, which may or may not be a completely independent measurement.

    Which is what I think is entirely lacking in Warren's paper and many similar efforts.

    How do you measure the impact of CM if you don't have a measurement of the countervailing anti-CM?

    Which is why I think that certain statements about the impact of CM, such as those found in Warren's paper, are mere argument by assertion.

  94. verytallguy says:

    sophisticated humour of the senior academic at its finest.

    Indeed. There’s enough material there for an entire conference.

    https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Fawlty_Towers

  95. JCH says:

    Honest broker?

    or honest broker?

  96. Willard says:

    > statements about the impact of CM, such as those found in Warren’s paper, are mere argument by assertion.

    I’d rather say they’re concerns.

    My policy to broker concerns in the most honest manner is to be thankful for them.

    So I am thankful for Warren’s and Reiner’s concerns.

    It is important that we have academics telling other academics not to waste their time talking about CM.

    After all, they waste their time to save ours.

    Reminds me of an old zombie story.

    The Original Dishonest Brokering, or something like that.

  97. Willard says:

    > By relegating uncertainty in observation and disagreements about climate processes to ‘details’ that do not change the ‘basic underlying’ science, CM reveals that its is more concerned with dogmatic orthodoxy than engaging with doubts.

    Please forgive my post-modern bore, but CM doesn’t reveal anything by itself. People still need to make that revelation public. Anti-CM advocates are the ones who claim stuff about orthodoxy and dogwhistle stuff about groupthink.

    Also, the Warrens and the Reiners allege to argue, and the very act of arguing presupposes that people can be convinced by the argument proposed. Usually, this implies that more information gets added to our collective knowledge base. Some might say that information only gets reorganized, but to me reorganized information is more information.

    So whatever the objective of any agent, any deliberative process comes with some so-called linearity.

    It’s very hard to tell people anything new without adding information.

    Just think about it: how can you convince anyone that the linear model is a Bad Thing without committing the very sin you accuse your ClimateBall competitors?

    Let’s blame illiberal status competition and be done with it.

  98. izen says:

    @-“Please forgive my post-modern bore, but CM doesn’t reveal anything by itself.”

    Of course not. As you correctly describe, the Red team are the ones who claim stuff about orthodoxy and dogwhistle stuff about groupthink. CM is claimed to be revealing evidence of these faults.

    Or at least that is the danger about which Concern has been expressed.
    CM may undermine a claim to be an honest broker.

    @-“Let’s blame illiberal status competition and be done with it.”

    That societies fail to be described by a linear model of science-policy communications is because it is an aspirational goal, not a description.
    It is an old idea, Utopian in origin, if not earlier. It is hard to discredit an ethos. In the sense of an absolute ideal from which the distance that societies fall short can be measured. ALEC, and otters, actively work to debunk any efforts to further evidence-based governence.

    Descriptive accuracy might favour a non-linear model of finance-policy communications.

  99. Steven Mosher says:

    marsup.

    of course i will try to change your mind IF
    i know what i am talking about.

    wonder why i dont talk about cloud micro physics?

    that was my whole point. i know about temperature. i talk about that.because the foundation of my belief is work. work i did.

    clouds…i have no opinion..except for some forbush work. i dont need to have a belief.
    if i chose to accept the consensus i would not demand that others do. or even talk about it in public

  100. Steven Mosher says:

    “however they do have to take responsibility for how they vote (or if they choose not to vote) and climate is a political issue.”

    huh?i certainly dont think that people must take responsibility for how they vote.
    voting is a right. use it any damn way you want. vote or dont vote. you dont need to tell me what you voted for why you voted or anything. you own your vote..i promise to never hold you responsible. you can even vote for the right thing for the wrong reason.

    reality will decide. it gives zero fucks

  101. Marsup.

    Let me give you an example of what I would suggest that people do. They can of course ignore my suggestions. It works for me is all I can claim.

    Let’s take a well know ‘fact’ of climate science. The excess C02 in the atmosphere is caused by humans. Initially, I hear that claim and it makes some sense. I know enough chemistry to know
    that, ya, you burn coal, and oil and gas, and you get more c02. I take a look at the Keeling Curve, do some checking and the basic story seem to make sense. C02 is going up, and burning
    stuff makes more c02.

    Along comes Salby. ( and others before him on WUWT) i listen to his stuff. he tries to create doubt. It’s hard to check his work. Now, I’m faced with a dilemma. I dont know enough to
    explain the carbon cycle myself. And as such I don’t know enough to accept Salby’s criticisms
    as valid. I dont think his criticisms must be answered. merely raising questions is not enough.
    If I dont understand the science ( could not do it from scratch on my own ) then I dont know enough to accept his criticicms as interesting or important. My ignorance cuts two ways.
    That is my ignorance of the science could just as well be used as a basis for rejecting Salby’s
    talks. Other folks of course might use their ignorance to demand that every critic be answered.
    I dont see why. In any case, my first option is to try to do the work myself. Ugg. jeez I’ll be at this for years, temperature took 7 years of my time. next step. Find a Good explainer of things.

    i was lucky I found this guy named gavin c. I read what he wrote. It made sense. he showed his work. I could not see any obvious flaws. I decide to trust him. Now maybe I cant find a guy, or maybe I question my ability to even tell who is a good guy. Then of course I’d look to the consensus. Especially if my work depended epistemically on their work.
    I am not telling people they have to believe, because the consensus. i simply describe what I do.
    A) try to understand the science yourself, which means doing it yourself.
    B) failing that, try to find a good guide, one or two will do.
    C) doubt your ability to pick a master, listen to the wisdom of the consensus.

    My argument is that ‘A” qualifies you to make good arguments to convince others.
    B and C?
    You are fully justified in coming to understanding by relying on others you trust. Understand
    this basis is not as good as A. If you come to your belief as a result of B and C, you should
    probably think twice before you demand that others also use B or C.
    You can suggest it of course. You can say, here is what I did, try this.
    You can suggest other approaches to removing ignorance and coming to belief on grounds that are less certain than the science itself. But I think the same kinda conclusions will follow.

    Your best basis for understanding is the science itself. If you understand the science itself, then by all means help to educate others on the science itself. If you dont understand some science
    by all means try to understand it. If you still can’t, then ask for help. Still stuck, listen to the consensus. This removes your ignorance, but it does not put you in a good position to
    convince others.

    So on carbon cycle I trust that gavin guy. I dont tell others they too must trust that gavin guy.
    i say, you know, I read him and it made sense. I still could not do his work from scratch. That Gavin Guy was enough. I didnt need to take a poll and see how many folks agreed with him.
    We can check of course. Yup.

  102. angech says:

    Steven, good explanation.
    Still trying 1.
    Mentors can be good.
    Problem is from all other areas of knowledge one still finds human fallibility, even in people we trust.
    Like the church.
    Worse most of us are aware of our own human frailties.

    “C02 is going up, and burning stuff makes more c02.
    Along comes Gavin C. I read what he wrote. It made sense. he showed his work. I could not see any obvious flaws.”
    “I decide to trust him.”

    Needs a bit more than no obvious flaws to build trust I would have thought. A bit like a girlfriend. No obvious flaws is fantastic but there has to be some to and fro demonstration and longevity to build up trust.
    Oh and some say good advice is never to have a workplace relationship.
    Though the office is also one of the best ways to meet ones future partner.
    Common interests and all that.

    I guess it could be said to be an uncertainty at a very long stretch.At the end of the day
    “C02 is going up, and burning stuff makes more c02.” has a certain logic.

  103. @wottsythen
    Now, if you add Funtowicz and Ravetz to Pielke, you’d find that, much as you would like, you cannot play pure scientist in climate change.

    Quite apart from the fact that you are unconvincing in that role, given all that you’ve written, climate change does not permit pure science.

  104. Richard,

    you cannot play pure scientist in climate change.

    I’m not really trying to play pure scientist, but I’m perfectly free to do as I wish. Nothing Pielke or Funtowitz says requires me to do something different to what I wish to do. This is trivially true, right?

    climate change does not permit pure science.

    There’s probably no field that is truly “pure science” (given that it is done by humans etc) but within that framework it is certainly possible to focus moslty on science, even when it comes to climate. Of course, it is convenient – for some – to argue that this isn’t possible because that way you get to imply that everything is inherently political, but that mostly shows an ignorance of how science works.

  105. @wottsywotts
    In this context, “you cannot” means “it is not possible” rather than “you may not”.

    Recall that your defense of your application of the linear model rested on you being a pure scientist.

  106. Richard,
    I realise that I’m wasting my time, but let me try and explain again. It is of course possible for me to continue doing what I’m currently doing. This is obvious, right? No amount of strawman arguments from Warren Pearce, or confused arguments about science from Funtowitz changes this. What you’re suggesting is that it’s not possible to do X (what I’m doing, for example) to achieve Y (some policy goal, for example). However, this requires that you somehow know what I’m trying to achieve. Since you obviously do not, your “it’s not possible” is a classic strawman.

    So, I will repeat; just because someone says “doing X will not achieve Y” does not mean everyone should stop doing X, especially if X happens to be something that is essentially true/correct. If, for example, providing reliable/true information is very unlikely to influence how people behave, that is not – to me, at least – an argument for not providing this information. I happen to believe that there is intrinsic value in communicating science, even if doing so doesn’t have some obvious impact on decisions that people might make.

    Maybe you can clarify something for me. If providing information that is true is ineffective and should simply stop, what is the alternative? Are you suggesting that we should work out what to tell people in order to influence their decisions, rather than prioritising providing information that is true. I far prefer the latter and plan to continue doing my best to simply present information that I can defend (that is essentially true/correct). Is your goal to provide whatever information is most likely to influence, irrespective of whether it is true, or not?

  107. dikranmarsupial says:

    Steven Mosher writes “wonder why i dont talk about cloud micro physics?”

    That is basically the approach I try to take, however I don’t see anything wrong (in fact I see a fair amount that is right) in checking out the claims made by others and reporting back what you find. Science isn’t just for [professional] scientists any more than politics is for politicos or cricket is for people who are actually good at it (apparently I am not one of them). One of the best ways of understanding something is explaining it to someone else, so blogs discussing science are a good thing on the whole, provided you are actually trying to get to the “truth” rather than just support an existing belief.

    “huh?i certainly dont think that people must take responsibility for how they vote.
    voting is a right. “

    Rights and responsibilities are two sides of the same coin (I suspect I am not the first to say that, I have probably stolen it from somewhere). ISTR Steve Jones (the very entertaining biologist) making this point about animal rights, we can give chimps rights, but can they discharge any of the responsibilities that go with them. For instance a right to life implies a responsibility not to kill; the right not to be the victim of violence is a responsibility not to inflict [unlawful] violence on others. The reason we shouldn’t be cruel to animals is our responsibility, not their right, and IMHO we do have that responsibility. If you voted for Trump, you have some responsibility for any actions he takes; you had a hand in putting him in a position to take them, e.g. pulling out of the Paris agreement. If you voted for BREXIT, then it is partly your responsibility for the wealth and cultural renaissance that will result*.

    “A) try to understand the science yourself, which means doing it yourself.
    B) failing that, try to find a good guide, one or two will do.
    C) doubt your ability to pick a master, listen to the wisdom of the consensus.”

    I would say do all three on all questions all the time, all are sources of relevant information, and consilience between all three is a good sign. I’d also add D) find someone who disagrees and try and understand why. Glad our views apparently aren’t too different after all.

    I wouldn’t trust that Gavin guy too much on the carbon cycle, he knows enough to explain most carbon cycle 101 issues (such as Salby’s error), but he has studied the more advanced stuff enough to know there is a lot he doesn’t know and doesn’t have time/energy to research in detail, which is a pity as it is interesting stuff! The Gavin, on the other hand, is a much better source for most climate related issues for approach B).

    *warning, may contain sarcasm ;o)

  108. dikranmarsupial says:

    “@wottsythen”

    boy am I disappointed with the punchline!

    P.S. Sorry. messed up the tags again in the previous post 😦

  109. dikranmarsupial says:

    ATTP wrote “I happen to believe that there is intrinsic value in communicating science, even if doing so doesn’t have some obvious impact on decisions that people might make. “

    Pretty sad state of affairs if this has to be stated explicitly!

  110. @wotts
    Most sci-pols work under the assumption that the aim of climcomm is to reduce emissions. They note that climate scientists have used the same message for 35 years while emissions more than doubled.

    Your argument “why should I not say something that is true” is a weird one. There are a million true things you could say, but the great unwashed will lose interest after the second. So if you say “consensus” you have lost the opportunity to say “win-win” and “complexity”.

    It may of course be that your aim is to educate and inform. It is my understanding that we teach Newtonian mechanics by explanation and demonstration, rather than by emphasizing pedigree and consensus.

    I happen to agree with those who found that the main impact of consensus messaging is polarization and tribal reinforcement. I also think that this is counterproductive to emission reduction. Note that I thus disagree with Pearce and Grundmann, who argue that consensus messaging is merely ineffective.

  111. dikran,

    Pretty sad state of affairs if this has to be stated explicitly!

    Indeed, but I am interested in what Richard would suggest if the linear model has failed and should be avoided (I’m not really expecting a serious answer, but am more than willing to be pleasantly surprised).

  112. Rupert Darwall says it best: “You don’t need to be a social scientist to get that the 97% consensus claim sounds rather like an election result in a one-party state.”

  113. dikranmarsupial says:

    I hope it works out better than my question to Dr Pearce about how to respond to claims there is no consensus if not to perform studies and promulgate the results (i.e. consensus communication), which has been met with repeated evasion. I think asking questions that ought to be revealing about your interlocutor’s position are a good way of reaching agreement or at least narrowing down on the source of the disagreement. In doing so, you are actively helping them to convince you (if they are right) by highlighting the issue that most needs addressing; they ought to be eager to answer them, but this rarely seems to be the case in on-line discussions. Experience tells me not to hold my breath on this one!

    It seems to me that part of the problem Dr Pearce seems to have with “consensus messaging” is that is so effective in attracting attention, but presenting factually correct information in an accessible and memorable manner seems to be the epitome of science communication. Should we really be presenting factually correct information in an inaccessible and forgettable form? What is the alternative?

  114. Richard,

    Rupert Darwall says it best:

    You really are scraping the botton of the barrell.

    I happen to agree with those who found that the main impact of consensus messaging is polarization and tribal reinforcement.

    A bit rich, coming from you, but let’s stick to the point. The linear model (according to you has failed). So, what should a researcher do?

    1. Present the information to the best of their ability, highlighting areas of agreement, areas of disagreement, caveats, and uncertainties. This then allows the public and policy makers to make informed decisions.

    Okay, 1. is the linear model which has failed. What else could there be?

    2. Researchers should tailor their message so as to directly influence specific policy outcomes. However, they should still only say things that are true, even if they avoid providing relevant information because that would damage our chances of developing this specific, desired policy.

    3. Researchers should work out what they need to say (whether based on evidence, or not) in order to directly influence policy and achieve some specific policy outcome.

    4. Something else altogether?

    So, Richard, given that 1. has failed and should (as I understand your argument) be avoided, which is your preferred alternative. Is it 2? Is it 3? Is it something else altogether, that you are free to describe?

  115. dikranmarsupial says:

    The Darwall quote sounds like a political soundbite dismissing factually correct information without providing any counter-argument or evidence. Your point being?

  116. guthrie says:

    Hmm, guess I’ll file Tol in non-scientist these days. Also total lack of knowledge of history of science too.

  117. verytallguy says:

    I’d not heard of Darwall before, and I hasten to add that I’ve never (knowingly) read anything by him.

    But teh google points me at this absolutely remarkable book review by Charles Moore.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/non_fictionreviews/10748667/The-game-is-up-for-climate-change-believers.html

    Best described as a celebration of wilful ignorance, a more damning indictment of intellectual failure at the heart of the British establishment would be hard to imagine.

  118. dikranmarsupial says:

    The BishopHill discussion that it links to provides a very nice example of what happens when you attempt to politely discuss science with skeptics. We both pointed out the flaws in Salby/Darwalls theory/article, and as discussions moved on to other topics (e.g. the apparent “pause”) they were dealt with as well, but while I got some thanks for my input, I don’t think anyone was willing to say they accepted that Salby was wrong, even though they could identify no flaw in the arguments I gave. The real problem with these discussions is that people should be willing to explicitly concede a point where they know their position is indefensible. Of course that means you can’t then go back to it later and elsewhere! ;o)

  119. dikranmarsupial says:

    I think Richard has made an error in Steve Mosher’s step B) on that one, however the real point is that Darwall provides no evidence or argument, just a soundbite, so why should I pay any attention to it?

  120. dikranmarsupial says:

    RichardTol wrote “Your argument “why should I not say something that is true” is a weird one. There are a million true things you could say, but the great unwashed will lose interest after the second. So if you say “consensus” you have lost the opportunity to say “win-win” and “complexity”.”

    The unstated assumption Richard appears to be making here is that the public are not interested in knowing about the consensus and/or already have a sufficiently accurate view of the consensus. I don’t think either is true. Aligning yourself with expert opinion is something we all do on a regular basis on a variety of scientific (and other) topics and there have been surveys (IIRC referenced in the papers) to show that (at least in the US) the public assessment of the level of consensus is substantially incorrect.

    It is also the case that if someone else (in between the first study and the next) calls the first into question (for instance by publishing a poor comment paper, full of obviously invalid statistics assumptions – “marginals” and “null ritual” statistical tests) that will re-kindle public interest in the issue, and so a response will be necessary/interesting.

  121. @wotts
    What should you do?

    Well, if you say “consensus” people like Darwall think “North Korea”, so perhaps you want to avoid that word.

    Recall, in sci-comm, you have an obligation to speak the truth and nothing but the truth. You do not have the opportunity to speak the whole truth.

    When I do sci-comm, I focus on the mechanism. If you work hard, the gist of any mechanism can be described in a few sentences. I illustrate with an anecdote that the audience can relate too.

    The key insight, though, is that climate science is not astronomy. When I take my kids to the Norman Lockyer Observatory, that is because they want to know about stars and telescopes. (Don’t go there; they’re lousy teachers.) When you talk about climate change, it is about convincing people to change their behaviour.

  122. dikranmarsupial says:

    There is also the point that “but the great unwashed will lose interest after the first” is rather contradicted by Dr Pearce’s apparent complaint that consensus messaging has been too effective and is distracting from other issues, which would be difficult if the “great unwashed” weren’t interested (the media and politicians are usually pretty good at understanding what the public are likely to find interesting).

  123. verytallguy says:

    Here is the Bishop Hill discussion about Salby and Darwall.

    Noooooooooooo…….

  124. Richard,

    Well, if you say “consensus” people like Darwall think “North Korea”, so perhaps you want to avoid that word.

    That’s Rupert Darwall’s problem, not mine.

    Recall, in sci-comm, you have an obligation to speak the truth and nothing but the truth. You do not have the opportunity to speak the whole truth.

    Of course you can’t speak the whole truth (there isn’t enough time), that’s why I said “to the best of their ability”.

    When you talk about climate change, it is about convincing people to change their behaviour.

    Doesn’t have to be. It can be about talking about an interesting and relevant topic; providing information to be used as seen fit.

    You still haven’t really answered my question, though. If the linear model has failed and should not be used, what else should researchers, who have relevant information, do?

  125. dikranmarsupial says:

    Richard wrote “Well, if you say “consensus” people like Darwall think “North Korea”, so perhaps you want to avoid that word.”

    Are people like Darwall (i.e. skeptics with such an extreme position that are not even able to accept that the post-industrial rise in atmospheric CO2 is due to fossil fuel emissions) the intended audience for consensus communication? No, of course not. What matters is whether the message is accessible and useful to those forming the “consensus gap” (i.e. the segment of the population that are not aware of the strong scientific consensus).

    I suspect (n.b. I am not a mind reader and I know that I am not) Darwall likens consensus communications to “North Korea” is because he can’t accept that there is a strong scientific consensus on climate change, but has no evidence or argument to show otherwise and so he settles for a cheap rhetorical soundbite. But then again, Richard has a history of not being able to spot outliers ;o)

  126. dikranmarsupial says:

    Richard wrote “I illustrate with an anecdote that the audience can relate too.”

    What you mean like Sir Paul Nurse did when explaining the use of consensus to James Dellingpole? Did Dellingpole find the anecdote helpful in explaining the point? No he responded “I don’t accept your analogy” and he said he resented the way Nurse introduced the analogy. The analogy is at about 26:30.

    Do you think Darwall would react to the anecdote any better?

  127. Magma says:

    Salby? Haven’t heard that name for a while. He appears to have completely dropped off the radar for the past year. And it may just be me, but Lindzen and Soon have gone increasingly quiet, Curry is just going through the motions, and Pielke Sr. is in full cranky emeritus mode. How will Trump’s EPA head ever manage to staff his proposed Red Team exercise? Can they locate even a half dozen contrarians under 60 with the energy to put in the work and even the minimum profile to make even a sham show of it?

    It’s would be like showing up to a football game with two players, neither of whom brought their cleats.

  128. dikranmarsupial says:

    Anecdotes are good, and so are analogies. I often use everyday analogies to explain the carbon cycle when it crops up on climate skeptic blogs. Generally what happens is that people just reject the analogy as not being relevant, or they extend the analogy to the point it doesn’t relate to reality in any meaningful way anymore. For instance I often use a bank account I (anthropogenic sources/sinks) hold jointly with my wife (all natural sources/sinks) to explain the rise in atmospheric CO2 (bank balance). Almost every time someone will suggest adding a third party that alters the balance without my knowledge (bank manager, thieves etc.). However as I represent all anthropogenic influences and my wife all natural influences, then that means the third party must be extraterrestrial or supernatural influences, so it is obvious bullshit used to evade the point of the analogy.

    Anecdotes and analogies are good for science communications, but they only work if you are talking to someone that genuinely wants to get to the truth, rather than just defend their position (or worse just enjoy a bit of ClimateCraic and the attention it brings). This is why it is absurd that Richard uses Darwall as a source – Darwall is obviously not representative of the target audience for consensus communication, and indeed main reason for discussing science with Darwall would be for the benefit of those following the discussion – expecting Darwall (or Dellingpole) to change their mind would be deeply naive.

  129. JCH says:

    You can say she’s just going through the motions, but her website is a treasure trove of abject stupidity to this very day. They have detected a pause in sea level rise, and they have already decided if that pause ends, it will be because of data manipulation. It’s just oinker after oinker, and they suck them up their noses like cocaine through a straw:

    So the red team can be absolutely horrible and still win. They’re selling a drug. It causes delusions.

  130. @wotts
    “That’s Rupert Darwall’s problem, not mine.”
    I tried to use that excuse once to explain a bad teaching evaluation.

    “Doesn’t have to be. It can be about talking about an interesting and relevant topic; providing information to be used as seen fit.”
    And you’re back pretending to be a pure scientist.

    “You still haven’t really answered my question, though.”
    I told you what I do.

  131. guthrie says:

    PLace your bets everyone on how much of people’s time Tol will waste in this thread.

  132. BBD says:

    Did Richard really just quote Rupert Darwall?

    Good grief.

  133. Richard,

    I tried to use that excuse once to explain a bad teaching evaluation.

    Well, that was silly of you. Rupert Darwall is not one of my students and I have no great interest, or any requirement, to teach him anything. He is welcome to be as confused as he likes.

    And you’re back pretending to be a pure scientist.

    It wasn’t me pretending to be anything; it was simply a point.

    I told you what I do.

    What you do sounds like a variant of what you regard as the linear model. In what way does it differ?

    Guthrie,

    PLace your bets everyone on how much of people’s time Tol will waste in this thread.

    Potentially a lot, but it has been a while since we’ve had a proper Tol thread.

  134. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:


    PLace your bets everyone on how much of people’s time Tol will waste in this thread.

    None of mine.

    THIS is worth reading:

    Less than 2 °C warming by 2100 unlikely

    Adrian E. Raftery, Alec Zimmer, Dargan M. W. Frierson, Richard Startz & Peiran Liu

    Nature Climate Change (2017) doi:10.1038/nclimate3352

    Abstract:
    The recently published Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projections to 2100 give likely ranges of global temperature increase in four scenarios for population, economic growth and carbon use1. However, these projections are not based on a fully statistical approach. Here we use a country-specific version of Kaya’s identity to develop a statistically based probabilistic forecast of CO2 emissions and temperature change to 2100. Using data for 1960–2010, including the UN’s probabilistic population projections for all countries2, 3, 4, we develop a joint Bayesian hierarchical model for Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita and carbon intensity. We find that the 90% interval for cumulative CO2 emissions includes the IPCC’s two middle scenarios but not the extreme ones. The likely range of global temperature increase is 2.0–4.9 °C, with median 3.2 °C and a 5% (1%) chance that it will be less than 2 °C (1.5 °C). Population growth is not a major contributing factor. Our model is not a ‘business as usual’ scenario, but rather is based on data which already show the effect of emission mitigation policies. Achieving the goal of less than 1.5 °C warming will require carbon intensity to decline much faster than in the recent past.

    http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nclimate3352.html

  135. Very,
    There is an interesting critique of that, which I find quite compelling. One issue with the “we almost certainly won’t stay below 2C” is that it is based on socio-economic projections and this is much more difficult that making projections based on physics. We regularly surprise ourselves as to the speed at which things can change in society (sometimes not, admittedly) and so it is very hard to say what we can, and cannot, do in the coming decades (in my view, at least).

  136. dikranmarsupial says:

    Guthrie – Given that Richard stopped responding to my posts some time ago, the scope for my time being wasted by him is rather more limited. The BishopHill thread and the Nurse-Dellingpole interview are well worth a look though. ;o)

  137. Joshua says:

    How would Richard waste someone else’s time? I choose how I spend my time, not Richard. This line of argument always bugs me.

  138. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:

    Thanks for that link, ATTP.

    Although I agree that it is very difficult to make robust socio-economic projections, and that there is some hope that we might surprise ourselves with unanticipated progress in mitigating the effects of rapid climate change, I also think we would do well to remember: shit happens.

    The Earth may begin to surprise us as to the speed at which things can change.

  139. The Very,
    To be fair, I’m not that hopeful that we’ll stay below 2C, but I do find arguments that we can’t do certain things because of politics/societal factors rather frustrating since often we can, we simply choose not to.

  140. dikranmarsupial says:

    Joshua that is a bit like saying that kids can’t waste your time by knocking on your door and running away because you choose to go to the door and open it. The whole point of trolling (which is basically what Richard seems to be doing) is to provoke people into responding, and it is ineffective unless you provoke them with something that will get a response (for instance by presenting nonsense climate skeptic arguments that without a response the troll can then go to climate skeptic blogs and claim that he made an argument at ATTPs that they couldn’t refute – childish I know, but sadly that is the level at which most of the climate-blog discussion exists).

  141. Willard says:

    > Most sci-pols work under the assumption that the aim of climcomm is to reduce emissions°

    What you call an assumption is rather a conclusion, Richie dear. That conclusion is hard to escape unless you’re willing to bet on microbubbles and carbon-sucking trees.

    You know, sticking to facts doesn’t imply purity and nobility. Owning one’s values is all well and good, but do you really think you know all those that inhabit you? The Honest Broker thing promotes a caricature of the is/ought problem to argue for a Rousseau myth of full transparency.

    You have too much hair to be that transparent, Richie dear.

    Sticking to facts simply implies a communication preference. Richard Betts chose it. Tamsyn chose it. They both see it as a professional duty.

    Scientists have at least two jobs. One is to find reasons to believe stuff about the world. The other is to tell otters about it. That the stuff they find matters to people or not is irrelevant to the question of how they fulfill these jobs.

    Even you are working to reduce carbon emissions, Richie dear. Isn’t that the point of your decades of lowballing the social cost of carbon? I thought you and BennyP from the GWPF were willing to work together despite this difference of objective.

  142. Pingback: The Linear Model for Richies | …and Then There's Physics

  143. @wotts
    I note that you now acknowledge that you have a choice in what you include and what you omit. Because of that, you are no longer a pure scientist, but you are a social actor trying to steer the debate into this direction or that.

    You say you do not care what Darwall thinks. That suggests that, instead of communicating with the widest possible audience, you prefer to preach to the choir. That’s not an effective strategy.

    The linear model presume that information is passed on. I prefer a dialogue.

    The linear model also presumes that action follows from information. I almost always discuss value judgements too, and separate what part of my recommendation follows from the facts (where I’ll take you to task if you disagree) and what part follows from the values (where I’ll invite you to reflect, and often take the opposite position to encourage debate).

  144. verytallguy says:

    …often take the opposite position to encourage debate

    Alternative translations are available, albeit with the potential for redaction.

  145. Richard,

    I note that you now acknowledge that you have a choice in what you include and what you omit.

    Of course I have a choice; that’s essentially been my point the whole time. I’m not going to suddenly do something different just because someone comes along and claims some strategy (that I’m not really engaging in) doesn’t work.

    You say you do not care what Darwall thinks. That suggests that, instead of communicating with the widest possible audience, you prefer to preach to the choir.

    In a sense I don’t really care what anyone thinks; that’s up to them. If they find something I say useful and informative, great, if not, oh well. There may be cases where I could learn to explain things in a better way, but tailoring things to suit the unconvinceable is probably not worth the effort (especially as it may be impossible to do so without then saying things that aren’t true).

    The linear model presume that information is passed on. I prefer a dialogue.

    I too prefer a dialogue (you introduced claims about the linear model, not me).

    The linear model also presumes that action follows from information.

    Well, this is rather silly. Not sure why anyone would think it is quite this simple. There are clearly many other factors between providing information and taking action (values, societal preferences, etc).

    I almost always discuss value judgements too, and separate what part of my recommendation follows from the facts (where I’ll take you to task if you disagree) and what part follows from the values (where I’ll invite you to reflect, and often take the opposite position to encourage debate).

    This almost makes you sound quite reasonable. Are you confident in your self-reflection?

  146. Willard says:

    > The linear model presume that information is passed on. I prefer a dialogue.

    There’s no dichotomy there, Richie dear, and this thread shows how your preference fares compared to your self-description.

  147. John Hartz says:

    At the end of the day, the only consensus that matters is public opinion about the need to address manmade climate change. As shown in the following, the dial is finally starting to move in the right direction…

  148. John Hartz says:

    The graphic that I tried to embed in my previous comment is from…

    Globally, People Point to ISIS and Climate Change as Leading Security Threats by Jacob Poushter & Dorothey Manevich, Pew Research Center, Aug 1, 2017

  149. dikranmarsupial says:

    “You say you do not care what Darwall thinks. That suggests that, instead of communicating with the widest possible audience, you prefer to preach to the choir. That’s not an effective strategy.”

    This wasn’t even good trolling. The widest possible audience obviously doesn’t include Darwall as he has shown that he is not listening to arguments that run counter to his views (c.f. Salby). It has been said repeatedly that consensus messaging is not aimed at dyed-in-the-wool skeptics, it is aimed at those who would want to align themselves with the mainstream scientific view, but don’t know (or have been mislead regarding) what that is. It certainly isn’t aimed at those who already know what the consensus view is, so it obviously isn’t “preaching to the choir” (using religious metaphors is making it a bit too obvious, Richard).

    “I prefer a dialogue.”

    bit difficult if you refuse to answer technical questions about your work Prof. Tol, is this a new policy? ;o)

    Trolling grade: D- for effort, D+ for attainment. Must try harder.

  150. @wottsy
    Good. We mostly agree.

    I would submit that if you can convince Darwall, you can convince anyone of the seriousness of climate change. He is a worthwhile target so.

  151. Richard,

    I would submit that if you can convince Darwall, you can convince anyone of the seriousness of climate change.

    Absolutely, I agree.

    He is a worthwhile target so.

    I waste enough of my time doing this without finding ways to waste even more of it.

  152. Willard says:

    Darwall’s not good enough, AT.

    Try to convince Alex Jones, then we’ll talk.

    Meanwhile, if you could bring me a cup of coffee too, that’d be great.

  153. dikranmarsupial says:

    Richard Tol wrote “I would submit that if you can convince Darwall, you can convince anyone of the seriousness of climate change. He is a worthwhile target so.”

    Trolling grade: F for effort, F+ for attainment. Detention. Write “I most improve my trolling, I’m making it far too obvious” 1,000 times (a rastrum may not be used).

  154. Joshua says:

    dikran –

    =={ Joshua that is a bit like saying that kids can’t waste your time by knocking on your door and running away because you choose to go to the door and open it }==

    It seems completely different to me. When a kid knocks on my door, I don’t know who it is. It could be someone interesting or someone offering something of value.

    When you see that Richard has written a comment, you know that the overwhelming likelihood is that his comment is of little or no value, and most likely not interesting. If you choose to read it anyway, that’s on you.

    =={ The whole point of trolling (which is basically what Richard seems to be doing) is to provoke people into responding, }==

    So if you think that’s what’s going on, just choose to not respond. What I don’t get is responding and then complaining that you (or others) have responded and then blaming the “troll” because you or others responded.

    IMO, the who notion of who is and isn’t a “troll” in online blog comment sections is informatively arbitrary, and the process of determining who is and isn’t a troll is merely an extension of the ll juvenile and tribalistic dynamic that characterizes online exchanges.

    =={ and it is ineffective unless you provoke them with something that will get a response (for instance by presenting nonsense climate skeptic arguments that without a response the troll can then go to climate skeptic blogs and claim that he made an argument at ATTPs that they couldn’t refute }==

    Responding will not change that dynamic. So instead of claiming you couldn’t refute their argument they will simply claim that your refutation was inane and/or error filled and/or laughable. You have no control over their behavior, you only have control over your own.

    =={ – childish I know, but sadly that is the level at which most of the climate-blog discussion exists). }==

    No doubt. But I happen to put claiming that someone else has wasted your time to be more or less in the same category.

  155. @wottsywottsywottswotts
    If your aim is to preach to the choir, you can safely deploy the ineffective linear model.

  156. Marco says:

    “I would submit that if you can convince Darwall, you can convince anyone of the seriousness of climate change. He is a worthwhile target so.”

    I submit that if you can convince us that Darwall is truly *willing* to be convinced, people might actually try in earnest. His strong defense of Salby’s work suggests to me he is not.

  157. Magma says:

    @ guthrie, dikranmarsupial, Joshua, et al.:
    Tol’s Time Inequality generally applies.

  158. Magma says:

    A superfluous ” at the end of the embedded URL partly broke that link, so here:
    (Tol’s time expended)/(Σ Tol responders’ time expended) << 1

  159. Magma,
    I’ve fixed the superflous ” at the end of the URL and I was planning to draw this Tol thread to a close, so maybe everyone else can endeavour to do the same.

  160. Willard says:

    > you can safely deploy the ineffective linear model.

    You keep using that expression, Richie dear.

    I do not think it means what you think it means:

    https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2017/08/02/the-linear-model-for-richies/

  161. dikranmarsupial says:

    Joshua wrote “When a kid knocks on my door, I don’t know who it is.”

    When Richard posts something, I don’t know whether he has made a valid point or not without reading it and giving it some consideration. To ignore his posts (and others like him) and not read them would be to construct an echo chamber for myself where my views rarely get challenged. When his posts turn out to be trolling, they have already wasted my time, even if I don’t respond to them. This is very much like knocking on the door (i.e. getting my attention) and running away (doing nothing to deserve it), I don’t know until I have “answered the door” by reading what he has written.

    “So if you think that’s what’s going on, just choose to not respond.”

    I think you have missed my point. Once the argument has been made, there is often some value (for the casual reader) in responding to it (which is why sometimes I do), however Richard has created that value spuriously, so even though there may be some value in responding, it is still wasted time responding compared to the state in which Richard hadn’t trolled.

    If climate skeptics claim there is no consensus, then are those engaged in consensus messaging wasting their time showing there is? No. However they could have used their time to do other work if the skeptics had not made that claim, so have the skeptics wasted the time of the consensus messagers? Yes, I’d say there is a sense in which they had.

    ” What I don’t get is responding and then complaining that you (or others) have responded and then blaming the “troll” because you or others responded. “

    It serves as an indication to Richard that we know that he is trolling. Richard sadly appears to be impervious to this and is unwilling to change. Some people want to have productive discussions, some want to play ClimateBall, others just want a bit of ClimateCraic.

    “IMO, the who notion of who is and isn’t a “troll” in online blog comment sections is informatively arbitrary, and the process of determining who is and isn’t a troll is merely an extension of the ll juvenile and tribalistic dynamic that characterizes online exchanges.”

    I don’t quite agree. None of us are mind-readers, so we don’t know for sure the aims people have in posting obviously weak arguments on discussion forums, but it seems reasonable that some do it just to enjoy stirring up attention for its own sake or to disrupt the discussion. While that is “juvenile” it isn’t necessarily tribalistic (as you can have simultaneous ClimateCraic with both tribes if you want to). I don’t think pointing it out is juvenile or tribalistic either, it is perfectly rational to want people to stop trolling and to engage in the discussion more constructively (for instance directly answering questions that are put to them). It doesn’t imply hostility to the basic message, just that a good-faith discussion is wanted. Using some humour to point it out could be viewed as juvenile, but that is a matter of taste, at the same time we are not all from Vulcan (not even me and I am easily the dullest person I know).

    ” So instead of claiming you couldn’t refute their argument they will simply claim that your refutation was inane and/or error filled and/or laughable.”

    which is why when I respond to their argument, I try to show the flaws in it in a way that isn’t inane or error filled (laughable is subjective, people can find the strangest things laughable). For instance pointing out why Darwall is obviously not part of the widest possible audience for consensus messaging.

    “You have no control over their behavior, you only have control over your own. “

    In chess I have no control over my opponents choice of move only my own, but my best move is the one that minimises the value of my opponents best option. In a (sadly) adversarial discussion (for instance publishing journal papers) that is a good way of choosing your responses.

    “But I happen to put claiming that someone else has wasted your time to be more or less in the same category.”

    That is your judgement, I don’t particularly agree with it. It could be interpreted as an appeal for productive discussion, which is anything but childish. However I am not a mind reader and don’t know peoples true motivations for what they write, and generally not confident I can discern it from what they say, which is why I sometimes ask questions (which ideally ought to help, but often doesn’t, but I haven’t found a better approach, yet).

  162. dikranmarsupial says:

    Richard wrote “@wottsywottsywottswotts”

    yay, at last!!!!

  163. dikranmarsupial says:

    (well near enough)

    ATTP – Roger, WILCO.

  164. @marco
    I barely know Mr Darwall. I haven’t read his book. I picked him because he had a funny quote on the 97% nonsensus. I used him as an illustrative figure, typical of the kind of people climate science communication should target. You see, you don’t need to convince me of the need for climate policy, or Wotts, or Dikran, or Willard (I guess, his prose is 97% impenetrable).

  165. Richard,
    I would argue that you don’t really need to convince someone like Darwall. Policy doesn’t require unanimity. All you need to do is convince enough people. There will always be some who are unconvinceable. People like Darwall are almost certainly in that category and so are almost certainly not the target.

  166. Joshua says:

    dikran –

    needless to say, I disagree. Given Anders’ request, and the irony of having a long back and forth over whether Richard is wasting anyone else’s time, I just let it lie there.

  167. Joshua says:

    Magma –

    =={ Tol’s Time Inequality generally applies. }==

    Not entirely sure what you were referring to….but I do think that is amusing how much time gets spent on Richard’s comments which, from near as I can tell (based on the sophistication of his analysis), he spends practically zero time in writing.

    Was that it?

  168. dikranmarsupial says:

    Joshua, agreed.

  169. @wotts
    There is a weak climate policy in Europe, weaker elsewhere. Perhaps you should reconsider who you need to convince.

  170. Willard says:

    > his prose is 97% impenetrable

    Either that’s because I make no sense, you’re playing dumb, or something in between, dear Richie.

    How about: what you refer to as the linear model does not correspond to the linear models we can read in Junior’s magnum opus?

    In other words, you’re multiplying strawmen beyond necessity.

    From now on, if you want to add something, do it on the thread dedicated to your misunderstanding:

    https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2017/08/02/the-linear-model-for-richies/

    Thank you for your concerns!

  171. dave s says:

    Noting the earlier comments seeking an honest broker, since both ATTP and Richard appear to be based in the UK they may have come across the immortal words of Peter Cook, available on gramophone recordings:

    [Cook as Harold Macmillan recounting a summit meeting with U.S. President John F. Kennedy]
    “We talked of many things, including Great Britain’s position in the world as some kind of honest broker. I agreed with him when he said no nation could be more honest, and he agreed with me when I chaffed him and said no nation could be broker.”

  172. Ragnaar says:

    I did a Google search of ‘consensus messaging’. First 10 hits were related to climate.
    Wondering if Google had gotten around my tin foil hat, I tried it on Yahoo search.
    Hits 1-8 were related to climate.
    Bing search: 1-7 and 10.

    GMOs, nuclear power, bees, vaccines and animal testing get nary a mention.

    We can argue for consensus messaging, it doesn’t work in this case, in the United States well enough. If it did work, in my list above, problems solved.

    What is the target audience? The target audience needs to be convinced to do whatever you want them to do. And once you convince them, you’d better deliver. I might convince you to buy a certain chainsaw. You’d better be happy with it or I have failed. I sold you what you didn’t need.

    If you can’t deliver what the customer needs, give up. Flip burgers or something. Making us aware of a problem isn’t much. Take the next step and outline the solution. If you tell me you are really, really sure there is a problem, I don’t have time for that. I can find problems in every direction I look.

    Trump was elected and there’s a 90 something % consensus. Walk away and implement policies instead. Stop studying them and work with them. Nuclear power. Power lines. Agricultural solutions. Pumped hydro storage. And the big one, fracking.

  173. @ragnaar
    Indeed.
    Consensus messaging worked for acidification because a knowledge monopoly was successfully established.
    Consensus messaging has been tried time and again for climate change, and it has failed every time.
    We can invoke Einstein and declare consensus messengers to be insane.
    Alernatively, we can deduce that the aim of consensus messaging is something other than emission reduction.

  174. Richard,
    You’ve missed one (which everyone who seems to dislike consensus messaging misses) which is that maybe consensus messaging is simply treading water against what is essentially a form of anti-consensus-messaging. Why (I wonder) doesn’t everyone who accepts the existence of a strong consensus simply make this clear so that we can move on to more easily discuss aspects that are more complex?

    Alernatively, we can deduce that the aim of consensus messaging is something other than emission reduction.

    In a simple sense it is; it is aimed at clarifying a public misconception (that the level of agreement is much smaller than it actually is). Of course, a consequence of doing so may well be to make it easier to argue for emission reductions, but it isn’t an immediate goal of consensus messaging.

  175. verytallguy says:

    We can invoke Einstein and declare consensus messengers to be insane.

    Ironically, the consensus is that quote is misattributed.

    https://www.gizmodo.com.au/2015/05/9-albert-einstein-quotes-that-are-totally-fake/

  176. verytallguy says:

    Pedantry aside, we can note:
    1. Tol claims ATs utilises a “linear model” of communication, and this is a Bad Thing.
    2. @tollytoltoltroll (showing us how to communicate better from the off) claims he is a Guru of communication and knows better. Though he is characteristically coy at revealing what this is, or pointing to actual examples of his ninja communications convincing others.
    3. Tol offers the failure to convince Darwall of the case as evidence of the Badness of ATs style.
    4. Tool claims he is, notwithstanding his GWPF sponsors, on the side of the angels.

    Which leads us to a very simple conclusion.

    @tollytrollytoltoltroll should go convince Darwall with his ninja skillz and pray not return until successful.

  177. @wotts
    If the aim of consensus messaging is to convince the public that there is a consensus, then consensus messaging has failed on that score too.

    We had discussed that above. See Darwall. The connotation of “97” is not “consensus” but rather “North Korea”.

  178. Richard,
    You’re still ignoring something. You do not know what the consensus gap would be in the absence of consensus messaging. To claim that it has failed you would have to show that either the consensus gap would be unchanged, or smaller, if consensus messaging had never been tried. Apart from Dan Kahan’s hand-waving, do you have any convincing evidence that this would have been the case?

  179. Richard,
    And again, you’re using Darwall as some kind of indicator. Darwall is someone who thinks Salby’s ideas have merit. If he thinks consensus messaging is bad, that might be an indicator that it is not.

  180. @wotts
    For someone who claims to be in favour of science, it is peculiar that you refer to the work of a leading academic at a top university as “hand-waving”.

    It is true that we do not have data from before consensus-messaging in climate, but the intensity of consensus-messaging has varied considerably over time. There have also been controlled experiments with consensus-messaging.

    Returning to Darwall, you seem to take pride in your inability to convince him. This suggests, once again, that the real aim of consensus-messaging is tribal reinforcement.

  181. Richard,
    As an example, here’s a report by your beloved Global Warming Policy Foundation called, Consensus? What Consensus? which says:

    An analysis of the methodology used by Cook et al. shows that the consensus
    referred to is trivial:

    • that carbon dioxide (CO2) is a greenhouse gas
    • that human activities have warmed the planet to some unspecified extent.

    Almost everybody involved in the climate debate, including the majority of sceptics,
    accepts these propositions, so little can be learned from the Cook et al. paper.

    The extent to which the warming in the last two decades of the twentieth century
    was man-made and the likely extent of any future warming remain highly
    contentious scientific issues.

    Not only is the interpretation of Cook et al. wrong (yes, I expect Vinny to come along and make the same mistake as Andrew Montford); the conclusion is that there is a strong consensus that humans are causing global warming, not that humans are simply contributing to global warming.

    The latter is also a rather nuanced interpretation of our understanding. Our understanding is that humans are causing global warming. We may not know how much we will warm in the future, but we can certainly produce projections; uncertain doesn’t mean contentious, at least not amongst those who actually understand this. Of course, there are those like Montford who don’t understand this (?) and would like it to be contentious. You might expect the Academic Advisors to help…oh, hold on?

  182. Richard,

    For someone who claims to be in favour of science, it is peculiar that you refer to the work of a leading academic at a top university as “hand-waving”.

    I asked if you had anything other than his hand-waving.

    There have also been controlled experiments with consensus-messaging.

    Some of which show that you can close the consensus gap.

    Returning to Darwall, you seem to take pride in your inability to convince him. This suggests, once again, that the real aim of consensus-messaging is tribal reinforcement.

    No pride at all, simply little desire to waste my time trying to convince the unconvinceable (why do you have such trouble understanding this – okay, I know, silly question).

  183. dikranmarsupial says:

    Suggesting that Darwall is typical of the target audience for consensus messaging about climate is a bit like saying Ken Ham is typical of the target audience for Dawkin’s “The God Delusion”, which obviously is not the case. There is no point sending messages to those who are either unwilling to listen or a-priori unwilling to accept the message.

    Richard says: “I barely know Mr Darwall. I haven’t read his book. I picked him because he had a funny quote on the 97% nonsensus. which is essentially an admission that Richard is bullshitting (i.e. making an argument without even caring whether it is actually true). Richard has presented no argument or evidence whatsoever to suggest that Darwall is actually correct or even reasonable in his assessment. It is enough that it is funny (i.e. it works as a soundbite), and he garnishes it with the derogatory “nonsensus”.

    Of course I am not insane enough to think that pointing this out will change Richard, who ironically carries on using this kind of bullshit; I wonder if he expects it to eventually have an outcome other than incrementally minimising his credibility?

    ATTP: please feel free to delete as you see fit.

  184. ATTP: please feel free to delete as you see fit.

    I’ll leave this one, but I think I will try to go back to my suggestion yesterday evening that we draw this to a close. We’ve gone round the circle at least once, so there’s not much point in going around again. If Richard would like to spend some time trying to convince Darwall, he should – of course – do so. I’ve got better things to do (both in terms of continuing this discussion, or trying to convince Darwall).

  185. Marco says:

    “I used him as an illustrative figure, typical of the kind of people climate science communication should target.”

    Why? Why target those that clearly do not *want* to be convinced? Really, that’s a serious question to which I would love to get a clear and reasoned answer.

    To me it appears to be a pointless exercise, and my time would be better spent on convincing those who are open to reason. Especially those who might think Darwall presents a major scientific view, rather than the extreme minority view (which is where the consensus comes in).

  186. @marco
    Let’s park the question whether Rupert Darwall is the right person to convince. His book is in the relevant top 200 at Amazon, so he might be.

    Do we agree that preaching to choir is a waste of time?

    If so, clim-comm should reach out to people who half-belief authors like Darwall.

    Clim-comm is about shifting people from the “climate change is a hoax” to the “climate change is a problem that needs to be solved” part of the spectrum, isn’t it?

  187. Richard,

    Do we agree that preaching to choir is a waste of time?

    In general, sure.

    If so, clim-comm should reach out to people who half-belief authors like Darwall.

    Indeed, but this is not quite the same as reaching out to Darwall.

    Clim-comm is about shifting people from the “climate change is a hoax” to the “climate change is a problem that needs to be solved” part of the spectrum, isn’t it?

    I think there’s a spectrum. Some people just see themselves as communicating (whether through dialog, or by simply providing information), others might see themselves as actively trying to change people’s views (shifting people from the “climate change is a hoax” to the “climate change is a problem that needs to be solved”).

    Aren’t you also a climate communicator? Why don’t you try reaching out to Darwall and those who who half-belief him, rather than spending time telling others to do so?

  188. Joshua says:

    Clim-comm is about shifting people from the “climate change is a hoax” to the “climate change is a problem that needs to be solved” part of the spectrum, isn’t it?

    My guess is that would be just about guaranteed to be a complete waste of time. If someone thinks that climate change is a hoax, they are not likely to alter their perspective. Anyone who thinks that climate change is a hoax is clearly firmly entrenched in an ideological mindset. They aren’t likely to change the their view under any circumstances, but they certainly aren’t going to change the their view upon hearing something from someone that they identify as being an ideological opposition.

    Criticizing someone for not employing strategies that would alter the view of hoaxsters looks to me like useless concern trolling in service of a partisan agenda to justify criticism of “realists” by holding them to a completely unrealistic standard.

  189. dikranmarsupial says:

    The conclusion of the TCP paper makes the aim of consensus communication abundantly clear:

    5. Conclusion

    The public perception of a scientific consensus on AGW is a necessary element in public support for climate policy (Ding et al 2011). However, there is a significant gap between public perception and reality, with 57% of the US public either disagreeing or unaware that scientists overwhelmingly agree that the earth is warming due to human activity (Pew 2012).

    Contributing to this ‘consensus gap’ are campaigns designed to confuse the public about the level of agreement among climate scientists. In 1991, Western Fuels Association conducted a $510 000 campaign whose primary goal was to ‘reposition global warming as theory (not fact)’. A key strategy involved constructing the impression of active scientific debate using dissenting scientists as spokesmen (Oreskes 2010). The situation is exacerbated by media treatment of the climate issue, where the normative practice of providing opposing sides with equal attention has allowed a vocal minority to have their views amplified (Boykoff and Boykoff 2004). While there are indications that the situation has improved in the UK and USA prestige press (Boykoff 2007), the UK tabloid press showed no indication of improvement from 2000 to 2006 (Boykoff and Mansfield 2008).

    The narrative presented by some dissenters is that the scientific consensus is ‘…on the point of collapse’ (Oddie 2012) while ‘…the number of scientific “heretics” is growing with each passing year’ (Allègre et al 2012). A systematic, comprehensive review of the literature provides quantitative evidence countering this assertion. The number of papers rejecting AGW is a miniscule proportion of the published research, with the percentage slightly decreasing over time. Among papers expressing a position on AGW, an overwhelming percentage (97.2% based on self-ratings, 97.1% based on abstract ratings) endorses the scientific consensus on AGW.

    Does it mention dyed-in-the-wool skeptics (like Darwall)? No. Does it mention those who think that climate change is a hoax? No. The aim is to close the consensus gap, i.e. the difference in the public perception of the scientific consensus and the reality of the scientific consensus. The dyed-in-the-wool skeptics and those that think climate change is a hoax are likely to be miniscule and small fractions of the consensus gap, respectively. Most of the consensus gap will be normal people, going about their everyday lives, not giving a great deal of thought to climate change (perhaps because the perceived lack of scientific agreement suggests it is a problem they can safely put on the back burner).

    Now of course Richard ought to know this, having read the paper. Just as he knows the aim is not to “preach to the converted” (i.e. setminus(everybody, consensus_gap), in MATLAB ;o) and that there is a big section of the population that are neither the “converted” nor think climate change is a hoax.

    Perhaps if Richard wants to make assertions about the purpose of consensus messaging, he could justify it with direct quotes from the paper.

    [ATTP again, feel free to delete, just thought a quote from the paper might help keep things more on track].

  190. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:


    Contributing to this ‘consensus gap’ are campaigns designed to confuse the public about the level of agreement among climate scientists.

    Some things are not climate science, or even plausible, but they are permissible.

    The freedom to speak science-relevant falsehoods from a position of authority is one of the most fundamental freedoms protected by a Scientific Integrity Policy, and enforced by a Science Integrity Panel.

    Dr Curry, your limo is waiting.

  191. Brian Dodge says:

    “You don’t need to be a social scientist to get that the 97% consensus claim sounds rather like an election result in a one-party state.”
    It’s not a one party state, it’s a one vote absolute dictatorship. 97% have observed the following votes
    warming? yes, 1-0
    CO2? yes, 1-0
    human? yes, 1-0
    Melting? yes, 1-0 Quadratically? yes, 1-0
    SLR? yes, 1-0
    weather
    extremes? yes, 1-0
    drought? yes, 1-0
    rainfall? yes, 1-0
    deadly heat? yes, 1-0

    Darwall, and those less observant who rely on him, haven’t noticed the actual vote. (Remind you of anyone?)

  192. Vinny Burgoo says:

    Brian Dodge: ‘It’s not a one party state, it’s a one vote absolute dictatorship. 97% have observed the following votes…’

    Nope.

    This is what the dictatorship’sCook et al 2013 paper’s 97% ‘vote’ was all about: abstracts of 97.1% of papers that had something to do with climate change were judged to have implied or said that humans were contributing to global warming without also implying or saying that the human contribution was unimportant or that global warming was a minor problem. That’s it. End of. A very weak and garbled message. (And done badly, to boot, but let’s not get into that again. It might wake BBD up.)

    PS: Should someone let Rachel know that she’s climate science’s 965th most influential thought leader? On the one hand, 965th doesn’t sound too great. On the other, she’s more influential than the UK Environment Agency, Stephen McIntyre, Steven Pinker, Max Roser, Sarah Silverman, Adam Rutherford, Simon Singh and Andrew Gelman.

    (Our host will prolly be too shy to say it but he’s actually the world’s 6th most influential climate science thought leader. Congrats to ATTP!)

  193. Told you so 😉

    (Our host will prolly be too shy to say it but he’s actually the world’s 6th most influential climate science thought leader. Congrats to ATTP!)

    I suspect this is more an indication of a problem with their algorithm, than an indication of my actual influence.

  194. Vinny Burgoo says:

    Interesting gotcha. What does it mean? What is the mistake that Montford and I have made when interpreting the Cook 97%?

  195. Vinny,
    I have no great interest in repeating this discussion. Feel free to believe that you and Andrew M. have made no mistake whatsoever.

  196. guthrie says:

    Actually, Vinny, it’s a very straightforwards and fairly strong message, but clearly you wouldn’t understand that.

  197. Bob Loblaw says:

    “Now of course Richard ought to know this, having read the paper.”

    Now, Dikran. Do you actually have any real evidence that he’s read it in full? I know he’s published a gremlin-filled “rebuttal” (#FreeTheTol300), but his repeated mis-characterizations are entirely consistent with the hypothesis that he has not read it in full. Well, or he hasn’t understood it.

    As for probably-near-futile attempts at changing the course of a discussion, I’ve been aching to try this:

    Beetlejuice! Beetlejuice! Beetlejuice!

  198. Marco says:

    Thanks for the response, Richard. Too bad you didn’t actually answer my question, but decided to move the goalposts. I’ll take it to mean that you agree with me that it is impossible to convince those who do not want to be convinced, and that Darwall likely falls in that category (ever considered that his book is just preaching to the choir?).

    Regarding your questions to me, my answers would be “no” and “no”.

    First, not communicating with those who (already) agree with you is an error. Never forget your supporters, especially when their is ‘pressure’ from the other side to ‘convert’.

    Second, there are many potential goals of climate communication, as ATTP already pointed out.

  199. Marco says:

    Crap.

    *there*, not *their*

  200. I note that a number of recent comments reinforce my suspicion that the prime aim of consensus messaging is to strengthen tribal identities. In that sense, Cook’s 97% is rather successful.

  201. Richard,

    I note that a number of recent comments reinforce my suspicion that the prime aim of consensus messaging is to strengthen tribal identities.

    Yes, I realise that you think this. Let me clarify a few things.

    1. I’m certainly not suggesting that the prime comms. strategy should be consensus messaging nor that people should be going around highlighting. I simply have no problem pointing out things that are true.

    2. A criticism of consensus messaging seems to be that those who utilise it have nefarious intentions (strengthen tribal identities; close down the debate; politicise science;….). However, the only people explicitly maligning another group are those who criticise consensus messaging. Ironic that.

  202. dikranmarsupial says:

    Richard fails to acknowledge that the text of the TCP paper contradicts his assertions about the aim of consensus messaging.

  203. Pingback: Manichean paranoia | …and Then There's Physics

  204. @wotts
    To “strengthen tribal identities” is not “nefarious”. People tend to be happier when they feel they belong.

  205. Richard,
    And there is nothing stopping people from belonging.

  206. Bob Loblaw says:

    “a number of recent comments reinforce my suspicion”
    Now there is one of the best examples of confirmation bias that I have seen in a long, long time. The Morton’s Demon is strong in that one.

  207. I am a little bemused by this whole controversy. I have never heard a talk or seen an article by a climate scientist, or for that matter, any scientist in any field, that starts with a statement …

    “you must believe this … because an overwhelming number of those expert in this field believe it …”

    Someone who is close to me, who lives in the USA, had a serious and rare medical condition. Her doctor sought out expert opinion, and because the treatment would involve a double lung transplant, multiple opinions were sought, and of course a debate ensued.

    But a resolution was reach. The approach was agreed. Consensus was established.

    The comfort came from both the rational arguments and evidence that were deployed to reach agreement. The consensus was the icing on the cake because it meant that the agreement had been fought over.

    She is well now, four years on, and a great example of the achievements of modern medicine.

    How did consensus become a dirty word?

    Of course, it is contrarians who have poisoned the well of scientific discourse, and pointing this out results in the charge ‘you started it!’; playground stuff.

    When Einstein published his 1905 paper on special relativity, few noticed at first, and it took a while for its impact to be felt. Much debate, much work to develop and test the ideas, whether through theoretical or experimental studies. Taking a show of hands amongst physicists in, say, the 1920s, and I suspect there would have been a strong agreement that the special theory was valid (this is consensus); the showing hands follows the publication of many paper. The contrarians present consensus as a showing of hands, almost as if this was done (in the special theory of relativity case) in 1905. Which of course is nonsense.

    Presenting consensus as the showing of hands is of course an attempt to ridicule what has emerged from many decades of research, as I explored in …
    https://essaysconcerning.com/2017/05/02/a-climate-of-consilience-or-the-science-of-certitude/

    Wally Broecker, the famous oceanographer, said that its was Manabe & Wetherald’s 1967 paper …

    “that convinced me that this was a thing to worry about” (interviewed by Weart in The Discovery of Global Warming).

    It’s almost getting to 200 years since Fourier started asking precise questions about why our Earth is warm; over 150 since Tyndall did his famous experiments; and 50 years since Manabe & Wetherald’s decisive paper, which convinced one of the wisest scientists in the field …

    Ah, but I hear the contrarians laments …

    “… these bloody climate scientists … rushing to judgment …”

  208. dikranmarsupial says:

    Bob wrote “Now there is one of the best examples of confirmation bias that I have seen in a long,

    Indeed, the aims of TCP set out explicitly in the paper are ignored in favour of inferences made from a number of unspecified comments (which means we can’t even check whether the comments in question do anything to justify the suspicion) made by unspecified people who may (or may not) be involved in consensus communication (and if not shed no light whatsoever on the purpose of consensus messaging). Not sure Richard could have made a weaker argument.

  209. Vinny Burgoo says:

    [Please respect AT’s “I have no great interest in repeating this discussion,” Vinny. – Willard]

  210. Brian Dodge says:

    Vinny. Nature has the only vote, Science is a process to discern how Nature voted. There aren’t “scientific facts” – there are facts of nature, which we occasionally learn by observation, measurement, mathematics including statistics, and understanding. Everything else is guesses, coming from your subconscious in ways you can’t understand, except by application of science.

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