Consensus messaging, an update

If you’re a regular follower of this blog, you’ll know that some of the most active threads have concerned the scientific consensus about climate change and, more specifically, the issue of consensus messaging. Recently, a new book has been released that covers Contemporary Climate Change Debates and includes this as one of the topics. It has a chapter that asks [i]s emphasising consensus in climate science helpful for policymaking? and involves a debate between John Cook – who thinks it is – and Warren Pearce – who thinks it isn’t.

I’ve published a couple of consensus papers with John Cook, so will acknowledge a bias. However, I did like his chapter and though his point that [c]limate communication is not a zero sum game was well made. Clearly, how we communicate and what we focus on should depend on the circumstances and the audience. Consensus messaging shouldn’t always be the focus of communication strategies, but neither should it simply be dismissed.

Warren Pearce’s response suggests that there shouldn’t be a focus on the consensus because it’s narrow and human values are important. I agree that human values are important, but I think he’s wrong to suggest that it’s narrow. The scientific consensus is simply that humans are causing climate change and it essentially underpins this entire topic.

Warren argues that the consensus tells us nothing about the future of climate change, such as human and non-human impacts, policy options or the range of human values and cultures which interact with local climates. It may not tell us anything directly, but how can we possibly discuss these issues if those involved don’t accept that humans are causing climate change?

As examples of important topics that are unrelated to the scientific consensus, Warren highlights the disagreement about carbon budgets and debates about discount rates. Well, carbon budgets are entirely based on limiting human caused climate change and the debate about discount rates is associated with estimates of the future cost of human caused climate change discounted to today. How can one possibly engage in discussions about these topics if there isn’t an acceptance that humans are causing climate change?

So, I think Warren’s argument doesn’t make any sense. I agree that human values are important, and that there are many other aspects of this issue that are very important. However, I really don’t see how it’s possible to address these other issues if there isn’t a general acceptance of the scientific consensus that humans are causing climate change.

Of course, it’s always possible that I’m missing some subtlety in Warren’s argument. If so, maybe someone who understands it can try and explain it in the comments. My impression is that those who oppose consensus messaging either don’t understand the consensus, or don’t accept it. I would, however, be more than willing to be convinced otherwise if someone were willing to put some effort into explaining the argument in more detail.

Links:
Is Emphasising Consensus In Climate Science Helpful For Policymaking? – Chapter with John Cook’s and Warren Pearce’s articles about consensus messaging. I should have added that it’s worth reading John’s article to see some of the other arguments against what is presented in Warren’s article.

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312 Responses to Consensus messaging, an update

  1. The underlying issue is that there is virtually no consensus on what causes *natural* climate change. This spills over into the well-established consensus on anthropogenic climate change. It’s a maddening situation to many people who think that science should be able to pin down both aspects of climate change.

  2. Paul,
    What do you mean by *natural* climate change?

  3. JCH says:

    All warming since DaPaws did not end yet has been caused by the 15-16 El Niño. It’s used at RealClimate in the just last few days.

  4. Steven Mosher says:

    I dont like the consensus message because there are two ( maybe more) variants of it.
    One weak. The other wrong.

  5. Steven,
    Nothing really stopping someone from using the weak version to then discuss the strong one. [Edit: sorry, I read “wrong” as “strong”. Which one is wrong?]

  6. morpheusonacid says:

    This is utter rubbish. “Scientific consensus” is an oxymoron, and so is “climate scientists” [Mod: moderated this part of the sentence]. Consensus has never been a part of scientific progress. Consensus said the earth was flat and the centre of the solar system and universe. Scientists proved the consensus to be wrong. Einstein insisted on evidence to support his theories. That is why two independent measuring teams were used to find the evidence that gravity bends light in 1919 Two independent teams were also used to verify the existence of the Higgs Boson particle. Consensus will never be part of scientific progress; it is a means to deceive people. Even claimed evidence has to be questioned and it must be repeatable. An example of how complacency fails us is the falsely claimed link between the MMR vaccine and autism. The effects of this fraud are still apparent years after the fraud was exposed. We now have the extremely dangerous situation where “peer review” is being claimed as evidence. It is a publishing process used to sift out work worth publishing with the objective of getting opinions and deciding if further work is justified. [Mod: moderated this part of the comment too.]

    We have recently been told that the human climate signal can be seen every day on the natural signal. Climate has now become daily weather. The claim is more nonsense. We do not know what the natural climate is. It is a chaotic system which is impossible to analyse. If we knew the natural climate signal we would be able to model the past climate history exactly. A change to the signal can only be identified if the natural signal is known. This is like identifying a radio signal on a known carrier wave. Even if a an additional signal is identified, the cause has to identified and that means evidence to link the change to humans has to be found. Such evidence has not been produced. It is entirely based on fake law of physics such as back radiation producing additional heating. Something that mysterious only exists in the atmosphere. It has also created another new law which says radiation in must equal radiation out and if there is an imbalance then temperatures have to increase or decrease automatically to ensure a balance. This is drivel. We have the law of conservation of energy, which is entirely different to the claimed law of radiant balance.

    You want an explanation and it is simply that consensus has no place in science. Science has been politicised through this preposterous idea and we are all now suffering the consequences of insane political policies. This is illustrated by the out of control Australian fires.

  7. morpheus,
    I may moderate some of your comment. This, however, is simply wrong.

    Consensus has never been a part of scientific progress.

    Consensus is a key part of scientific progress. Researchers rarely re-invent the wheel. They almost always work within some framework in which they have an understanding of the current consensus. This doesn’t mean that they have to accept it, but it is often the case that research relies on some underlying consensus position. We don’t re-invent gravity whenever we do orbital dynamics. People who study galaxy evolution typically work in a framework where dark matter is regarded as existing.

  8. baerbelw says:

    @morpheusonacid – you might want to update your understanding of what the scientific consensus is with the help of these videos from the MOOC Denial101x (references are in the descriptions):
    Consensus of evidence – https://youtu.be/5LvaGAEwxYs
    Consensus of scientists – https://youtu.be/WAqR9mLJrcE
    Consensus of papers – https://youtu.be/LdLgSirToJM
    Knowledge based consensus – https://youtu.be/HUOMbK1x7MI

    Disclosure: like ATTP I’m co-author on some consensus-related papers and I help with Denial101x and Skeptical Science.

  9. Baerbel,
    Thanks for the comment and the links.

  10. Joshua says:

    morpheus –

    > Consensus will never be part of scientific progress;

    The relevant question is whether it is relevant to societal progress, and of policy progress.

    I think that before you lecture and argue by assertion as to whether it is or isn’t relevant to public understanding of complex scientific issues, you should subject you argument to a higher standard of scientific due diligence.

    Simply listing some examples where a “consensus” was wrong, without establishing whether your sample is representative, is highly unscientific. In fact, it is a strong signal for the possibility of motivated reasoning.

    > An example of how complacency fails us is the falsely claimed link between the MMR vaccine and autism.

    I’m not sure what you mean there, but for me, as someone who can’t actually assess the relevant science, the vaccine/autism link is an example of where the consensus view of “experts” is a useful heuristic.

    IMO, anyone who uniformly rejects the use of “consensus” reasoning as a useful heuristic is either kidding themselves or just making a facile argument. We all use that heuristic at times, and for a good reason. Of course, that doesn’t mean it is infallible or is valid across all contexts.

  11. Mitch says:

    One more thing about consensus–a research scientist has only a limited amount of effort he can put forward and wants to maximize the return in new science. Most scientists would think it a waste of time to re-evaluate thermodynamics, for example, since it is well-plowed ground. The same is true about investigating whether fossil fuel emissions are causing the change in climate we observe (the consensus). There is much more likely reward to study impacts, or processes, etc.

  12. Nick Palmer says:

    I think the overwhelming consensus that humans have caused and continue to cause climate change is a vital thing for the public to know. It ‘inoculates’ them against all of the denialist memes that assert that temperatures are nor rising or that it’s caused by something else like the sun, cosmic rays etc. What the ‘consensus’ does not do, and I wish it did, is confirm all aspects of the IPPC ‘s reports – or at least that’s what Warren Pearce was arguing in John Cook’s latest chapter on consensus messaging. Here’s what I tweeted to JC about this…

    “It would be good to see research into what level of consensus there is amongst practising publishing climate scientists on what the degree of T rise or impacts will be. Warren Pearce claimed (p19) “The truth is that the climate consensus relates to only a small subset of the broad sweep of issues assessed and reported on by the IPCC. The consensus tells us nothing about the future of climate change, such as human and non-human impacts” As a consensus to sway the public, that’s not so impressive…

    I think Pearce is asserting that the speed and magnitude of the impacts is not as established as the basic fact that we are affecting the climate, and maybe that the actual consensus we have doesn’t rule out ‘lukewarmer’ expectations. If we could find what level of consensus there is that robustly rules out the low values of climate sensitivity, which is what lukewarmer views depend upon, then I think the public facing message, and the future public acceptance of the situation would become very strong (and would finally demolish any significant credibility the denialosphere has in that publics’ eyes).

  13. A consensus is not constructed. Whether one likes it or not, right or wrong, it just appears whenever a majority decides a given thing is so. Not to mention the fact would be irrational.

  14. Jon Kirwan says:

    As I understand you and your take on John Cook’s, I agree. It’s important to inform public policy debates, when questions of science arise, with the better answers that scientists themselves can provide. I also think that science result is always tentative to what the future brings, so the better answers today may change in the future. But public policy can be changed, as well. So that’s a good match. Also, I think we are at the point in climate science where there’s little debate left regarding the attribution of climate change and public policy discussions won’t be misled by the current state of understanding, now. Quite the opposite, they will be much better informed by it. (Obviously.)

    There is a kind of odd “flip-side” to this. Some choose to argue public policy on the basis of (feigned or real) internal states of mind, which have little or no affirming evidence and overwhelming evidence to the contrary. These unsupported views shouldn’t have a place at the table, in my view.

    For example, how can public policy be meaningfully bridged when one side insists on the existence of “souls” placed into a zygote the moment it becomes diploid, without any external evidence? But exactly that often becomes the entire basis in the US upon which they would be willing to treat abortion just as they would murder. It’s a pointless exercise to engage these views, as they believe them “no matter what.” Nothing now and nothing in the future could even conceivably alter their views. And they have no interest in sincere compromise.

    Where possible, public policy should be guided by the better available external evidence. And I think scientists have much to contribute with respect to climate change.

    My apologies for saying so much about something that should be so obvious.

    It’s still population which must be brought under management. Climate change is only one of several very serious symptoms of that disease. So climate change is only one of other serious symptoms. All of them need to be addressed. Not just climate change.

  15. Steven Mosher says:

    the wrong one is something akin to.
    consensus ensures the correctness of the science, therefore you are wrong to reject the consensus.

  16. you are wrong (high degree of confidence), though

  17. This :

    “JCH says:
    All warming since DaPaws did not end yet has been caused by the 15-16 El Niño. It’s used at RealClimate in the just last few days.”

    No consensus on the oceanic dipoles. Some think they are red noise, others think they are chaotic. Some think El Nino is a simple model of charge/discharge that has nothing to do with GCMs. Michael Mann’s latest research paper suggests that AMO and PDO may not even be classified as natural oscillations, which provoked recent discussion on twitter by climate science peers:

    This is used by everyone from Curry to “morpheusonacid” to maintain the FUD that science doesn’t understand climate change completely.

  18. Joshua says:

    > consensus ensures the correctness of the science,

    Do you have an example?

  19. angech says:

    > consensus ensures the correctness of the science, Do you have an example?
    Tectonic plate theory? displaced an incorrect consensus.

  20. angech says:

    “A consensus is not constructed. Whether one likes it or not, right or wrong, it just appears whenever a majority decides a given thing is so.”
    A good definition, by consensus.

  21. Willard says:

    I will point at this claim:

    [Morph1] Two independent teams were also used to verify the existence of the Higgs Boson particle.

    And I will point at this other claim:

    [Morph2] Consensus will never be part of scientific progress

    That is all.

  22. Nick,

    I think Pearce is asserting that the speed and magnitude of the impacts is not as established as the basic fact that we are affecting the climate, and maybe that the actual consensus we have doesn’t rule out ‘lukewarmer’ expectations.

    Even if this is what Warren is implying, it still doesn’t change that humans are causing global warming. The consensus doesn’t really directly say anything about the impacts, but I find it hard to understand how you can discuss the possible impacts if you don’t accept the consensus.

  23. Steven,

    consensus ensures the correctness of the science, therefore you are wrong to reject the consensus.

    Yes, that is wrong, but that isn’t what consensus messaging is suggesting.

  24. Jon,

    My apologies for saying so much about something that should be so obvious.

    I’m somewhat amazed that we’re still debating this issue. I fully agree with Warren that human values are important, but I really don’t see how one can discuss the the relevance of human values in this context if people don’t accept the consensus.

  25. dikranmarsupial says:

    “consensus tells us nothing about the future of climate change, such as human and non-human impacts, policy options or the range of human values and cultures which interact with local climates.”

    neither does radiative physics, should we stop talking about that as well? IMHO that is sophistry. The consensus is useful information for non-specialists wanting to know the mainstream scientific position. That is a question of some importance in the debate for most of those that don’t understand the science themselves.

    Ive asked Warren (and a few others that object to consensus studies) how we should respond to those who argue that there is no consensus (and there is evidence that it is a useful strategy, e.g. the Luntz memo) if we don’t have studies about the consensus? They have no answer. I suspect there would be far fewer studies of the consensus if that argument was not repeatedly made by skeptics.

    Personally, I dislike “messaging”. I think we should just present factually correct information and discuss that in a rational manner, but I realise that is too much to hope for.

  26. dikranmarsupial says:

    Morpheus “This is utter rubbish. “Scientific consensus” is an oxymoron”

    No, ask Kuhn. You can’t really have a paradigm unless there is a consensus about it and paradigms can’t be overturned if they don’t exist. Having things that scientists in a field pretty much all agree on is normal science. Do scientists have a consensus on the Earth being an oblate spheroid? Yes, they do.

  27. dikranmarsupial says:

    Steven Mosher wrote “the wrong one is something akin to.
    consensus ensures the correctness of the science, therefore you are wrong to reject the consensus.”

    Isn’t that a straw man used by skeptics to attach consensus messaging? I don’t recall any of the studies on the consensus making any such claim, ISTR one of Cook’s paper explicitly saying that is not the case. Can you give examples of anybody (other than some random bloke of the WWW – you can always find a few of those) actually using the “wrong one”.

  28. dikranmarsupial says:

    Morpheus “Consensus said the earth was flat”

    citation required.

  29. David B. Benson says:

    dikanmarsupial, the correct term is oblate elipsoid. While that is a good approximation to the shape of Terra, it is in fact slightly pear-shaped. There are even further, more minor corrections.

  30. dikranmarsupial says:

    Morpheus: “It is entirely based on fake law of physics such as back radiation producing additional heating. Something that mysterious only exists in the atmosphere.”

    Err, no. The concept can be found in thermodynamics text books going back at least as far as Clausius (who essentially invented thermodynamics) or Planck and Masius (Planck was also one a key figure in the development of thermodynamics). It doesn’t only apply to the atmosphere, it applies to any pair of bodies above zero Kelvin (and hence radiating energy). See this excellent science of doom article.

    It has also created another new law which says radiation in must equal radiation out and if there is an imbalance then temperatures have to increase or decrease automatically to ensure a balance. This is drivel. We have the law of conservation of energy, which is entirely different to the claimed law of radiant balance.

    Err, no. That the planet will warm or cool if there is a radiative imbalance at the top of the atmosphere is a direct consequence of conservation of energy. If it were not true, then energy would be lost of spontaneously created as temperature is an indication of thermal energy content.

  31. dikranmarsupial says:

    DBB the consensus proven wrong yet again! ;o)

  32. David B. Benson says:

    dikanmarsupial, the only consensus that matters is among those who practice
    https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/geodesy.html

    The more detailed model of the shape of the globe is the geoid, for which see the above link. I suppose that climatologists use this, but I know that those launching and maintaining satellites do.

  33. dikranmarsupial says:

    FWIW, having looked it up, the definition of an oblate spheroid and an oblate elipsoid appear to be the same. The ratio of the Earth’s polar and equitorial radii is only 1.0034. I would be mildly surprised if climatologists really need to consider that, but it is an interesting question.

  34. David B. Benson says:

    dikanmarsupial, then be mildly surprised. To solve the GCM equations requires a highly accurate description of the surface of the globe.

  35. dikranmarsupial says:

    Can you provide a reference I can read. Mildly surprising given the discretisation of the land masses due to the rather large grid box sizes that it is still an issue (although I suspect it is not that difficult to implement).

  36. I found some pages in this book that suggests they’ve been developing a grid that would be correct for an oblate spheroid and that this would be implemented in GCMs by 2017 and would correct a small but systematic error that accumulates over time.

  37. dikranmarsupial says:

    Cheers ATTP, looks an interesting book, I’ll have to see if the library has a copy… wonder if I’ll understand much of it ;o)

  38. dikranmarsupial says:

    According to this page, it seems to me that “oblate spheroid” is more accurate term as a spheroid is a special case of an elipseoid where two of the three axes are equal, which is the case for a rotating planet (where it is only oblate along the polar axis). Perhaps pedantry can have some educational value after all! ;o)

  39. angech says:

    Thinking about it.
    A good definition of a consensus would be when everyone stops talking about it.

    Strong agreement nearly reaching consensus is 97% which basically includes approximately 2 standard deviations worth of the population (95% agree with view) of climate scientists is not quite enough.

  40. Dave_Geologist says:

    Tectonic plate theory? displaced an incorrect consensus.

    Only in the USA angech. In the rest of the world continental drift was regarded as interesting, in many ways more plausible than the alternatives (reptiles sprouting wings and losing them when they landed thousands of miles away or gigantic dinosaurs drifting on vegetation rafts, mysterious land bridges covering millions of square miles which mysteriously appeared and disappeared, a hugely and intermittently expanding Earth), but lacking a physical mechanism. Oreskes’ books on the subject are highly informative. Horizontal movement was not a problem: that was accepted once Alpine nappes and the Moine Thrust were described. Moving thousands rather than tens of kilometres was the issue.

    And dinosaurs didn’t become monkeys as a result, nor did sandstones become volcanic, nor coal become inorganic. Time for the old standby: The Relativity of Wrong.

  41. Dave_Geologist says:

    Strictly speaking, dikran, the Earth is not radially symmetrical. Not only is it pear-shaped, the equatorial bulge is not the same all the way around. But geoids are like models: all are wrong, but some are useful. In fact it’s impossible for them to be truly right. It changes every time there’s a big earthquake.

    For the purpose of positioning a pipeline or drilling rig, it matters which you use. And if you sometimes have to put data into a database which might ultimately contribute to such placement, a prudent employer will send you on a three-day course where you learn enough about geoids and GIS to last you several lifetimes. Then (which always irritates me, because they did the same with pore pressure prediction) you sit an online test to show you were paying attention. Why does it irritate me? Because the first thing you’re taught is never rely on memory for a safety-critical parameter. Always. Look. It. Up. In an authoritative source (usually the one specified by your employer, because then their lawyers will be on your side if something goes, err, pear-shaped 😉 ).

  42. dikranmarsupial says:

    “Tectonic plate theory? displaced an incorrect consensus.”

    The ironic thing is that for a consensus to be displaced, the original theory must at least have been good enough for the majority of scientists working in the area to have agreed with it at the time. Whereas climate skeptics mostly push canards like the rise in CO2 is natural, or that back-radiation doesn’t exist, or that a TOA radiative imbalance won’t lead to the planet warming or cooling (see above), or that the GHE violates the laws of thermodynamics, or that convection. Those ideas are only accepted by a small number of fringe individuals (such as the denizens) of WUWT. It is ironic that climate skeptics complain about scientific consensuses and yet are happy to accept obvious nonsense.

    Of course scientific consensuses/paradigms are (very) occasionally overturned. However crackpots who’s theories were too obviously wrong to attract attention are practically ubiquitous, Galileos and even Wegeners are vanishingly rare. The chances are that if you think a consensus is wrong, you are much more likely to be a crackpot than a Galileo, and perhaps ought to exercise some self-skepticism before telling the worlds leading scientists that they don’t know what they are talking about.

  43. Dave_Geologist says:

    Be honest angech, nothing would ever be enough for some people.

    They’re not the target audience.

  44. brigittenerlich says:

    Scientific consensus is everywhere. Without it I could not watch television. I could not jump on a plane and go somewhere – ok, I SHOULD not jump on a plane and go somewhere – VALUES and all that. But: Our modern lives balance on top of millions of scientific consensuses, so to speak. It’s sometimes a bit wobbly but what would happen if we questioned all the scientific consensuses we live by every day? What would happen if we had to ‘message’ that they exist all the time? Why is it then that things are so different when it comes to climate change and MMR? Why do people still need reminding (being ‘messaged’) that there is scientific consensus and that we can move on and actually do something!? And why oh why is that messaging itself being attacked, thereby undermining the very actions that we should be taking? I don’t know.

  45. Dave_Geologist says:

    Oops, italics should heave been on nothing

  46. Mark B says:

    Strong agreement nearly reaching consensus is 97% which basically includes approximately 2 standard deviations worth of the population (95% agree with view) of climate scientists is not quite enough.

    As explicitly stated in Cook etal 2013, the sociological curiosity is that the public perception of the degree of scientific consensus is far different from what would be expected from their empirical metric. That is the point isn’t whether or not the scientific consensus is “quite enough” but that the populace apparently fails Jefferson’s “well informed” criteria for effective self-governance. If one is opposed to educating the populace on this point one wonders what is their agenda.

  47. Dikran Marsupial says:

    Angech wrote “ A good definition of a consensus would be when everyone stops talking about it.”

    Yep, the fact that biologists talk about evolution by natural selection means there is no consensus on it within the biological sciences?

    Seems like a rather poor definition to me, but on the other hand, most papers on climate change don’t include an explicit statement of the attribution of modern climate change (c.f. Cook et al), so perhaps not completely wrong :o)

  48. Dikran Marsupial says:

    Angech would you require a greater than 97% agreement amongst doctors to say there was a consensus on some medical question, e.g. whether homeopathy was true? I very much doubt it! So what level of agreement is required? Give you justification for that value (rather than just an unsupported assertion).

  49. Brigitte,
    Yes, I find it all rather strange. I agree that there are many situations where a consensus is simply accepted and noone explicitly messages it, or argues against messaging it. This, however, seems to be a situation where people question the consensus. Then, when people highlight that it does exist, is strong, and that the public doesn’t appreciate the strength of the consensus, other people suggest that this should not be pointed out. I then don’t get how you can engage in the other important discussions associated with this topic if you don’t at least acknowledge the consensus.

  50. brigittenerlich says:

    Yep is like pulling away the chair underneath yourself while trying to sit on it…..

  51. Dikran Marsupial says:

    If someone finds a true factual statement to be too polarising to discuss the issues, the problem does not lie with the person providing the information.

  52. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:

    >>> I think Warren’s argument doesn’t make any sense.

    Agreed.
    If scientific consensus is “narrow” and has no effect on human values and policy, then why is everyone always arguing about it?

    While it is true that consensus on a given scientific hypothesis does not directly map onto the truth of the hypothesis, it would be stupid to ignore a consensus of expert scientific opinion.

    Scientific hypotheses cannot be proven, but they can be assessed for coherence, consilience with other hypotheses, and consistency with measured physical quantities. And they are.

    >>> Consensus has never been a part of scientific progress.

    Scientific consensus does not define scientific progress, but it is a consequence of scientific progress.
    Scientists do not (usually) accept a hypothesis because of a consensus, but a consensus results when most scientists agree to accept such a hypothesis due to its explanatory power.

    >>> the wrong one is something akin to
    >>> consensus ensures the correctness of the science, therefore you are wrong to reject the
    >>> consensus.

    …unless you have good evidence that there is a problem with the consensus, in which case the consensus does not ensure the correctness of the science.

    No decent scientist argues for the consensus only for the sake of ensuring the correctness of the science.
    That would be misplacing cause and effect.
    Scientists argue for the consensus hypothesis because it is the best thing going. If the evidence is persuasive, a scientific consensus forms…
    Until it isn’t the best thing going.

    You want to challenge the greenhouse effect?
    Fine. Bring it on.
    Just bring your damned damning evidence.
    Because posting a declaration of your incredulity on Climate Etc may not be quite sufficient to change the paradigm.

  53. an_older_code says:

    there has never been a consensus of a flat earth, its just another strawman – modern flatearthism stems from the mid19th century and the work of Samuel Rowbotham (AKA Parallax) and his Bedford Levels experiment, since hilariously (sort of) recreated by flatearther Jeranism in the film “Behind the curve”

    modern flatearthism was resurrected by Eric Dubay of 21st century YouTube fame

  54. Chris says:

    Warren seems to be caught up again in one of the great “set piece” argumentations (e.g. “consensus messaging” in this case) which allows him to feel he’s contributing to the “debate”.

    There is widely accepted evidence for the dominant human contribution to global warming and its likely consequences (going to get warmer, ice sheets melt further, sea levels rise and oceans continue to acidify and hydrological cycles intensify etc.). As scientists we can present this (IPCC does a pretty good job) in what amounts to “consensus messaging”. Presenting the evidence.

    Happily this (presenting the evidence which is effectively the consensus) works quite well for providing the basis for the efforts of Greta Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion, James Murdoch’s criticism of his father’s downplaying of climate change (p. 4 of today’s Guardian) and all the other real world efforts that will make a contribution to addressing issues around human induced global warming. They’re responding to the evidence. Call this “consensus messaging” if you like (if you’re a certain type of social “scientist” you’ll like this label since it allows you to wheel in your “standard” “critique”).

    I suspect that the real world is going to by-pass the set piece argumentation of social scientists like Dr. Pearce.

  55. Willard says:

    In other news:

  56. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:

    In other, other news, it ain’t just BEST…

    Independent analyses by NASA and NOAA concur:

    https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-noaa-analyses-reveal-2019-second-warmest-year-on-record

    “The decade that just ended is clearly the warmest decade on record,” said GISS Director Gavin Schmidt. “Every decade since the 1960s clearly has been warmer than the one before.”

    There is a clear consensus on the global temperature record, but it cannot be relevant to human values and policy. Too “narrow”.

  57. angech says:

    Dikran Marsupial
    “If someone finds a true factual statement to be too polarising to discuss the issues, the problem does not lie with the person providing the information.”
    Common ground.
    Thank you for that.
    Appreciated.

  58. Dikran Marsupial says:

    indeed, So I wonder why people like Pearce argue we should not present the true factual statement that there is a broad scientific consensus on the basic concepts of climate change and why the denizens of climate skeptic blogs tend not to be able to accept it.

  59. Joshua says:

    > indeed, So I wonder why people like Pearce argue we should not present the true factual statement that there is a broad scientific consensus on the basic concepts of climate change

    I may well be wrong, but my sense is that he doesn’t argues that it shouldn’t be presented, so much as he argues against “consensus messaging” as a communication strategy to promote mitigation policies.

    > and why the denizens of climate skeptic blogs tend not to be able to accept it.

    For me, at least, they’ve eliminated all wonder in that regard.

  60. Joshua says:

    > In other, other news, it ain’t just BEST…

    Independent analyses by NASA and NOAA concur:

    Does anyone know if dapawz has officially been called off?

  61. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    > This, however, seems to be a situation where people question the consensus. Then, when people highlight that it does exist, is strong, and that the public doesn’t appreciate the strength of the consensus, other people suggest that this should not be pointed out.

    Is there space between saying that “consensus messaging” is counterproductive as a communication strategy and saying that the existence of a consensus shouldn’t be pointed out?

    I don’t happen to agree with many of the critics of “consensus messaging,” who argue that it is counterproductive (personally, I think it doesn’t make much difference one way or the other, and so I also don’t agree with those who seem certain that it is an effective communication strategy), but arguing that it is counterproductive isn’t quite the same thing as saying that the existence of a consensus shouldn’t be pointed out.

  62. Joshua,

    Is there space between saying that “consensus messaging” is counterproductive as a communication strategy and saying that the existence of a consensus shouldn’t be pointed out?

    Possibly, but it is hard to see how it’s possible to engage in discussions about these other important issues if there isn’t a general acceptance of the consensus. If someone can explain how this is possible, I’d be keen to hear it.

  63. Joshua says:

    As if I needed to be reminded why I tried to stop using html tags!

    Pearce seyz the following in his abstract:

    > I argue that three underlying assumptions of this established view are fundamentally flawed. The first is that the content of the scientific consensus—i.e., that humans cause global warming–is important.

    OK – so that could be read to indicate that he thinks that it isn’t important that humans cause global warming hmmm. I sure hope not. ‘Cause that would be just weird. I supposed it could be read to indicate that he thinks the fact that there is a consensus on whether humans are causing global warming isn’t important.

    But if that’s the case, then it would seem that the first assumption he outlines is awfully redundant with the next two:

    > Second, is that public awareness of the scientific consensus is consequential. The third false
    assumption is that acceptance of the consensus provides a necessary precursor for policy
    progress on climate change.

    Which both question the importance of their being a consensus on whether human are causing global warming.

    Which, come to think of it, would also be weird.

    I find his abstract is rather confusing.

  64. Dikran Marsupial says:

    Joshua – yes, somewhat ironic that sci-com experts seem to assume a particular purpose of sci-comm. with no apparent evidence. However, AFAICS, the argument is still faulty. The reason why “consensus messaging” might be necessary for those wanting to promote mitigation strategies is because anti-consensus messaging has long been an apparently successful (c.f. ‘Consensus gap”) strategy for those that oppose mitigation efforts (e.g. Luntz memo). The point remains that if some find the existence of a consensus so polarising as to prevent productive discussion, the fault lies with those who can’t deal with true factual statements, and there is no real prospect of progress with any “strategy”. It is obviously a gateway issue, while someone believes that even climate scientists disagree on the basics, they have a way of rejecting any action. Talking about personal values etc isn’t going to change anything if you don’t believe there is a scientific basis for a challenge to those values.

    Personally my aim in sci-com is not to promote any particular action, just for the discussion on action to be based in correct information, rather than misinformation. But that is just my values. ;o)

  65. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    > Possibly, but it is hard to see how it’s possible to engage in discussions about these other important issues if there isn’t a general acceptance of the consensus.

    Agreed. I think that anyone who questions the basic premise that there’s an importance to the existence of a consensus, even if that existence isn’t dispositive as to the facts climate change, is, more or less, full of shit.

    But then there’s the question of whether a “consensus messaging” strategy is effective at gaining acceptance of the consensus, or whether particular “consensus messaging” strategies are more effective than others. IMO, those are legitimate questions.

  66. Dikran Marsupial says:

    ‘ assumption is that acceptance of the consensus provides a necessary precursor for policy
    progress on climate change.’

    It doesn’t have to be a *neccessary* precursor for it to be a very helpful step. AFAICS this is a bit specious.

  67. Joshua, There may well be more effective strategies. I don’t think that what Warren is suggesting is one of them, though.

  68. Joshua says:

    dikran –

    > The reason why “consensus messaging” might be necessary for those wanting to promote mitigation strategies is because anti-consensus messaging has long been an apparently successful (c.f. ‘Consensus gap”) strategy for those that oppose mitigation efforts (e.g. Luntz memo).

    I would question two aspects of that. The first is that anti-consensus messaging has really had a significant impact, as compared to myriad other factors. Personally, I think that the mere politicization of the issue within a highly polarized society is the biggest obstacle to reaching agreement on policies to address climate change. One tool used to leverage that polarization, in and of itself, doesn’t seem to me to be hugely impactful. And then there’s the difficulty people have in addressing low probability/high damage risk (and conditional probability) – which is another big obstacle, IMO. And then there’s factors such as the long time horizon for the risk framework, and the complicated nature of assessing the short-term and long term costs. And the toughness, in general, of framing externalities.

    > The point remains that if some find the existence of a consensus so polarising as to prevent productive discussion, the fault lies with those who can’t deal with true factual statements, and there is no real prospect of progress with any “strategy”.

    Sure. But “fault” seems to me to be of limited importance. Determining who is at fault, IMO, is largely orthogonal to assessing the effectiveness of communication strategies. If I employ a strategy that is ineffective because of someone else’s shortcomings, that doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t develop a different strategy that better accounts for their shortcomings.

  69. Joshua says:

    dikran –

    > Joshua – yes, somewhat ironic that sci-com experts seem to assume a particular purpose of sci-comm. with no apparent evidence.

    Aye, thar’s the rub. And I think that relates to this comment from Anders…

    > Joshua, There may well be more effective strategies. I don’t think that what Warren is suggesting is one of them, though.

    This is what I consider to be the main problem. Seems to me that simply speculating that there is a more effective strategy, and criticizing a given strategy as being ineffective of counterproductive, without ever actually evaluating the relative merits of different strategies in a scientific fashion, over and over, after a while begins to look rather vacuous. It’s almost as if Warren is more interested in pointing fingers than in solving the fundamental research question at hand.

  70. Dikran Marsupial says:

    To clarify – accepting that there is a scientific problem IS a requirement for action on mitigation. It would be peculiar to argue for mitigation against something you did not believe existed. Acceptance of the existence of a scientific consensus on the issue would be a perfectly rational basis for a member of the general public to accept that there was a scientific problem. Understanding the basic science would be another route, and one that is within the reach of many members of the general population. I suspect this was one of schopenhauer’s strategy to overstate the importance of an element of you opponents argument.

  71. Dikran Marsupial says:

    Joshua “ I would question two aspects of that. The first is that anti-consensus messaging has really had a significant impact, ” so why is there a consensus gap?

    ‘ “fault” seems to me to be of limited importance. ’

    I disagree, if rational discussion is proving difficult, it is important to identify the problem so that it can be addressed.

  72. Dikran Marsupial says:

    Joshua” and then there’s the difficulty people have in addressing low probability/high damage risk (and conditional probability) – which is another big obstacle, IMO. And then there’s factors such as the long time horizon for the risk framework, and the complicated nature of assessing the short-term and long term costs. And the toughness, in general, of framing externalities.‘

    All of those seem to be orthogonal issues related to “what to do” rather than the existence of a scientific problem, which is the actual subject of the consensus.

  73. Joshua says:

    > so why is there a consensus gap?

    I think is a sense there are a lot of reasons, but they basically might boil down to the echo-chamber, siloing and polarized effect of the current media environment. One reason why “skeptics” might not think there’s a consensus is because they haven’t heard that there’s a consensus – or it could be that they’ve heard about it but they don’t accept it because the media they trust says it doesn’t really exist, or that the really smart and knowledgeable scientists don’t agree with the consensus. They might think that “the consensus” means that all those limp-wristed academic libz who want to line their pockets and destroy Western civilization agree that global warming is a problem, but virile, rough and ready, hard-working non-effete analysts laugh at the notion. Look at the attributes of people like Willis, and how much adoration he gets at places like WUWT. The political overlay, IMO, filters pretty much everything related to how (in general), people’s perceptions on this issue are formulated.

    But even if the reason why “skeptics” think that a consensus doesn’t exist is because they haven’t heard about it, then I think a big question is whether “consensus messaging” will work, unless it is communicated in a fashion that reaches outside the existing polarized, echo-chambered, and siloed communicative environment. But for me, that is rather putting the cart before the horse. The “horse” is to figure out how to find a more effective communicative environment. IMO, that would be the real “gateway” mechanism. That given, then all forms of good faith engagement become more effective.

  74. Joshua says:

    > All of those seem to be orthogonal issues related to “what to do” rather than the existence of a scientific problem, which is the actual subject of the consensus.

    No disagreement.

  75. Joshua says:

    dikran –

    > Acceptance of the existence of a scientific consensus on the issue would be a perfectly rational basis for a member of the general public to accept that there was a scientific problem. Understanding the basic science would be another route, and one that is within the reach of many members of the general population. I suspect this was one of schopenhauer’s strategy to overstate the importance of an element of you opponents argument.

  76. Dikran Marsupial says:

    ‘ I think is a sense there are a lot of reasons, but they basically might boil down to the echo-chamber, siloing and polarized effect of the current media environment. ’

    You don’t think it might be because climate in activists have campaigned arguing that there is no scientific consensus, e.g luntz memo, multiple letters signed by N scientists where N is ab ostensibly large number? Skeptics have been regularly told there is no consensus, it isn’t just a lack of information, but an existence of misinformation.

  77. mrkenfabian says:

    Surely the reason for attempting to quantify and publicly emphasise that there is a strong consensus is the abundance of false claims that there is widespread fundamental disagreements amongst climate scientists. In other fields, as pointed out, there is nothing exceptional about achieving a consensus, nor for it being widely accepted.

    Now – in addition – we get false claims about the legitimacy of that consensus and the methodology used to quantify that consensus, principally from climate science deniers and opponents of taking strong climate actions. As if proving Cook et al results were not 100% correct would prove the science on climate is not correct. A better demonstration of inferior understanding of science and scientific methodology than the reverse in my opinion.

    Science getting it right, converging and confirming from multiple independent directions in this case, is why there is a consensus; that consensus is not imposed and does not create a requirement to fall in line.

  78. Dikran Marsupial says:

    ‘ unless it is communicated in a fashion that reaches outside the existing polarized, echo-chambered, and siloed communicative environment. ’

    Like writing a neutrally expressed journal paper setting out some evidence? ;o)

  79. Joshua says:

    oops.

    > Acceptance of the existence of a scientific consensus on the issue would be a perfectly rational basis for a member of the general public to accept that there was a scientific problem. Understanding the basic science would be another route, and one that is within the reach of many members of the general population.

    I think that the most direct route would be for people to feel the impact of climate change in their every day lives. Reliance on the consensus of expert opinion about long time horizon risks is always going to be something of a tough sell, even if it isn’t directly linked to a partisan polarization. Reverse engineering from an expert consensus on fairly abstract events, that in many ways stand in contrast to people’s day to day lives (unless they are currently experiencing extreme events) is a fairly counterintuitive process, IMO.

    On medical issues, most people accept “consensus” reasoning fairly easily – but I’d argue that in a medical environment the visceral sense of the risk involved might be more concrete and immediate? And of course, medical consensus isn’t usually polarized, or partisan. To the extent that it does become so (for example as with the HPV vaccine or with the Ebola scare a few years back), we find that there tends to be a wedge driven between the existence of a consensus and the acceptance of that consensus on a broad scale.

    But, the problem, of course, is that waiting for people to feel the impact directly, in contrast to hoping the existence of a consensus will motivate them to action, only increases the relevant long-term risk.

  80. Joshua says:

    > Like writing a neutrally expressed journal paper setting out some evidence? ;o)

    I think there is a lot of evidence that neutrally expressed journal settings are being increasingly squeezed into a polarized framework.

  81. Dikran Marsupial says:

    ‘I think that the most direct route would be for people to feel the impact of climate change in their every day lives.‘

    By which time is is likely to be too late for meaningful action. In most cases, the only real evidence we have that what we are currently seeing being climate change rather than natural cycles or just weather is mainstream scientific opinion.

  82. Joshua says:

    > You don’t think it might be because climate in activists have campaigned arguing that there is no scientific consensus, e.g luntz memo, multiple letters signed by N scientists where N is ab ostensibly large number? Skeptics have been regularly told there is no consensus, it isn’t just a lack of information, but an existence of misinformation.

    It isn’t only that they’re being told that there isn’t a consensus by Fox news. They’re also being told that there is a consensus by the NYT. Both have largely a similar impact. IMO, it’s a symptom more than a cause. The cause is the communicative framework. The question, IMO, is how to overcome that structural limitation. That is why I think that studies of “consensus messaging” that create contrived communicative intervention paradigms are rather flawed.

    I’m still waiting to see a study of the impact of consensus messaging that takes into account a longitudinal measurement of people’s history vis a vis consensus messaging. It would be hard to measure, of course, but it seems to me like such an important step to take before coming to any kind of confidence on the issue.

  83. Dikran Marsupial says:

    Pearce et al are some of those that are doing the squeezing most actively. The journal paper is expressed quite neutrally – but it isn’t accepted any better for that.

  84. Joshua says:

    Mark –

    > Surely the reason for attempting to quantify and publicly emphasise that there is a strong consensus is the abundance of false claims that there is widespread fundamental disagreements amongst climate scientists. In other fields, as pointed out, there is nothing exceptional about achieving a consensus, nor for it being widely accepted.

    What do you see as the way to go from quantification to effective public emphasis so as to have a sizable differential effect on how the general public views climate change?

    Simply arguing that a consensus exists, and attempting to publicly emphasize that fact seems to a rather dubious strategy, IMO. One way that people attempt to argue that communicating the consensus isn’t effective is by noting the size of the “skeptic” community. But indeed, that is a pretty facile argument as it doesn’t allow for the possibility that absent consensus messaging, anti-consensus messaging would result in an even larger “skeptic” community.

    But I think that people make a lot of assumptions on this issue, which indeed are suggested by pure logic…but we live in a pretty complex communication environment. Quantifying and publicly emphasizing the existence of a consensus seems a basically logical step to take to counteract anti-consensus messaging – but I, for one, question how well that logical supposition plays out.

  85. Joshua says:

    mrken, not Mark.

  86. Steven Mosher says:

    DK. Dr. ATTP responded to this

    “Oh, and by the way, some of the biggest energy experts in the world have agreed that #RCP85isBollox, and not one has disagreed. Listen to this in-depth discussion if you still think there is any real doubt.”

    let’s just say I have run into this wrong form of the argument many times.

    X: GHGs cause warming.
    Skeptic: Can you prove that?
    X: well the consensus of scientists agree.

    So the wrong version of the argument exists. Folks use it all the time. Usually, people who have no
    Business arguing FOR the science.

    How I might view things. when asked about C02 residence time adjustment time

    Skeptic: C02 is not a problem it stays in the atmosphere for only 4 months.
    Mosh: I don’t think that’s right. Here is a clear paper by Gavin. I read it, it made things very clear.
    I found no mistakes. go read it for yourself.

    I’d be quite honest that 1. I could not have solved the problem on my own. 2. That I could not find any mistakes in your work 3. That I am relying on your expertise. 4. I would not appeal to
    a consensus argument, because your paper is a better argument than any appeal to consensus.

  87. Nick Palmer says:

    …and Then There’s Physics says:
    January 15, 2020 at 7:13 am
    “The consensus doesn’t really directly say anything about the impacts, but I find it hard to understand how you can discuss the possible impacts if you don’t accept the consensus”

    I absolutely accept that there is overwhelming agreement amongst those ‘skilled in the art’ that humanity has affected, is affecting and continues to affect the climate because of our excess emissions. Warren Pearce’s tack implicitly suggests that there is no, or a weaker, scientific consensus about the degree of the danger from climate change or at least that any consensus is not as strong as it has been represented. I have to repeat this bit of my post above:

    “If we could find what level of consensus there is that robustly rules out the low values of climate sensitivity, which is what lukewarmer views depend upon, then I think the public facing message, and the future public acceptance of the situation would become very strong (and would finally demolish any significant credibility the denialosphere has in that publics’ eyes)”

    From a risk/cost/benefit analysis, of course, we absolutely cannot afford to gamble that climate sensitivity values may eventually prove to be at the ‘low end of the graph’ over the long term but such concepts are not well understood by the public and are easily exploited by the smarter denialists out there – the ones that lobby Congress etc.

  88. angech says:

    Dikran Marsupial says:
    Angech would you require a greater than 97% agreement amongst doctors to say there was a consensus on some medical question, e.g. whether homeopathy was true? So what level of agreement is required? Give you justification for that value (rather than just an unsupported assertion).

    A great question.
    Multiple levels.

    Medical practitioners are a guild in the greater world of health including Osteopathy, Acupuncture, Homeopathy and Witchcraft.
    The guild has a major conflict of interest and we were taught from day one by the authorities that homeopathy was not true. By medical consensus. By Authority.

    Since there are homeopaths, and lots of people who go to them and it works* in some people the question of whether it is true for the greater population than doctors is moot.

    Personally, from a scientific point of view the concept of homeopathy has a lot on common with one of the basic principles of magic and since I do not believe in magic I do not think that homeopathy is true.

    If you asked the question about Acupuncture which has the same amount of scientific veracity as homeopathy you would get a medical surprise. It is recognized as a sub specialty in Australia. So much for medical consensus.

    * placebo

    Above I suggested that a 4SD range might be suitable for a consensus position.
    This would almost remove the risk of the consensus being wrong.
    At 4 SD I might even wager the house.

  89. Joshua says:

    > If we could find what level of consensus there is that robustly rules out the low values of climate sensitivity, which is what lukewarmer views depend upon…

    The consensus doesn’t rule out low values of climate sensitivity, it just considers them outside the more probable range – “lukewarmers” effectively narrow and lower the probable range, sometimes without evidence.

    > then I think the public facing message, and the future public acceptance of the situation would become very strong (and would finally demolish any significant credibility the denialosphere has in that publics’ eyes)”

    I disagree. A large % of the “skeptical” public don’t accept the very premise of the GHE. A large % don’t think it’s warming, or if it is, it’s “natural.” They think that “the climate has always changed.” They think that the temp records have been doctored. They think that climate change is a hoax – produced by lefty scientists who are out to line their pockets and destroy Western Civilization.

    “The public” is not separate and distinct from “skeptics.” A large % of the public are “skeptics.”

    And a large % of “skeptics” don’t actually know the first thing about climate sensitivity. They don’t know what the more technical arguments are from people like Judith.

    Climate “skeptics” and Trump’s base are pretty much one and the same. There is some unknown, not terribly committed group in the center. Who knows what they would find persuasive. Would they find it persuasive if mitigation advocates narrowed their definition of the consensus, and thus the needle would move?

    i doubt it.

  90. David B. Benson says:

    About 3/4sth of 538 poll responders show some concern about climate change:
    https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/americans-were-a-lot-less-worried-about-climate-change-before-trump-took-office/

    So far that has not resulted in enough action, in my opinion.

  91. angech says:

    “Climate “skeptics” and Trump’s base are pretty much one and the same”
    Are you seriously arguing that 49% of the voting American public are skeptics?
    That is a large chunk of people with some very fixed world views.
    Or are you just dissing Republicans?
    Could there be another chunk of skeptics who voted Democrat because they did not like Trump?

    If true, Why??
    What is it that induces so many people to affix a wrong scientific view to a political view?
    1. People do not want to go down the suggested [draconian?] pathway and only one party is offering a choice?
    2. Republicans are easily convinced by anti consensus messaging?
    3. ??

  92. angech says:

    Joshua
    ” A large % of “skeptics” don’t actually know the first thing about climate sensitivity. They don’t know what the more technical arguments are from people like Judith.”

    Equally true
    ” A large % of “non skeptics” don’t actually know the first thing about climate sensitivity. They don’t know what the more technical arguments are from people like Judith.”
    Hence the problem

  93. Steven,
    Yes, I agree that consensus messaging shouldn’t really be used in a scientific discussion. It is simply a piece of useful information to assess the level of agreement. However, the other problem with Liebreich’s argument is that it appears not to be true, at least in the sense of there being uniform agreement amongst energy experts that ERCP8.5 is impossible. There is even a paper that surveyed experts. Figure 6 seems to show that a large fraction think that emissions could reach RCP8.5 levels by 2100, and Table 2 shows that 5% had medians consistent with RCP8.5. I do think RCP8.5 is very unlikely, but I think I’ll need more than a small group of vocal vocal, over-confident people on Twitter to convince that it’s so unlikely that it shouldn’t really be used.

  94. Steven,
    To push back a little, I’m not sure I’ve often seen people use the consensus when trying to explain science. At least, not people who have the expertise to explain the science.

  95. dikranmarsupial says:

    “It isn’t only that they’re being told that there isn’t a consensus by Fox news. They’re also being told that there is a consensus by the NYT. Both have largely a similar impact.”

    Yes, my point was that anti-consensus messaging is effective.

    ” IMO, it’s a symptom more than a cause.”

    That is rather irrelevant to whether it is an effective strategy in obstructing action on mitigation. Of course the cause is really that we don’t want to give up our (relatively) comfortable lifestyles, so mitigation is in conflict with our values (at least if you take the view that it is our (in-)action that defines or values, which economists seem to do). Anything that allows people to avoid seriously questioning their values will be effective against mitigation and anything that calls those values into question will be a hard sell. However it is not our values that are the problem, it is our willingness as a society to be misled that is the core problem.

  96. dikranmarsupial says:

    “X: GHGs cause warming.
    Skeptic: Can you prove that?
    X: well the consensus of scientists agree.”

    goalpost shift. That is pointing out the burden of “proof” has been reversed by the skeptic. It isn’t saying that the science is necessarily right because there is a consensus. ATTP’s tweet seems to me to be of a similar nature. Great claims require great evidence, if you are arguing that some field has got it all fundamentally wrong on basic issues, you need to provide some pretty strong evidence, not just rhetoric.

    Personally I’d respond by pointing out that “proof” of that sort is not really available in science and explain the evidence instead, as you suggest. However that doesn’t mean pointing out the consensus view is not a reasonable thing to do when discussing the science. It certainly doesn’t imply that the science is necessarily correct because there is a consensus. It does mean that it is more likely a-priori to be right than some theory propounded by some random bloke (and it is usually a bloke) on the WWW – from a frequentist perspective, the long term frequencies on that one are pretty clear! In medical issues, I can’t understand the papers or evaluate them, so judging mainstream medical opinion (e.g. NICE) is about the best I can do – I go with the consensus.

  97. dikranmarsupial says:

    ““X: GHGs cause warming.
    Skeptic: Can you prove that?
    X: well the consensus of scientists agree.”

    would

    ““X: GHGs cause warming.
    Skeptic: Can you prove that?
    X: well there is a lot of evidence in the IPCC WG1 report that is clear, which I couldn’t have gathered myself, that I can’t find any fault in, and so I rely on their expertise”

    be appealing to authority or consensus messaging? It isn’t greatly different to refering them to my paper on the residence time thing, the only real difference is the number of authors and the scientific level.

    BTW I couldn’t have written the paper by myself either, I asked several very clever and knowledgable people questions and learned from the (and got them to check my arguments). It is quite a good example of the use of consensus. For this one specific question, I was able to investigate the science and discover the truth. But it took a great deal of time and energy. I can’t do that for every question in climate change – I don’t have the time or energy or the skills (or time to acquire them) for all questions, so I have to rely on the expertise of others. The expertise of groups is generally more reliable than the expertise of individuals, so it makes good sense to go with the mainstream view, which is generally what I do. When someone challenges the mainstream view, it causes me no discomfort, but I do require them to provide evidence and be willing to discuss the arguments against it in a reasonable manner. That seems pretty rational to me.

  98. dikranmarsupial says:

    Nice example of valid consensus messaging ;o)

  99. Victor Petri says:

    My take on Warrens point this that consensus messaging is an incorrect focussing of energy. Arguing climate sceptics is as if all astronomers are putting their energy in disproving the Flat Earth society that our planet is in fact not flat. Leaving less room to new research and in the meanwhile the general public sees Flat Earthers in a discussion with astronomers thinking when there is something to discuss then maybe, perhaps, the truth is somewhere in the middle.
    Further, concerning climate change, the most important debate is actually in the policy domain, how much showed we mitigate and how, how much should we adapt, etc. (this concerns human values and cultures). The most important debate is not on whether humans case climate change, since that is a settled matter, and having sceptics focus on it is distractive.

    And I think I more or less agree with it. However, as antivaxers proof, sceptics can undermine scientific consensus if left to their own devices to long.

  100. dikranmarsupial says:

    Victor I don’t think that is a good analogy. There are very few people who genuinely think the Earth is flat, however a very large number of people who think there is no scientific consensus on climate change (the so-called “consensus gap”), so it doesn’t follow that it is a similar waste of energy to correct that misconception.

    I very much agree that the most important debate is in the policy domain, however rejecting the existence of a scientific consensus is a means of avoiding that debate entirely. If you don’t accept there is a serious problem, there is no point in discussing policy. That is why “anti-consensus messaging” is an effective means of avoiding mitigation, especially as it is what most of us would prefer to do already.

  101. Victor,

    Further, concerning climate change, the most important debate is actually in the policy domain, how much showed we mitigate and how, how much should we adapt, etc. (this concerns human values and cultures). The most important debate is not on whether humans case climate change, since that is a settled matter, and having sceptics focus on it is distractive.

    The problem is that it’s not a settled matter. Judith Curry’s recent testimony to a Congressional (or Senate, I can’t quite remember) suggested that this was still an area of disagreement. Also, how can you possibly discuss the relevant policies without an acceptance of the consensus? People who think consensus messaging has value, are not suggesting that it should dominate the discussions; it’s clear that there are many other important issues to discuss. However, without an acceptance of the consensus, these other discussions don’t really make much sense.

  102. Chubbs says:

    My reading of the scientific consensus is that we are running out of time to avoid a completely different climate. Pearce’s claim that the consensus is “narrow” is a bad starting point for his argument. Even Cook doesn’t make a particularly strong statement about the consensus. Human involvement, by itself, doesn’t convey much urgency.

  103. angech says:

    “I very much agree that the most important debate is in the policy domain, however rejecting the existence of a scientific consensus is a means of avoiding that debate entirely. If you don’t accept there is a serious problem, there is no point in discussing policy”

    Serious problems can come in all shapes and sizes.
    Policy implies that you see the problem as one that has sensible and achievable answers.
    if on the other hand it is an aeroplane crash imminent, with no parachutes and no working engines would it be better to drink the glass of wine and text goodbye to the spouse, pray or waste the next few minutes with reading about the crash position and the doorway exits.
    I vote for the glass of wine and to cross the fingers and hope that the consensus might be wrong.

  104. Thomas Fuller says:

    Talking about the consensus is fine. Exaggerating its size and the extent of scientific territory it covers is not. Simple, really.

  105. Tom,
    Did you have some reason for saying something obvious?

  106. Thomas Fuller says:

    Sometimes the obvious gets overlooked.

  107. Willard says:

    Sometimes the obvious turns into the “But CAGW” meme.

  108. dikranmarsupial says:

    angech. That is a non-sequitur. As I said there is no chance of productive discussion of policy with someone that doesn’t accept there is a problem. If someone doesn’t accept the plane is going to crash they have no special reason to even consider doing any of the things you suggest (unless they were going to do them anyway).

  109. dikranmarsupial says:

    Tom wrote: “… Exaggerating its size and the extent of scientific territory it covers is not. …”

    please provide an example of someone of note (i.e. not just some random bloke cherry picked from a blog) actually doing so.

    The consensus is of course in the high nineties. No one ever said it was not. We don’t need Cook’s survey to tell us that.

    Richard Tol

  110. Willard says:

    > please provide an example

    Inviting peddling may not be optimal. This isn’t a thread to rehearse “But 97” or its variants.

  111. dikranmarsupial says:

    It is pretty difficult to exaggerate the size of the consensus when even the detractors of the consensus say that it is (of course) in the high 90s already I suspected it is a bluff so I called it.

    Would it really make a difference if it were 98% or 99% or even 100% rather than 97%. I very much doubt any rational policy differences depend on that 3%.

  112. dikranmarsupial says:

    FWIW I do agree about the exaggerating the extent, for instance claims that climatologists say we have X years to prevent the planet becoming uninhabitable, but generally when that happens, they get criticised for it by “warmists” (c.f. Stephen Hawking etc). That is more easily done and people should be careful about it.

  113. Chubbs says:

    It is only Pearce’s interest in science that is “narrow”, just enough to craft an argument. Mere windowdressing for a point-of-view.

  114. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:


    Talking about the consensus is fine. Exaggerating its size and the extent of scientific territory it covers is not. Simple, really.

    Yes it is simple, really.

    Except that almost all of the PR money is aimed at minimizing the size and the extent of scientific territory the consensus covers.


    The problem is that it’s not a settled matter. Judith Curry’s recent testimony to a Congressional (or Senate, I can’t quite remember) suggested that this was still an area of disagreement.

    That Judith Curry goes to Washington to suggest to politicians that there is serious doubt as to whether humans are the main cause of climate change is hardly damaging to the scientific consensus.

    Curry talks to the pols for the same reason Mark Steyn does…


    I very much enjoy the challenge and opportunity of preparing written testimony and communicating my analyses of the issue at hand to policy makers. However, I am not cut out to be a politician. I have a bad habit of answering any question as accurately and honestly as I can, rather than using my 90 seconds to refute my opponent or to emphasize my own point.
    This makes me wonder what the Democrats are really trying to accomplish with these hearings on climate change. If they are so convinced the science is completely settled, why do they bother with these Hearings? Do they think they are going to convince the Republicans with a witness such as Michael Mann? The politics surrounding climate change make little sense to me.

    https://judithcurry.com/2019/06/27/truth-in-testimony-and-convincing-policy-makers/

    One might suggest that if Dr Curry feels the need to imply that other Congressional witnesses are not answering any questions as accurately and honestly as she is, and then imply that they are using their time to score points against her, that she is simply more skilled at playing the victim-bully than defending her position.

    The “what’s the point” remark about the Democrats, and the assumption that the Republicans are there acting as honest brokers to be “convinced”, are rather telling in that regard.

    The problem with contrarianism is that it wants to be important, but it’s not science.

  115. JCH says:

    The vast majority of consensus exaggeration is done by skeptics. Every time there is a paper that refines unsettled science, there is hallelujah chorus of “I thought the science was settled!”

  116. “X: GHGs cause warming.
    Skeptic: Can you prove that?
    X: well the consensus of scientists agree.’

    This has become a strawman. Are there still some skeptical of any impact on warming? Sure, but you know where the debate actually is.

    X: GHGs cause warming
    Skeptic: How much?
    X There is a consensus of scientist who agree that GHGs cause warming.
    Skeptic: I know, I’m one of them. Again, how much?
    X It’s going to be very very bad
    Skeptic: the consensus of scientists doesn’t say that. Judith Curry is in the consensus. She has stated repeatedly that she believes GHGs cause warming and that humans are increasing GHGs- she has made this very clear despite some people’s attempts to incorrectly state her position. You yourself have said the scenarios used to scare people are wrong.
    X- Well, see, we count Judy in the consensus in order to call it a consensus, but it’s not one of those actual consensus situations where everyone agrees. It’s more like there is a consensus that food is required to sustain life, but we’re still arguing about what’s for dinner tonight.

  117. Marco says:

    Jeff, you indeed created a strawman in the second part. I’d say “well done” if not for the fact that it is very obvious.

    This is the “clear” position of Judith Curry:

    https://curryja.files.wordpress.com/2018/06/debate1.pdf


    This is the one that puts her firmly OUTSIDE of the consensus:
    “Disagreement: Whether the warming since 1950 has been dominated by human causes”
    She somewhat clarifies it later, but this does not change the fact she places herself outside of the consensus:
    “Man-made CO2 emissions are as likely as not to contribute less than 50% of the recent warming”

    And with regard to “humans are increasing GHGs” – note that she does not mention this at all in her presentation, and actually is rather quiet on the issue. She has in the past promoted Murray Salby’s nonsense, however…

  118. JCH wrote:

    “The vast majority of consensus exaggeration is done by skeptics. Every time there is a paper that refines unsettled science, there is hallelujah chorus of “I thought the science was settled!”

    Recent example of outrage over consensus indecision: AMO, PDO is not an oscillation, even though oscillation is in the acronym. “Absence of internal multidecadal and interdecadal oscillations in climate model simulations” by Mann et al.

  119. Mal Adapted says:

    John Kirwan:

    It’s still population which must be brought under management. Climate change is only one of several very serious symptoms of that disease. So climate change is only one of other serious symptoms. All of them need to be addressed. Not just climate change.

    Trusting this is at least tangential to the blog post: I became convinced by age 14 that human population growth was the root of all evil. That was reinforced by G. Hardin’s 1968 Science article The Tragedy of the Commons and P. and A. Ehrlichs’ The Population Bomb, then by studying ecology and evolution at the wannabe-doctoral level (incidentally meeting Paul Ehrlich when he visited our department). Only within the last couple of decades have I realized it’s not a bomb after all, i.e. not a TotC as defined by economists. E. Ostrom, for example:

    “The ‘tragedy of the commons’ arises when it is difficult and costly to exclude potential users from common-pool resources that yield finite flows of benefits, as a result of which those resources will be exhausted by rational, utility-maximizing individuals rather than conserved for the benefit of all.

    The tragedy is in the classical Greek sense of human helplessness at the whims of the gods: without collective management (Hardin’s “mutual coercion, mutually agreed upon”), individual common-pool resource users are motivated to increase their level of exploitation indefinitely (“If I don’t, someone else will”), until the resource is fully consumed or degraded. That’s usually a tragedy in the sense of “major bummer” (OK boomer), too. It applies to global human population if, for a woman of reproductive age, the marginal private benefit of increasing her exploitation of the common-pool resource, namely the planetary carrying capacity for Homo sapiens, is always greater than the marginal private cost of adding another child to the family.

    About 25 years ago, OTOH, I noticed that global total fertility rate was declining. It’s now half that of the 1960s, and approaching replacement rate. This has occurred in multiple countries, with or without coercive intervention in reproductive choices. Demographers attribute declining TFR to better health care, especially reduced infant mortality; and also to improving female education and empowerment overall. In those circumstances, at least, it turns out individual women aren’t always motivated to have more children: with access to reliable contraception, and to information about the global economy however reliable (e.g. telenovelas), they learn they can maximize their private utility by having fewer offspring, and investing proportionately more in the cultural success of those who survive to adulthood. This may illustrate r- vs K- selection.

    The bottom line: if present trends continue (big if), our total population should top out at 10-12 billion early in the 22nd century. That’s assuredly a lot of people, each of us causing our impact as a product of our per-capita economic and technological wherewithal: I=PAT, where maximizing AT for each child is potentially an evolutionarily stable strategy. That implies multiple ensuing tragedies of its own. Nonetheless, P itself apparently isn’t limited only by carrying capacity, i.e. it’s not a TotC. IOW, the population bomb appears to be containing itself, without the “fundamental extension in morality” Hardin thought was required. AFAICT it’s being done the old-fashioned way, by individuals looking out for their main chance. Be that as it may, Hardin’s title is still a useful term of art for biologists and economists.

  120. Willard says:

    > Are there still some skeptical of any impact on warming? Sure, but you know where the debate actually is.

    Actually, the debate is everywhere:

    https://contrarianmatrix.wordpress.com/

    Lots of theories. No best practices. Do not panic. Do no harm. Future is bright. And then there’s conspiracy ideation.

    Contrarian stances range from straightforward denial to JeffN’s common minimizations.

    Raising concerns is fine. Minimizing AGW is not.

    Simple, really.

  121. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:


    It’s more like there is a consensus that food is required to sustain life, but we’re still arguing about what’s for dinner tonight.

    For every consensus there exists an equal and opposite contrarian willing to debate it.

    Consensuses and contrarians and debates.
    Consensuses and contrarians and debates everywhere

  122. Joshua says:

    dikran –

    > “It isn’t only that they’re being told that there isn’t a consensus by Fox news. They’re also being told that there is a consensus by the NYT. Both have largely a similar impact.”

    >> Yes, my point was that anti-consensus messaging is effective.

    ———————
    I’m not sure my point was clear. At least in the States, when the NYT or the WAPO or the Guardian have an article about the consensus, that in and of itself is reason for “skeptics,” who overwhelmingly are from the Trump/Republican sector of the public, will dismiss the evidence of the existence of a consensus. They do this because the issue is politicized. The impact of an article in the NYT is the same on “skeptics” as it is when they see Judith Curry on Tucker Carlson’s show. Their biases are confirmed. Because anything they hear about climate change confirms their biases. Because everything they hear about climate change is filtered through their ideological lens (not to single them out, the same process works for folks on the other side of the climate change/ideological divide).
    —————

    > ” IMO, it’s a symptom more than a cause.”

    >> That is rather irrelevant to whether it is an effective strategy in obstructing action on mitigation.

    ———————
    ??

    I don’t understand. If it is a symptom, rather than a cause, then simply seeking to promote communication about the consensus will not have a material effect on public opinion. IOW, you haven’t addressed the basic questions about the shortcomings of the deficit model.

    Because all attempts to promote information about the consensus will engage the same biasing mechanisms. IMO, if you want to move the needle in public opinion on climate change, you have to address the case – which is the biasing mechanism that shapes how information is processed.
    ———————–

    > Of course the cause is really that we don’t want to give up our (relatively) comfortable lifestyles,

    I am increasingly disagreeing with that view. One model would be that people don’t want to change their lifestyle, so their comfort-biases downplay the risks posed by ACO2 emissions.

    Another model would be that people underestimate the risk because they are ideologically inclined to do so, and so then because they feel the risks are low, they don’t think sacrifice is needed.

    I think that both models are in play to some degree…but I’m increasingly leaning towards the 2nd.

    IMO, the first model is largely compatible with an “us/them” framework for these kinds of issues. “Us” are more elevated ethically, morally, and scientifically, and so “us” are willing to make the sacrifices needed, and if we can get a critical mass of “them” (maybe through deficit modeling messaging) to see the ethical dilemma we face, we can make progress. Or maybe “us” just need to amass enough political power to implement our desired policies irrespective of “them.”

    I’m becoming more and more inclined towards a “cognitive empathy” orientation – in line with the 2nd model, and thus the focus should be on how people assess the risk, and how to mitigate the biasing political disunity.

    > so mitigation is in conflict with our values (at least if you take the view that it is our (in-)action that defines or values, which economists seem to do).

    Yah, well I am skeptical of the “values are what distinguish us” frame. I think that we are more than likely fairly alike in values – but what differs is how we translate those values into policy orientation.
    Admittedly, it is a struggle at times to maintain that perspective – say when Republicans laughably claim that Trump is being persecuted simply because he was “concerned” about corruption.

  123. Joshua says:

    > > Are there still some skeptical of any impact on warming? Sure, but you know where the debate actually is.

    Some?

    Many. I don’t think it’s change much in the last six years:

    http://www.culturalcognition.net/display/ShowImage?imageUrl=/storage/partisangw.png?

  124. Joshua says:

    > Most registered voters (73%) think global warming is happening, including 95% of liberal Democrats, 88% of moderate/conservative Democrats and 68% of liberal/moderate Republicans, but only 40% of conservative Republicans.

    A majority of registered voters (59%) think global warming is caused mostly by human activities, including 84% of liberal Democrats, 70% of moderate/conservative Democrats, and 55% of liberal/moderate Republicans (14 percentage points higher than in October 2017), but only 26% of conservative Republicans.
    ————————————-

    My guess is that the numbers would be even lower today. Remember when Republicans thought Russia posed a threat, that the personal behaviors of politicians reflected onto their qualifications to be a politician, when the government interfering in trade or picking favorites in the market were no-no’s, when a large debt and deficit were a terrible and dangerous threat?

    Trump’s election has made massive changes to Pubz;’ opinions on all of those topics…I’d guess that it has has some impact on Pubz’ views on climate change as well.

  125. angech says:

    Mal Adapted
    “Trusting this is at least tangential to the blog post: I became convinced by age 14 that human population growth was the root of all evil.”
    Really liked the full comment.
    Population growth is certainly a major but hopefully workable problem.
    Possibly the only practical area.
    Whether luck, disease, war, disaster or common sense leads to a reduction in numbers and better harmony with the planet.
    Thank you.

  126. angech says:

    DM
    “angech. That is a non-sequitur.”
    Sorry.
    Frustrated because I am prevented from talking about it at home, and now here on policy.
    One of the reasons for coming here is to talk more freely and be contrarian.
    (I know it should be more to listen.)

  127. Marco- Was that the official cutoff for the paper that created the 97% consensus? No. Was Curry counted in that consensus? Yep. And Lewis and Pielke. I’m pretty sure they counted Anthony Watts.
    The shell game on this and Joshua’s citing of polls is remarkably transparently silly. 97% of climate scientists agree that man-made CO2 emissions are warming the planet. They don’t agree on how much- the IPCC has codified that doubt (there is still a big range). I bet you couldn’t even get 50% agreement on a number just among denizens of this blog. Then you have folks like Joshua who trot out polls saying 70 or 80 or 90% of people are terrified of man-made global warming, but never mentioning that they wouldn’t pay $10 a month to combat it.
    Fun with numbers isn’t going to do it.
    I will add one thing to my comment: the debate about how much is really a proxy for the even deeper debate- what, specifically, to do. Those clinging to very high estimates aren’t doing it for the science, they do so because their policy ideas are absurdly expensive or politically unrealistic (abandon capitalism!). And yes, you can say the same about those who cling to the very low estimates, they don’t want to do much at all.

  128. Joshua says:

    > They don’t agree on how much- the IPCC has codified that doubt (there is still a big range).

    They mostly agree with the IPCC range.

    > I bet you couldn’t even get 50% agreement on a number just among denizens of this blog.

    I bet you’re wrong. I bet that 90% of the non”skeptics” at this blog accept the IPCC range.

    > Then you have folks like Joshua who trot out polls saying 70 or 80 or 90% of people are terrified of man-made global warming, but never mentioning that they wouldn’t pay $10 a month to combat it.

    People aren’t sure how it makes sense to spend that money. And their concept of the risk is abstract.

    > Fun with numbers..

    I think you missed my point in citing the numbers. The point was that what on-line “skeptics” try to promote about “skeptics” accepting the basic GHE and that climate change is happening is self-delusional (for the sake of political expediency).

    In fact, a large % of “skeptics,” if not the majority, are basically in line with the hoax theory. I notice that you had nothing to say on that.

    I’m shocked.

  129. angech says:

    Joshua
    “Climate “skeptics” and Trump’s base are pretty much one and the same””.
    yet?
    “A majority of registered voters (59%) think global warming is caused mostly by human activities, including 84% of liberal Democrats, 70% of moderate/conservative Democrats, and 55% of liberal/moderate Republicans (14 percentage points higher than in October 2017), but only 26% of conservative Republicans.’
    Not so.
    “the even deeper debate- what, specifically, to do.” sceptics excluded.

  130. The Consensus Concern Trolls could gain some credibility by spreading at least as much bad energy below blog posts of their own tribe claiming that scientists do not agree on climate change. If they were consistent they would object to that message just as much and with their own tribe they would more influence.

  131. Willard says:

  132. Willard,
    I almost mentioned Katharine Hayhoe in the post. Katharine is regarded as someone who more takes account of cultural cognition than consensus messaging, given that she seems to be able to engage with those who have a tendency to dismiss AGW. However, even Katharine’s messaging strategy includes highlighting that scientists agree.

  133. Marco says:

    “Was Curry counted in that consensus? Yep. And Lewis and Pielke.”

    Ah, but Curry in most scientific papers contradicts Curry today (more or less since 2011 or so). And Lewis? Does Nic Lewis publicly *not* consider anthropogenic contribution to be more than 50%? If so, his papers, including the one with Curry, would contradict this. Pielke – it depends a bit on which Pielke to what extent, but both also have anthropogenic contributions as >50% as far as I know.

    “I will add one thing to my comment: the debate about how much is really a proxy for the even deeper debate- what, specifically, to do.”

    I’m afraid you may be projecting your own conflict here: if it is as high as many people say, you cannot defend your opposition to mitigation, so you feel compelled to contradict it.

  134. dikranmarsupial says:

    Joshua “I’m not sure my point was clear. ”

    You can’t have anti-consensus messaging in the media having and impact and argue that anti-consensus messaging is not an effective strategy.

    “I don’t understand. If it is a symptom, rather than a cause, then simply seeking to promote communication about the consensus will not have a material effect on public opinion”

    I think you are pushing the disease analogy too far. Values cause people to prefer particular courses of action. If you have a strong preference against mitigation then a symptom may be an attraction to (incorrect) arguments that oppose mitigation – that is human nature. Thus if you vigorously promulgate that argument is it likely that more subjects will adopt that belief than if you don’t vigorously promulgate it and more subjects will be further polarised in their opposition to mitigation. Anti-consensus messaging is clearly effective. I’m not really interested in “messaging”, but I think it is a good thing for the public debate for misinformation to be corrected. It seems bizarre that I need to say that.

    “Because all attempts to promote information about the consensus will engage the same biasing mechanisms.”

    Not in those that haven’t already been drawn in by the anti-consensus messaging. The population isn’t binary on this issue. Plus “all attempts” is obviously an overstatement.

    “Another model would be that people underestimate the risk because they are ideologically inclined to do so, and so then because they feel the risks are low, they don’t think sacrifice is needed.”

    I have already pointed out that the reason anti-consensus messaging is attractive is because it reduces the acceptance of their being a serious problem (risk) and hence it no longer generates a conflict with lifestyle.

    “IMO, the first model is largely compatible with an “us/them” framework”

    please don’t project insulting stereotypes. I have been very clear that all of us face the same cognitive issues.

  135. Joshua says:

    Forgot the link to the polling excerpt I posted above:

    https://climatecommunication.yale.edu/publications/politics-global-warming-march-2018/2/

    Which has this, also:

    > Providing tax rebates to people who purchase energy-efficient vehicles or solar panels (85% of registered voters, 91% of Democrats, 82% of Independents, and 77% of Republicans).
    —————-

    Which shows that a lot of. people are willing to spend to address climate change.

  136. Joshua says:

    Dikran –

    > You can’t have anti-consensus messaging in the media having and impact and argue that anti-consensus messaging is not an effective strategy.

    Did you mean that I can’t have anti-consensus messaging in the media having an impact and argue that anti CONSENSUS messaging isn’t effective?

    I don’t think either is particularly effective. I think that what forms opinions is primarily the polarization. I think at best messaging campaigns have a minimal marginal impact by giving people some sense of their biases being confirmed. But the mechanism whereby a “skeptic” has her (anti-consensus) bias confirmed by an article about the consensus on the NYT is balanced by a “realist” having his (pro-consensus) bias confirmed by an anti-consensus messenger like Judith appearing on Tucker Carlson to trash the consensus.

    But beyond that, I don’t think there’s a reason to believe that the mechanisms of consensus-messaging and anti-consensus messaging have to play our on a parallel fashion. I think that consensus messaging and anti-consensus messaging can have unequal impact or impact (or lack of impact) through different mechanisms. For example, pro vaccine consensus messaging might have way more (and different) impact than anti-vaccine, anti-consensus messaging.

    > Values cause people to prefer particular courses of action.

    That’s not really how I see, in balance. (I’m not categorical about it. I think that political identity (or other kinds of identification) cause people to prefer particular policy options.

    > If you have a strong preference against mitigation then a symptom may be an attraction to (incorrect) arguments that oppose mitigation – that is human nature.

    I think it works more like…on a polarized issue… if you identify as a con you have a strong preference for rejecting policies preferred by libz.

    >but I think it is a good thing for the public debate for misinformation to be corrected. It seems bizarre that I need to say that.

    There is a lot of evidence showing that messaging campaigns on polarized topics have the effect of strengthening opposition (such as stuff on the deficit model). I think it is good for misinformation to be corrected, but I also think it makes sense to evaluate the effect of different methods of correcting misinformation – especially in highly polarized contexts.

    > “Because all attempts to promote information about the consensus will engage the same biasing mechanisms.”

    >> Not in those that haven’t already been drawn in by the anti-consensus messaging. The population isn’t binary on this issue. Plus “all attempts” is obviously an overstatement.
    ——

    OK. Poorly worded. I just meant that consensus messaging is likely (imo) to engage the same mechanisms in “skeptics” (or “skeptics” inclined) as anti-consensus messaging in that same cohort (i.e., confirmation if bias).

    > I have already pointed out that the reason anti-consensus messaging is attractive is because it reduces the acceptance of their being a serious problem (risk) and hence it no longer generates a conflict with lifestyle.

    Yes, you’ve pointed it out. But I don’t particularly agree (I’m not being categorical). I think the direction of causality you describe there is somewhat reversed. I.e., people (“skeptics”/pubz) are biased by political orientation to think the risk isn’t serious and look at anti-consensus messaging (and consensus-messaging) as confirmation of their bias.

    > please don’t project insulting stereotypes. I have been very clear that all of us face the same cognitive issues.

    Sorry you found it insulting. FWIW, I respect the view that an “us vs. them” frame is the one that’s in play and the best way forward is to win that within that frame (zero sum vs. non-zero sum). .

  137. dikranmarsupial says:

    Joshua wrote “Did you mean that I can’t have anti-consensus messaging in the media having an impact and argue that anti CONSENSUS messaging isn’t effective?”

    However Joshua earlier wrote “I would question two aspects of that. The first is that anti-consensus messaging has really had a significant impact, as compared to myriad other factors. ”

    Sorry Joshua, but your argument is simply inconsistent. Eliding hyphens doesn’t change that.

  138. Chubbs says:

    This should help with consensus messaging:

  139. “This should help with consensus messaging:”

    Chubbs, That kind of curve always shows up with monotonically trending data. Can do the same thing with swimming world records, or most timed athletic events. The vast majority of swimming records were broken in the past decade, with a few as early as 2008. If you plotted the same curve in 2010, you would have seen the same shape.

    So it might help with consensus messaging but it’s misleading.

  140. Paul,
    How is it misleading? Maybe ponder why the data is monotonically trending.

  141. dikranmarsupial says:

    ” If you plotted the same curve in 2010, you would have seen the same shape.”

    if you plotted it in the 2000s you wouldn’t. The growth rate in the red curve had been declining for the previous 30 years, so something is very obviously different about the last datapoint which shows a rapid and considerable acceleration. It may be misleading, but self-evidently not for the reason that PP suggests.

  142. Chubbs says:

    Paul – Yes, man-made climate change is monotonic, but also cumulative. The more we warm, the easier it is to see that climate has changed. We are going to blow through the Eemian in a couple of decades.

  143. Joshua says:

    > Sorry Joshua, but your argument is simply inconsistent. Eliding hyphens doesn’t change that

    Eliding hyphens? Sorry dikran, but I don’t know what you’re getting at. I didn’t understand you and clearly you didn’t understand me.

    Prolly a good jumping off point.

  144. dikranmarsupial says:

    Joshua wrote “Eliding hyphens?”

    relating to:

    “Joshua wrote “Did you mean that I can’t have anti-consensus messaging in the media having an impact and argue that anti CONSENSUS messaging isn’t effective?”

    However Joshua earlier wrote “I would question two aspects of that. The first is that anti-consensus messaging has really had a significant impact, as compared to myriad other factors. ”

    there is only one place where hyphens were used, only one place where they could have been elided (between anti and CONSENSUS).

    You questioned whether anti-consensus messaging was effective and later stated that anti-consensus messaging by the media had an impact. If it has an impact it is obviously effective. That is obviously inconsistent.

  145. Joshua says:

    dikran –

    I have no idea what import you find in the whole hyphen thing. I was trying to figure out what you meant and thought maybe you had a word error, so I put forth what I thought you meant to write and asked if that’s what you meant.

    > You questioned whether anti-consensus messaging was effective and later stated that anti-consensus messaging by the media had an impact. If it has an impact it is obviously effective. That is obviously inconsistent.

    I think it may have a marginal impact of giving “skeptics” another in a long list of ways they can confirm a bias that is driven by their political orientation. In the same sense, I think maybe anti-consensus messaging has a marginal impact of providing “realists” with another in a long list of ways they can confirm their biases. I don’t think it moves the needle (and neither does consensus messaging, imo). Of course, it’s hard to measure whether the needle not moving is an outcome of a balance between consensus-messaging pushing on the needle in one direction and anti-consensus messaging pushing on the needle iyhe other direction. Just looking at the needle not moving could hide the underlying forces in play. But my guess is that neither has meaningful differential impact, and as such, neither is “effective.”

  146. dikranmarsupial says:

    “I have no idea what import you find in the whole hyphen thing”

    because hyphens are used for a reason and eliding one potentailly changes the meaning of the phrase. I was indicating that I had noticed the elision and considered the possible changes of meaning and that the inconsistency remained regardless.

    “I think it may have a marginal impact of giving “skeptics” another in a long list of ways they can confirm a bias that is driven by their political orientation.”

    you are saying that the anti-consensus messaging by Fox news has only a marginal impact? That is obviously not true, why else would there be a substantial “consensus gap” if not for the fact that people are told that there is no consensus, which is not factually correct. How would someone come to the conclusion that there is no scientific consensus without being told?

  147. In medical research, governments have tried to create hierarchies of scientific evidence, such as:

    For climate (and other earth studies), “randomized control trial” is not possible.
    We’re left with observational studies, and in the case of what happens with a doubling of CO2, we don’t even have a complete observational study.

    So, we’re left with a void of significant scientific evidence, which opinion fills quite readily.

    Now, some climate aspects in isolation are readily subject to repeatable experiments.
    The radiative aspects of tri-atomic gasses are demonstrable as are many properties of atmospheric profiles. The reason we ‘believe’ in global warming with increased greenhouse gasses is because of these testable processes, not because of consensus opinion.

    Increase of global average temperature follows directly from radiative forcing.
    Perhaps some other features ( increased low altitude ice melt, attendant seasonal change of Arctic temperatures, increased high altitude snow accumulation, thermal expansion of the oceans ) may follow directly from global mean temperature.

    Many climate aspects ( extreme temperatures, droughts, fires, floods, storms, hurricanes, etc. ) are much more determined by motions of the atmosphere and not directly or significantly from global average temperature.

  148. Joshua says:

    dikran –

    > because hyphens are used for a reason and eliding one…

    If you think I was “eliding” a hyphen you are wrong. No Eliding.

    > That is obviously not true, why else would there be a substantial “consensus gap” if not for the fact that people are told that there is no consensus, which is not factually correct.

    There are at least two meanings of “effective” here. One, is “effective” in moving the needle on public views of the risk in climate change. Another would be “effective” in moving peoples views on the level of agreement among scientists experts on climate science.

    I am primarily talking about the first meaning – where I think that anti-consensus and consensus messaging are not “effective” in the sense that in themselves, they have little differential impact. IMO, other, far more causal forceful forces are in play. I’m not convinced of a causal mechanism whereby in a polarized context, messaging about the consensus, would then alter people’s views on climate change. First, the messaging has little potential to take place in ways that aren’t simply a reinforcement of polarizing communicative frames. Second, even if it did, I’m not convinced that in a polarized context, people’s views on climate change would hinge on their awareness of the magnitude of consensus. There are more forceful influences in play. I think that an understand of level of consensus likely makes a difference on people’s views on issues where polarization isn’t a powerful driving force – such as vaccines or GMOs which don’t map very well onto political identities.

    As to the second meaning, even there, I think that the messaging about the consensus likely has more of an impact than with the first meaning – but there are other important influences in addition to explicit “messaging” per se. For example, a regular watcher of Fox News rarely sees a climate scientist talking about the risks of climate change, as opposed to the number of climate scientist she sees downplaying the risk. Add in the increasing echo-chamber ING and siloing effect from so many people primarily getting their news through reading top lines of Facebook posts – which are algorithmically filtered so as to confirm identity orientation. Thus, she thinks there is probably a consensus that the risk is small, independent of “consensus-messaging,” per se. Consensus or anti-consensus infirmation likely is filtered through a preexisting orientation, not based on actual information but based identity and the information filter that identity puts into place. Also, consensus-messaging in the NYT or MSNBC has an impact of confirming the Fox News viewer’s inclination w/r/t a consensus, because if it’s fake news it’s obviously wrong. Again, the last effect is largely independent of “anti-consensus” messaging, in fact it’s the result of “consensus-messaging.” That last dynamic is somewhat akin to what Kahan identifies as significant, although I think he rather drastically overestimates the significance.

  149. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:

    Hayhoe:

    Let’s not waste our time on the rest.

    Except, most of the time, that’s all we seem to have time to do…

    Perhaps that’s because “the rest” currently includes countless proxies of the US government, the Russian government, and the Chinese government, just for starters…

    ‘Is Curry / Lewis / Pielke part of the consensus?’ is a question of identity politics, and from the answer to that question precisely nothing of importance follows.

    What is the definition of a lukewarmer? How many of them can dance on the point of a pin?

    For supporters of BAU / the status quo, Curry et al are simply a handy source of free weapons of mass distraction, useful tools, so to speak.

    And while Andrew Wakefield and Gwyneth Paltrow make an indecent living too, it’s damn small potatoes compared with, say, Vlad Putin or Xi Jinping or Charles Koch.

  150. dikranmarsupial says:

    Joshua eliding just means omitting. You did omit the hyphen from one usage of “anti-consensus”. I have quoted the text where the elision was made, so denying you did it is absurd.

    I note that you quote my question “That is obviously not true, why else would there be a substantial “consensus gap” if not for the fact that people are told that there is no consensus, which is not factually correct.”

    and then change the subject from what causes the consensus gap to the sense in which consensus messaging might be considered “effective”. It is very difficult to have a productive discussion when your responses to questions singularly fail to attempt to answer the question. I ask again:

    “[Given that it isn’t actually true,] How would someone come to the conclusion that there is no scientific consensus without being told?”

    This is not a rhetorical question.

  151. Joshua says:

    So I think the effect of explicit consensus-messaging on views of risk from climate change is small.

    I think the effect of explicit consensus-messaging (anti or otherwise) is larger, relatively, w/r/t views on the magnitude of the consensus – but that effect is one vector in play among the influences on views in the level of consensus and any given message (anti or otherwise) likely has somewhat opposing effects.

    But within the climate-o-sphere, it’s a really big deal.

  152. TE,
    Even though many aspects are pre-dominantly influenced by the motion of the atmosphere (or dynamics) this doesn’t change that global warming is changing the conditions in which these events occur and can, in many cases, still influence their properties.

  153. Joshua says:

    dikran –

    > “[Given that it isn’t actually true,] How would someone come to the conclusion that there is no scientific consensus without being told?”

    I’ll re-post

    As to the second meaning, even there, I think that the messaging about the consensus likely has more of an impact than with the first meaning – but there are other important influences in addition to explicit “messaging” per se. For example, a regular watcher of Fox News rarely sees a climate scientist talking about the risks of climate change, as opposed to the number of climate scientist she sees downplaying the risk. Add in the increasing echo-chamber ING and siloing effect from so many people primarily getting their news through reading top lines of Facebook posts – which are algorithmically filtered so as to confirm identity orientation. Thus, she thinks there is probably a consensus that the risk is small, independent of “consensus-messaging,” per se. Consensus or anti-consensus infirmation likely is filtered through a preexisting orientation, not based on actual information but based identity and the information filter that identity puts into place. Also, consensus-messaging in the NYT or MSNBC has an impact of confirming the Fox News viewer’s inclination w/r/t a consensus, because if it’s fake news it’s obviously wrong. Again, the last effect is largely independent of “anti-consensus” messaging, in fact it’s the result of “consensus-messaging.” That last dynamic is somewhat akin to what Kahan identifies as significant, although I think he rather drastically overestimates the significance.

  154. dikranmarsupial says:

    That is changing the subject again, just as it did the first time I asked the question.

  155. Joshua says:

    Dikran –

    > I have quoted the text where the elision was made, so denying you did it is absurd.

    First, elude frequently has a somewhat more contextual connotation. Here, look at the synonyms suggested.

    https://www.thesaurus.com/browse/elide

    But you and I have had similar disagreements along the usage/meaning of words in the past (e.g,, “denier”), without much in the way of progress, so I’ll just go with I think you lost what I was actually going for in the passage where I ommmited a hyphen. The existence or ommision of the hyphen was completely irrelevant to what I was trying to convey – which was that I thought that you had a typo.

    > It is very difficult to have a productive discussion when your responses to questions singularly fail to attempt to answer the question.

    Once again, you are mistaken. I didn’t “fail to attempt” to answer your question.

  156. Joshua says:

    Dikran –

    Sorry, “elude” was autocorrectspeak for elide.

    At any rate, I’m done with changing the subject and failing to attempt to answer your questions. I find this unpleasant and not informative.

  157. Mal Adapted says:

    A recent update on the consensus: World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency, appearing in BioScience last month. It was widely reported by major media. The Viewpoint article, in a high-impact professional venue, was signed by 11,000 vetted scientists. It begins with (my bold):

    Scientists have a moral obligation to clearly warn humanity of any catastrophic threat and to “tell it like it is.” On the basis of this obligation and the graphical indicators presented below, we declare, with more than 11,000 scientist signatories from around the world, clearly and unequivocally that planet Earth is facing a climate emergency.

    It goes on to report:

    The climate crisis is closely linked to excessive consumption of the wealthy lifestyle. The most affluent countries are mainly responsible for the historical GHG emissions and generally have the greatest per capita emissions (table S1). In the present article, we show general patterns, mostly at the global scale, because there are many climate efforts that involve individual regions and countries. Our vital signs are designed to be useful to the public, policymakers, the business community, and those working to implement the Paris climate agreement, the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, and the Aichi Biodiversity Targets.

    Note that the authors, and by implication the signers, do regard population growth as an important driver of rising atmospheric CO2, and call for policies to accelerate the observed decline of global TFR:

    Still increasing by roughly 80 million people per year, or more than 200,000 per day (figure 1a–b), the world population must be stabilized—and, ideally, gradually reduced—within a framework that ensures social integrity. There are proven and effective policies that strengthen human rights while lowering fertility rates and lessening the impacts of population growth on GHG emissions and biodiversity loss. These policies make family-planning services available to all people, remove barriers to their access and achieve full gender equity, including primary and secondary education as a global norm for all, especially girls and young women (Bongaarts and O’Neill 2018).

    The article concludes with a call for collective action:

    To secure a sustainable future, we must change how we live, in ways that improve the vital signs summarized by our graphs. Economic and population growth are among the most important drivers of increases in CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion (Pachauri et al. 2014, Bongaarts and O’Neill 2018); therefore, we need bold and drastic transformations regarding economic and population policies. We suggest six critical and interrelated steps (in no particular order) that governments, businesses, and the rest of humanity can take to lessen the worst effects of climate change. These are important steps but are not the only actions needed or possible (Pachauri et al. 2014, IPCC 2018, 2019).

    The bottom line: the clear and unequivocal “World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency“, a ringing call for collective action, is signed by 11,092 physical and social scientists with professional credentials. Is that good enough for our consensus trolls 8^|?

  158. dikranmarsupial says:

    “First, elude frequently has a somewhat more contextual connotation. ”

    sorry, I don’t understand why you are making so much fuss about me noticing that you had omitted a hyphen (and capitalised “CONSENSUS”, which suggested a subtlety or change of meaning) and considered the variations of meaning that might have. That seems to be the way rational people discuss things. “Omitting” is a valid meaning of “elide”, when interpreting what someone has said, then the sensible thing to do is to consider them all, and apply the Golden rule, and don’t assume offense unless you want everything you write to be subject to equally adversarial interpretation.

  159. dikranmarsupial says:

    “Once again, you are mistaken. I didn’t “fail to attempt” to answer your question.”

    yes, it is always the other person that is wrong, isn’t it. Personally I am happy to try and give direct answers to questions, and if someone thinks I haven’t answered it, I’d want to find out why they thought that and have another go at answering it. That is because I want people I am talking to to understand my position and if my position is faulty, then I want it corrected.

  160. Mal Adapted says:

    Turbulent Eddie:

    So, we’re left with a void of significant scientific evidence, which opinion fills quite readily.

    TE overpluralizes, then backs his idiosyncratic opinion up with sciencey gibberish. By the evidence, the significant void is in his head, readily filled with his own opinions.

  161. BBD says:

    For climate (and other earth studies), “randomized control trial” is not possible.
    We’re left with observational studies, and in the case of what happens with a doubling of CO2, we don’t even have a complete observational study.

    So, we’re left with a void of significant scientific evidence, which opinion fills quite readily.

    Palaeoclimate behaviour.

    Why do you even bother any more, TE?

  162. Willard says:

    Enough Dikran-Joshua meta-meta-meta-…-communication about how and why you both fail to communicate, please.

  163. Mal Adapted says:

    BBD:

    Palaeoclimate behaviour.

    Indeed, but as we talked about a while back, it’s common for AGW and evolution pseudo-skeptics to deprecate the historical disciplines, i.e. earth sciences and evolutionary biology, as “not science”. They’ll ask, with a smirk, “were you there?” Among other things, they make you wonder whether a jury with one of them on it could convict someone of a crime with no witnesses.

  164. Mal Adapted says:

    Chris:

    Happily this (presenting the evidence which is effectively the consensus) works quite well for providing the basis for the efforts of Greta Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion, James Murdoch’s criticism of his father’s downplaying of climate change (p. 4 of today’s Guardian) and all the other real world efforts that will make a contribution to addressing issues around human induced global warming. They’re responding to the evidence.

    Include Frank Luntz’s recent reversal of his past advice to the US Republican Party. I’m setting great store by the “Unite behind the science” movement. “Great-a” slogan, too 8^)! Go Greta. Go Katharine. “Go anyone who can go!!!

  165. BBD says:

    They’ll ask, with a smirk, “were you there?”

    And we should reply, with a cheerful grin: isotopic archives and sediment cores.

  166. Mal Adapted says:

    BBD:

    And we should reply, with a cheerful grin: isotopic archives and sediment cores.

    For what they’re worth, our replies may as well be cheerful, even gleeful ;^D. I’m afraid they’re ready for us, though: isotopic archives; sediment cores 8^(.

  167. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:


    Palaeoclimate behaviour.

    And not only palaeoclimate behaviour of the Earth.
    We know something about the paleoclimates of Mars and of Venus as well as the Earth.
    Even though no one ‘was there’.

    Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids.

  168. Nick Palmer says:

    Mal Adapted reckons that ‘they’ are ready for us and links to a 1998 paper by Sherwood Idso which, in the abstract, asserts “These studies all suggest that a 300 to 600 ppm doubling of the atmosphere’s CO2 concentration could raise the planet’s mean surface air temperature by only about 0.4°C. Even this modicum of warming may never be realized, however, for it could be negated by a number of planetary cooling forces that are intensified by warmer temperatures and by the strengthening of biological processes that are enhanced by the same rise in atmospheric CO2concentration that drives the warming”

    Well, 21 years later, we can see that global temperature measurements have completely falsified this paper. As is well known, the denialati are fond of using Feynman’s quote that if the data don’t fit the theory/hypothesis, then the theory should be thrown out. Clearly by their own claimed dedication to ‘real science’ the denialists should throw out Idso’s hypotheses!

  169. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:

    Climate tipping points — too risky to bet against

    https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-03595-0


    The palaeo-record shows global tipping, such as the entry into ice-age cycles 2.6 million years ago and their switch in amplitude and frequency around one million years ago, which models are only just capable of simulating. Regional tipping occurred repeatedly within and at the end of the last ice age, between 80,000 and 10,000 years ago (the Dansgaard–Oeschger and Heinrich events). Although this is not directly applicable to the present interglacial period, it highlights that the Earth system has been unstable across multiple timescales before, under relatively weak forcing caused by changes in Earth’s orbit. Now we are strongly forcing the system, with atmospheric CO2 concentration and global temperature increasing at rates that are an order of magnitude higher than those during the most recent deglaciation.

    Atmospheric CO2 is already at levels last seen around four million years ago, in the Pliocene epoch. It is rapidly heading towards levels last seen some 50 million years ago — in the Eocene — when temperatures were up to 14 °C higher than they were in pre-industrial times. It is challenging for climate models to simulate such past ‘hothouse’ Earth states. One possible explanation is that the models have been missing a key tipping point: a cloud-resolving model published this year suggests that the abrupt break-up of stratocumulus cloud above about 1,200 parts per million of CO2 could have resulted in roughly 8 °C of global warming12.

    Some early results from the latest climate models — run for the IPCC’s sixth assessment report, due in 2021 — indicate a much larger climate sensitivity (defined as the temperature response to doubling of atmospheric CO2) than in previous models. Many more results are pending and further investigation is required, but to us, these preliminary results hint that a global tipping point is possible.

    To address these issues, we need models that capture a richer suite of couplings and feedbacks in the Earth system, and we need more data — present and past — and better ways to use them. Improving the ability of models to capture known past abrupt climate changes and ‘hothouse’ climate states should increase confidence in their ability to forecast these.

    Some scientists counter that the possibility of global tipping remains highly speculative. It is our position that, given its huge impact and irreversible nature, any serious risk assessment must consider the evidence, however limited our understanding might still be. To err on the side of danger is not a responsible option.

  170. izen says:

    @-TE
    “Many climate aspects ( extreme temperatures, droughts, fires, floods, storms, hurricanes, etc. ) are much more determined by motions of the atmosphere and not directly or significantly from global average temperature.”

    This is like arguing that Lance Armstrong’s multiple Tour de France wins were determined by his particular efforts in certain stages of the race and not directly or significantly affected by his drug enhanced condition.

    Regional extreme events may have their origin in particular circumstances, but those circumstances are all happening within the context of AGW.
    Throwing a double six with two dice becomes more likely if they are loaded.

    And another thing…
    while RCP8.5 is often dismissed as unlikely, but the comparable improbability of RCP2.5 hardly gets a mention. (?)

  171. Mal Adapted says:

    Nick Palmer:

    Well, 21 years later, we can see that global temperature measurements have completely falsified this paper.

    This is redundantly true for a long list of pseudo-skeptical objections to AGW. When was the last denialist argument we saw that wasn’t listed on SkepticalScience? They’re happy to deploy the same undead memes against any verified evidence for the consensus.

  172. BBD says:

    They’re happy to deploy the same undead memes against any verified evidence for the consensus.

    And always have been. But tape looping debunked crap isn’t an argument, it’s ambient noise. Eno did it so much better 🙂

  173. Steven Mosher says:

    DK

    “be appealing to authority or consensus messaging? It isn’t greatly different to refering them to my paper on the residence time thing, the only real difference is the number of authors and the scientific level.”

    maybe it will help if I try to make myself more clear.

    When faced with a science claim, I always try to start with a suspension of belief, or a suspesion of judgement. I know of no rational reason why i should have to make a judgement on every knowledge claim. maybe it’s so, maybe it’s not.
    If I think it’s important then I try to read the actual science and see if I find anything suspect.
    If not. I am disposed to provisionally accept it. If it is critical to my own work, then I want to dig deeper. can I trust it, can I use it? can I build on it.
    If I dont understand it fully, if I couldnt do the work myself, if I have no way of checking then I am
    in a different situation. Is this something I have to form an opinion on? lets take Exo planets.
    I read Dr. ATTP. God no way could I begin to do his work.. maybe I could be his data monkey
    but could I actually do what he does? or trust myself if I thought I found a better way? Nope.
    And Then I ask if this is actually material to my work or situation. Nope. Can I trust him? yes
    And so you might look at his other work, you might see if there is a consensus and I might say
    “well I believe it ” because of the following
    1. I could not find any errors
    2. I’m really not competent to judge its Correctness
    3. Its really not MATERIAL to my concerns, (i don’t care if I am wrong)
    4. it seems to be a consensus view
    Therefore I have no issues accepting it based on ALL THESE REASONS
    is consensus one of them? yup. is it the sole reason ? nope.

    More importantly I have no issues recommending this proceedure to others. I do it, you can
    too! A tougher question is can I DEMAND that you follow the same process?

    And then this is the threshold question I think.
    Can I tell you, “you should accept a consensus, or you are irrational” ?
    Not so sure.
    Can I tell you. I accepted ATTP on trust and the consensus science of EXo planets, and the fact of consensus should be reason enough for you to believe too?

    of course we point out the consensus as matter of fact ( not a reason for belief) and we point out the consensus as evidence that denial seems to have less support. So GISS found the temperature to be X, and other people who tried to find errors, couldnt find any material ones, so you are welcome to suspend your judgement, but you can’t deny the fact that multiple folks, bent on finding errors failed, and so claiming their answer is wrong, seems unsupported.

  174. izen says:

    @-SM
    ” So GISS found the temperature to be X, and other people who tried to find errors, couldnt find any material ones, so you are welcome to suspend your judgement, but you can’t deny the fact that multiple folks, bent on finding errors failed…”

    There is a rather stronger case for accepting the consensus view than this.
    Not only did those claiming that the historical temperature record was ‘X’ turn out to be validated by several otters, the multiple people bent on finding errors also made their own predictions about the pattern on climate change, an example is Sherwood Idso cited above. While the consensus view had its own projections of the likely pattern of climate change.
    It is now clear that the consensus opinion about how climate change would progress have been vindicated, and those who rejected that consensus position have had their forecasts fail.

    It is a double win for the consensus position.

  175. Chubbs says:

    After reflecting on the chart I posted above: the chart merely shows that the global warming signal is getting large enough to swamp regional temperature variability. Global variability, which is much smaller than regional, was swamped decades ago. The climate change signal is getting harder to ignore or deny.

  176. dikranmarsupial says:

    SM My approach is pretty similar, but being a Bayesian I never believe anything completely, so I just change my distribution of belief as the arguments/evidence change.

    “is consensus one of them? yup. is it the sole reason ? nope.”

    Yes, exactly! This is rather my point, it is perfectly reasonable for non-experts to use the expertise of others (especially groups of others) when deciding whether to accept some scientific position where they can’t evaluate the evidence for themselves. Thus I don’t think it is unreasonable for non-experts to respond “the consensus of scientific opinion suggests it is true” when asked “can you prove it” (proof is for maths, typesetting, and alcohol). True, it is not a direct answer to the question, but it is a reasonable answer (“no, *I* can’t prove it, but it is the mainstream scientific position” would be better) and it doesn’t neccessarily imply that it is proven *because* it is the mainstream scientific position.

    “Can I tell you, “you should accept a consensus, or you are irrational” ?”

    I’d say that it isn’t itself irrational, but it is perhaps unreasonable (if we want to be utterly skeptical, not even “cogito ergo sum” is unquestionable) and it might be biased – would you accept consensus on other issues (perhaps ones without implications for taxation ;o)?

    “Can I tell you. I accepted ATTP on trust and the consensus science of EXo planets, and the fact of consensus should be reason enough for you to believe too?”

    Me too. I am more skeptical of some claims depending on the source – that is rational for a non-expert. For instance, someone that demonstrates that they are resistant to correction or refuse to discuss the flaws in their theories (or are evasive) cause me to be more skeptical. It doesn’t mean that I reject their claims, just that I’d need to spend a lot more effort evaluating them to place a substantial degree of belief in them. However, in science, it isn’t really my degree of belief that matters, what matters is whether the data do support (or refute) the theory and whether the reasoning is internally consistent (and perhaps consillient with other thinks we “know”).

    “of course we point out the consensus as matter of fact ( not a reason for belief) and we point out the consensus as evidence that denial seems to have less support. So GISS found the temperature to be X, and other people who tried to find errors, couldn’t find any material ones, so you are welcome to suspend your judgement, but you can’t deny the fact that multiple folks, bent on finding errors failed, and so claiming their answer is wrong, seems unsupported.”

    Indeed, except I’d say that consensus is a reason for belief (especially for non-experts) but it isn’t evidence that the theory is actually correct. We can only believe according to the evidence we have (and are able to evaluate), in the long run I think it would be a better policy to believe in things for good reasons (and accept that sometimes you will be wrong) rather than to believe in things for bad reasons (and hope that I am lucky enough that they will turn out to be true anyway).

  177. Joshua says:

    FWIW: This study is quite consistent with much of my speculation abive:

    > Most Americans, including most Republicans, recognize that climate change is a global crisis that could be mitigated by reducing carbon emissions (Howe, Mildenberger, Marlon, & Leiserowitz, 2015; Leiserowitz et al., 2014; Van Boven, Ehret, &Sherman, in press). Yet the U.S. Congress has failed to act largely because of political polarization over climate policy (see Skocpol, 2013, for review). Many climate change activists, Republicans and Democrats alike, have turned to the states to address the problem (Carbon Tax Center, 2017). In 2016, Washington State had a bipartisan carbon tax ballot initiative that ultimately did not pass. In the lead up to the election, we conducted an experiment to test a psychological barrier to climate policy support: Specifically, that political polarization on climate policy between partisans is partly driven by which political party—their own or the opposition—supports the policy, even when holding the details of the policy content constant.

    https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/1948550618758709

  178. Mal Adapted says:

    Steven Mosher:

    If I dont understand it fully, if I couldnt do the work myself, if I have no way of checking then I am in a different situation. Is this something I have to form an opinion on? lets take Exo planets. I read Dr. ATTP. God no way could I begin to do his work.. maybe I could be his data monkey but could I actually do what he does? or trust myself if I thought I found a better way?

    Good comment. You succinctly restate John Nielsen-Gammon’s blog post about scientific meta-literacy, adapted from his December 2012 AGU meeting presentation. Scientifically meta-literate non-experts will ascertain and accept the expert consensus, albeit temporarily and provisionally, like the experts themselves do. If they can’t determine a consensus, whether because none currently exists or they can’t reliably distinguish genuine expertise from motivated disinformation, their belief remains suspended. IMHO that’s a great reply to DK-afflicted deniers: if they accuse you of arguing from authority when you cite the US National Academy of Sciences, you tell them they’re simply not scientifically meta-literate, and link to JNG’s post, pointing out that it’s from his invited AGU talk, implying that if they were scientifically meta-literate they’d know what the AGU is.

    The “non-expert” part injures a pseudo-skeptic’s pride. They would never say “God no way could I begin to do his work.” They refer to “the” scientific method, and their undergraduate courses. According to Messrs. K and D, afflicted non-experts are unable to recognize either their own incompetence, or that genuine experts may exist:

    Perhaps the best illustration of this tendency is the “above-average effect,” or the tendency of the average person to believe he or she is above average, a result that defies the logic of descriptive statistics (Alicke, 1985; Alicke, Klotz, Breitenbecher, Yurak, & Vredenburg, 1995; Brown & Gallagher, 1992; Cross, 1977; Dunning et al, 1989; Klar, Medding, & Sarel, 1996; Weinstein, 1980; Weinstein & Lachendro, 1982).

    Other names for this common cognitive deficit are the illusion of superiority and the Lake Wobegon effect 8^D.

  179. Mal Adapted says:

    I meant to link to Messrs. K and D.

  180. dikranmarsupial says:

    “IMHO that’s a great reply to DK-afflicted deniers:”

    I often have to stop and think about that, given Steven’s apparent tendency to refer to me as “DK” rather than, say “DM” ;o)

    I don’t think I afflict deniers (at least not more than anyone else ;o)

    Sadly the JN-G article seems to be blocked for legal reasons in my region, but it sounds like an interesting article.

  181. Mal Adapted says:

    DK, the afflicter*:

    Sadly the JN-G article seems to be blocked for legal reasons in my region, but it sounds like an interesting article.

    Have you tried the Way-Back Machine (web.archive.org/web/2019*/https://blog.chron.com/climateabyss/2013/02/scientific-meta-literacy)? It may capture pages without paywalling them.

    * “Mr. Dooley says the duty of the [blogger] is to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable.”

  182. Joshua says:

    FWIW –

    Seems to me that the association between the DK effect and climate “skepticism” might well be moderated by the extent to which the DK effect is, in turn, mediated by cultural overlays (e.g., collectivist vs. individualist). That might help to explain why climate “skepticism” is more prevalent in the US (highly individualistic) – which the DK effect may be more prevalent than in other cultures.

    Along a similar mine if thought, it may also help explain (to some extent) why climate “skepticism” is more prevalent among conz. Has anyone seen research into associations between the DK and political ideology?

  183. Joshua says:

    Grrrr. “mine if” = line of…

  184. dikranmarsupial says:

    Thanks Mal, much appreciated – the way back machine is a great resource, I should think of it more often!

  185. Willard says:

    > When was the last denialist argument we saw that wasn’t listed on SkepticalScience?

    My current list:

    But2ndLaw | But40s | But70s | But97 | ButABC | ButAbsoluteTemps | ButAcid | ButActivism | ButAdjustments | ButAdvocacy | ButAl | ButAlarmism | ButAnomalies | ButAnonymous | ButAntarctica | ButArrhenius | ButArson | ButAuthoritarianism | ButBAU | ButBias | ButBill | ButBirds | ButBjorn | ButBlackbody | ButBlankets | ButBreathing | ButBureaucracy | ButC13 | ButCambrian | ButCAGW | ButCausation | ButCCS | ButCensorship | ButCET | ButCG | ButChina | ButCircular | But”ClimateChange” | ButClimateChanges | ButClouds | ButClubOfRome | ButCold | ButCommunism | ButComplexity | ButConsensus | ButConspiracy | ButCooling | ButCorrelation | ButCosts ButCredentials | ButCycles | ButDamascus | ButDems | ButDaPaws | ButDenier | ButDebateMe | ButDick | ButDiversity | ButDogma | ButDroughts | ButEinstein | ButEmails | ButFalsification | ButFraud | ButFreeSpeech | ButGalileo | ButGeology | ButGeos | ButGlobalists | ButGoldilocks | ButGoodNews | ButGrants | ButGreenhouse | ButGreenland | ButGreens | ButGreta | ButGrowth | ButH2O | ButHeatWaves | ButHippies | ButHolocene | ButHotSpot | ButHurricanes | ButIceAge | ButIcon | ButIndia | ButIntegrity | ButIPCC | ButJetSet | ButJim | ButLag | ButLew | ButLIA | ButLife | ButLukewarm | ButLysenko | ButMalthus | But (Scientific) Method | ButMike | ButModulz | ButMSM | ButMWP | ButNatural | ButNazis | ButNewsies | ButNewStudy | ButNed | ButNightsAndDays | ButObservations | ButOceans | ButOregonPetition | ButOzone | ButPascal | ButPets | ButPETM | ButPopper | ButPlantFood | ButPolitics | ButPrecautionaryPrinciple | ButPredictions | ButProjections | ButPropaganda | ButProxies | ButRecycling | ButRCPs | ButReligion | ButRevelle | ButResilience | ButRomans | ButRSS | ButSatellites | ButSeaLevel | ButSchneider | ButScience | ButSettled | ButSkepticism | ButSimon | ButSO2 | ButSocialism | ButSubsidies | ButTaxes | ButTheDecline | ButTehGoddard | ButTraceGas | ButTreeRings | ButTheAuditor | ButTheLeft | ButThePoor | ButThePress | ButTheSun | ButTime | ButTone | ButTrees | ButTribalism | ButUncertainty | ButUnstable | ButVariability | ButVegan | ButVenezuela | ButVenus | ButVolcanoes | ButVostok | ButWeather | ButWeDecarbonise | ButWeWin | ButWording | ButZeIssue

  186. Joshua says:

    Should But Underwatervolcanoes or But Geothermaloceanwarming get a separate heading from just regular volcanoes?

    judithcurry.com/2019/07/21/geothermal-ocean-warming-discussion-thread/amp/

    After all, undersea volcanoes could change the game:

    https://judithcurry.com/2016/01/24/undersea-volcanoes-may-be-impacting-long-term-climate-change/#comments

  187. Chubbs,

    If the consensus is that the Aussie fires have something to do with global warming,
    it may be in error.

    Below is a pretty good reminder of that from Spencer.

    The fires are clearly the result of last years record lack of precipitation over Australia.
    The long term trend is of increasing precipitation over Australia.
    Climate models indicate steady precipitation over Australia.

    Climate models say no increase of fires.
    Unless the consensus has inside knowledge that the climate models lack,
    natural variability would seem a more likely suspect.

  188. TE,
    Australia is a pretty big place. As far as I’m aware, there have been warnings for quite some time that Australia will see increased fire risk due to climate change. This appears to be playing out pretty much as expected.

  189. izen says:

    @-TE
    “The fires are clearly the result of last years record lack of precipitation over Australia.”

    The lack of precipitation is the result of particular variations in the regional ocean temperatures that alter the amount, distribution, and timing of rainfall. the key factor this year has been the Indian Ocean Dipole and the recent ENSO pattern which has shifted cooler dryer air closer to Australia. Specifically over the South East of Australia where the major fires have occurred.
    It was known, as part of the consensus, over ten years ago that this was influenced by the global warming of the oceans.

    https://www.nature.com/articles/nature13327
    “Here, using an ensemble of climate models forced by a scenario of high greenhouse gas emissions (Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5), we project that the frequency of extreme IOD events will increase by almost a factor of three, from one event every 17.3 years over the twentieth century to one event every 6.3 years over the twenty-first century.”

    @-“The long term trend is of increasing precipitation over Australia.”

    As so often the devil is in the details.
    Rainfall has increased over the North West, but decreased over the South East, and the ‘wet’ season has got shorter with heavier brief rainfall.
    The BOM has a good presentation of the data, this link should show the pattern of historical increase in Western rainfall with the historical decrease in Eastern rainfall since 1973.
    http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/change/?ref=ftr#tabs=Tracker&tracker=trend-maps&tQ=map%3Drain%26area%3Daus%26season%3D0112%26period%3D1970

    @-“Climate models indicate steady precipitation over Australia.”

    They also predict that the distribution will become more unequal with more rain in the N.W. and less in the S.E., and that the variation from year to year will increase as the higher sea temperatures underlay an intensification of the ENSO, SAM and IDO modes.

    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/240809955_Assessing_the_impact_of_climate_change_on_extreme_fire_weather_events_over_southeastern_Australia

    “Applying this analysis to the output of 10 GCM simulations of the 21st century, using low and high greenhouse gas emissions scenarios, suggests that the frequency of such events will increase from around 1 event every 2 yr during the late 20th century to around 1 event per year in the middle of the 21st century and 1 to 2 events per year by the end of the 21st century”

    R Spencer, and your re-presentation of the claim that climate change has no role in increased regional fire risk may be ‘economical with the Truth’. It is certainly NOT in accordance with the consensus view in the scientific literature on the current and likely impacts of AGW on the regional patterns and inter-annual variability of rainfall and the consequent fire risks.

    https://laura.mvvnd.info/2020/01/09/papers-on-australia-wildfires-and-climate-change/

  190. Marco says:

    It also looks like a certain TE (and Ro Spencer) ignores the temperature increase. More rain but faster evaporation may well give a water deficit…

    And as Izen points out, the devil may well be in the details. For example, lots more rain in winter and less in summer may well give an annual increase, but you’d need rain in summer to reduce fire risk, not in winter…

  191. izen says:

    Perhaps the recent major fires in Australia indicate the importance of consensus messaging.

    TE citing Roy Spencer is just the tip of an iceberg of media push-back against a well established scientific consensus on the impacts of climate change on fire risk at the regional level in Australia. Conflating the observations of ALL of the continent with the specific regional changes in the most populated and agricultural ares at risk is just one aspect of this.
    The most obvious trope in the Australian media has been the continual pairing of ‘hysterical’ with climate change in any discussion of the issue. To the point where climatechangehysteria seems to have become an indivisible meme in any reporting.

    The various tactics used to dismiss the scientific consensus may deserve examination, arsonists and a lack of controlled burning to control fuel available have been elevated to key factors when the observed evidence and scientific consensus puts these factors at less than 1% and 15% respectively.

    But of more interest is WHY and WHO is making this strong counter-claim to the scientific consensus.
    https://www.marketforces.org.au/politicaldonations2019/
    “In 2017-18, fossil fuel companies donated $1,277,933 to the ALP, Liberal and National parties. This was up 32% from $968,343 in 2016-17 ($1.03 million in 2015-16).
    Yet given Australia’s reputation for woefully inadequate political disclosure and ‘dark money’ donations, the true figure could be 5-10 times higher. Like last year, we found big discrepancies between what the major political parties disclosed, and how much the fossil fuel companies claimed to have gifted.”

  192. Chubbs says:

    Climate change in increasing fire risk in Australia and around the world (see below). Not the point I was trying to make though. Climate change is sending out quite a signal, if the dismissive WSJ feels the need to present a more consensus message.

    http://nespclimate.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/A4_4pp_brochure_NESP_ESCC_Bushfires_FINAL_Nov11_2019_WEB.pdf

    https://tyndall.ac.uk/sites/default/files/wildfires_briefing_note.pdf

  193. This appears to be playing out pretty much as expected.

    Look again at the data. Climate models indicate little change of precipitation.
    Actual precipitation was the lowest recorded for 2019.
    If you base your expectations on what the climate models indicate, then no.

    On the other hand, natural variability of dynamics has occurred for Australia and elsewhere, regardless of global temperature, through out history.
    ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bushfires_in_Australia )

    This is a good example of both confirmation bias
    ( if something happens, it must be global warming )
    as well as negativity bias
    ( if something bad happens, it really must by global warming ).

  194. TE,
    Australia has had particularly high temperatures. It seems bizarre to me that you seem to be suggesting that climate change played no role. There’s also an interesting comment by one of my colleagues highlighting how climate change has increased the risk of vapour pressure deficits which then increase the risk of wildfires. It includes a link to his paper about this.

  195. Australia has had particularly high temperatures.

    High temperatures occur as a result of droughts – energy that would otherwise go toward evaporation instead goes to sensible heat. Dynamic variability causes droughts because precipitation depends on the size, shape, orientation, frequency and intensity of air mass motions.

    It seems bizarre to me that you seem to be suggesting that climate change played no role.

    Natural variability alone can explain the Aussie fires. We know this because of how frequently they occurred in the past. Here are lines from the Wiki page:

    “Early European explorers of the Australian coastline noted extensive bushfire smoke.”

    “Australia’s hot, arid climate and wind-driven bushfires were a new and frightening phenomenon to the European settlers of the colonial era.”

    But even before written accounts, we know fires have long been a regular feature of Australia, because, as elsewhere, plants have evolved, to sometimes require fire to thrive:

    “Some plants have evolved a variety of mechanisms to survive or even require bushfires (possessing epicormic shoots or lignotubers that sprout after a fire, or developing fire-resistant or fire-triggered seeds), or even encourage fire (eucalypts contain flammable oils in the leaves) as a way to eliminate competition from less fire-tolerant species.”

    Now, has evaporation increased with global warming? It would seem likely. But consider the extent. Evaporation over Australia wasn’t zero. pre-industrial, and suddenly much greater now, but perhaps marginally ( at a few percent or less ) greater now. Natural variability is a much greater factor. Ignoring a much greater factor while focusing on a marginal factor is confirmation bias.

  196. izen says:

    @-TE
    “If you base your expectations on what the climate models indicate, then no.”

    The scientific consensus from climate models is that, yes, the regional and inter annual variability of the Australian climate WILL result in more fire risk.

    @-“On the other hand, natural variability of dynamics has occurred for Australia and elsewhere, regardless of global temperature, through out history.”

    The ‘natural variability’ is driven by the ocean cycles of IOD, ENSO, and the position of the SAM. Historical observations and climate models have established a scientific consensus that these will intensify and have more frequent impacts. Check the links I gave previously for the details.

    You may be exhibiting your own confirmation bias when you ignore these clear results that have generated a scientific consensus that if something happens, global warming is the clear enhancer of those events.
    And the deterioration in the Forest Fire Danger Index is directly attributable to the observed warming and changes in rainfall patterns while climate models show these effects are going to get worse.

    Claiming that when extreme events occur it is ‘natural variability’ and when a cumulative trend is observed, ‘the climate always changes’ is no longer a credible response with such a strong scientific consensus on the past causes, current impacts, and future risk that has emerged in the literature of published research.

    https://laura.mvvnd.info/2011/01/12/papers-on-rainfall-flooding-and-droughts-in-australia/

  197. Joshua says:

    TE –

    > This is a good example of both confirmation bias
    ( if something happens, it must be global warming )
    as well as negativity bias
    ( if something bad happens, it really must by global warming ).

    What is the test you apply to ensure that your bet on natural variability isn’t the product of confirmation bias?

  198. Joshua says:

    izen –

    Thanks for your posts on this topic. They were quite informative.

    You say:

    > Perhaps the recent major fires in Australia indicate the importance of consensus messaging.

    One should NEVER try to extrapolate from one’s own processing in these matters – but because I resist such restrictions….

    When I read a comment like TE’s above, my first reaction is something like…. “hmmm… no trend of less rain…kinda makes sense.”

    If at that point, someone said to me “But the consensus is….” it would be rather unpersuasive. The I read your post and I can see the shallowness of TE’s argument (say the lack of integration of regionality when he describes the trends). Maybe at that point if someone says “and that’s why it’s important to look at the full range of evidence, and that’s why the consensus is increased risk because effectively that’s what the consensus does,” it serves as a good precaution against trying to make conclusions from selected fragments of the evidence.

    Stull, I would say that it indicates the importance of considering the consensus, as opposed to indicating the importance of consensus-messaging. Kind of beating a dead horse, but seems to me the importance of consensus messaging (as a communication strategy) is a function of its effectiveness.

  199. Mal Adapted says:

    Willard:

    > When was the last denialist argument we saw that wasn’t listed on SkepticalScience?
    My current list:

    Heh. Nice class labels. FWIW, SkS lists 198 canned memes against your 166. My least hypothesis is that your classes and theirs approach 100% semantic overlap 8^)!

  200. izen says:

    @-TE
    “Natural variability alone can explain the Aussie fires. We know this because of how frequently they occurred in the past…. we know fires have long been a regular feature of Australia, because, as elsewhere, plants have evolved, to sometimes require fire to thrive:”

    https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/11/massive-australian-blazes-will-reframe-our-understanding-bushfire

    “Q: What is unusual about these fires?

    A: The geographical scale and intensity—it’s happening all up and down the country. The very early start to the fire season across eastern Australia. The scale of housing loss.
    We’re seeing recurrent fires in tall, wet eucalypt forests, which normally only burn very rarely. A swamp dried out near Port Macquarie, and organic sediments in the ground caught on fire. When you drop the water table, the soil is so rich in organic matter it will burn. We’ve seen swamps burning all around.
    Even Australia’s fire-adapted forest ecosystems are struggling because they are facing increasingly frequent events. In Tasmania, over the past few years we have seen environments burning that historically see fires very rarely, perhaps every 1000 years. ”

    The cause of this seasons extreme fires is variability driven by, and on a background of, climate change.
    The variability is no longer purely ‘natural’, it is has become anthropogenically enhanced.

  201. izen says:

    @-joshua
    “but seems to me the importance of consensus messaging (as a communication strategy) is a function of its effectiveness.”

    Would you agree that the effectiveness of consensus messaging is greatly enhanced by explaining WHY there is a consensus by reference to the science and research from which it has emerged.?

  202. Willard says:

    I point at

    [TE1] plants have evolved, to sometimes require fire to thrive

    and at

    [TE2] Some plants have evolved a variety of mechanisms to survive or even require bushfires

    That some plants require bushfires to thrive does not imply all do (in fact it would be contradictory to say so, as thriving entails competition) or that more bushfires would be the greatest thing for the Australian flora.

    ***

    > SkS lists 198 canned memes against your 16

    SkS cans claims, not memes. Each of my meme can can many claims. Also, related claims can appear under various memes.

    What one might call a feature in John’s approach I call a bug. Most pages are useless to me. Many of the relevant pages don’t address the points made by the contrarians I encounter. In fact, an SkS-like page would not work for the crap that TE is peddling right now.

    Creating functional databases is an art.

  203. Joshua says:

    izen –

    > Would you agree that the effectiveness of consensus messaging is greatly enhanced by explaining WHY there is a consensus by reference to the science and research from which it has emerged.?

    I included my testimonial to point out how that was true for me in this case. I’m not sure how representative that is in the real world.

  204. Mal Adapted says:

    brigittenerlich:

    Our modern lives balance on top of millions of scientific consensuses, so to speak. It’s sometimes a bit wobbly but what would happen if we questioned all the scientific consensuses we live by every day? What would happen if we had to ‘message’ that they exist all the time?

    Well, for one thing, every peer-reviewed report would have to begin with a recapitulation of all relevant science since Pythagoras (without the metempsychosis stuff), becoming ever more unwieldy through the centuries 8^D!

    Seriously, thanks for your comment. I think you’ve hit the heart of the matter, encapsulated by Feynman as “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself — and you are the easiest person to fool”. Anyone can fool themselves, whether or not they are scientifically trained and disciplined. AFAICT we all do it, day in and day out. OTOH, it’s explicitly acknowledged throughout a professional scientist’s training, that we see the errors of others much more readily than our own. That recognition underpins empirical humility, and makes inter-subjective verification, i.e. “peer review” all day every day, as fundamental to science as empiricism is. It’s also why the consensus of specialists, emerging through iterative mutual review in a sub-culture of disciplined competitive skepticism, has always been a part of scientific progress!

    Of course no scientific consensus is exempt from further verification. Nor is science as pragmatically constrained by simplistic models of “the scientific method” as some DK-afflicted deniers* insist. Nonetheless, as a cultural adaptation for coping with the uncaring universe, it’s the only thing we’ve come up with that’s demonstrably more successful than haruspicy: “Our modern lives balance on top of millions of scientific consensuses, so to speak.” IMHO the long-term, self-correcting accumulation of justified knowledge, continually updated by peer consensus, is what makes science such a fount of (mixed) blessings for scientists and lay alike. Thanks for verifying, as it were, my understanding 8^). I wish there were easy ways to teach it in primary and secondary school.

    * Assuredly not DM, denier-afflicter.

  205. Mal Adapted says:

    Willard:

    Creating functional databases is an art.

    That I attest as a retired IT professional. Your schema adapts nicely to an object-oriented approach, with a “butMeme” heritable class. OTOH, there’s something to be said for market uptake. Were Microsoft operating systems technically superior to Linux in the critical 90s and early aughts 8^(?

  206. Mal Adapted says:

    I wish to declare that most of my Internet interaction since 2008 has been on a Linux (RedHat or Fedora) desktop, with MS Windows at most a VM in a Gnome window. I also wish to point out the close relationship of both OS X and Android with Unix/Minix/Linux. Not even Apple, however, has ever had the capitalization to beat Microsoft 8^(.

  207. Mal Adapted says:

    Turbulent Eddie

    If the consensus is that the Aussie fires have something to do with global warming, it may be in error.

    In the sense that pigs may fly, perhaps. Occam’s Razor comes in handy here: either the consensus is correct and TE lives in a fool’s paradise, or vice versa. I know what my least hypothesis is.

  208. Joshua says:

    Mal –

    It’s pretty simple. The consensus suffers from cognitive biases. TE (and those who agree with him, by coincidence), on the other hand, does not.

    I can only assume that TE won’t explain how he checks for his own biases because he doesn’t want the secret to get out at this site.

    I have noticed a pattern among on-line “skeptics” that they like paying attention to the academic literature related to cognitive biases. I do also, but I can only guess that they’ve found some literature I haven’t yet seen that explains why “skeptics” are free from cognitive bias.

  209. JCH says:

    Two forests, never logged. One forest has a lot big, 200-year-old gum tress; the other forest has a lot 20-year-old gum trees. Which one experienced the most life sustaining fires?

  210. izen says:

    @-joshua
    “I included my testimonial to point out how that was true for me in this case. I’m not sure how representative that is in the real world.”

    I was amused at your uncertainty that you live in ‘the’ real world.

    There are, of course, a (possibly infinite) multiplicity of real worlds.
    Be consoled that you live in at least one of them.

  211. mrkenfabian says:

    From the midst of them, the fires in Australia do appear to have had a climate change contribution. From high winter temperatures reducing the opportunity for safe fuel reduction burning and from high spring and summer temperatures increasing the intensity of fires. It takes 6 weeks or more for a large bushfire to burn out enough to have low (but still not zero) likelihood of starting new fires – we would have had less than 4 weeks that were considered safe.

    An observation and some speculation on my part is that in the past Australian rural landholders could “light it and leave it” with good expectations the fires would self extinguish overnight. I think that was because in the past, cooler overnight temperatures were more conducive to dew formation, which was a convenient and well timed natural fire retardant. I think that with warmer temperatures large areas simply do not get cold enough for dew to form; fires that in the past would go out now continue to burn. More vigilance, more labour, more equipment, more cost to safely burn off during cool periods.

    The blaming of regulation preventing burning off on environmentalists is mostly false; the risks to property and people from fires getting out of control led to more regulation. I would not welcome any return to a regime of unregulated “light it and leave it” burning practices.

    The fact that Australia is highly vulnerable to extreme droughts and fires makes the prospect of 3 – 5 C degrees of warming look absolutely terrifying. “But we always get droughts and fires” is NOT reason to think rising temperatures will make no difference. We face the prospect of winters being too warm to do ANY safe hazard reduction burning off (without lots of equipment and labour) and for heatwave driven megafires to exceed all prior experience.

    I seriously wonder at the lack of basic logic from those arguing that “but we always get droughts and fires” with the prospect of 3 – 5 C of warming that it can truly be reason to be LESS concerned.

  212. JCH says:

    Rather amazing numbers:

  213. mrkenfabian says:

    JCH – That seems like a lot more fires than I would have thought, although lots of fires, probably most, do get stopped quickly.

    Whilst there were recent serious Australian fires started by arson, the majority of the big ones this time around were not. More arson the more heavily populated an area is of course. Of the three recent serious fires near me two were attributed to dry lightning strikes, the other to accident/carelessness.

    Wherever there are people there will never be a complete absence of sources of ignition – and even then fires will still start. The presence of people also means fires do get contained and their spread gets slowed or prevented; without people starting them or firefighting efforts to stop them lightning lit fires would burn until they run out of fuel or until it rains.

    The reasons for overall flammability, including aridity, temperature and fuel loads, should not be confused with (proximate) causes of ignition; they are distinct and separate issues.

    Not a complaint aimed at JCH, but it is frustrating to have legitimate discussions of that underlying flammability repeatedly derailed into discussing arson, as if proximate cause is the whole of it – which seems to be used as a rhetorical subject change tactic, one used a lot, by people who should and almost certainly do know better. It seems especially prevalent at this time, when the issue of climate change impacting flammability and reducing the cool season ability to burn off fuel loads safely keeps getting the attention.

  214. izen says:

    @-JCH
    “Rather amazing numbers:”

    And amazingly spread by bots.
    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-01-08/fires-misinformation-being-spread-through-social-media/11846434
    “Queensland University of Technology (QUT) researcher Dr Timothy Graham analysed a sample 315 accounts posting #ArsonEmergency and said around a third of them displayed highly automated and inauthentic behaviour.”

    The source quoted, Dr Paul Read is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Psychological Sciences whose work combines human nature, crime, health and sustainability. Last November when the fires were just starting to be a problem he wrote this article –
    https://lens.monash.edu/@paul-read/2019/11/11/1378354/australian-bushfires-sign-of-whats-to-come
    “He said to understand the role of climate change in these fires, “we first need to see where each and every Australian climate driver is sitting at present.
    “An anomaly outside of their combined effects – and there have already been several temperatures much higher than seasonally expected – could suggest climate change, especially if the evidence for other anomalies emerge from, for example, farmers’ and firefighters’ datasets alongside bureau meteorological trends.”

    The actual reports about the role of arson and the recent mega-fires is that lightning started most of them, most of the arson cases are small lawns and rubbish bins set on fire. Only 24 people have been charged with bushfire arson.
    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-01-11/australias-fires-reveal-arson-not-a-major-cause/11855022
    “NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) Inspector Ben Shepherd said earlier this week lightning was predominantly responsible for the bushfire crisis.
    “I can confidently say the majority of the larger fires that we have been dealing with have been a result of fires coming out of remote areas as a result of dry lightning storms,” he said.
    In Victoria, where about 1.2 million hectares has burned, only 385 hectares — or 0.03 per cent — have been attributed to suspicious circumstances.”

  215. Chubbs says:

    Easy consensus messaging with OHC and surface temperature both spiking:

    https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/hadobs/monitoring/dashboard.html

  216. It’s pretty simple. The consensus suffers from cognitive biases. TE (and those who agree with him, by coincidence), on the other hand, does not.

    Of course, we all have biases. Evidently, nature selected for them.
    And, of course, one of the biases is “blind spot” bias.

    I can only assume that TE won’t explain how he checks for his own biases because he doesn’t want the secret to get out at this site.

    Who better to see my biases than you?
    Who better to see your biases than me?

  217. Joshua says:

    TE –

    > Who better to see my biases than you?
    Who better to see your biases than me?

    Indeed. Thus this forum. But one needs to be open to feedback.

    So we’re back to where we started.

    How did you check for your bias towards natural variability as an explanation? I asked you but you gave no answer.

    Of course, one can use “natural variability” as an open-ended explanation for pretty much anything.

    To check for your biases you might start with describing and giving the rationalization for how you divide “natural” attribution from anthropogenic attribution (assuming that anomalous conditions, so identified, are attributable to ACO2).

    You might continue by explaining why you neglected regionality when you discussed precipitation trends. That stuck out as an obvious red flag of confirmation bias to this observer – but maybe you have an explanation.

  218. dikranmarsupial says:

    “Who better to see my biases than you?”

    I think Montaigne might disagree.

  219. Joshua says:

    Er…rationale not rationalization.

  220. Joshua says:

    dikran –

    > I think Montaigne might disagree

    Would you explain, for those less erudite like myself?

  221. dikranmarsupial says:

    Montaigne was an essayist who seemed very keen on introspection – working out why he was the way he was (and by extension why human beings are the way they are). While others can help, we have an important part to play in addressing our cognitive biases. Others can only see the outward expression of our biases, whereas we have more access to our motivations, provided we are willing to put an effort into examining why we do the things we do. Having said which, introspection has a downside, which is that you may not like what you find and may not have the energy to do much about it – ignorance can be bliss ;o)

    My favourite Montaigne quote is:

    ‘to learn that we have said or done a stupid thing is nothing, we must learn a more ample and important lesson: that we are but blockheads… On the highest throne in the world, we are seated, still, upon our arses.’

    Accepting you are a blockhead (and ideally not worrying about it) is a step towards preventing pride from stopping you learning the truth.

  222. Mal Adapted says:

    Turbulent Eddie:

    Who better to see my biases than you?

    The experts on Australian bushfires collectively, i.e. the community of competitively skeptical specialists with peer-reviewed publications. I am not one of them, but I’m confident I know what their consensus is, and I presume many of this blogs regular commenters do likewise. As do you, apparently.

    TE:

    Who better to see your biases than me?

    Someone with more scientific meta-literacy than you.

    It’s not a matter of he said, she said, you know. Only genuine (i.e. earned) expertise counts, and the more genuine experts agree, the more likely it is they’re right and you’re wrong. Since AFAICT that hasn’t shaken your pseudo-skepticism, it appears you are afflicted with the Dunning-Kruger effect: either you don’t know how inexpert you are, and you can’t tell genuine experts from motivated deniers; or else you privately acknowledge the consensus of genuine bushfire experts, and are in some way motivated to make contrary claims. I suspect one of your motives is ideological, but only you know in your heart of hearts. If a pseudonymous virtual identity can be said to have a heart, that is.

  223. How did you check for your bias towards natural variability as an explanation?

    No-no.
    I’m not the one ascribing a new, specific cause to a normal, millions of years old phenomenon.

    “Bushfires in Australia are a widespread and regular occurrence that have contributed significantly to moulding the nature of the continent over millions of years.”

    “While charting the east coast in 1770, Captain Cook’s crew saw autumn fires in the bush burning on most days of the voyage.”

    It was Aboriginal fire that prompted James Cook to call Australia ‘This continent of smoke’.”

  224. Joshua says:

    dikran –

    Thanks.

    > While others can help, we have an important part to play in addressing our cognitive biases.

    No doubt. Others can’t play a role if we aren’t strongly committed to being open to their input.

    > Others can only see the outward expression of our biases, whereas we have more access to our motivations, provided we are willing to put an effort into examining why we do the things we do.

    Sure, but it can be really hard for us to access out motivations absent interaction with others.
    Sometimes that through their direct feedback, or sometimes its through introspection about why we interacted with others as we did.

    > Having said which, introspection has a downside, which is that you may not like what you find and may not have the energy to do much about it – ignorance can be bliss ;o)

    Yeah, well I see your emoji, but FWIW I don’t really find that to be a downside; although sometimes I tell myself that story and resign myself to believing that I should feel bad about it or that I’m not able to or lack the energy to do something about it. I’m beginning to see that I can have more faith in myself to see that (1) acknowledging that I don’t like what I find is never really more unpleasant than hiding from it, and (2) doing something about it paradoxically requires way less energy than avoiding it.

  225. Joshua says:

    Mal –

    > I am not one of them, but I’m confident I know what their consensus is,

    Perhaps there is a link upstairs…but where did you find a consensus from experts on Australian brush fires w/r/t attribution? I know that there’s a consensus among climate scientists w/r/t brush fire risk increasing more generally with climate change

  226. mrkenfabian says:

    Joshua – Attribution of what lit them or attribution of the causes of underlying flammability – why so easy to start, early to start and hard to stop?

  227. Joshua says:

    Attribution meaning “natural” or a anthropogenic due to climate change. IOW, do Australian brush fire experts see a link between the scale of this year’s fires to climate change (as opposed to a generic greater likelihood of fires as a climate scientist might indicate)?

    My understanding is that the arson line of argument is bogus as an explanation for the scale of the fires this season.

  228. David B. Benson says:

    Prescribed burns:
    https://m.phys.org/news/2020-01-outlines-approaches-enable.html

    In at least some parts of Australia the aborigines use d to do something similar. You’ll have to locate the links yourself, I fear.

  229. izen says:

    @-joshua
    “My understanding is that the arson line of argument is bogus as an explanation for the scale of the fires this season.”

    It is bogus as an explanation for the scale AND the cause of the fires.
    It may be playing on the human preference for attribution to a single cause.
    The complex interaction of ‘natural’ propensity of some of the Australian bush to fires from lightning strikes, with an anomalous drought and high temperatures with the ‘natural’, but AGW enhanced, ocean states, is rejected.
    The ideological preference is to attribute it to malicious humans, who are then claimed to be ‘left-wing’ activists.
    We always like to climb higher on the moral high ground by ascribing evil to our opponents.

  230. TE,

    No-no.
    I’m not the one ascribing a new, specific cause to a normal, millions of years old phenomenon.

    Come on, you can do better than this. This isn’t about whether or not climate change is causing something to happen that hasn’t happened before. It’s about whether or not it’s influencing the severity of these events, which it does seem to be doing.

  231. Mal Adapted says:

    Joshua:

    Perhaps there is a link upstairs…but where did you find a consensus from experts on Australian brush fires w/r/t attribution?

    I just did a search on Google Scholar for what’s been published since 2016 (scholar.google.com/scholar?as_ylo=2016&q=bushfires+Australia+climate+change). I found an apparent consensus that climate change is increasing the extent and intensity of bushfires in Australia. See, for example, Australian blazes will ‘reframe our understanding of bushfire’ in Science from last November, and Natural hazards in Australia: extreme bushfire in Climatic Change from 2016. “And then there’s physics”: the average temperature of Australia has risen 2 °C in the last 100 years; ceteris paribus, warmer is dryer. That’s been consensus science since the mid-19th century (the Clausius-Clapeyron relation). Specifically, the rate of soil moisture evapotranspiration is a function of temperature. The warming of Australia has resulted in longer fire seasons and lower fuel moisture. It has also made droughts, like the one eastern Australia is currently in, that much worse.

    WRT attribution of this fire season in NSW, I just found this pre-print: Causes and consequences of eastern Australia’s 2019-20 season of mega-fires, accepted for publication in Global Change Biology:

    The current 2019-20 fire season in Eastern Australia is unprecedented in the size and number of fires burning in temperate Australian forests. These fires are an indication that changes to the fire regime predicted under climate change, including more frequent and more severe fires (Bradstock, 2010; Clarke & Evans, 2019), may now be occurring.

    That ‘may’ sounds like pro-forma academic equivocation to me.

  232. Ben McMillan says:

    There are a number of obvious sources of information for forecasting and understanding bushfire severity in Australia. The BOM, CSIRO, and places like:
    https://www.bnhcrc.com.au/hazardnotes/68

    The bushfire and natural hazards CRC releases forecasts of fire season severity on a regular basis. Have a look at what they use to assess how bad it will be. Obviously, heat and drought are the main ones, and if you look at something like the 2018 BOM ‘State of the climate’ report, these show a trend to worsening conditions for southeastern Australia, with the last two decades extremely dry and hot.

    Clearly, natural variability on top of the trends play a big role in exactly when you are going to have a bad year. But you are going to have a lot of bad years in the future if current trends continue.

    Obviously, the usual suspects want to blame it on anything else. Masked arsonists parachuting into remote areas, perhaps? The fire services (CFA, RFS), have stated clearly what starts most large fires in those areas, but trends in fire ignition (which there is no evidence for) are beside the point when a single start will send the whole thing up in flames.

  233. angech says:

    Mal Adapted “And then there’s physics”: the average temperature of Australia has risen 2 °C in the last 100 years; ceteris paribus, warmer is dryer. That’s been consensus science since the mid-19th century (the Clausius-Clapeyron relation).”

    Not quite with you on that one.
    You may be mixing up a couple of ideas there.
    According to Wiki
    “The driest place on Earth is in Antarctica in an area called the Dry Valleys, which have seen no rain for nearly 2 million years. There is absolutely no precipitation in this region and it makes up a 4800 square kilometer region of almost no water, ice or snow.”
    Further the hotter the atmosphere the more water the atmosphere holds.
    – I get what you are trying to say, it is the same message on fire cause that prolonged high temps will lead to more drying out of the fuel load.
    Just not the right scientific way to put it?

  234. Joshua says:

    TE –

    > I’m not the one ascribing a new, specific cause to a normal, millions of years old phenomenon.

    I assumed what I’m interested in was clearly implied, but I guess not. I’ll repost with more soecificity.

    How did you check for your bias towards natural variability as an explanation for the scale of the fires this year?

    Where do you draw the line w/r/t attribution? What is the rationale for how you draw that line? Is there a point at which you would no longer say that “Nature wot dunnit.” for a given scale of burning? What is ghe point and what science do you use to derive that point?

    I know you have a bias towards finding “nature” as an explanation.

    It seemed that you were arguing that the trend of rainfall was well within any historic precedent on a relevant timescale, but didn’t account for regjonality when you made that argument. That seems like a facile argument to me (guven the size of Australia and the diversity of its regional climate), and fails a basic check for confirmation bias. Am I wrong about that? If so, why?

  235. Joshua says:

    TE –

    > > I’m not the one ascribing a new, specific cause to a normal, millions of years old phenomenon.

    Also, I am not suggesting a single attribution. And you are.

    Please read Anders’ 6:43 am post. It touches on a point I consider relevant w/r/t confirmation bias.

  236. David B. Benson says:

    Regarding Australia, Tamino ‘ Open Mind has several recent, relevant threads.

  237. David B. Benson says:

    That was supposed to read

    Tamino’s Open Mind blog

  238. angech,

    Further the hotter the atmosphere the more water the atmosphere holds.

    Yes, and there is also enhanced evaporation.

  239. David B. Benson says:

    aTTP — There is also enhanced precipitation, mostly near the ITCZ where much evaporation occurs. There is also the expansion of the Hadley circulation, causing the deserts to expand polewards.

  240. David,
    Indeed, there are changes that could well impact the risk of wildfires.

  241. dikranmarsupial says:

    “Further the hotter the atmosphere the more water the atmosphere holds.”

    If you put your laundry out to dry on the clothes line, does it dry faster on a warm day than a cold one?

  242. Chubbs says:

    Re-linking a document from above, which provides a clear link between climate change and increasing fire risk in Australia. The other document I linked covered the entire world. Below is a quote:

    “Fire danger is very likely to increase in the future for many regions of Australia, exacerbated by the increased occurrence of extreme heat events. Climate projections show that more dangerous weather conditions for bushfires are very likely to occur throughout Australia in the future due to increasing greenhouse gas emissions. Climate models also indicate a future increase in dangerous pyro-convection conditions for many regions of southern Australia (based on the C-Haines index).”

    Spencers’ analysis based on model predictions of average precipitation for all of Australia are completely bogus. Need to look at the frequency of extreme events i.e. heat and drought together region-by-region in Australia.

    The predictions of climate models are clear and readily available in a number of publications, both for Australia and for other regions around the world. “Its happened before” or “average rainfall isn’t predicted to change” just doesn’t cut it as a scientific analysis of fire risk.

    http://nespclimate.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/A4_4pp_brochure_NESP_ESCC_Bushfires_FINAL_Nov11_2019_WEB.pdf

  243. Chubbs says:

    Here is another case where it is more than just confirmation bias – very easy to read the existing literature and become better informed before speaking out.

  244. Joshua says:

    Chubbs –

    > Here is another case where it is more than just confirmation bias – very easy to read the existing literature and become better informed before speaking out.

    I’d say reading only until you find what what matches your preconception, or selecting reading that’s likely to match your precinception, are common forms of confirmation bias (although other mechanisms could be in play).

    That is why referencing the consensus view (which in most cases means referencing the broadest range of the existing reasearch) is generally a good hedge against conformation bias – and why most of the attacks on using the consensus as a way to assess probabilities are facile and, ironically, a reflection of confirmation bias.

    There is a reason why referencing consensus is a ysrgil heuristic that we frequently use as a matter of course.

    Look at the ubiquity of including “reviews” in the online marketplace. That is a form of “consensus” referencing. There is a valid reason that we regularly check movie reviews or restaurant reviews. There is a reason that Condumer Reports is such a common reference before purchasing.

    To blindly trust these references would be foolish, just as it is foolish to say things like “consensus has nothing to do with science.”

  245. Joshua says:

    That’s why going to Spencer’s blog and copying quotes to oaste in as a reference during discussions, without pointing to other conflicting or confirming references, is likely a red flag of confirmation bias. That’s why talking about rainfall trends in the whole of Australia as an argument relevant to regional phenomena, without explanation for doing so, even when repeatedly asked about that, is a red flag for confirmation bias.

  246. Chubbs says:

    Joshua – You also have to be very confident in your own knowledge/ability and that of your tribe.

  247. “It’s about whether or not it’s influencing the severity of these events, which it does seem to be doing.”

    No. Look at the data again.

    The observed trend of precipitation has been positive over the period of global warming. However, these fires follow the single driest year.

    If you go to the NASA GISS site,
    ( https://data.giss.nasa.gov/modelE/transient/Rc_ij.4.03.html )
    you can create a map of modeled precipitation:

    There’s little change, consistent with the Spencer plot.

    So, variation of 2019 explains the fires of 2020, but neither the observed long term trend, nor the climate modeled predictions do.

  248. TE,
    It has been anomalously warm. Do you really think that climate change played absolutely no role in the Australian wildfires?

  249. Chubbs says:

  250. TE,
    It has been anomalously warm. Do you really think that climate change played absolutely no role in the Australian wildfires?

    No, of course, it’s possible evaporation increased by a marginal amount.

    But this marginal effect was probably overwhelmed by record low precipitation.

    Were temperatures lower, but still record low precipitation, I believe the fires would still have occurred at the same extent.

    And were temperatures at the same high level, but precipitation above normal, I believe the fires would have been much less likely.

  251. Joshua says:

    TE –

    What is long-term precipitation trend in the region where the fires are the worst?

  252. verytallguy says:

    “Were temperatures lower, but still record low precipitation, I believe the fires would still have occurred at the same extent.”

    I hate to break it to you, but your beliefs are not compelling to others.

    The evidence is that warmer temperatures increase evaporation, increasing fire risk.

  253. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:


    I’m not the one ascribing a new, specific cause to a normal, millions of years old phenomenon.

    This would only be a good argument if there is, in fact, no new specific cause to take into account, which begs exactly the question that is at issue.


    Were temperatures lower, but still record low precipitation, I believe the fires would still have occurred at the same extent.
    And were temperatures at the same high level, but precipitation above normal, I believe the fires would have been much less likely.

    Personal beliefs about what might have happened differently are immaterial to what actually happened.

    One does not simply conjecture one’s way into Mordor.

  254. Mark B says:

    No, of course, it’s possible evaporation increased by a marginal amount.

    On this topic it seems there are better metrics for tracking drought than precipitation since it is a function of temperature as well. The US NCDC site has time series for Palmer Drought Severity Index. Is anyone aware of similar online data for Australia?

    West Climate Region, PDSI, October

  255. izen says:

    @-TE
    “However, these fires follow the single driest year.”

    4 days ago I pointed out when you made this same point-
    “Regional extreme events may have their origin in particular circumstances, but those circumstances are all happening within the context of AGW.
    Throwing a double six with two dice becomes more likely if they are loaded.”

    2 days ago I gave you a link to research on the effect of warmer oceans on the Indian Ocean Dipole condition that resulted in this extreme low rainfall in the Australian S. E.

    https://www.nature.com/articles/nature13327
    “Here, using an ensemble of climate models forced by a scenario of high greenhouse gas emissions (Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5), we project that the frequency of extreme IOD events will increase by almost a factor of three, from one event every 17.3 years over the twentieth century to one event every 6.3 years over the twenty-first century.”

    And there is research from a decade ago observing the effect of AGW on the IOD and predicting the effect it would have just as we have seen this season.

    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/248815488_Recent_unprecedented_skewness_towards_pIOD_occurrences_and_its_impacts_on_Australian_rainfall
    “Using available observations and reanalyses, we show that the pIOD occurrences increase from about four per 30 years early in the 20th century to about 10 over the last 30 years; by contrast, the number of negative Indian Ocean Dipole (nIOD) events decreases from about 10 to two over the same periods, respectively. A skewness measure, defined as the difference in occurrences of pIODs and nIODs, illustrates a systematic trend in this parameter commencing early in the 20th century. … Over southeastern Australia (SEA), these changes potentially account for much of the observed austral winter and spring rainfall reduction since 1950. These features are consistent with projected future climate change and hence with what is expected from global warming.

    This why your response to the severity of this fire season as a ‘natural’ variation in reduced rainfall making it the driest year is wrong.
    It is the driest year because the IOD has been enhanced by AGW.
    There is a certain irony in the fact that the very features you advance as alternatives to the influence of global warming are the key factors that confirm the impact it is having.

  256. Mal Adapted says:

    angech:

    – I get what you are trying to say, it is the same message on fire cause that prolonged high temps will lead to more drying out of the fuel load. Just not the right scientific way to put it?

    Here is what I said:

    “And then there’s physics”: the average temperature of Australia has risen 2 °C in the last 100 years; ceteris paribus, warmer is dryer. That’s been consensus science since the mid-19th century (the Clausius-Clapeyron relation).Specifically, the rate of soil moisture evapotranspiration is a function of temperature. The warming of Australia has resulted in longer fire seasons and lower fuel moisture. It has also made droughts, like the one eastern Australia is currently in, that much worse.

    Perhaps “ceteris paribus, warming means drying” is clearer. That is: assuming no secular trend in other factors, higher annual average temperatures cause higher rates of evapotranspiration (combined evaporation from the soil surface, and transpiration by growing plants), drawing down soil and fuel moisture earlier in the growing season. As mrkenfabian mentions, warmer nighttime temperatures also lower dewpoints. All that makes both living and dead vegetation more flammable, i.e. fires are more likely to ignite and spread. Are you with me yet?

    My link to the pre-print of “Causes and consequences of eastern Australia’s 2019-20 season of mega-fires” is suddenly broken. Here’s another relevant citation, from PNAS in 2016: Impact of anthropogenic climate change on wildfire across western US forests. An accompanying commentary is titled Human-caused climate change is now a key driver of forest fire activity in the western United States.

    Is it necessary to point out that my citations are to relatively impactful peer reviewed venues, that more reliably represent the specialist consensus than, say, JoNova? Basic scientific meta-literacy, no? I admittedly have the advantage of a recent extended residence in northern New Mexico, during which I was highly motivated to pay attention to wildfire.

    No, of course AGW isn’t the sole cause of eastern Australia’s current disastrous bushfire season, or of its ongoing drought. It has, however, made them worse than they otherwise would have been. That much, at least, is consensus.

  257. Mal Adapted says:

    moi:

    I admittedly have the advantage of a recent extended residence in northern New Mexico, during which I was highly motivated to pay attention to wildfire.

    “Was I there?” Yes I was 8^).

  258. lerpo says:

    In general, Pearce provides reasons why consensus messaging isn’t necessary, but does not argue that consensus messaging is counterproductive.

    The exception is his suggestion that “Presenting climate policy as a fait accompli flowing from a scientific consensus encourages critics to engage in relatively inconsequential technical exchanges, rather than focus on questions of values and politics.”

    He doesn’t provide much to support that statement, and I’m not sure that he’s right on that point. In my experience, having a well understood consensus allows conversations to move beyond “climate change is/isn’t a hoax” and into “what should/shouldn’t we do about it”. Anyone suggesting it is a hoax is largely ignored.

  259. Mal Adapted says:

    Joshua:

    referencing consensus is a ysrgil heuristic that we frequently use as a matter of course

    I probably agree. What’s a “yrsrgil” heuristic?

  260. JCH says:

    Lost in the noise are some preeminent fire scientists who are saying the current Australian fires would not have been limited at all by prescribed burning.

    To do prescribed burning regardless of climate conditions on sufficient acres would be exceedingly expensive.

  261. Joshua says:

    That’s a secret, Mal – known only to my phone’s keyboard.

  262. Joshua says:

    lerpo –

    >In my experience, having a well understood consensus allows conversations to move beyond “climate change is/isn’t a hoax” and into “what should/shouldn’t we do about it”. Anyone suggesting it is a hoax is largely ignored.

    FWIW, my experience is quite different, in both respects. First, I have rarely, if ever, seen a reference to the “consensus” move discussions (with those who don’t agree with the consensus) beyond the equivalent of the “hoax” level if not a “hoax” discussion in and of itself.

    Second, I have rarely seen “hoax” arguments, or their rhetorical equivalent, ignored in discussions among those who disagree about climate change.

    But I also don’t agree with Warren when he says:

    > “Presenting climate policy as a fait accompli flowing from a scientific consensus encourages critics to engage in relatively inconsequential technical exchanges, rather than focus on questions of values and politics.”

    Because I have never had the impression that absent presentation of climate policy as a fait accompli flowing from a scientific consensus (which is a rather large straw man in most cases, BTW), “skeptics” would engage in good faith discussions of values and policies.

    I think that Warren has the causal mechanism more or less flipped diametrically. “Skeptics” (as a rule) engage in those relatively inconsequential technical exchanges precisely because they don’t want to exchange in good faith discussion of values and polilicies. We would expect that, as “skeptics” see themselves as fighting for freedom against data manipulators and self-serving, pocket-lining, capitalism-haters and deluded fanatics. Why would they want to engage in good faith discussion with peole they view in such amanner? It would.make no sense.

    “Skeptics” find reasons to engage in relatively inconsequential technical exchanges all on their own without any help from people who pint to the existence of a consensus Ning climate scientists. It’s rather remarkable to me to see so many people fall for the “They made us do it” notion of discourse dynamics to explain why “skeptics” do what they do.

  263. Nathan says:

    Bushfire danger increases in southern Australia have been noted for the last 30 years or so (using the FFDI)

    http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/current/statements/scs72.pdf

    Report from CSIRO from 2007 giving projections on future FFDI trends (from p 26) So they have the 2020 FFDI around 1-10 % higher than the 1973-2006 average.

    http://www.climateinstitute.org.au/verve/_resources/fullreportbushfire.pdf

    So we’re bang on the predicted FFDI for the top of the ‘High’ scenario.

    CSIRO have been writing papers on the increasing fire risk in southern Australia due to global warming since the late 1980s.

    That the models predict no change or slight increase in the fire areas is not the lived experience there. The models may be wrong in that regard; and certainly the CSIRO in Australia have been indicating that southern Australia should become drier as global warming continues (and it has been getting drier since the 1970s). It is drying out as the Hadley Cell expands and moves southward deflecting winter rain southwards.

    I don’t see how this can be explained away as ‘variability’

    The persistent discussion around drought forgets the other factors that impact fire risk.

  264. angech says:

    There is a drought.
    There are fires.
    There have been past droughts and past fires.
    They could be caused by nature.
    They could be caused by climate change.
    Both views are perfectly legal and plausible and impossible to prove with certainty.
    It is with chagrin, past amusement, that one watches each and every fact turned and shaped to fit each argument.
    Does no one feel game enough to admit on some facts we just do not know and give them a rest?

    Mal Adapted “Perhaps “ceteris paribus, warming means drying” is clearer.”
    Yes , in total agreement put that way.

  265. lerpo says:

    “…Second, I have rarely seen “hoax” arguments, or their rhetorical equivalent, ignored in discussions among those who disagree about climate change.”

    You may be right… It certainly hasn’t put an end to contrarianism, but don’t you think the conversation has evolved somewhat beyond “hoax/not a hoax” since consensus messaging was introduced?

  266. Jon Kirwan says:

    Re: David B. Benson on HFC-23

    I also just read that article (in phys.org.) I immediately wrote to the corresponding (and lead) author: “K. M. Stanley” to ask about any attempts to trace airborne HFC-23 back to its sources. Dr. James Lovelock, a lifetime ago it seems, was frustrated in his investigations of lipids by the sample amounts required by the first mass spectrometers and was told to go develop his own equipment. He went on to invent the electron capture detector in 1957. This very sensitive detector was used widely during the 1960’s, with released CFCs, to study atmospheric winds for weather purposes. (I was alive back then, which is why I know it was a lifetime ago. 😉

    What bothers me, right now, is that we have far more sensitive equipment today, which is quite capable of tracing HFC-23 gases straight back to its sources. It’s not even much of a problem. We have decades of experience tracing parts-per-billion in the atmosphere. So the question I asked the author is… “Has it been done already? If so, why don’t I see it in the report? And if it hasn’t been done, why in the heck not?”

    (I’m just an engineer specializing in black body radiation for pyrometry, phosphor thermometry (I worked with Dr. Wickersheim back when he was still alive), and electron beam lithography (Wehnelt type) and gallium ion beam milling. But I can’t understand why a finger hasn’t been pointed. There’s no excuse because the equipment is relatively available, well understood, and so are the methods for using that equipment for EXACTLY this purpose. I’m guessing that no one actually wants to fund it. But what do I know?)

  267. izen says:

    @-Jon Kirwan
    “…we have far more sensitive equipment today, which is quite capable of tracing HFC-23 gases straight back to its sources. It’s not even much of a problem. We have decades of experience tracing parts-per-billion in the atmosphere. So the question I asked the author is… “Has it been done already? If so, why don’t I see it in the report? And if it hasn’t been done, why in the heck not?””

    The lack of any indemnification of the source of increased HFC’s may be a matter of political expediency. The likely culprits have resisted any attempt at local monitoring as western interference in their internal economic development. Accusing India and China of breaking the rules might be thought to risk them opting out of the global monitoring and rules. As the US did with the Paris accords for CO2.

    But detection and monitoring have been done. HFC-23 appears to be a by-product of the manufacture of other refrigerants and foam manufacture in India. CFC-11 has been detected coming from N.E. China probably as a foaming agent for plastic insulation.

    https://research-information.bris.ac.uk/files/204910002/Full_text_PDF_final_published_version_.pdf

    “India’s combined CFC emissions are estimated to be 54 (27–86) Tg CO2 eq. yr−1 (5th and 95th confidence intervals are shown in parentheses). HCFC-22 emissions of 7.8 (6.0–9.9) Gg yr−1 are of similar magnitude to emissions of HFC-134a (8.2 (6.1–10.7) Gg yr−1). We estimate India’s HFC-23 emissions to be 1.2 (0.9–1.5) Gg yr−1, and our results are consistent with resumed venting of HFC23 by HCFC-22 manufacturers following the discontinuation of funding for abatement under the Clean Development Mechanism.”

    http://conf.montreal-protocol.org/meeting/oewg/oewg-41/presession/Background-Documents/CFC-11_Symposium_SPARC_2019-06-23.pdf

    ” Observations of other ODS potentially related to CFC-11 production (e.g., CFC-12, HCFC22) do not show comparable global emissions behaviour [Laube; Vollmer]. However, significant emissions of CTC (the CFC-11 feedstock) are found in eastern China in the last decade [Park et al., 2018; Lunt et al., 2018], with these CTC emissions shifting northward to Shandong province after 2012 [Lunt et al., 2018].”

  268. JCH says:

    The forests and grasses and shrubs of Australia are greener.

    Why? AGW. More dry stuff to burn.

  269. Nathan says:

    “There is a drought.
    There are fires.
    There have been past droughts and past fires.
    They could be caused by nature.
    They could be caused by climate change.”

    And yet when people investigate beyond overarching generalisations they often prepare scientific papers that indicate this is what we would expect in a warming world. And they say why.

    So why would we pretend we don’t know what is causing this (to level that we know anything causes anything)?

  270. izen says:

    @-angtech
    “They could be caused by nature.
    They could be caused by climate change.””

    Drought and fires are caused by both nature and climate change, as well as other factors.
    It might be useful to explain what physical processes you are subsuming under the label ‘nature’.

    @-“Does no one feel game enough to admit on some facts we just do not know and give them a rest?”

    That would be irrational.
    We occupy a material universe that has discoverable and computerable processes of causation. There is very little, until you get into the Quantum realm, that is inherently unknowable.
    Even in the area of Quantum mechanics the probabilities are mathematically calculable giving rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty.

    When there is a large body of scientific research that has established a consensus about the processes that have caused the measured warming and reduced rainfall in S.E. Australia, it would appear to be motivated belief that would reject that knowledge in favour of a false claim of ignorance.

  271. angech says:

    Nathan,
    “And yet when people investigate beyond overarching generalisations they often prepare scientific papers that indicate this is what we would expect in a warming world.”

    One of the sad facts of Australian bushfires is that they have been extensively investigated time after time by Royal Commissions both before and after Climate change was raised as an issue.
    The causes are known.
    The remedies are known.
    The total lack of action on these remedies is just one sad extra ironic cause of the fires.
    Previous reviews that went nowhere

    “Some of the recommendations of the Stretton Royal Commission following the Black Friday fires of 1939 have still not been fully implemented.
    Many of the recommendations of the subsequent 56 inquiries have not been fully implemented either, so it raises serious questions about whether another royal commission will offer anything new or compelling.”
    Rather than using time and resources on inquiry No. 58, we should instead commit to fully implement the recommendations of all the previous inquiries, reviews and royal commissions we have already held.
    Another royal commission will only reiterate what we have known for decades.
    Kevin Tolhurst is honorary associate professor of fire ecology and management at the University of Melbourne. This article originally appeared on The Conversation.”

  272. Chubbs says:

    “The group of skeptics, who said that the consensus among 97 percent of the scientific community and the documented environmental transformations already underway are simply not proof enough…………”

    https://www.theonion.com/climate-change-deniers-present-graphic-description-of-w-1819578104

  273. jacksmith4tx says:

    In the grand scheme of things China’s recent actions regarding banning the production and use of plastic was a huge event.
    Was China motivated by scientific consensus when they decreed a total ban of single-use plastic?
    https://www.eco-business.com/news/will-chinas-sweeping-ban-to-phase-out-plastic-work/

  274. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:

    >>> Was China motivated by scientific consensus when they decreed a total ban of single-use plastic?

    Whatever the motivations of the Chinese, decrees are just that, decrees.
    Trust, but verify.
    https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-019-13899-4

    If only we could get the government of the United States of Amnesia to be motivated by the scientific consensus, then the decrees would be the best decrees ever. Much better than the Chinese decrees. Way, way better than the weak decrees made by Obama. They would be decrees the likes of which the world has never seen before.

  275. Willard says:

    > Both views are perfectly legal and plausible and impossible to prove with certainty.

    Whether views are legal or not is immaterial to the question if they’re plausible.

    Whether views are impossible to prove or not too.

    The problematic part of Doc’s truth sandwich lies in the middle: the assumption that they’re views, and that both are plausible.

    Neither are “views” – any scientific view should contain both natural and anthropogenic components.

    One of them is more plausible than the other.

    Since contrarians like Doc themselves tell truth sandwiches, we can do it too:

    A pity Doc’s stuffing is just stuff.

  276. Joshua says:

    Rev knows decrees. No one knows decrees better than Rev.

  277. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:


    Rev knows decrees. No one knows decrees better than Rev.

    Thanks for that consensus message.


    Since contrarians like Doc themselves tell truth sandwiches…

    More like truth fish and chips… Without the chips.

  278. Mal Adapted says:

    angech:

    Both views are perfectly legal and plausible and impossible to prove with certainty.
    It is with chagrin, past amusement, that one watches each and every fact turned and shaped to fit each argument.
    Does no one feel game enough to admit on some facts we just do not know and give them a rest?

    Comments like this make it plain you either don’t understand how science works and are making incorrect assumptions about it, or you do understand it but are simply unwilling to accept its results. Foremost, scientists aren’t lawyers! They don’t offer proof, other than in mathematics and formal logic. Do you truly not realize that, Doc? Our relative confidence in empirically-obtained knowledge can only be justified by intersubjective verification: that is, provisionally confirmed, by multiple rigorously trained and mutually disciplined skeptics. Our knowledge can never be proven, only disproven. Yet knowledge need not be proven in order to be useful! Science’s underlying driver is the urge to mitigate threats to our survival and capture resources to provide for our offspring. IOW, science is “merely” a cultural adaptation by our species, to the same, seemingly hostile yet actually indifferent universe we all live in. In the 500 or so years since modern science emerged, it’s been so useful that our population grew from around 500 million to 7.5 billion, and counting

    Science, then, is a global collective enterprise by competitively skeptical individuals, for the long-term accumulation of provisionally justified, useful knowledge. Its practical superiority to magic is seen by a look around. It enables us to know things about the universe with sufficient confidence to make life or death decisions. Now, by the grace of climate science, we (i.e. the reality-based) are confident enough in what generations of trained, disciplined skeptics have learned in the past 200 years, to recognize the threat AGW poses to the global human economy on which we and our posterity depend. We, even if not you, know that collective action is required to prevent the collapse of human civilization, and potentially the greatest of all great extinctions. We know that doing nothing only amplifies the threat. Why don’t you appear to know that, Doc? Your refusal to acknowledge that compelling conclusion, short of a legal standard of “proof”, is what marks you as a lukewarmer. IMHO.

    Don’t worry: not only is your view perfectly legal, at least in the USA, but I don’t know your real name, or where you live other than apparently in Australia. I would never come looking for you IRL, of course. My last fistfight was at age 14, and I lost! While you’re alive, therefore, you’re existentially free to believe the Earth, humanity, or you alone are exempt from cosmic mediocrity. You’re not exempt from being called out when you profess it publicly.

  279. Joshua says:

    And without the fish.

  280. Joshua says:

    TE –

    Did you answer the question (I asked multiple times) about rainfall trend in the regions hit hardest by the fires? I can guess at some answers:

    1) you answered and your answer is stuck in moderation.

    2). You know that the trend is flat or an increase in rainfall in those regions (but haven’t provided those data for some other unexplained reason).

    3) you pointed to “natural” as an explanation and implied that finding a likely anthropogenic influence is confirmation bias, based merely on aggregated data because you have an explanation for why aggregated data is more explanatory than data targeted on the regions hit hardest by the fires.

    4) you pointed to “natural” as an explanation and implied that anthropogenic influence is confirmation bias, based merely on aggregated data because you simply stopped your investigation once you found data that confirmed your bias (aggregated data confirmed your bias towards a “natural” explanation).

    Perhaps another answer I haven’t considered?

  281. Jon Kirwan says:

    @izen says:

    “The lack of any indemnification of the source of increased HFC’s may be a matter of political expediency. The likely culprits have resisted any attempt at local monitoring as western interference in their internal economic development. Accusing India and China of breaking the rules might be thought to risk them opting out of the global monitoring and rules. As the US did with the Paris accords for CO2.”

    Dr. Kieran Stanley (Frankfurt) kindly responded very quickly (about 2PM his time.) He wrote a long letter, so I’ll hold short copying it here. But my summary of it amounts to the following bits of information and opinion from him:

    (1) HFC-23 is created as an unwanted by-product from HCFC-22 production. That production isn’t just India or China, as I read his response. It’s also produced in Europe, as well. But there is an implication in his writing that releases in Europe are monitored. My own take on this, opinion only, is that there are unscrupulous folks in Europe, just as there are in the US, who have zero resistance to the idea of illegally releasing waste products like this into the air to increase profits. So until I get a better idea just how well Europe does monitor and respond to releases, I’m keeping all producers on the table in my mind.

    (2) He’s having a devil of a time getting funding for research that would point fingers.

    (3) He needs computational resources he doesn’t currently have access to (again, funding.)

    (4) The whole thing is highly politicized (his words, not mine) and where there is data, it is often kept secret and requests for access are flatly refused.

    He wrote a few other things that I won’t mention here, just yet, because I’d like to have the time to first take them ‘at issue’ with him and get his better responses, before discussing them. (They are things which may merely be ignorance on his part or, perhaps, didn’t cross his mind while writing. I have to follow up, first, and get a more comprehensive understanding.)

    That’s it for now.
    Jon

  282. angech says:

    Willard,
    Thanks for the novel reply. Truth sandwiches.
    I am in one of my cheered up moods today after reading some of the comments above.
    So onto the food fight.
    Truth hurts, an old adage but true.
    Sandwiches is very appropriate given the old guy cartoons, wearing the sandwich boards saying “We are all going to die”.
    So some truths to chew on.
    There are a dozen or more doomsday scenarios of which Global warming is only the latest entrant and not that scary in comparison anyway.
    We can pontificate until the cows come home on real but non immediate, non existential threat matters to take our minds of the current practical immediate concerns of day to day life. It is a salve to our conscious.

  283. angech says:

    Mal Adapted
    To answer the last point first. I would love to meet you or any of the other people here for a coffee and cake [or sandwiches] and debate global warming, how science works, maths, people and psychology.
    Here in Australia or if I ever get the money and time to go to America etc.
    Most people are quite OK when you get to meet them but most people do not care as much about science and humanity as you lot do.
    Sadly, due not only to my contrarianism, but that same streak that also runs in most of you I have probably offended enough people here at times to make that difficult. I would love to meet and chat to DM ,Mosher or Nick Stokes for example but they would need a lot of apologizing to first.
    I get excited, I talk over people, but basically like most people I just want to be liked.
    Funny how people do the opposite to what is good for them.
    Guess I am not exempt from cosmic mediocrity.

  284. izen says:

    @-Jon Kirwan
    “My own take on this, opinion only, is that there are unscrupulous folks in Europe, just as there are in the US, who have zero resistance to the idea of illegally releasing waste products like this into the air to increase profits.””

    There are detection sites in Ireland and Switzerland, but the main constraint on unscrupulous production is a monitoring system of the supply of the precursor and product chemicals. It would be difficult to make a lot of waste product when the chemicals to produce it are tracked and regulated within the chemical industry.
    https://www.eea.europa.eu/data-and-maps/indicators/emissions-and-consumption-of-fluorinated-2

    I suspect that the problem is within those developing nations which are aiming to increase their production of various products where the use of HFC’s is cheaper, easier and more efficient and there is no regulatory oversight, (or it can be bribed) that constrains those production processes.
    While much of the subsequent production may be for internal consumption, it is likely that Europe has exported some of the HFC misuse. So that just as with CO2 there are Nations that can smugly declare they have low emissions within their borders, but are importing massive amounts of product that has resulted in emission of HFC’s / CO2.

  285. Jon Kirwan says:

    @izen says: “I suspect that the problem is within those developing nations which are aiming to increase their production of various products where the use of HFC’s is cheaper, easier and more efficient and there is no regulatory oversight, (or it can be bribed) that constrains those production processes.”

    I think you are right about that. I just don’t expect complete innocence in the US or the EU (or anywhere else where there is both motive and opportunity.)

    Jon

  286. Chubbs says:

    CMIP6 effective man-made forcing is roughly 20% lower than the AR5 assessment used in energy-balance modeling. Same observed warming/less forcing = higher estimated sensitivity in EBM.

    https://www.atmos-chem-phys-discuss.net/acp-2019-1212/

  287. Nathan says:

    Angech, did you at least have a look at the references provided? It may help you understand why Australians like me and scientists at CSIRO think there is a strong link between these bushfires and Global Warming.
    Cheers
    Nathan

  288. Willard says:

    That escalated quickly:

  289. verytallguy says:

    “That escalated quickly”

    I didn’t think there was anything new under the sun of contrarianism, but now I see you need to add “but single mothers” to the matrix.

    You learn something every day.

  290. Joshua says:

    For all you alarmists who are concerned about climate change, I hope you know that the leader of the free world is out there protecting the the role of science in society.

    > KERNEN: Tesla’s now worth more than GM and Ford. Do you have comments on Elon Musk?

    TRUMP: Well — you have to give him credit. I spoke to him very recently, and he’s also doing the rockets. He likes rockets. And — he does good at rockets too, by the way. I never saw where the engines come down with no wings, no anything, and they’re landing. I said I’ve never seen that before. And I was worried about him, because he’s one of our great geniuses, and we have to protect our genius. You know, we have to protect Thomas Edison and we have to protect all of these people that — came up with originally the light bulb and — the wheel and all of these things. And he’s one of our very smart people and we want to– we want to cherish those people.

    Thanks God he’s protecting the people who came up with the wheel.

  291. David B. Benson says:

    Climate change brings locust swarms?
    https://apnews.com/c89d01fd28ab067ef9bf5ca017904768
    Debatable.

  292. izen says:

    @-Joshua
    “I hope you know that the leader of the free world is out there protecting the the role of science in society.”

    You have to admire the perfection with which he captures and expresses the thought processes of his voter base, the ‘average Joe’.

    Elon Musk was last on the TV news for landing one of his rockets after a test flight. It is an impressive visual mage to see a rocket land.
    (NASA experimented with it years ago, but it reduces the payload to orbit, and the rocket engine still needs a rebuild after such use)
    Elon Musk is an inventor, the only other American inventor everyone has heard of is Edison and everyone knows he invented the light bulb. The only other invention that everyone knows about is the wheel.
    Job Done.

  293. angech says:

    David B. Benson says
    “Climate change brings locust swarms?
    Debatable.”
    Thanks for that last comment David.
    Biblical I think, like floods and pestilence.
    Hard to tell from the real thing.
    We get locust swarms every 20 or so years in Victoria and NSW.
    Don’t know what they ate before we started planting wheat.
    Guess they are local and prehistoric unlike the rabbit plagues

  294. David B. Benson says:

    Everyone was supposed to learn about Ely Whitney.

  295. izen says:

    @-David B. Benson
    “Everyone was supposed to learn about Ely Whitney.”

    Were they supposed to learn he caused the American civil war by making cotton a viable business when picked by slaves ?

  296. David B. Benson says:

    izen, all I remember is that he invented the cotton gin. This affected the South, of course, but little was said in either the high school or the college course in American history beyond the expansion of plantations from the old south to the deep south.

  297. JCH says:

    In a TV commercial they once used the guy who invented Lexan in the USA one week after the guy who invented it in Europe. Made it look like an accidental invention. The absent-minded professor left a liquid in a flask on a desktop and came in the next morning to find it had turned into a tough plastic. The European guy probably used formulas and experiments and that crap – not the USA Trump way.

  298. Chubbs says:

    An exception. At one point in my career, I was criticized for being too Edisonian.

  299. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:


    …the bushfires were caused by single mothers.

    Absolutely true…
    But – Let us not minimize the importance of the corrupt and incendiary actions of Hunter Biden.

  300. Joshua says:

    izen –

    > You have to admire the perfection with which he captures and expresses the thought processes of his voter base, the ‘average Joe’.

    Yes, and as any American must know our exceptionalism proves that the wheel is an American invention.

  301. Ben McMillan says:

    The climate futures tool is neat for looking at regional projections of climate change in Oz:
    https://www.climatechangeinaustralia.gov.au/en/climate-projections/climate-futures-tool/projections/

    Unsurprisingly, the southeast corner of Australia gets much hotter (with high confidence) and probably gets dryer under high forcing scenarios (about 10% dryer). Both of these things have actually been happening recently.

    If you take these projections seriously, the most likely scenario is that conditions that cause high intensity fires are going to get considerably worse. Sure, we could get lucky, and the 5% of models that predict significantly wetter conditions may be right, even though the heat will still make the fires worse. But that seems like a particularly foolish bet to make, especially on the behalf of another generation of humans.

    I wonder what the future is for communities where a major fire happens in any given patch of forest every 30 years, rather than every 200. Hard to see how they can survive: there is already talk of just not rebuilding. There are trees as far as you can see in these places. Womboyn is one thing, but even Canberra is basically just suburbs scattered in a forest: beautiful if you like critters hopping down your street, but a whole different story when the flames come through. What do you do? Raze it and turn it into a sheep farm?

  302. izen says:

    @-joshua
    “…as any American must know our exceptionalism proves that the wheel is an American invention.”

    American exceptionalism can occasionally be misleading.
    The wheel appears to be quite a late invention. The Egyptian pyramids were built without it.
    The invention seems to have started in Iraq about 3000 BCE, it almost certainly requires bronze tools for the sophisticated wood and leather construction methods. You also need domesticated draught animals. It is possible that early versions with solid wooden wheeled carts were used with oxen, but most of the time it would be easier to make packs that could be slung across the back of ox, donkeys etc. Bigger loads were dragged on rollers or sleds.

    Spoked wheels arrived with chariot warfare and trained horses. Wet leather was used to hold the wheel together by rim compression as it dried and shrunk. Axles were wood on wood with animal fat lubricant. Not the most efficient or durable device, but so complex and costly to make and maintain that they were the reserve of monarchs and aristocrats.
    It seems to have stayed that way until iron technology developed enough to make rims and axle bearings.
    There is no convincing evidence of any widespread use of the wheel in the Americas until its colonisation by Europeans.

  303. Pingback: Debate about communicating tipping points | …and Then There's Physics

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