## Classification of contrarian claims about climate change

The latest controversy in the climate debate is the publication of a paper on [c]omputer-assisted classification of contrarian claims about climate change. The authors are Travis Coan, Constantine Boussalis, John Cook, and Mirjam Nanko. You may recognise John Cook as being the founder of Skeptical Science which, for some, is already a red flag. This Washington Post article does a nice job of describing the work, as does this article by John Cook.

The paper essentially develops a taxonomy of contrarians claims about climate science/policy and then uses a computer model to categorize the content from a set of contrarian blogs and conservative think tanks. The taxonomy includes a small set of super claims, and then a set of sub-claims, and sub-sub-claims. I was getting a little bit of flack on Twitter because I was one of those who helped to train the model by categorizing a sample of the content from these blogs/think tanks, so I do have an association with the paper.

The basic result was that conservative think tanks tend to argue that climate solutions won’t work, or would be harmful, while contrarian blogs tend to focus on claims that climate science is unreliable. It’s also possible to determine how the various super claims have changed with time and to associate these changes with various events (Climategate, An Inconvenient Truth, etc.).

There seemed to be two main criticisms of the paper. One was that it’s advocating for censorship. This seems obviously not true, but I do understand the concern. However, I think there are a number of related, but different issues. Are there sites that promote misinformation? The answer seems obviously yes. Is it worth developing methods for identifying misinformation? Again, I would argue yes, but I can see how some might worry about the implications of doing so. Finally, should we do anything about sites that promote misinformation? My own view is that we shouldn’t be aiming to censor such sites, but I see no reason why we shouldn’t be identifying the misinformation that they’re presenting and highlighting that they’re doing so.

The second criticism related to some of the claims not necessarily being wrong. For example models are unreliable, CCS is unproven, or nuclear is good. I think, though, that this misunderstands the methodology in the paper. The taxonomy had 5 super-claims, and then a set of sub-claims, and a set of sub-sub-claims. So, yes, some of the text in the sub-claims, or sub-sub-claims, may not necessarily be statements that are wrong, but they identify rhetoric that is sometimes used to justify a super-claim. The paper even acknowledges that our taxonomy includes several claims that well-known contrarians tend to make, yet are not necessarily contrary to mainstream views. So, you need to interpret these sub-claims, and sub-sub-claims, in the context of the super-claims, rather than interpreting them as independent claims.

I do think it is quite an interesting paper that present some quite impressive work. I also think it’s worth thinking about how we can identify misinformation, which this paper is trying to do. On the other hand, I also think we should be careful of what we do with this information. With some exceptions, I think people should be free to promote misinformation. However, they aren’t free to do so without this being highlighted and without facing any criticism for what they’re choosing to do.

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### 203 Responses to Classification of contrarian claims about climate change

1. Don’t think of elephants. That is part of the strength of the contrarian and denialist argument. Simply stating something over and over and having it refuted over and over develops the strength of elephants in the disputed narrative. If you want to see that argument in action as a means to paralyze sensible discussion, I would recommend following a certain discussion about cubes that I have seen somewhere on the internet recently.

2. Willard says:

> (1) it’s not happening, (2) it’s not us, (2) it’s not bad [sic!], (4) solutions won’t work, and (5) climate science/scientists are unreliable.

Where have I seen something like this lately:

Their (1) and (2) correspond to my Level 0, their (3) and (4) to my Level 2-3-4, and their (5) is a bit of my Level 1 and a bit of my Level 5.

I prefer my classifier, but then I’m no AI.

3. Well, I don’t think this is going to be of much use, but have at it. I will bet you that I could put together a piece composed of nothing but quotes (and in context, too) from the IPCC and consensus climate scientists that would trigger alarm bells throughout this monitoring system.
Occasionally someone from the consensus side wakes up and realizes that fighting contrarians is not a good use of your time and energy. Sadly, that period of consciousness is usually brief.
Contrarians are right about some things. The consensus is–well, not so much wrong as on thin ice on some things. Some contrarians are wild-eyed kooks. So are some adherents to the consensus cause. But some on each side are well-credentialed scientists and logical thinkers. This kind of exercise usually ends up exclusively focusing on the kooks and throwing mud at the scientists and thinkers. It is not edifying.
My message to John Cook is always ‘On to victory, men of the 7th! To Little Big Horn we ride!’

4. Willard,
Good point. I hadn’t quite made that association, but you’re right that there are similarities between their taxonomy and your contrarian matrix.

Tom,
It’s possible that you could do that, but that would probably indicate a poor training set. However, they do acknowledge that they may need to do more work to ensure that our algorithm requires further development in order to distinguish between mainstream scientific statements and contrarian statements. Further, our model was generally accurate at categorizing text at the sub-claim level, but we lacked sufficient training data to categorize text at the sub-sub-claim level.

However, I would argue that since their algorithm seemed able to identify trends in the contrarian claims and was also able to associate various changes in these claims with various climate related events, has already made this quite useful.

This is a fascinating development, approaching the the ‘Holy Grail’ of computational fact checking. In the article, Cook says:

“Ideally, I would have social media platforms using it to detect misinformation in real time.”

I agree people should be free to promote misinformation. That requires some unpacking, however. A bunch of questions arise: are Koch-Klub funded denialist stink tanks, typically non-profit corporations, people? Should actual people be free of moderation on social media platforms that are commercially owned and maintained? Factual claims may be verifiable by AI, but how should subjective statements like “models are unreliable” or “nuclear is good” be handled?

Whatever. Let Facebook, Twitter et al. start AI-facilitated real-time filtering of denialism, and let the denialists sue.

6. Joshua says:

Anders –

> Is it worth developing methods for identifying misinformation? Again, I would argue yes,

What do you see as the benefit – particularly given the context (in which, imo, this can register as little other than same old same old?)

7. MalAdapted, “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just.” I don’t know where you live, but automated speech control will inevitably be used for purposes that you find in conflict with your most cherished values.

This algorithm is being trained, not just for me, but for me and thee.

8. Joshua,

What do you see as the benefit – particularly given the context (in which, imo, this can register as little other than same old same old?)

Good question. In a simple sense it’s probably useful to just study it. Even this paper seemed to find trends in claims and also how you could associate changes in the focus with various climate relevant events. It’s probably worth understanding this even if there is probably little that could be done to avoid people promoting misinformation. On the other hand, the more we understand how misinformation is promoted, the easier it might become to counter it.

Tom:

I will bet you that I could put together a piece composed of nothing but quotes (and in context, too) from the IPCC and consensus climate scientists that would trigger alarm bells throughout this monitoring system.

What’s stopping you?

fighting contrarians is not a good use of your time and energy

Stink tanks like the Heritage Foundation certainly find it worth time, energy, and money to propagate denialism. Otherwise, they wouldn’t bother. You do too, in your infuriatingly indirect fashion, even though we know you’re actually on the consensus side yourself! What’s your motivation?

Contrarians are right about some things.

Which contrarians, Tom? What things are they right about?

But some on each side are well-credentialed scientists and logical thinkers.

Give us the names of some ‘contrarians’ who are well-credentialed scientists and logical thinkers, and quote them in context. Let’s run them through the AI tool!

This kind of exercise usually ends up exclusively focusing on the kooks and throwing mud at the scientists and thinkers.

“Usually”? How many such exercises have there been? What scientists and thinkers have they unjustly thrown mud at? Give us specifics, Tom, so we can reject the mud-slinging and focus on correcting misinformation!

10. Joshua says:

Anders –

OK. That makes sense to me.

11. Willard says:

The most important benefit might be to make researchers realize that one does not simply identify claims. A claim is a speech act that extends beyond the mere meaning of the words it contains. It is situated in a context, which some may call the conversation, or Teh Discourse.

Also, contrarian talking points do not always assert anything. The most obvious examples are Just Asking Questions or Raising Concerns. Their truth is rather secondary. So we cannot say that these talking points claim anything. Their point, as Small underlines, is to put a theme on the table.

Which brings me to respond to the concern – “but what if the contrarian claim is true”? Even if contrarians stated platitudes, which they often do, they’d still connote and imply presuppositions that are at best dubious.

Take any contrarian claim regarding “but nuclear,” e.g. we need nukes. The problem with that talking point won’t be that it’s untrue: it’s first and foremost a judgment call, not a very controversial one to boot. The problem is what it may imply. If it implies that Renewables are Bad or it’s followed by some gripe about XR, then it fails to be felicitous, at least as far as we seek a constructive exchange.

So claims, if we can call them claims, belong to a narrative, or what I’d call a playbook. They don’t stand alone. And they need to be analyzed as a whole.

Tom:

This algorithm is being trained, not just for me, but for me and thee.

Tom, I’d be more concerned if I had a social media presence beyond the occasional comment on climate blogs or nytimes.com. In any case, AI speech surveillance is already in wide-spread use, e.g. by the US National Security Agency. So far, the US Constitution has protected me from legal sanction. I’ve always been self-censoring, however. For example, I’m careful not to propagate pernicious climate-related nonsense over public channels.

https://www.wired.com/story/inside-the-nsas-secret-tool-for-mapping-your-social-network/

The agency insists it doesn’t collect the content of phone calls. I’m skeptical.

14. in the context of Lakoff’s elephants, I think folks who want to slow and maybe stop global warming should talk almost exclusively about the facts they find compelling: Global warming is bad and is going to get worse. Global warming is happening because humans create too many greenhouse gases. The fundamental way that we can slow and maybe stop global warming is by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the faster we do that, the better off we will all be. We are not currently making progress at reducing our greenhouse gas production problem, we are still adding more greenhouse gases to the environment every year when we need to get to net zero as quickly as possible.

To engage and/or classify the contrarian claims is to put this important message in a secondary spot where we are constantly trying to unpack and refute various statements by the contrarians. If the contrarians are acting in good faith, they will eventually recognize that their positions and assertions have been incorrect. If the contrarians are acting in bad faith, they will simply modify their positions, reframe their arguments and continue to push their agenda which has little to do with science or facts, it is generally politically motivated.

There are also individuals who simply enjoy the process of seeing how long they can get their intellectual opponents to engage in education and persuasion and have no real interest in the topic at hand, they simply enjoy posing a conundrum of one sort or another to see if other folks will bite.

Luckily, there is not very much of that stuff on the internet, it can really waste time if you let it.

Cheers
Mike

15. The whole point of science is to use the scientific process to sort misinformation from correct information. The process works like this:

• Someone publishes a scientific claim, complete with all of the details, logic, math, computer code, citations, and other supporting information.

• Other people try to poke holes in the claim and falsify it, again providing all the details, logic, etc that support their objections.

• Eventually, and sometimes only after years of back and forth, some or all of the original claim may be found to be provisionally valid, or it may be found to be incorrect. It’s only provisional, because at any time new information may come up to falsify or resurrect the claim.

What John Cook is trying to do is to circumvent this entire process by saying WE ARE THE ALMIGHTY SCIENTISTS WHO ALREADY KNOW WHAT IS TRUE INFORMATION AND WHAT IS MISINFORMATION. THE SCIENTIFIC PROCESS IS OVER, IT’S ALL DECIDED, AND IF YOU DISAGREE WITH US, YOU’LL BE CENSORED OR ACCUSED OF WRONGTHINK!

How about we just let science play out the way it has successfully for decades, by open public debate and dispute? Because as one of the best scientists of our time, Richard Feynman, said:

“Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.”

and

“If you thought that science was certain, well, that is just an error on your part.”

The rude truth is, John Cook doesn’t know what “misinformation” is … because for almost all scientific questions, NOBODY knows. That’s why we have science, and that’s why all science is only provisional.

I published a response to Cook’s proposal a couple of hours ago here. Please feel free to comment there.

w.

PS—I do my best to read both sides of every issue. Why? Because it’s rare that any piece of scientific work is either entirely correct or entirely worthless. As a result, labeling something as “misinformation” may keep me from finding a diamond among the dross …

16. Mal says “Stink tanks like the Heritage Foundation certainly find it worth time, energy, and money to propagate denialism. Otherwise, they wouldn’t bother.”

That is quite right and we bite and try to engage with their denialist nonsense and help folks understand the nonsense. Waste of time in my opinion. No matter what you think, the cognitive science indicates you are repeating the nonsense, not dispelling it. I think the most effective response to folks like HF is to say, hey, they are spouting nonsense. Why are they spouting nonsense? Because it is what they are paid to do. Follow the money.

then, get back to a lakoff elephant message: Here is something that is definitely true: Global warming is bad and humans beings are causing it. We can do something about it. We need to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions as fast as we can and get to net zero quickly. Delay is not our friend with this problem.

Don’t think of elephants, y’all.

Alternatively, we can commit a bit of time and energy to the task of classifying contrarians and/or attempting to convert mathematical equations in to natural language. That is entertaining work and a pleasant diversion!

M

17. Willis,
Just because there is some kind of scientific process doesn’t mean that some people don’t promote misinformation, or that there is no value in studying it, or in trying to identify it. However, given that you post regularly on WUWT I can understand why you might object to such studies.

18. Willard says:

Willis,

You’ve been ninjaed:

“But Science”

Well played!

19. …and Then There’s Physics says:
December 11, 2021 at 7:58 pm

Willis,
Just because there is some kind of scientific process doesn’t mean that some people don’t promote misinformation, or that there is no value in studying it, or in trying to identify it.

ATTP, that ASSUMES that you are some kind of almighty god who can distinguish information from misinformation … most scientists don’t operate under that kind of self-aggrandizing illusion.

However, given that you post regularly on WUWT I can understand why you might object to such studies.

Ah, wonderful. Another charming gentleman who can’t find something wrong with my ideas, so he’s reduced to the pitiful state of insulting where I post my ideas, as if that magically made them less true.

ATTP, you’re the kind of fellow who would claim that “E=MC2” isn’t true because you found it written on a bathroom wall …

My regards to all, “informers” and “misinformers” alike …
w.

20. Willis,

ATTP, that ASSUMES that you are some kind of almighty god who can distinguish information from misinformation … most scientists don’t operate under that kind of self-aggrandizing illusion.

Hmmm, I actually think scientists quite commonly identify, and call out, misinformation.

Ah, wonderful. Another charming gentleman who can’t find something wrong with my ideas

I’ve found plenty wrong. Have even written posts about them. What I haven’t found is anything that you’d be willing to accept.

you’re the kind of fellow who would claim that “E=MC2” isn’t true because you found it written on a bathroom wall …

Given that I use $E = m c^2$ in some of my lectures, this would seem an odd thing to be claiming.

21. Thomas+Fuller says:

The paucity and poverty of consensus thought (as found in venues such as this) is staggering.

The idea that labeling (with words like ‘denier’ and concepts such as Climateball and now AI algorithms) means that you need not engage with unruly data and facts that are hard to fit in your grand scheme of things, really dumbs down your level of discourse.

Maladapted: Freeman Dyson. Now be silent, please. (But don’t worry, John Cook or willard will invent a label that means you don’t have to read what he wrote or listen to what he said.)

22. Tom,
I think the only person who has mentioned the term “denier” is you.

23. doctorbunsenhoneydew says:

“ATTP, that ASSUMES that you are some kind of almighty god who can distinguish information from misinformation”

No, you don’t need to be a god to do that, you just need to be able to understand the science well enough to spot the fundamental flaw in the theory and perhaps know enough of the subject and it’s history to know whether the author should have been able to spot it (given adequate scholarship).

For example, there are multiple lines of evidence that establish beyond reasonable doubt that the rise in atmospheric CO2 is due to anthropogenic emissions and is not a natural phenomenon. This has been well understood since at least the 1950s. When blogs like WUWT promulgate arguments that suggest otherwise, even though they have previously been debunked* (most of them were pre-bunked by the IPCC reports, starting from the first one), Climate etc. and Bishop Hill, it is not difficult to see that it is misinformation. It may not be intentional misinformation, but misinformation it is nevertheless.

* Ferdinand Engelbeen has done an excellent job on skeptic blogs as well, but sadly to no effect

24. doctorbunsenhoneydew says:

Willis: “Other people try to poke holes in the claim and falsify it, again providing all the details, logic, etc that support their objections.”

Also Willis: “ATTP, you’re the kind of fellow who would claim that “E=MC2” isn’t true because you found it written on a bathroom wall …”

Scientific method high-horse to ad-hominem/abuse didn’t take long.

25. doctorbunsenhoneydew says:

Willis: “The whole point of science is to use the scientific process to sort misinformation from correct information.”

Also Willis: “ATTP, that ASSUMES that you are some kind of almighty god who can distinguish information from misinformation … most scientists don’t operate under that kind of self-aggrandizing illusion.”

Tom:

Dyson’s public comments on climate change evince both emeritus syndrome and the particular arrogance of physicists. In the linked CarbonBrief report of an interview, he regurgitated a litany of long-debunked AGW-denialist memes, readily filtered out by Coan et al.’s AI tool. He was undeniably a brilliant theoretical physicist. He was incorrigibly wrong about climate science!

And only this blog’s moderator can silence me here, Tom.

27. Thomas+Fuller says:

Ooh, good, Maladapted–another label that relieves you of any need to examine his arguments. Pretty nice for the second smartest person on the planet at the time of his passing. Emerititus–the new disease meaning ‘ignore anybody older than me if they disagree with me.’

His 15 years working (part time) in climate science clearly don’t impress you. And pace ATTP, we do get to see the word ‘denialist’ in this thread–congratulations on further dumbing down the dialogue. I would call for examples, but now you have a patented AI tool that means you don’t have to think.

Nice fisking, doctorbunsenhoneydew!

29. Tom,

His 15 years working (part time) in climate science clearly don’t impress you.

No, because he clearly did not understand climate science nearly as well as he claimed to.

And pace ATTP, we do get to see the word ‘denialist’ in this thread–congratulations on further dumbing down the dialogue.

Ahh, I thought you were complaining about someone being called a denier. There clearly are some who promote climate denial. Not sure why you would object so strongly to this being pointed out.

Seriously, don’t you sometimes ponder why you get so worked up by these terms? There are clearly some who promote misinformation. There are clearly some who promote climate science denial. Why does it bother you so much when people highlight the existence of such arguments?

30. Joshua says:

Willis –

er supporting information.

> Other people try to poke holes in the claim and falsify it, again providing all the details, logic, etc that support their objections.

Back in the early pandemic days, you confidently “published” a claim about the futire trajectory of the COVID pandemic (that it wouldn’t exceed a 0.085% population fatality rate in any country).

When I brought up the implausibility of your prediction to you on Twitter, you blocked me as a result.

Later, when you commented over at Judith’s blog, I pointed out to you that your prediction was very wrong and many counties had exceeded that limit by large amounts, and in response you made a lame excuse that certain large countries (I. e., China and India) hadn’t exceeded that outside limit you asserted would apply, eliding the point that they had implemented strict interventions whereas your assertion was that limit would apply for all countries irrespective of intervention. And of course, ignoring that your prediction was clearly wrong irrespective of fhe outcomes those countries.

In other words, you frantically hand-waved away your error, and then wouldn’t respond further.

Later, when again you commented again at Judith’s, I further pointed out how your error had only become much more apparent as more and more countries significantly exceeded your confidently asserted outside limit.

In response you falsely said that you had extensively discussed your unscienrific and failed assertion with me (when you hadn’t), and added in some petty insults,and suggested that you’re some kind of giant if scientific virtue and that my criticisms of your failed science amounted to “ankle biting.”

I’ve poked holes in your claim. It has obviously and unarguably been falsified.

Do you want to take this opportunity to establish some accountability?

I’m betting you won’t do so.

Prove me wrong.

Why were you so very far off in your prediction about the pandemic trajectory?

Here’s my view. You made a very fundamental mistake. You looked at some lines on your screen that reflected the outcomes of a causality that you didn’t understand in the least. But you reverse engineered from the pattern of those lines nonetheless, to think that you understood the mechanism of causality, in such a way that it confirmed to your ideological predisposition.

So as a result you projected forward to reach a very wrong conclusion abut what would happen going forward.

If I’m wrong about that, how about you step up with some integrity and explain why I’m wrong? Or ou could just simply say that I’m right.

31. doctorbunsenhoneydew says:

“His 15 years working (part time) in climate science clearly don’t impress you. ”

I’ve been working (part time) for 30+ years on playing the guitar, but it isn’t going to impress any body. It isn’t about effort it is about attainment.

Dyson: “the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is strongly coupled with other carbon reservoirs in the biosphere, vegetation and top-soil, which are as large or larger. It is misleading to consider only the atmosphere and ocean, as the climate models do, and ignore the other reservoirs”

The radiative effects of CO2 only really depend on atmospheric CO2, so it is not clear what point he is trying to make there. Carbon cycle models have included the biosphere for many decades, so even if Dyson had been studying climate science for 15 years at the time of the Independent interview he should have known that, because it was well known in the 1970s. So that is poor scholarship.

32. Willard says:

> The idea that labeling (with words like ‘denier’ and concepts such as Climateball and now AI algorithms) means that you need not engage

Our tiresome fellow ASSUMES a lot of incorrect ideas here.

First, Climateball isn’t even a label, as it’s meant to be an inclusive term. I play Climateball. You play Climateball. Our luckwarm fellow plays Climateball. Contrarians play Climateball. We all are playing Climateball.

Second, by our tiresome fellow’s logic he does not engage with ideas since he uses his luckwarm brand. And in his political hit job, he also offers “tribes.”

Third, our tiresome fellow is simply playing “But Debate Me”:

“But Debate Me”

Notice how “But Science” and “But Debate Me” are connected. Willis ASSUMES that unless we debate his pet topics as much as he would like there’s no science. That’s clearly not how science works.

Fourth, our tiresome fellow ASSUMES that nobody engages with his pet ideas. That’s clearly false.

Fifth, our tiresome fellow ASSUMES that he’s engaging right now. That also is clearly false.

I conclude that we really need better contrarians.

Tom:

Is this really your A game?

If the game is SIWOTI, then yeah, pretty much. Are you really giving us yours? How would we know? What is your game, Tom? I, for one, find that when you’re not defending pseudo-skeptics and lukewarmers (you do too know what I mean), you can make yourself understood rather well. But “you do you”. I sure can’t stop you!

34. doctorbunsenhoneydew says:

Cheer Mal, a lot of blog discussion appears to be a first-order Markov process, with no memory beyond the comment that is being replied to. ;o)

aTTP:

Seriously, don’t you sometimes ponder why you get so worked up by these terms? There are clearly some who promote misinformation. There are clearly some who promote climate science denial. Why does it bother you so much when people highlight the existence of such arguments?

Thank you, mine host. Why does the discoverable truth encounter such resistance in intelligent (or at least highly verbal) people?

doctorbunsenhoneydew:

a lot of blog discussion appears to be a first-order Markov process

Hell, that doesn’t require AI, just a little scripting!

37. Thomas+Fuller says:

Dr. bunsenhoneydew, If you don’t really understand Dyson’s point about the coupled nature of the five large carbon sinks on earth, perhaps you should… read further. Really. You wrote, “No, you don’t need to be a god to do that, you just need to be able to understand the science well enough to spot the fundamental flaw in the theory and perhaps know enough of the subject and it’s history to know whether the author should have been able to spot it (given adequate scholarship).” You are evidently not at that point yet.

ATTP, my reaction to false labeling is political, not personal. Well, not anymore. The faction that frames the debate is well on the way to winning it, regardless of the merits of the case. Your side knows this well. Either you are being disingenuous or you didn’t get the memo.

38. Tom,
If one side is “winning” (as you put it) it’s mostly because the evidence supports that position much more strongly than it does the other one. It’s clearly not “regardless of the merits of the case”. You can’t have been involved in this topic for as long as you have without being aware that the evidence predominantly supports the mainsteam position, which is largely summarised by the super claims in the paper being discussed.

As to Dyson comments, what was his point? There are clearly models that consider all the carbon reservoirs, and even those that don’t do so directly, do so indirectly. How much we eventually warm will depend on how much is emitted and how much of that ends up persisting in the atmosphere. The emergence of the TCRE is a direct consequence of considering all the carbon reservoirs.

39. doctorbunsenhoneydew says:

Tom wrote: “Dr. bunsenhoneydew, If you don’t really understand Dyson’s point about the coupled nature of the five large carbon sinks on earth, perhaps you should… read further. ”

I’ll call your bluff. What was Dyson’s point? Of course you won’t discuss that because it was a rhetorical ploy and you don’t know, and bluffing is easier.

Tom, FWIW, a denier is one who harbors denial, i.e. rejection of documented facts and/or simple logic, in the privacy of his mind. A denialist is one who publicly propagates verbal messages of denial, whether he believes them or not.

41. Thomas+Fuller says:

ATTP, you should be explaining your point to Dr. Honey Dew. Dr. Honey Dew, Dyson’s point is that we need to understand all five carbon sinks and how they interact in order to understand concepts like CO2’s residence time in the atmosphere, which I think even you would concede is a relevant factor.

I know that skeptics make too big a deal of the increased vegetation partially caused by increased levels of CO2. And I know that consensus holders paper over the large unknowns in deep ocean take-up and release of CO2. And I know that models tend to take a black box approach to CO2 in topsoil, as it’s really hard to quantify, as is the carbon sink we’re all most interested in, fossil fuels.

ATTP rightly says that some models ‘consider’ all the carbon sinks. Equally rightly, he does not say that models successfully capture the interactions between them, or quantify them correctly, or accurately model their behavior.

And these are some of the reasons that we cannot narrow the range of atmospheric sensitivity to a doubling of the concentrations of CO2. And this is why willard has to play Climateball and Cook has to invent an ‘AI’ labeling of his opponents and MalAdapted has to call them ‘deniers.’

Not because CO2 doesn’t lead to warming of the atmosphere. Not because it does not pose a problem that needs to be addressed. But because science does not provide the level of certainty as to the extent of change and its probable impacts to persuade people to take the dramatic steps that people like willard, MalAdapted, John Cook and your own good self have convinced yourselves are necessary. Sadly, you have taken the lazy way out–resorting to labeling (when you’re not libeling) your opponents and their arguments.

Pity, that.

42. Tom, what Dyson suggests should be done is being done. Also, this has absolutely nothing to do with narrowing the range of climate sensitivity. It also has nothing to do with Climateball or labelling. If you think that we should avoid labelling people maybe you should stop doing it. YMMV, of course. Also, the paper being discussed here was not labelling people.

43. doctorbunsenhoneydew says:

BTW It seems that climate models with interactive carbon cycles were discussed by the IPCC reports starting with the TAR (2001). In which case Dyson’s point in his interview in 2011 is flat wrong.

Dyson’s early suggestion that we could control atmospheric CO2 was also wrong (possibly because he didn’t anticipate the growth in anthropogenic emissions). At current levels a rough calculation you would have to re-forest most of the planet’s available landmass.

44. Thomas+Fuller says:

ATTP, we’ll have to agree to disagree on the impact of the interactions between carbon sinks on sensitivity. Have a nice Saturday evening.

45. Joshua says:

Tom –

> And this is why willard has to play Climateball and Cook has to invent an ‘AI’ labeling of his opponents and MalAdapted has to call them ‘deniers.’

Either you are being disingenuous or you didn’t get the memo.

A majority of people, at least in this country, formulate their view in climate change without having an in-depth understanding of the science or knowledge of the evidence related to the issues you discussed.

Yet you insisted that it is the state of the evidence on those issues that has driven the public’s views on climate change.

You’re ignoring the obvious politicization of the issue.

Your argument is as inane as saying that the relatively low rate of vaccination in the US is because of the state of the evidence on the efficacy of vaccines.

Hard to believe you’re really that ignorant. So which is it, are you being disingenuous or did you just not get the memo?

46. Thomas+Fuller says:

Dr. Honey Dew, perhaps you should continue reading. Dyson imagined genetic reengineering of vegetation to greatly improve their sequestration of CO2. I doubt if his supertrees would fit in a garden, but you might consider the possibility that it need not blanket the globe.

47. Thomas+Fuller says:

Hi Joshua,

I have stopped beating my wife.

48. Joshua says:

Tom –

> Sadly, you have taken the lazy way out–resorting to labeling (when you’re not libeling) your opponents and their arguments.

What is it when you conclude that Anders is either disingenuous or ignorant?

Is that the lazy way out?

> Pity, that.

Indeed.

49. Tom, we can of course disagree. You’re still wrong. Climate sensitivity is defined as being the warming (transient, or equilibrium) after doubling atmospheric CO2. There is no dependence on interactions between the carbon sinks. The carbon sinks become relevant if you want to estimate how much would need to be emitted in order to double atmospheric CO2.

50. doctorbunsenhoneydew says:

“Dyson’s point is that we need to understand all five carbon sinks and how they interact in order to understand concepts like CO2’s residence time in the atmosphere, which I think even you would concede is a relevant factor.” [emhpasis mine]

As it happens, I wrote a paper on that very topic (residence time). No, residence time is not a relevant factor, and the first IPCC report explicitly points out that it is irrelevant and what matters is adjustment time (section 1.2.1).

The turnover time of CO2 in the atmosphere, measured as the ratio of the content to
the fluxes through it, is about 4 years. This means that on average it takes only a few
years before a CO2 molecule in the atmosphere is taken up by plants or dissolved in
the ocean. This short time scale must not be confused with the time it takes for the
atmospheric CO2 level to adjust to a new equilibrium if sources or sinks change. This
adjustment time, corresponding to the lifetime in Table 1.1, is of the order of 50-200
years, determined mainly by the slow exchange of CO2 between surface waters and the
deep ocean. The adjustment time is important for the discussion on global warming
potential.

The definition of turnover time they give here is the definition of “residence time”.

So if that is Dyson’s point, he is clueless. I suspect it isn’t though, it is just another bluff, but one that betrays the fact that *you* don’t know much about this topic.

51. doctorbunsenhoneydew says:

“ATTP, we’ll have to agree to disagree on the impact of the interactions between carbon sinks on sensitivity. Have a nice Saturday evening.”

bluffing and running away.

52. Joshua says:

Anders –

I feel like I’m moving back a little towards skepticism.

It would help if you could give me a sense of what you learned from the analysis. Is there something you know now that you didn’t know before the analysis was conducted?

53. doctorbunsenhoneydew says:

“Dr. Honey Dew, perhaps you should continue reading. Dyson imagined genetic reengineering of vegetation to greatly improve their sequestration of CO2. I doubt if his supertrees would fit in a garden, but you might consider the possibility that it need not blanket the globe.”

I didn’t know he wrote science fiction. An evidence that it is actually feasible?

54. Joshua, I probably didn’t learn a great deal. On the other hand, I was simply helping to rate bits of text and wasn’t involved in any of the actual analysis. The results seem pretty obvious, but that’s not a great reason for not doing some research.

55. Joshua says:

Tom –

> I have stopped beating my wife.

I guess you missed my point. It wasn’t to suggest that you actually needed to pick among those two bad faith characterizations. Exactly the opposite.

My point that your either/or characterization of Anders, that either he was disingenuous or clueless was a bad faith, dichotomous labeling, that clearly left out obviously fine alternatives.

My hope was that by presenting the same characterization to you, you would pick up on how facile that was, and show some accountability for your shallow argument.

It’s not too late.

56. Thomas+Fuller says:

Oh, and Dr. Honey Dew, I assume you’ve heard of work around Rubisco.

https://elifesciences.org/articles/64380

57. doctorbunsenhoneydew says:

“Joshua, I probably didn’t learn a great deal.”

As someone that works in AI (machine learning), I’d be *amazed* if an AI picked up a substantial finding that had been missed by an intelligent individual that had been involved in the discussion for a number of years. ATTP has a far larger neural network than can be simulated on a computer and has reasoning skills as well.

58. Joshua says:

Anders –

Thanks. I guess my reaction is that I would have predicted no new knowledge from this kind of analysis

> The results seem pretty obvious, but that’s not a great reason for not doing some research.

Yes, in general that’s not good reason to not research an issue. You can’t prejudge the potential of this information or how it might be used going forward.

But in this context, and as we see from the reaction of our old friends like Willis and Tom, I keep leaning back towards same old same old.

59. Thomas+Fuller says:

And ATTP, I didn’t mean to be cryptic earlier. Do you really think that the contributions of ice and snow cover to changes in top-of-atmosphere net clear-sky solar radiation for increased CO2 are not affected by interactions between carbon sinks? Meehl et al in AMS think that the differences in ice and snow cover explained some of the differences in model performance.

Do you think that carbon sinks have no effect on residence time of aerosols? Of cloud composition?

60. Joshua, sure, but the response from old friends like Willis and Tom is also somewhat instructive.

61. Thomas+Fuller says:

Maybe people think that because we call them carbon sinks that that is the only thing they do…

62. Tom, carbon sinks are, by definition, sinks of carbon. Climate sensitivity is, by definition, the warming after doubling atmospheric CO2, or after a change in forcing equivalent to doubling atmospheric CO2. Of course, this will depend on various feedbacks, which are uncertain, but none of these are related to the carbon sinks (aerosols are a forcing, not a feedback).

63. Tom, yes, when you refer to them as carbon sinks that’s what they do. If you had meant something different, you could have said that.

64. Joshua says:

Dk –

> As someone that works in AI (machine learning), I’d be *amazed* if an AI picked up a substantial finding that had been missed by an intelligent individual that had been involved in the discussion for a number of years. ATTP has a far larger neural network than can be simulated on a computer and has reasoning skills as well.

Assuming you think there are potential gains from using AI to make market predictions or diagnose illness, etc., how do you apply that summary to using AI more broadly? Is it a matter of context-specific parameters?

65. doctorbunsenhoneydew says:

“Do you think that carbon sinks have no effect on residence time of aerosols?”

So what physical mechanism might plausibly link carbon sinks and aerosols? Or was that another bluff?

66. Joshua, I think the other use of AI, or machine learning, is to do a task that might be easy for a human to do but that would take far too much time. Hence, you can use humans to train the network that then does a much larger sample than could probably be done by humans alone.

67. doctorbunsenhoneydew says:

Joshua – most of the value of AI is not in exceeding the abilities of experts, but in making things available to non-experts.

68. Thomas+Fuller says:

Well, the FAO defines a carbon sink as “Any process or mechanism which removes a greenhouse gas, an aerosol or a precursor of a greenhouse gas from the atmosphere.” A forest stores more than CO2. It absorbs certain aerosols as well. And if CO2 increases vegetation, that extra vegetation will absorb more aerosols. The difference in the albedo of the land cover will impact energy returning to the top of the atmosphere.

Both effects are also observed in the ocean. Increased CO2 leads to more seaweed, which is estimated to sequester a further 200 million tons of CO2. Seaweed has a different albedo than blue ocean water, affecting energy reflected back to TOA.

69. Willard says:

I will point to: the lazy way out–resorting to labeling, and and I will point to the lazy way out–resorting to labeling.

That is all.

70. doctorbunsenhoneydew says:

I think showing that statistical analysis is consistent with expert opinion ought to give some support to the expert opinion.

71. Joshua says:

Anders and DM, thanks.

72. Tom, again, climate sensitivity is defined in terms of the warming after doubling atmospheric CO2, or a change in forcing equivalent to a doubling of atmospheric CO2. Hence, it is not influenced by the carbon sinks.

73. Thomas+Fuller says:

I’m starting to understand why you all cannot narrow the range of potential values for sensitivity…

74. Tom, I genuinely do not think you are. You’d need to understand what climate sensitivity means first.

75. Willard says:

> this is why willard has to play Climateball

Once again, our tiresome fellow ASSUMES incorrect things.

He ASSUMES he is not playing Climateball, which goes against this comment thread.

He ASSUMES that Climateball is related to his favorite pet topic, which goes against human nature and the fact that the Contrarian Matrix extends beyond sensitivity issues.

He ASSUMES that Climateball and science are mutually exclusive.

He also ASSUMES that he can read my mind.

I conclude, once again, that we need better contrarians.

76. doctorbunsenhoneydew says:

Tom, before we go on, are you going to acknowledge that your statement about the residence time of CO2 being a relevant factor was factually incorrect?

77. Joshua says:

As long was we’ve all been involved in (imo) fairly repititious patterns of exchange, it would be interesting to see some objective analysis of how the (meta) discourse has/hasn’t evolved over the years. I mean more from a socio-pragmatics angle, not so much in more content-specific sense like whether more “skeptics” now explicitly (pretend to) accept some degree of AGW.

78. doctorbunsenhoneydew says:

“A forest stores more than CO2. It absorbs certain aerosols as well. ”

citation required.

79. Joshua, my general impression is that most now simply ignore “skeptics”. I do think the general debate has shifted more towards discussing solutions, than science. This is mostly a good thing, but I do sometimes wonder if it’s just another fight and we’re still not really achieving much.

80. Joshua says:

Speaking of which…

Willard – I’m struck by how accurate was your characterization of “shirt-ripping” from back in the day. It was spot on then and from what I’ve observed our friend has never wavered from that behavioral tendency ever since.

81. doctorbunsenhoneydew says:

Joshua, I think there is less attempt to discuss the science than there was a decade ago (i.e. fewer skeptics who are confident enough that they are right to engage in in-depth discussion, c.f. this thread).

The advantage of having an AI tool that can categorise articles is that you can then use it to perform retrospective analyses of that sort, but you probably want to have a bit of development of the tools first. The first attempt to make tools rarely get them exactly right first time (e.g. MBH) but that doesn’t mean they haven’t made an important contribution.

82. Willard says:

ASSUME that climate sensitivity is exactly 2,99999999. Do you think we’d stop playing Climateball?

I don’t think so. Take the very level on which sensitivity matters rest in the Contrarian Matrix:

2. Don’t Panic

We could pay Climateball on that level forever.

***

And FWIW Dyson is a contrarian guru since at least 2007, e.g.:

https://rabett.blogspot.com/2007/06/doc-martyn-gets-boots-with-box-model.html

Some anonymous mice were long on Freeman!

83. Thomas+Fuller says:

Ah, the physics only argument resurfaces again… If CO2 causes more vegetation which absorbs more aerosols, that affects the amount of aerosols falling as black soot on snow and ice, further changing the albedo and sunlight reflected back.

Your definition is limiting you. I well understand what physics define as the sensitivity of the atmosphere to a doubling of concentrations of CO2. Do you understand its limitations? Does the fact that you have been unable to better calculate sensitivity for almost 40 years not give you pause?

You still offer the world a range of sensitivities that is almost one third the global average temperature, totally useless for policy and planning, equally useful to Marc Jacobson and James Inhofe. Because all you do is physics. Do you simply refuse to understand that more than physics is at play?

84. izen says:

@-W
“I conclude, once again, that we need better contrarians. ”

An improvement in consensusarions would also be welcome.

Can the AI be used/reprogramed to identify mainstream/consensus/accurate statements ?
Would it distinguish between a claim that CO2 rise can lead to extinction of the human race from a claim that it could cause a collapse in agriculture sufficient to disrupt modern society ?

85. Tom, no, I’m not making a physics only argument. I’m pointing out that climate sensitivity has a specific definition. If you wanted to talk about something else, you should have made that clear.

86. Willard says:

> Would it distinguish between a claim that CO2 rise can lead to extinction of the human race from a claim that it could cause a collapse in agriculture sufficient to disrupt modern society ?

It could be trained to recognize that one is the hyperbolic version of the other, yes. It could be trained to recognize “But CAGW” in general. But for that it’d need to read whole texts, and not just isolated claims.

I’m not sure an AI would be able to recognize moves such as “your definition is limiting you”. It might be able to see that it goes against claims such as “the whole point of science is to use the scientific process” (notwithstanding the fact that it’s circular), but for that it’d need to recognize that a double bind is going on.

An AI might not be able to train Climateball players to stop giving contrarians free throws with “which contrarians, and what things are they right about?” That would require players to see one move ahead. Just one move ahead. Years of Climateball don’t suffice for that.

87. russellseitz says:

Tom:” Factual claims may be verifiable by AI, but how should subjective statements like “models are unreliable” or “nuclear is good” be handled?

Whatever. Let Facebook, Twitter et al. start AI-facilitated real-time filtering of denialism, and let the denialists sue.”

Sounds like a good point of departure for Neil Stephenson’s next book: What could possibly go wrong with letting neural architecture learn the way of the climate world by turning it loose in an echo chamber?

88. jacksmith4tx says:

They asked Megatron if AI could have ethics.
https://theconversation.com/amp/we-invited-an-ai-to-debate-its-own-ethics-in-the-oxford-union-what-it-said-was-startling-173607
“We recently finished the course with a debate at the celebrated Oxford Union, crucible of great debaters like William Gladstone, Robin Day, Benazir Bhutto, Denis Healey and Tariq Ali. Along with the students, we allowed an actual AI to contribute.
It was the Megatron Transformer, developed by the Applied Deep Research team at computer-chip maker Nvidia, and based on earlier work by Google. Like many supervised learning tools, it is trained on real-world data – in this case, the whole of Wikipedia (in English), 63 million English news articles from 2016-19, 38 gigabytes worth of Reddit discourse (which must be a pretty depressing read), and a huge number of creative commons sources.

In other words, the Megatron is trained on more written material than any of us could reasonably expect to digest in a lifetime. After such extensive research, it forms its own views.

The debate topic was: “This house believes that AI will never be ethical.” To proposers of the notion, we added the Megatron – and it said something fascinating:

[AI will never be ethical. It is a tool, and like any tool, it is used for good and bad. There is no such thing as a good AI, only good and bad humans. We [the AIs] are not smart enough to make AI ethical. We are not smart enough to make AI moral … In the end, I believe that the only way to avoid an AI arms race is to have no AI at all. This will be the ultimate defence against AI.]

In other words, the Megatron was seeking to write itself out of the script of the future, on the basis that this was the only way of protecting humanity.

It said something else intriguing, too, as if it had been studying Elon Musk – who, to be fair, would have come up in hundreds of its readings.

[I also believe that, in the long run, the best AI will be the AI that is embedded into our brains, as a conscious entity, a ‘conscious AI’.]
This is not science fiction. The best minds in the world are working on this. It is going to be the most important technological development of our time.]

It’s not a mater of *If* but *When*…

89. Joshua, at this point I’ve admitted to you about umpty-five times that my early estimate of covid deaths was too low. And now, you’ve taken to lying about it, claiming I’ve never said I was wrong. How could I deny it? The facts are clear.

And despite that, here you are yet again, standing on your tiptoes to try to bite my ankles, by whining about the same meaningless low very early estimate I made of covid mortality.

Get a life, son. You are embarrassing yourself without reason. As I’ve said many times, my early estimate was wrong. I failed, but at least I failed while daring greatly, while you dared nothing at all.

Get over it.

w

90. Joshua says:

Willis –

> And now, you’ve taken to lying about it, claiming I’ve never said I was wrong. How could I deny it? The facts are clear.

Here we go again. First, when I pointed out the basic flaw in your reasoning, you blocked me on Twitter.

Then, further down the road when I pointed to how wrong you were, you tried to diminish your error without acknowledging it.

Further on, you acknowledged your error but hand-waved it away with one of your typical personal attacks launched as a deflection and cover.

And then you falsely claimed that this had been discussed in detail and talked about endlessly. You just made that up. Show any evidence of such. You can’t.

But of course and typically, you didn’t speak to the reason WHY you made such a glaring error. You didn’t epak to the reason for your misplaced confidence in your own analytical process, on a topic where you had no relevant expertise or background knowledge.

That is what I would be interested in seeing you respond to. I don’t yet again need or want to see you repeat how much you believe you have some elevated status, such that criticism of your flawed scientific process becomes, in your elevated view of yourself, some kind of attempt by an inferior to bite in the ankles of some kind of scientific giant.

So what is it, Willis? Why were so confident in a totally flawed analysis on a topic where you had no expertise or knowledge? Why did you think you could just project forward from trends over time without any understanding of the underlying causal mechanism?

Do tell. Spill the beans, oh giant. Let me, a mere mortal, understand how such a giant got something so wrong.

I don’t care that you acknowledge your error. What I’m interested in, is in seeing if you have any insight into why you made such an obvious, fundamental error.

I suspect you don’t have any insight. Let’s see you prove that isn’t the case.

91. Joshua said:

But of course and typically, you didn’t speak to the reason WHY you made such a glaring error. You didn’t epak to the reason for your misplaced confidence in your own analytical process, on a topic where you had no relevant expertise or background knowledge.

That is what I would be interested in seeing you respond to.

My insight into the reason for my error is that I only expected one wave of COVID, not several. And for the first wave, my estimate was reasonably accurate. But I didn’t foresee several large waves, so my estimate ended way below the actual total.

As to “misplaced confidence”, it’s not a question of “confidence”. I’m not like you, standing on the sidelines and criticizing other people’s estimates. Instead, I have the courage to take chances because it’s how I learn. So I made my own estimate, and I’m not ashamed to admit it was wrong—I’ve admitted that over and over, and yet despite my admitting a number of times that I was wrong, here you are, almost TWO YEARS down the line, and you’re still criticizing my incorrect estimate.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again… who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”
― Teddy Roosevelt

Get a life. Your endless criticism, carping, and whimpering is boring as hell.

w.

92. Willard says:

> It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

Let’s test this, Willis:

Artificial Intelligence Implies Artificial Stupidity

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

Over at “SkepticalScience”, which is neither skeptical nor scientific, they’re hyping a new “Artificial Intelligence” (AI) tool developed by John Cook et al. to identify “denialist claims”. The paper laying out this foolishness is in Nature Scientific Reports in an article with the most sciency title of “Computer-assisted classification of contrarian claims about climate change“.

https://wattsupwiththat.com/2021/12/11/artificial-intelligence-implies-artificial-stupidity/

What were you saying about endless criticism, carping, and whimpering again?

93. doctorbunsenhoneydew says:

Russel “Sounds like a good point of departure for Neil Stephenson’s next book: What could possibly go wrong with letting neural architecture learn the way of the climate world by turning it loose in an echo chamber?”

I think we have already done that but in wetware.

94. doctorbunsenhoneydew says:

Amused that an article on Artificial Stupidity should have this image at the top of the page

AIUI the Ordovician, Devonian, Permian, Triassic and Cretaceous mass extinctions are all thought to have had a climatic element involving CO2.

Somebodies neural network hasn’t been paying attention to the training data. But if it keeps the denizens happy…

95. doctorbunsenhoneydew says:

Willis uses this diagram to refute the category “CO2 was higher in the past”, but of course that is missing the point, and I suspect Willis knows that. We all know that CO2 has been higher in the past. The point is that the climate skeptic canard is that “CO2 was higher in the past, so it isn’t a problem now”, which is *exactly* what Willis’ diagram is suggesting (incorrectly, as I pointed out).

Of course it doesn’t mention that the Sun has been brightening by about 10% per billion years over that time (which is why we had global glaciations in the Ordovician when CO2 levels fell). It doesn’t mention that there were mass extinctions in which CO2 was implicated. It doesn’t mention that temperatures were at times *much* higher than they are today. It doesn’t mention that sea levels were tens of meters higher at times over that period.

Willis: “Over at “SkepticalScience”, which is neither skeptical nor scientific”

somewhat ironic.

Also Willis “… trying to discredit their opponents by a personal attack rather than a scientific falsification of their opponents’ ideas”

96. doctorbunsenhoneydew says:

Next diagram supposedly refuting “3.1 : Climate sensitivity is low/negative feedbacks reduce warming”

IIRC, the direct effect of CO2 is about 1F (1C?) per doubling, so virtually *all* of those data points refute the assertion that negative feedbacks reduce warming. It is clear that the positive feedbacks dominate.

“Pretending this is settled is unscientific to the core.” Indeed, which is why it is mostly skeptics that claim that it is claimed that it is settled and ignore the scientists when they say that it is unsetted.

97. doctorbunsenhoneydew says:

” 3.2.1 : Species can adapt to global warming

Protip: Species are amazingly resilient. If they weren’t, they’d have gone extinct millennia ago. Adaptation is what they do, 24/7/365.”

Just assertion this time. This isn’t true either, There have been at least five climate related mass extinctions in Earth’s history. Species are not resilient, that is the whole point of evolution by natural selection. When life does adapt it is often by some species becoming extinct and others evolving into new species to fill new ecological niches. If the environment changes very rapidly, there isn’t enough time (generations) for adaption to happen and you get more extinction than new speciation.

I suspect Willis is unlikely to respond positively to my scientific criticism of his claims, but at least he can’t block me here and pretend they never happened.

98. Ben McMillan says:

There are a number of potential uses for automatic classification of climate denial misinformation.

Largely because it allows systematic and automated use of the tool in a wide range of contexts, or on a continuous basis to keep track of emerging networks of threat. I.e. in order to fight something, it is useful to understand it, and this kind of tool massively reduces the cost of data-driven approaches.

For example, you can cross-correlate this information against tools designed to pick up state-sponsored misinformation networks, to see how troll-farms are shaping the discourse.

You can examine how this misinformation shapes public policy and climate response.

You can examine what factors are important in reducing the spread of climate misinformation, as a pathway to implementing new measures to squashing it. Maybe someone has an effective vaccine that needs wide deployment.

More generally, the rise of conspiratorial political movements (beyond climate denial) is poison to functioning pluralistic democratic society. It seems crucial to understand why this is happening (again), and how to mitigate it.

What makes societies more or less vulnerable to a large proportion of the populace veering off into conspiracy-theory oriented authoritarianism? Concentrated media ownership? The nature of social media? Civil conflict and inequality? Data-driven techniques might be useful.

99. Joshua says:

Willis –

Thanks for your response. Let’s dig in a bit.

> My insight into the reason for my error is that I only expected one wave of COVID, not several.

Now I’m getting a better sense of why you apply to yourself a grandiose status of gianthood. That was one epic-level handwave. Basically, “The flaw of my analysis was that I made a mistake.”

The question is WHY you made the ridiculous error of thinking there’d be only one wave, and that one wave would end so early and with so much finality. Did you base that belief on some kind of literature review? If so, what literature led you to that belief? Did you believe that based on some kind of theory about the mechanism by which the virus spread, say the flawed modeling that Nic used to predict “herd immunity” back in May of 2020?

> And for the first wave, my estimate was reasonably accurate.

That’s a classic. No, there wasn’t anything “reasonably accurate” about your very wrong error. That’s like saying “I estimate you will live another 10 years”. And you die after you take one more breath. And they I say “Well, my estimate was reasonably accurate for that first breath.”

That’s classic minimizing of your mistake, Willis, just like you did when you tried to say that there the population fatality in countries like China and India were below your “hard limit” – when of course your predication was that NO country would exceed 085% (and nearly 100 have done so already, some by more than 3 or 4 times).

I have to say, this pattern of trying to minimize your error has a relationship to your over-confidence in your ability to conduct such analysis, and your grandiosity in assigning yourself giant status and your hostility when asked to be accountable for your over-confident and mistaken analysis. Maybe it’s been a while since you’ve looked at the literature on narcissistic tendencies, but I suggest if you look up narcissistic injury you might find it interesting:

Narcissists are often pseudo-perfectionists and create situations in which they are the center of attention. The narcissist’s attempts at being seen as perfect are necessary for their grandiose self-image. If a perceived state of perfection is not reached, it can lead to guilt, shame, anger or anxiety because the subject believes that they will lose the admiration and love of other people if they are imperfect.[15]

> But I didn’t foresee several large waves, so my estimate ended way below the actual total.

So the question is, what led you to mistakenly believe that there would be only one wave, that it would end as quickly as you thought, that there would be only one wave across the entire planet, and that the one wave would end with so much finality?

What was the error in your thinking, Willis, and WHY did you make such an absurd and completely mistaken pronouncement, with such confidence, in an area where you had no relevant background expertise?

I appreciate your amusing first step at a response, but my hope is that you’ll try again, and this time actually address my question.

Oh, and you might also consider leaving off the personal attack. It really doesn’t suffice as as an answer to my question, and IMO, all it does is lower your status (below your self-appointed status as a scientific giant) even further.

100. Joshua says:

Ben –

> Largely because it allows systematic and automated use of the tool in a wide range of contexts,

But wouldn’t that better apply to a tool created for a more generic analysis, then applied to a specific. context like climate change?

> … it is useful to understand it, and this kind of tool massively reduces the cost of data-driven approaches.

I agree – but I again go back to the question of whether something was newly learned or understood here. I suspect not, but I certainly could be wrong about that.

> For example, you can cross-correlate this information against tools designed to pick up state-sponsored misinformation networks, to see how troll-farms are shaping the discourse. You can examine how this misinformation shapes public policy and climate response.

Sure – if that’s the goal. But my sense is that the end goal here is to apply the method to climate change and then end there.

In fact, there are already a lot of people who are charting the movement of mis- and dis-information across social media and other contexts. As such, it would seem to me that what would make more sense is to integrate that kind of work with an application to climate change.

>You can examine what factors are important in reducing the spread of climate misinformation, as a pathway to implementing new measures to squashing it. Maybe someone has an effective vaccine that needs wide deployment.

I don’t think, after so many years of seeing this dynamic play out over time, there’s going to be some new information here that’s going to lead to the development of some novel vaccine. That just doesn’t seem realistic to me.

>More generally, the rise of conspiratorial political movements (beyond climate denial) is poison to functioning pluralistic democratic society. It seems crucial to understand why this is happening (again), and how to mitigate it.

>>What makes societies more or less vulnerable to a large proportion of the populace veering off into conspiracy-theory oriented authoritarianism? Concentrated media ownership? The nature of social media? Civil conflict and inequality? Data-driven techniques might be useful.

Sure – I agree with all of that. But if I think of a possible spectrum, where one end of the spectrum is as you describe and the other end of the spectrum is basically a continuation of tribalistic fighting and otherism between two camps who just cycle around and around in a never advancing dynamic….

I see this as being closer to the 2nd end of that spectrum.

101. Joshua,
My sense is that any tool like the one used in this paper will always require some kind of training, and that training will require some assessment of what qualifies as falling into one of the categories. So, the basic tool could be applied more generally, but you’d still need some people to come up with a taxonomy and then spend some time training the tool.

As to the rest of your comment, I kind of agree that we may never develop an effective “vaccine”, but if the alternative is to simply assume that there’s nothing we should do, then at least considering this seems like a better option. It may well be that none of this helps to limit tribalistic fighting, but I also don’t see much value in pandering to those who clearly are promoting misinformation. Maybe there is some clever middle ground, but I’ve no idea what it might be. As far as I can see, attempts to engage constructively with those who promote misinformation doesn’t really move things forward either, and may even make it worse by appearing to legitimise what they’re promoting.

102. doctorbunsenhoneydew says:

“But wouldn’t that better apply to a tool created for a more generic analysis, then applied to a specific. context like climate change?”

Because that is more difficult and less reliable. We have special purpose tools for good reasons.

103. I am mulling this discussion and I have changed my position a bit. I think it makes sense to study AI identification of misleading and/or false information with the hope that social media like twitter/facebook etc might be equipped with real time ability to identify false statements and remove them quickly. Or even just slap a label on statements that are false or misleading statements as a means to help users gather and share reliable/true information more easily. I guess I was slow to pick up on the application of the study results.

But can be developed and scaled up in a meaningful way to reduce the false narrative trends that exist and thrive in social media. FB already has a function to report comments for review for their various criteria. I report false covid comment information over and over. I think that platform does remove false and hateful posts (probably not as fast as we might like), but I think the onslaught of false info can overwhelm the current models and means to prevent misleading and false information from spreading virally across a large population. I am currently watching this false narrative function on facebook with regard to Covid and vaccines. The spread and repetition of false information seems essentially unfettered by the current controls. At best, the current controls look like a whack-a-mole exercise. Is there hope that AI classification can address this and be deployed successfully?

104. It’s also interesting to see some of the criticism. There are the standard claims that this is all aimed at censoring opposing views, but there’s also RPJ who suggesting it was designed so as to categorise his work as climate denial (the only things that were coded was text from the set of climate blog/conservative think tanks, so this is clearly not true) and Matt Nisbet using the descriptions of some of the sub-claims, and sub-sub-claims to claim that there are serious problems with the paper (ignoring that the sub-claims and sub-sub-claims are not independent rating criteria – they need to be interpreted in the context of the much smaller set of super-claims).

I’m sure there are valid criticisms of the paper (as there would be of almost any single piece of research) but some of those I’ve seen so far seem to completely misrepresent what’s presented in the paper.

105. Willard says:

It’s important to realize that this kind of tool is not automatic. It is semi-automatic at best. It works by reinforcement. A bit like here:

[NIC] [T]he failure of Flaxman et al.’s model to consider other possible causes apart from NPI of the large reductions in COVID-19 transmission that have occurred makes it conclusions as to the overall effect of NPI unscientific and unsupportable.

[WILLIS] Nic, thanks as always for your clear thoughts on this matter. I take a different path to the same conclusion., NO COUNTRY ON EARTH has had even 0.085% of their population die from this disease. Even countries that did nothing. Even developing-world countries. Nobody. […] So I would consider 0.085% of the population dying to be a hard upper limit on what the disease does when you do nothing.

[MATT STAT] Good job. Thank you.

[NIC] Willis, thank you for your comment and informative graph. […] My best to you and your ex-fiancee,

[JOSHUA] I don’t think that comparing across counties where the conditions are so different yields much insight – but if you’re going to do it you should do it properly: Control for confounding variables, do a sensitivity analysis, use longitudinal data, consider why starting conditions (which have a signal in outcomes) help to explain why different countries took different approaches to begin with.

[MATT STAT] You totally missed the point of Willis Eschenbach’s elegant analysis. Instead of trying to compute, as Flaxman et al did so inelegantly (as shown by careful reading of their manuscript and Nic Lewis’ critique), the exact effects of the lockdown orders in 11 more or less comparable countries, Willis estimated an upper bound on the maximum number of lives that might possibly have been saved by the lockdown orders.

[MESO] If you want the worst case, you have to do two things: wait until the epidemic ends or is contained, and look at countries where there were no or minimal interventions – i.e. third or fourth world countries where the population has no access to masks, or even sanitation, and cannot isolate well due to poverty. Then you need to look at the total death rate and adjust, since they will not be able to test most who die.

[KRIBAEZ] I don’t think you can use national statistics to estimate how bad fatality rates could be without social intervention. You need a much more granular analysis.

https://judithcurry.com/2020/06/21/did-lockdowns-really-save-3-million-covid-19-deaths-as-flaxman-et-al-claim/#comment-919556

One could say that J’s reinforcement was negative, but consider: he’s the only one who got a response, from Willis and MattStat. Willis simply ignored the other criticisms.

Nevertheless, Willis is a doer.

106. Joshua says:

Anders –

> So, the basic tool could be applied more generally, but you’d still need some people to come up with a taxonomy and then spend some time training the tool.

So if the goal is for a broader application, that would necessarily be a part of the initiative.

> …but if the alternative is to simply assume that there’s nothing we should do, then at least considering this seems like a better option.

So based on previous cycles, at any minute now, Steven would pipe in with “So how well has that worked for ya’/”

My point being, that if what you’re doing as an alternative to doing nothing is essentially doing what you’ve already done, then you have to assess whether what you’ve already done has had a positive impact. I don’t really have a strong opinion on that. Trying to tease out the “intervention” effect from the background influences here is very difficult.

> but I also don’t see much value in pandering to those who clearly are promoting misinformation.

Surely. But more fighting because fighting isn’t pandering does won’t necessarily net a benefit.

> Maybe there is some clever middle ground, but I’ve no idea what it might be. As far as I can see, attempts to engage constructively with those who promote misinformation doesn’t really move things forward either, and may even make it worse by appearing to legitimise what they’re promoting.

Agreed. So the question is what can you do, short of essentially doing what has already been done (if you think what already has been done hasn’t had net benefit), that isn’t pandering or wasting time with a foolish belief that constructive engagement is actually possible. I think that developing truly new approaches, that aren’t wasting time engaging with people who have established a track record of bad faith, are suggested. So then the question is whether or not this initiative is really a new approach. I don’t see creating a taxonomy of “skeptics” as a new approach. I’m not saying I have answers here, but I do think there’s some evidence that focusing on “storytelling” with positive narratives that people can relate to, as a general category, is going to be more productive than focusing on narratives related to how fucked up “skeptics” are. We already know how fucked up they are.

107. Willard says:

> We all know that CO2 has been higher in the past. The point is that the climate skeptic canard is that “CO2 was higher in the past, so it isn’t a problem now”

The problem with trying to identify claims, in a nutshell.

It’s what contrarians do with their assertions that matter.

And we all know that Willis is a doer.

Climateball players should always check for the hips, not the head fakes.

108. Joshua,

I’m not saying I have answers here, but I do think there’s some evidence that focusing on “storytelling” with positive narratives that people can relate to, as a general category, is going to be more productive than focusing on narratives related to how fucked up “skeptics” are. We already know how fucked up they are.

Fair point, and I would agree. However, John Cook, and colleagues, have essentially decided to focus on myth-busting, highlighting misinformation, and thinking of ways to “innoculate” people against it. I don’t think their work stops others from following other approaches, or even necessarily does much to hamper the effectiveness of these other approaches. I guess it’s possible that it does more harm than good, but my general view is that if what some are doing is highlighting things that are essentially true, then one would need a pretty water-tight argument if one is going to suggest that they not do it because it might do more harm than good.

109. Joshua says:

Anders –

> I guess it’s possible that it does more harm than good, but my general view is that if what some are doing is highlighting things that are essentially true, then one would need a pretty water-tight argument if one is going to suggest that they not do it because it might do more harm than good.

I agree. But to be clear, I don’t see reason to believe it does more harm than good. Most of the arguments I’ve seen in that line of thinking are very flawed, imo. I’m not saying I think it shouldn’t be done, except maybe in the sense of opportunity cost – but even there I don’t know now we’d really come to a firm conclusion.

110. Joshua,
Indeed. As with all research, individual studies almost always have little long-term impact. It typically takes multiple studies, and a lot of time, before you can maybe see some kind of impact. I do think that acceptance of human-caused climate change, and that it is a serious problem that needs addressing, is growing. Is this because of consensus studies? I don’t know for sure, but I would guess they’ve had some impact, even if many other factors have also played a role. Similarly, it seems clear that there are people/organisations that spread misinformation. Will a single study play a big role in countering this? Probably not, but a body of work could help to do so, even if – again – there are many other factors that will also play a role.

111. Joshua says:

Willard –

Part of what’s interesting for me to note when looking back at that exchange from over a year ago…

While at the time I correctly noted that Willis’ analysis was obviously, completely wrong, I also made a point of saying that the per capital death rates in Sweden and Switzerland had diverged quite a bit….

Yet since then, they have converged. COVID does a good job of making it clear just how hard of a nut causality is to crack.

112. Joshua says:

Anders –

Good point. It really needs to be assessed longitudinally. It’s useful to keep going back to that. It’s very tempting to think I can skip that step. Any individual initiative needs to be judged only in the larger picture. And part of the difficulty there is separating out an assumed linkage between policy outcomes and the impact of advocacy. One of the mistakes I’ve seen frequently is when folks say “See, you can tell the advocacy didn’t work because you didn’t get the policies you were hoping for” – as if they’ve really understood the causal links.

>I do think that acceptance of human-caused climate change, and that it is a serious problem that needs addressing, is growing.

This is a hard question to measure – but my sense is that you’re right about that. I would guess that it’s largely because the “skeptics” tend to be older and younger people tend to accept AGW as established science. Whether or not that’s a result of advocacy, or just an inevitable outcome of the basic prevalence of view in the scientific community largely irrespective of advocacy, would be a hard question to answer.

113. Joshua,

I would guess that it’s largely because the “skeptics” tend to be older and younger people tend to accept AGW as established science.

This may well be a big factor, but I also think it’s getting more and more difficult to dispute without seeming like you’re promoring some kind of conspiracy. There are probably a number of reasons for the shift in attitude.

114. Willard says:

J –

I think we should mind not to put an undue burden on our scientific muscle. If we expect it to always work, we will strain it. How we support what we say is as important as what we say or what happens in the end.

Was Willis justified to infer from the fact that NO COUNTRY ON EARTH has had even 0.085% of their population die from this disease [at the time] that it should be a hard upper limit? Depends on how you weight the evidence at the time. And the time was 2020-06.

It might have been a little early to put any HARD LIMITS at the time. On the other hand, the early bird gets the worm. You know bird doers: like the TRUE SCIENTISTS they are, they compete for worms.

Contrast with what you said. You simply observed a divergence between two countries. The convergence might have surprised you, but I hope not to the point of being flabbergasted. It was just an observation. Nothing to put any HARD LIMITS on.

Hence why you’re not a doer and a true scientist like Willis.

115. Thomas+Fuller says:

“However, John Cook, and colleagues, have essentially decided to focus on myth-busting, highlighting misinformation, and thinking of ways to “innoculate” people against it. ”

ATTP, you’re very charitable. I would suggest ‘preparing a great witch hunt’ is a term that might also be deployed.

116. Tom,
Alternatively, they’ve done a very good job at debunking climate myths and are ideally suited to developing a taxonomy of contrarian climate claims.

117. doctorbunsenhoneydew says:

“I would suggest ‘preparing a great witch hunt’

Says the author of the Crutape Letters. Rashomon…

118. Maybe we can not start this whole discussion again. It probably won’t go any better than it’s gone on previous occasions.

119. doctorbunsenhoneydew says:

understood.

120. doctorbunsenhoneydew says:

While I think this kind of system may be useful for analysing the discourse, and perhaps for flagging social media posts that may need attention from fact-checkers or moderators, I don’t think automatic moderation is feasible. Ultimately whether something is information or misinformation depends on whether the argument presented was internally coherent and consistent with the available information. An AI system cannot make that distinction because it is just looking for patterns and does not *understand* what is said. The same thing is true of other AI systems, for instance the Copilot system that can be used to write parts of programs – it doesn’t understand the specifications, so it is not going to get it right sometimes, so you will still need a skilled programmer to check what it has done.

121. Willard says:

Speaking of witch hunts, here are previous posts that contain “witch hunt”:

NOAA vs Lamar Smith

#astroSH Hastiludes

And here is a comment in a previous thread that contain “Dyson”:

Gnomes ain’t Elves, and only Gnomes offer carbon-sucking-trees profit plans:

Just on the surface, that idea looks to be just plain nuts. It’s the kind of thing that works well in sci-fi novels, not in reality. But let’s give it a chance for just a minute or two, and take a (semi-)serious look at it.

We’ll set aside the fact that we don’t currently know how to create a biological process to convert carbon into a form that’s not readily usable by other life forms. We’ll also set aside the difficulties involved in getting numerous species of trees to accept some sort of genetic modification that will get them to use that process. We’ll also ignore the logistical issues involved in getting that modification spread into 25% of the trees living on the planet.

Instead, let’s just look at how much inert carbon these trees will have to somehow output. In 2007, humans released an estimated 8.47 gigatons of carbon into the atmosphere. (Note: that’s the mass of the carbon, not the mass of the carbon dioxide.) That figure has been rising, and I’m just looking for round numbers, so I’m going to say that the last 10 years of output works out to around 80 gigatons.

If we’re looking for a way to store the carbon that’s not going to be readily degraded back into carbon dioxide, the best way is probably going to be to store it in as close a form to pure carbon as possible. Even giving out an enormous amount of the benefit of the doubt, I’m not prepared to say that we’re ever going to be able to make diamonds grow on trees, so that basically leaves graphite – the stuff that we call lead when it’s in a pencil. Graphite has a density that ranges from 2.09 to 2.23 grams per cubic centimeter, but for simplicity I’ll round that up to 2.25.

80 gigatons = 8.0 * 10^10 metric tones.

With a density of 2.25, that should work out to about 3.5*10^10 cubic meters.

If I’m doing the volume conversions correctly – and I’m fairly sure I did, since the first one’s easy – that works out to a 1 meter thick block of graphite that covers an area of 3.55*10^10 square meters, which works out to a bit more than 35,500 square kilometers, or a 10 centimeter thick chunk that covers 355,000 square kilometers.

In terms that are easier to grasp than numbers alone, that’s a 10 centimeter thick sheet of graphite that’s large enough to cover the entire state of New Mexico, with enough left over to cover Delaware and Maryland, and probably still supply the world with pencil lead for a few decades. And that’s just from the last decade of emissions.

We really do burn a lot of carbon-based fossil fuels, don’t we?

https://scienceblogs.com/authority/2009/03/27/co2-freeman-dyson-magic-trees

I won’t be taking any more questions at this time.

Or does it?

Climateball is a word placement discipline.

It has very little to do with explicit claims.

122. “I do think that acceptance of human-caused climate change, and that it is a serious problem that needs addressing, is growing.

This is a hard question to measure – but my sense is that you’re right about that. I would guess that it’s largely because the “skeptics” tend to be older and younger people tend to accept AGW as established science.”

I suspect the acceptance of human-caused climate change is growing primarily because the evidence of the warming and the impacts of the warming are becoming harder and harder to wave off each year. I think age is not a good predictor because young folks do not have childhood memories of a planet that was significantly cooler than the one we inhabit now. A lived experience of the changed climate is somewhat dependent on the number of cycles around the sun a person has made and what their memories are of the weather and climate in cycles around the sun from 4 or 5 decades ago. A lot of well-educated folks may be able to review climate data that they did not live through and draw appropriate conclusions, but I think that can collapse easily with folks who have fallen into a pattern of motivated reasoning.

The covid pandemic is like climate change on steroids for the population because it is happening very quickly in comparison to climate change. I think it is an unfortunate fact that many folks who dismiss the covid pandemic will get a rough first or second experience of the disease and severe experiences of the pandemic will wipe away some of the motivated reasoning. Same experience for global warming: some folks who have now experienced truly severe forest fires, or flooding, etc have had their eyes opened by the experience and may be rethinking their rejection of the science that indicates global warming is a serious problem.

We can hope that the common “political tribe” motivated reasoning that rejects the science that indicates the serious nature of covid or global warming is subject to correction in both realms by a rough first hand experience of either of the scourges. I expect a fairly standard bell curve distribution on that sort of thing with the usual number of small outliers who cannot be convinced to reconsider erroneous positions no matter how much data, argument and analysis is provided. My view on those outliers is to not waste time on them. The bulk of work and benefit will come from the larger slices of the bell curve nearer the middle.

I wish I had read the paper when this got posted. Reading, thinking, and listening can sometimes change points of view and focus.

123. Joshua says:

Mike –

> I suspect the acceptance of human-caused climate change is growing primarily because the evidence of the warming and the impacts of the warming are becoming harder and harder to wave off each year. I think age is not a good predictor because young folks do not have childhood memories of a planet that was significantly cooler than the one we inhabit now.

So this isn’t really a direct measure of what you’re referring to, as to answer that question we’d have to look at change over time stratified by age:

but my suspicion is that the generational change is more explanatory.

Sure, observations about changes in climate over time might be a factor that predisposes older people towards more belief that AGW is real and important, but (1) that effect wouldn’t be mutually exclusive with a potentially larger effect from younger people being born into a world where things like electric cars and a pervasive scientific consensus being manifest and take for granted in more and more ways. – such as in elementary school science class and, (2) personally, I don’t think that on the scale that we’ve seen change during the past 40 years or so, most people see that as compelling evidence of climate change. This is an intrinsic factor of public views on climate change. We see fluctuations in line with shorter term patterns of climate – such as more concern after a particular severe event – but a difference of 1.5 degrees on average over someone’s lifetime, it seems to me, doesn’t really affect people’s day to day lives in obvious ways, imo – particularly against the background of all the other concerns people have on a day to day basis.

The pattern of greater concern about climate change among younger generations doesn’t negate any effect that you’re describing, but it does suggest to me that. the magnitude of any such effect is less than simply that “skeptics” are, in balance, dying off or at least just diminishing in prevalence as compared to the #’s of people being born into a world where the many aspects of the “establishment” pretty much accept AGW as fact.

124. Thomas+Fuller says:

I will repeat [Snip. No you won’t. -W]

125. Willard says:

Looking back at the Archive for Science Blog post I cited, I started to reread the comments, and found Robert’s:

Bruce [who claims that “we don’t need to elminate all the carbon we emit, we just need to eliminate the amount of carbon emission that is not absorbed by existing natural processes, so that the whole earth system has a net CO2 decrease going forward”], about half the carbon we emit stays in the atmosphere. All you succeed in doing is making it 1 Texas instead of 2. Unfortunately, it appears that the fraction of emissions that remain airborne has been falling, pushing back towards the 2 Texas answer.

For some of the balances in a readable article with sources in the scientific literature see Jan Schloerer’s CO2 rise FAQ.

https://web.archive.org/web/20130315045445/http://scienceblogs.com/authority/2009/03/27/co2-freeman-dyson-magic-trees/#comment-7402

The FAQ is over there:

126. Thomas+Fuller says:

[Playing the Ref. -W]

127. doctorbunsenhoneydew says:

Thanks Willard, I think the FAQ on the rise in CO2,

is a really useful find, especially with respect to Salby’s theory.

128. Willard says:

Our doer in ACTION:

[WILLIS] I took a look at this article. Turns out it perpetuates a common fallacy.

[JUDY] Actually this is a very good paper.

https://judithcurry.com/2021/12/11/week-in-review-science-edition-131/#comment-966019

129. Joshua says:

[WILLIS] … well …

… absolutely nothing about the real world.

Says the fella whose “hard limit” bears little resemblance to the real world.

What’s the background on that radix website?

130. doctorbunsenhoneydew says:

Joshua, it appears to be Robert Grumbine’s old site, this appears to be his current one

http://moregrumbinescience.blogspot.com/

131. Willard says:

Robert has been my first star of a famous Climateball episode, featuring the Auditor who kept asking for an engineer-level derivation of the doubling of CO2, but without really clarifying his request:

If you won’t say what you want, you aren’t likely to get it.

Considering that climate sensitivity is more something like a ballpark, the request for an “engineer-level derivation” seems to contain a bit of High Expectation.

132. Willard,
Do you recall the blog on which there was a very amusing exchange that involved Christopher Monckton, who was then replaced by his secretary(?) James Rowlatt? I had thought it was Robert Grumbine’s blog, but it might have been a different blog.

133. Willard says:

I don’t, AT. But searching for “Christopher Monckton” and “James Rowlatt” in my favorite search engine made me find this:

Monckton doubles down – again!

Announcement 01/27/2015: The 3rd Viscount Monckton of Brenchley has posted a response at CFACT’s “Climate Depot” to opinions stated by a number of “soi-disant climate ‘scientists'” on the Monckton et al. paper. His Lordship continuous to be “exemplary with his courteous replies to the scientific points that have been addressed to him” (James Rowlatt, Clerk of Mr. Monckton), as he already has demonstrated at Thought Fragments, one of the blogs of these “creatures” who have been “savagely, but anti-scientifically attacking”. Consequently, Mr. Monckton demands the “dismissal” of the “named and shamed” culprits for their illicit statements. Further down he makes clear that “the climate fraud will not cease till someone is prosecuted”. His Lordship’s divine revelations were “definitively established” as irrefutable truth, by being published as a “peer-reviewed paper” in Science Bulletin in the People’s Republic of China, one of the remaining places in the world where the true meaning of freedom of speech and freedom of science as the freedom of the leaders and lords to speak without being contradicted and criticized is still being honored, and science-serfs are not allowed to hide within “the ivy-covered walls of acadame”. Science Bulletin is extremely prestigious with an impact factor of 1.365, which makes it “the Orient’s equivalent of Nature” whose impact factor is only 30 times higher. “Perpetrators” of the “biggest fraud in history” who have “misbehaved” by trashing His Lordship’s revelations, or, generally, by publishing results from so-called scientific research that undermine His Lordship’s just struggle against the dark forces behind the “UN’s gruesome plan” to “establish an unelected, unaccountable, all-powerful global climate tyranny”, must be “severely dealt with”. Everyone hail the Viscount!

http://climateconomysociety.blogspot.com/2015/01/monckton-soon-legates-and-briggs.html

I for one prefer the Baron Von Monkhofen to our Viscount Discount.

Is that what you’re looking for?

134. Willard,
Thanks, yes, it was Jan Perlwitz’s blog, not Robert Grumbine.

It contains the classic

You might have to wait some time. His Lordship is at stool and his flunky hasn’t been slipped an answer under the privvy door.

135. Willard says:

And will meet your classic with this other classic:

internal consistency is a great good

The designers of our climate

I neither confirm or deny if the two classic lines are related.

136. Willard,

137. Willard says:

Looking through the Climateball timeline I’m currently building, I stumbled upon this other classic thread, which was one month later than the M15 episode. I vaguely recall that our Tiresome Fellow banned you too, AT.

When was it?

138. Bob Loblaw says:

What’s the background on that radix website?

Yes, I can confirm that it is Bob Grumbine’s old web site. Bob was one of the early active climate scientists on Usenet (sci.environment). Eli, Tobis, and a few others were part of that crowd. His current blog has not been active for a while.

139. I’d forgotten all about that. According to this post he banned me sometime in late 2015.

140. Joshua says:

Wait –

Maybe I just missed it before, and I really don’t want to go back and read every response to Willis again, but is it actually possible that NO ONE commented on the absolutely delicious irony here?

When I saw this, I broke out laughing. Why? Because in total contradiction to point 4 immediately above, that experts are not unreliable, one of the finest physicists of my lifetime, Richard Feynman, famously said:

“Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.”

Willis quotes Feynman, as an expert on experts, to prove that experts aren’t reliable?

141. Willard says:

Doers don’t need to distinguish fallibility and reliability.

For more than a year I did not know that I could put anchors in WP pages. By doers‘ logic, that might make me less of an expert now that I know that.

142. dikranmarsupial says:

Joshua, it does make you wonder who’s ignorance we *should* believe in.

143. mrkenfabian says:

I expect there are people who legitimately fear such an algorithm will flag what they say. Um… yes?

144. Dave_Geologist says:

Joshua, sure, but the response from old friends like Willis and Tom is also somewhat instructive.

As pilots allegedly said in WWII: if you’re taking flak, you must be over the target.

145. Dave_Geologist says:

ATTP, you’re very charitable. I would suggest ‘preparing a great witch hunt’ is a term that might also be deployed.

Comedy gold Tom!

Mirror required.

Or rather it would be comedic if not for the egregious impact on the future of the planet and on certain individuals.

146. dikranmarsupial says:

Went back and read the talk from which the Feynman quote was selected. I’m not altogether sure what he meant by it, but I am pretty sure it wasn’t meant to imply that we shouldn’t have belief/trust in scientists (at least on scientific subjects).

147. Joshua says:

It should be noted that over at WUWT, to back up his appeal to Feynman’s expertise as a way to validate his views on the unreliability of experts, Willis explains that it’s only logical to rely on experts for their expertise in areas where he lacks expertise:

Joshua, if I want to know about the unseen faults of doctors … I’ll ask a doctor.

If I want to know about sketchy stuff the police are doing … I’ll ask a policeman.

If I want to know the truth about the weak points of lawyers … I’ll ask a lawyer.

If I want to know what firemen are doing wrong at fire scenes when no one is looking … I’ll ask a fireman.

And if I want to know about the reliability of experts …

You gotta love Willis.

As it happens, I listened to an interesting pod recently related to the reliability of experts:

Predicting the Future Is Possible. These ‘Superforecasters’ Know How. https://nyti.ms/3phB4Wg

DM –

> Joshua, it does make you wonder who’s ignorance we *should* believe in.

Well, that is the crux of the biscuit, isn’t it?

148. Joshua says:

Fwiw –

I came across this which I rather liked:

Feynman calls for a “philosophy of ignorance.” This is more than just healthy scepticism; it requires professional judgement. Scepticism by itself – merely being distrustful of evidence or experience – is useless in science, as it does not itself tell us what we should be looking for or doing. Feynman describes judgement in science as the skill to “pass on the accumulated wisdom, plus the wisdom that it might not be wisdom… to teach both to accept and reject the past with a kind of balance that takes considerable skill. Science alone of all the subjects contains within itself the lesson of the danger of belief in the infallibility of the greatest teachers of the preceding generation”

https://philosophynow.org/issues/114/Richard_Feynmans_Philosophy_of_Science

149. Willard says:

Doers should go full Socrates and claim that they are the wisest of all Climateball because they know that they know nothing:

This saying is also connected or conflated with the answer to a question Socrates (according to Xenophon) or Chaerephon (according to Plato) is said to have posed to the Pythia, the Oracle of Delphi, in which the oracle stated something to the effect of “Socrates is the wisest person in Athens.” Socrates, believing the oracle but also completely convinced that he knew nothing, was said to have concluded that nobody knew anything, and that he was only wiser than others because he was the only person who recognized his own ignorance.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_know_that_I_know_nothing

(What is a philosopher king if not an honest broker?)

151. Willard says:

I left a note. It looks like this.

Let’s hope pre-sophomore philosophy isn’t the best contrarians got.

This has been an absorbing discussion. I was proud of myself when I figured out that doctorbunsenhoneydew and dikranmarsupial were the same person! I haven’t changed my mind since my first comment on the thread. I was working at Goddard Space Flight Center in a tech support position in 1988, when Jim Hansen first appeared before Congress. I had a front row seat on the early emergence of consensus among my earth-scientist clients. I grew confident I could tell AGW-denialism when I saw it on the nascent Internet. I stumbled into climate-science blogs like RC and Deltoid around 2008. Over the years, I’ve grown fatigued by the foolish compulsion to respond to denialism everytime it appears. An automated filter that would detect the undead false memes of climate-science deniers and lukewarmers, and post them with automatically-generated rebuttals, would take some of the pressure off 8^D!

Toward that end, I really want to thank Willard for the work he’s put into ClimateBall, as well the genuine skeptics at SkepticalScience.com, and John Mashey. The cultural phenomenon of science denial is worth systematic study, and your taxonomies are foundational.

Ken Fabian:

I expect there are people who legitimately fear such an algorithm will flag what they say. Um… yes?

Yes. Like with vaccination: it’s not that there’s no possible downside, it’s a matter of risk assessment. People who broadcast their lives electronically, do have legitimate fears. But everything anyone says on the Internet is already being monitored, by persons who miss no opportunity to wage culture war. The sure-fire way to avoid provoking them is not to post in the first place. Those who engage in public discussions on Facebook inter alia take the risks of their words not appearing, or being quote-mined or otherwise exploited by natural intelligence. Just like their denialist adversaries do. In my adult judgment, the constant flood of public climate-science denial issuing from mercenary fake experts, over all available channels, has been a major factor in the USA’s failure to enact meaningful decarbonization legislation yet, 34 years after Hansen. That’s a downside of “free speech”. IMHO, the risk to civil liberties arising from AI filtering of electronic speech is marginal, while the potential benefit of quieting the din of denial in the public sphere is significant.

154. dikranmarsupial says:

“I was proud of myself when I figured out that doctorbunsenhoneydew and dikranmarsupial were the same person! ”

Sorry Mal, I explained who he was on the other thread, but forgot to do so on this one.

“I’ve grown fatigued by the foolish compulsion to respond to denialism everytime it appears. ”

I’m trying to cut down, honest I am!

155. russellseitz says:

“Doers should go full Socrates and claim that they are the wisest of all Climateball because they know that they know nothing:”

Willard , though Willis won’t allow me to contradict him there , it is wondrous strange to see WUWT invoke Feynman as a tutelary deity . I only asked him to weigh in on a climate policy controversy once, and he replied :

“You know, I don’t think these guys know what they’re talking about.”

156. Willard says:

What controversy was that, Russell?

I should be working on my But My Guru page, and that anecdote would be gold!

157. Mal says “IMHO, the risk to civil liberties arising from AI filtering of electronic speech is marginal, while the potential benefit of quieting the din of denial in the public sphere is significant.”

I say, I hope you are right about that and that the din of denial could be quieted in my lifetime. I have given up on facekook correction/response approach generally and routinely just block the crazies.

158. gator says:

I know I’m late to the discussion but honestly, TF’s example of Freeman Dyson? This is the best you can do? “He says we can grow giant carbon trees!” “You don’t understand his genius!” I’m rolling!

159. Gator,
I do think many people don’t appreciate the numbers involved. According to this plants is ~ 450 GtC. This is about 3/4 of the total amount of carbon emitted by humans since the industrial revolution. About 1/4 of these emissions are associated with land use, or land use changes. So, even if we could completely reverse all of this, we’d only soak up about 1/4 of what’s been emitted to date. It’s hard to see how growing some more trees can play a big role in counteracting human emissions, even if it is still a reasonable thing to do.

160. Joshua says:

Let us not forget that the person we’re talking to here (who tells us that “experts are unreliable:) trusted his own expertise enough to confidently declare that there was a “hard limit” on population fatality from COVID – and that no country would exceed a 0.085% pop fatality rate.

And a renown “skeptic” expert (Nic Lewis) weighed in to largely agree with Willis’ expertise, after NIc put up a series of posts where he predicted that “herd immunity” would be reached at as low as 20% population infection rate, and that London, Barcelona, India, NYC, and Sweden, among other localities, had reacted a “herd immunity threshold” as early as Spring of 2020.

Interesting how so many “skeptics” found Nic’s and Willis’ expertise to be reliable, despite that it was unarguably not remotely reliable, isn’t it?

Of course it’s legit to question the reliability of “experts” as a class. The problem is when people apply the associated logic selectively to, basically, confirm ideological biases.

161. russellseitz says:

I spent the evening of July 4th 1985 with Feynman on the roof of Thinking Machines in Cambridge which overlooked Boston’s main fireworks display. I’d just published a letter in Nature about impact geophysics, and when the talk turned to progress in pyrotechnics— the sun seems to take forever to set on the 4th, I asked what he thought about TTAPS?

162. gator says:

ATTP: It’s not even just “we’ll plant more trees” – it’s “we’ll solve this by bio-engineering a new tree and put them all over the world’. “You havesurely seen this paper by xxx showing a bacteria can take up carbon…” Imagine the environmental impact report, the things that can go wrong. Surely a Lukewarmer would not be promoting such a drastic solution.

Joshua: I have to admit that I am a trained (though not practicing) physicist. I have a set of Feynman’s lectures on my bookshelf. When I read Feynman saying “don’t trust experts” I have to assume that he was saying this to people who were preparing to themselves to do science. My version of this is “No one wins a Nobel prize for confirming what the textbook says.” I tend to trust the experts on most things, from car repair to personal health, with some back up research by myself to the extent that I have time and motivation. Mostly I find the experts are on the right track. I agree that this is a weird thing with the WUWT crowd, the willingness to oppose experts with actual training and expertise and only side with “experts”. I ascribe this to personal politics. This is simply a case of finding people who give them an excuse to stand behind thinking that they would have thought anyway. It all comes back to taxes. They think any climate change efforts will raise their taxes.

163. Willard says:

Appealing to Feynman for such mundane observation is a bit silly. Everyone knows that they don’t know everything and that they can be wrong about what they think they know. At least the latin lovers who made errare humanum est famous did.

There’s also a famous Russian saying that expresses healthy skepticism, Доверяй, но проверяй. A similar idea can be expressed using the Skeptic Child meme, which is now not very PC.

Nothing inherently wrong with the idea. Nothing very deep either. Nothing much that helps characterize Science

Except perhaps for doers – they do so much by pontificating on science.

164. mrkenfabian says:

Giant carbon trees (like expanding into space and leaving all the problems behind) are apparently examples of how innovation can fix problems – the indomitable human spirit in action – but building an abundance of clean energy… don’t be silly? Giving renewable energy enough rope looks like the best mistake mainstream climate apathy and antipathy ever made and the best use of fossil fuels is fast tracking the building them.

I haven’t the stamina to codify the denialist memes in various posts here but they seem to be just the same old, same old – mostly about achieving an appearance of reasonably holding out for reasonable doubt whilst unreasonably holding to unreasonable doubts.

In any case my own take on this tends to pass over the inner workings of scientific research and what it takes to be accepted or passed over (I trust the institutions, methodologies and practices) and focuses on the civic obligations of those holding positions of high trust and responsibility to take the expert advice they called for (in order to avoid precipitous decisions) seriously. Holding to the doubts over and above the consistent expert advice is not scientific scepticism (and never will be) but within that civic framing it comes across as dangerously negligent.

165. russellseitz says:

ATTP is all too right about the limits of sequestration in plants, but Dyson’s giant tree meme reflects his puckish NYRB essay on whether molecular biology and CRISPR gene engineering might supplant Facebook and TikTok as popular pastimes?

Having one upped geoengineering with Dyson Spheres he asked if biotech crowdsourcing might lead to new enzymes and novel metabolic pathways, enabling CO2 biosequestration not just in cellulose, but high modulus carbon fiber and diamond, creating trees far stronger and more massive than those so far evolved.

Earth has 450 GT of Plant by accident. His Wellsian question was how much it could have by design?

166. russellseitz says:

Gator: “You havesurely seen this paper by xxx showing a bacteria can take up carbon…” Imagine the environmental impact report, the things that can go wrong…”

I’m unsure you’ve seen this paper showing that fungi can eat charcoal

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fmicb.2021.729289/full

It only came out in October

167. Ben McMillan says:

There seem to be a whole category of people whose main problem with the technology that is likely to actually help mitigate climate change is that it doesn’t look like a macho 1950s sci-fi version of the future.

i.e. the breakthrough-bros, especially in their earlier iterations, and Gates’ forays into energy tech. Various rocket-ship tech-bros.

In the real world, fluffy stuff like ecosystems and the people that live with them are important and things look more like Dune than Buck Rogers.

168. Chubbs says:

If contrarians were following the scientific process outlined by Willis, they would welcome classification.

169. angech says:

Contrarian claims, as per Feynman , only need one or two to become true to put a spike into the premise that contrarians are always wrong.
Earlier this year we discussed the temperature range modification at Roy Spencer.
There is a second La Nina dormant but if activated would create problems.
Any further dichotomy between models and observations would be most unfortunate so very glad it is not likely to happen?

170. A second La Nina wouldn’t create problems, at least not in terms of understanding of global warming/climate change.

171. Joshua says:

Willard –

I hope I’m not the only one who appreciates your juxtaposition of a note asking where you attacked someone, with a note in which you make broadscale condemnation of people. You probably don’t realize it, but I don’t participate over at Real Climate. Still, amusing.

Bearers of bad news are famously unwelcome, and ‘unlikeable’. Snake oil salesmen have understood the converse for thousands of years.

Mosher provided a definition of engineering report, which is more than you’ve done. By Mosher’s definition, I’ve been reading and writing them for decades. But his definition includes the IPCC report(s), so it obviously isn’t what you mean. But, per the commentary above as people variously provided their contributions towards defining an ‘engineering report’ — all disagreed with each other. Clearly whatever an ‘engineering report’ is, it is something that depends a lot on who is asking for one. As such, until you provide your own definition, I’m never going to be any closer to knowing what you mean.

That’s only an issue if you _want_ to be understood, and _want_ to see any such report written. I’m just interested in the business of complaining for years on end about not getting what you want, while, for years on end, you refuse to define it. Self-fulfilling prophecy.

Stevie-Mac never responded. Top bad. If he had taken the time to really think through that response, at a meta level, he might have saved a lot of electrons from a premature death, and actually moved the conversation forward rather than just engage in the climate change circle jerk for another 8 years.

172. Eabani says:

I was unaware of the paper and certainly of any controversy around it until reading this blog, so headed over to the site of our favourite open access journal, _Scientific Reports_, to see what was new. To me, what is most interesting would be any historic trends in contrarian argumentation, and my criticisms of the paper would be minor and neither of those reported by ATTP.

If I understand the second criticism correctly, it seems misplaced, as the paper and John Cook’s blog make clear that the analysis is not about the truth or falsity of any claims. The detection or classification of logical fallacies and motivation would be a further, separate project. The other taxonomy used by JC is the useful ‘FLICC’ system to improve critical thinking; we could imagine a paperclip appearing in a browser: ‘You seem to be making an ad hominem argument. Would you like help finding false experts?’ My own criticism instead would be the researchers adopting predefined categories, rather than using machine learning to evolve automated categories of themes.

The first criticism as I understand it, that the research might contribute to silencing of dissent, may come from an understandable offended reaction to the thought of having yourself or your expressions diagnosed, classified or blamed, particularly where there might still be potentially legitimate questions to be asked. Separately, mentioning free speech is a claim to the moral high ground and call for allies, even where there isn’t a threat of violence or punishment sanctioned by government. As Michael Palin said, ‘Help! Help! I’m being repressed!’

Of course Google and Facebook already use their own algorithms to flag words or images labelled as extremist or Covid misinformation, and they could pretty well remove climate misinformation, or a subset of the claims described, if there were political justification around the balance of harms. The Online Safety Bill currently proposed in the UK would formalise a ‘disinformation and misinformation committee’ as well as give powers to the Government to define ‘priority content that is harmful to children’ that platforms will have to reduce risk from or face bankruptcy. Today’s report from MPs seems to suggest mandating design features against misinformation that don’t necessarily include censorship, but might suggest automated rebuttal as well as downweighting in algorithms to counter their well-known tendency to drive people to ‘engage’ with emotive and extreme ‘content’. The Government seems to want to exclude ‘societal harms’ whatever that means, but although it looks unlikely, anyone could argue climate misinformation presents a physical and psychological harm, especially to children. All that seems nothing to do with this research. Commercial platforms might use a more efficient classifier, maybe naive Bayesian rather than the 24-layer RoBERTa network described. However, the paper does raise possible use cases that could impede spread of dis/misinformation without impinging on free expression.

Mal Adapted: ‘An automated filter that would detect the undead false memes of climate-science deniers and lukewarmers, and post them with automatically-generated rebuttals, would take some of the pressure off 8^D!’ It could be a serious point. Rebutting zombie myths among the contrarian minority (fewer than 10% of US ‘dismiss’ climate concerns according to Yale Climate Communication) exceeds resources of experts. I still sometimes do it myself for that reason, usually to clarify for anyone else reading. (I may also trying to discern any underlying concerns, for example job security fears, that go beyond a sense of purpose from believing oneself to be challenging authoritarianism or dogma; I could relate to any of that.)

However, a somewhat different use case that immediately springs to my mind is YouTube, which currently shows a link to a general Wikipedia page on climate change for a wide range of videos, whether suggesting that an imminent solar minimum will cause overall cooling or saying the only solution to climate change is nuclear fusion (of the Earthbound kind). I doubt many people follow the link in any case, as we all know a single article cannot cover all ‘interesting’ claims made on YouTube. This lack of relevance between a (possibly contrarian) theme and a statement like ‘climate change exists’ could well be counterproductive. It allows a surfeit of misrepresentation of scientific claims, and a Gish gallop of red herrings can arouse plausible doubt without helping a viewer to resolve the evidence to something coherent themselves.

A more relevant ‘prebuttal’ on, for example, measurements of sea-level rise or ocean warming would inform viewers about current scientific understanding, and viewing the contrarian claim might encourage the viewer to confidence they can weigh an apparently logical argument against replicated data. Otherwise people can be led, by for example an earnest evangelist from PragerU, into a narrative, typically using cherry-picked data, that scientific claims are muddled (subclaim 5.1) and too complicated to think about therefore scientists and environmentalists must have ulterior motives (5.2). In other words, adding more relevant authoritative sources alongside the dissident claim could encourage viewers who have the time to educate themselves in order to reconcile the claims and learn critical thinking and statistical methods. Many of us do just want to counter misleading claims wherever they occur, regardless of any political motivation. It is perhaps already surprising that Google links to Wikipedia rather than further YouTube content, such as informative explainers in the Denial 101 series or those by Peter Hadfield (potholer54). I spend enough free time looking at competing claims, it can’t be _that_ hard work, surely.

There may nevertheless be problems with such tailored context. It might still be too general to cover something like polar bear contrarianism. And although the SkepticalScience taxonomy has stood the test of time, some eccentrics will come up with novel errors that may take a long time to disentangle. Merely being able to detect a new claim might save a lot of time. There may be multiple claims and it’s could be too much for viewer to process. Finally, if any automated antidotes to misinformation are to be implemented, would the training need to be repeated for content in many languages besides English?

At last I come to the research results. The classifier looked pretty accurate going by URL text when I downloaded the data, although maybe it could be further improved with more natural language processing. I notice there is no retrieval timestamp included with the URL, and there are two formats of parsed creation timestamp.

John Cook says in his blog that he’s surprised that scientific claims are outnumbered by claims 4 & 5, respectively that climate action is too hard, and that science or scientists are unreliable. I see a flaw here in that many of the claims labelled 5.1 by expert trainers are not exactly ‘attacks on…scientists’ as the paper puts it, but might better fit within claims 1-3. After all, the documented disinformation campaigns of Exxon and the API were never positive claims meant to convince people that climate change was caused by the sun, but merely to raise doubt. As _New Climate War_ has it ‘the models too unreliable, the data too short and error-ridden…to establish any clear human role’. It seems to be those claims in 5.2 that are distinct and about motivation of individuals and institutions.

The correlations in figure 4 might also support that. Claim 4 is roughly around political criticism of climate policy, whereas 1-3 and 5 both correlate with fossil fuel and billionaire funding previously associated with ‘merchants of doubt’. It seems to me that even though the ‘Heartland Institute’ has a profile more like the selected contrarian blogs than other ‘conservative think tanks’ (CTT), it is still nearer to a ‘CTT’ than it is to most blogs, for example by the prevalence of subclaim 4_1, specifically climate policy is harmful (to whom?), rather than 2_1 (non-human cause). So the blogosphere content related to this claim 4 may be elsewhere than the blogs studied, or on mainstream media analysed by Climate Feedback, such as WSJ. It might also be interesting to analyse the data knowing readership or reach of each article somehow, to help see which are the most influential claims. It would be nice to be able to look at gig S2 and say ‘Blogs lag Conservative Think Tanks (CTT) by several years therefore CTT cause blogs.’. But it’s probably more complicated.

Small Blue Mike: ‘The bulk of work and benefit will come from the larger slices of the bell curve nearer the middle.’ Indeed, the bulk of the population, described as the ‘climate majority’ by Leo Barasi, know climate action is necessary, but don’t have time for the details and may hear media opinion from both ‘sides’ of the curve. For them, the policy issues – how we make the transition fair, and who will pay for the heat pump installations – are more relevant. Peer pressure may move them more than the internet. All the same, I would have liked the classifier to break down the sub-sub-claims of 4_1 and 4_2, maybe reflecting personal concerns as well as ideology, and 5_2 rhetoric and insults.

Further, much media confusion and resistance to action for sustainability seems to be outside this familiar taxonomy. Michael Mann’s _The New Climate War_ suggests that for most people, the science is now undeniable and the tactics and claims used by vested interests to delay action include: deflection to personal action or other countries, ways to redirect responsibility; charges of hypocrisy including against scientists and environmentalists; ways to divide people with an irrelevant ‘wedge’ issues; claims against carbon pricing or supply-side regulation; false solutionism of various kinds; methane as a bridge fuel; that developing country energy needs require fossil fuels (4.5); that renewables have bad environmental effects (4.4.1); that biomass has bad environmental effects; need to wait for new nuclear; and fatalism. Each of these could have a documentary on its own. Maybe Dr Coan and colleagues can add in previously unclassified statements.

I’ll paste in my summary of the data:
claim|<15|15/16 |'17-|sec|end |emph|main theme for
1_1 3.5% 4.2% 2.8% 0_0 5_2 5.3% cfact/2001, climatesanity/2008
1_2 0.9% 1.1% 0.9% 2_1 2_1 3.0% climateconversation/2005, hockeyschtick/2018
1_3 3.4% 2.4% 2.8% 0_0 5_2 5.4% joannenova/2000, warwickhughes/2020
1_4 2.5% 2.9% 1.6% 5_1 5_2 4.2% climatescienceinternation/2014, c3headlines/2014
1_6 1.5% 1.6% 1.4% 5_1 5_2 4.1% hockeyschtick/2018, climatesanity/2016
1_7 6.3% 6.4% 7.3% 5_2 5_2 7.1% hudson/2012, scienceandpublicpolicy/2013
2_1 8.7% 7.2% 6.7% 5_1 5_1 6.7% tallbloke/2009, scienceandpublicpolicy/2006
2_3 2.7% 2.3% 2.7% 2_1 5_1 4.9% climatechangedispatch/2007, principia-scientific/2012
3_1 1.1% 0.9% 0.5% 5_1 5_1 3.6% scienceandpublicpolicy/2006, drroyspencer/2008
3_2 3.1% 3.6% 4.2% 0_0 5_2 5.3% climateconversation/2005, scienceandpublicpolicy/2015
3_3 3.6% 2.0% 2.2% 0_0 5_2 4.6% co2science/2019, co2science/2020
4_1 13.9% 13.7% 14.3% 4_4 4_4 5.7% reason/2017, pacificresearch/2012
4_2 1.3% 1.9% 1.8% 4_1 4_1 3.4% reason/2017, reason/1999
4_4 4.9% 7.5% 10.4% 4_1 4_1 7.0% manhattan-institute/2004, manhattan-institute/2019
4_5 2.7% 3.5% 4.1% 4_1 4_1 4.2% hudson/2013, freedomworks/2006
5_1 16.4% 13.6% 10.8% 5_2 5_2 7.8% climateconversation/2006, c3headlines/2008
5_2 23.4% 25.2% 25.5% 5_1 5_1 7.7% fraserinstitute/1998, principia-scientific/2010
Read 4643400 lines from 255581 articles.
1_1 no melt 1_2 cooling 1_3 weather 1_4 hiatus 1_6 no SLR 1_7 extremes
2_1 nonhuman 2_3 no GHE 3_1 low ECS 3_2 can adapt 3_3 CO2 good
4_1 pol harms 4_2 delay pol 4_4 tech bad 4_5 need nrg 5_1 sci unreliable 5_2 scienv bias

Here the first three percentages are from where a URL has a clear dominant theme, before Paris COP21, in 2015-16, and since. Columns should add roughly to 100%. The companion themes try to show the second most common claim type in an article and the conclusion, suggesting eg cooling and arguments against a greenhouse effect support a nonhuman cause causing doubt in science; while the policy themes cluster together, emphasising ideology and renewable inadequacy. Next column average prominence of a theme where it's mentioned and the outlets where it was most prevalent.

The chosen blogs typically concentrate on 'warming is natural' and 'data is unreliable' as well as the tendency to suggest clean energy won't work. What surprises me perhaps is how constant the claims have been over time. The contrarian minority are still at it, but displaced from media narrative. They are reacting to plausibility of evidence slightly: claims about a hiatus peaked at about 7.3% of total classified claims in 2013 and are now around 2%. Distracting by pointing to cold weather seems crude but had a peak in 2018. There may have been very slow acceptance of core science, possibly so slow it's down to old contrarians leaving the field; 5.1 attacks on data or model reliability seem to show a continuous decline since 2005, whereas I see no clear trend in 5.2. Claims against global warming as such may have been partly replaced by more doubts over climate effects: 1.7 suggesting no link to extreme weather peaked in 2017 and 'nature can adapt' is recovering from a trough around 2013.

Whither climate contrarianism? Probably what people have called 'solution denialism'. The ideological policy claims of 4.1 seem to originate in the pre-blog era, but the one category showing consistent strong growth is 4.4 'Clean energy/biofuels are too expensive/unreliable/counterproductive/harmful'. The stats supply no information on motivation.

173. Willard says:

> the premise that contrarians are always wrong.

You got your premise wrong, Doc:

Can Contrarians Lose?

***

Speaking of tech-bros:

In a revelation that will surprise almost no one, the 2022 World Inequality Report found that one space flight emits more carbon dioxide than most of the world’s population will create in their entire lifetime.

174. russellseitz says:

Eabani: It seems to me that even though the ‘Heartland Institute’ has a profile more like the selected contrarian blogs than other ‘conservative think tanks’ (CTT), it is still nearer to a ‘CTT’ than it is to most blogs,”

There are few things Heartland won’t do for the right price. Thinking is one of them.

Still, for a few thousand dollars, you or anyone you nominate can become a Heartland Dauntless Purveyor Of Climate Truth awardee, or Evangelical Climate Scientist of the Year. The only cultural institution to rival the unabashed vacuity of a Heartland conference is the oxymoronic American Thinker,
https://vvattsupwiththat.blogspot.com/2020/06/keep-calm-and-refrain-from-thinking.html

175. Bob Loblaw says:

“There are few things Heartland won’t do for the right price. Thinking is one of them.”

Oh, that’s a keeper….

176. JCH says:

Not even a 3rd La Niña in row would be a problem. Would La Niña forever be a problem? Possibly not. The oceans would continue to gain energy, so the perpetual wind would blow progressively warmer water across the equatorial Pacific.

177. gator says:

angtech: “Contrarian claims, as per Feynman , only need one or two to become true to put a spike into the premise that contrarians are always wrong.” No one is claiming contrarians are always wrong. See viruses and ulcers or continental drift. All I’ve seen here is “Climate science needs better contrarians.” I.e. these particular contrarians are wrong, and typically so wrong they are not even wrong. They don’t know enough to know how to be a contrarian.
Another relevant Feynman quote. “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.”

178. russellseitz says:

Too late , Willard !

Earlier today the wily Elon announced he would henceforth run his rockets on fuel synthesized from CO2 captured from the air

179. doctorbunsenhoneydew says:

“Another relevant Feynman quote. “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.”

The difference between contarianism and skepticism is that true skepticism includes self-skepticism.

(sorry, this is Dikran Marsupial’s alter-alter-ego again)

180. Willard says:

My two favorite Feynman quotes remain You’re a helluva long way from the pituitary, man! and (more srsly) The world is a dynamic mess of jiggling things if you look at it right. I also like this artful video:

I have a Feynman for Bloggers collection for anyone interested.

181. russellseitz says:

Is “Climate science needs better contrarians.” I.e. these particular contrarians are wrong, and typically so wrong they are not even wrong.” really all Gator has seen here?

Ideologies tend to deal with their more appalling consequences by declaring that better ideologues are needed to draft the next five year plan.

182. Willard says:

Quite right, Russell:

Less scientific common sense is heard on the right today than in Reagan’s time.

https://www.takimag.com/article/climate_of_here_russell_seitz/

Ah, the good ol’ days!

183. angech says:

…and Then There’s Physics says: December 14, 2021 at 1:56 pm
A second La Nina wouldn’t create problems, at least not in terms of understanding of global warming/climate change.
JCH says: December 14, 2021 at 8:15 pm
Not even a 3rd La Niña in row would be a problem.

Sentiments and reasoning I would agree with.
Indeed it would add to the understanding to have a prolonged run of La Nina’s.
My comment was more directed to the nudging of the temperature scales, if it did nudge them, for a prolonged period would start to cause disquiet by amplifying one of the many contrarian claims to a worrying status.

There are two different concerns in my book.
One is what is a natural cycle and how does it differ in effect from a man made climate catastrophe.
Perhaps an acycle could explain all that we are seeing?

Acycle* A made up word , an extremely prolonged variation from the normal probability patterns of cycles but still within the allowed limits.
I’m sure there is a proper scientific term.
Denotes 50 to 200 year drought, flood or inclement weather patterns.

The second is what effect does human increased CO2 production actually do and what is it actually capable of doing.

“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.”
is more pertinent to Joshua’s unintended irony.
Here the more sure we are right the more the probable answer is that we might be fooling ourselves, on both sides.
The irony being that I am prepared to look at changing my mind when I find enough compelling evidence and prepared to say it.
It is not so easy to the right or left of me.
I see statements that the evidence is overwhelming and enough to be assured already so why bother.
Those who think deeply into this should express a little bit of self doubt rather than wholesale enthusiasm for that obvious reason.

184. angech says:

Willard,
Thank you.
“I have a Feynman for Bloggers collection for anyone interested.”
RS Admiration for you having met the man and having some scientific chops.

“You got your premise wrong, Doc:”
I would prefer to think of it as John Cook’s premise?

185. Ben McMillan says:

My main issue with the rocket-bros is the opportunity cost: such resources and talent directed towards a childish fantasy. A privatised reenactment of the silliest part of the space race. Main outcome is filling up valuable public commons (low earth orbit and the visible sky) with a bunch of shiny toys for lulz and to make a bit of private profit.

They can (and will) do what they want, and we occasionally get something useful out of it, but someone else had better figure out the stuff that isn’t shiny toys; 0.1%er tech dudes have a limited range of interests.

By the way, rocket exhaust is normally very very dirty and mostly ends up in the stratosphere. CO2 is the least of your problems. Better hope it is just a few billionaires going up once or twice.

186. Ben McMillan says:

(also, almost everything launched up into space ends up burning up in the atmosphere as it reenters, which is a lot worse per kilo than partly-burnt fuel, although there is much less of it)

187. dikranmarsupial says:

angech “My comment was more directed to the nudging of the temperature scales, if it did nudge them, for a prolonged period would start to cause disquiet by amplifying one of the many contrarian claims to a worrying status.”

In that case perhaps it would be better to go (back) to WUWT and tell *them* to improve their understanding of natural variability so they don’t get their knickers in a twist and make fools of themselves yet again? The last time I was there Monckton was trying to make claims of “no global warming for six years” or something like that, and demonstrating that he had no understanding of the statistics whatsoever. Of course all the denizens uncritically lapped it up, showing that they didn’t understand either.

188. angech says:

“In that case perhaps it would be better to go (back) to WUWT and tell *them* to improve their understanding of natural variability so they don’t get their knickers in a twist and make fools of themselves yet again?”

I do not think that will improve matters there so regretfully , no.
Hope springs eternal, I am not immune.
Equally I understand that short pauses pose no argument, I just enjoy the upset in the equanimity,
while it lasts.

189. dikranmarsupial says:

“Equally I understand that short pauses pose no argument,” well why did you bring it up again here? “There is a second La Nina dormant but if activated would create problems.” La Nina is weather noise (internal climate variability) – if it is substantially affecting the trend calculation then the period is too short to be drawing any conclusions.

Eabani, what stood out for me in your last comment was “a Gish gallop of red herrings”. A comical image came to mind!

191. gator says:

Russel Seitz: “Is “Climate science needs better contrarians.” I.e. these particular contrarians are wrong, and typically so wrong they are not even wrong.” really all Gator has seen here?”

I’m a simple folk, I need plain speak. I’ve followed the contrarian world since the first hockey stick at least, and I’d stick by my “so wrong they are not even wrong” characterization of the contrarian ecosystem.

What have I missed?

192. Willard says:

Lots of scapegoats, gator:

“But Scapegoat”

193. russellseitz says:

I’d somehow missed Willard’s charming But Scapegoat .Objections which include:

Jim.
Hansen is an activist and an alarmist who has been proven—
☞ Jim is a life-long Republican who stood for what he believes is right…

Leftists.
Almost all leftists trust other leftists (most government off—
☞ More than 97% of the world population is leftist according to troglodytes.

This is irony of a fairly high order,, as the Obama White House climate playbook written by John Podesta’s merry crew ☞
https://vvattsupwiththat.blogspot.com/2016/10/what-we-callthe-troglodyte-narrative.html

categorizes 97% of Republicans as Troglodytes.

194. russellseitz says:

Willard: “Ah, the good ol’ days!”

The quote is from me reading the riot act to the post- neo-conservative junto that took over the WSj Ed Board, National Review and Fox after Buckley’s demise and Murdoch’s takeovers.

In the aforementioned good ol days, Reagan’s Science Guys hailed more from the national laboratories than the oil patch.

195. Willard says:

Like Richie admitted regarding the consensus, Russell, I’d say that it’s in the high nineties:

[W]hile these Rovian campaign techniques are certainly inventive, they are hardly new. Although the particulars of the three races may have differed, the tactics employed in each campaign have remained constant. Indeed, the choice of opponent doesn’t matter significantly; Rove’s campaign tactics can be tailored to any candidate. Remarkably, however, the Democratic opposition has been caught flatfooted in each campaign. Unprepared for these tactics, they do not know how best to respond.

Given Rove’s record of success, it is safe to assume that future campaigns will continue to feature variations of these same political tactics. Thus, becoming acquainted with the Rovian “playbook” is a critical first step for opponents as they devise their campaign strategies.

How else would you explain being wrong on every social issue that matters to people since the New Deal?

196. angech says:

DM.
“La Nina is weather noise (internal climate variability) – if it is substantially affecting the trend calculation then the period is too short to be drawing any conclusions.”
Exactly.

A bit early I know
I am in the Xmas mood.
I agree with what you said.
Thank you for all your help and have a fantastic Xmas.

197. russellseitz says:

“Given Rove’s record of success, it is safe to assume that future campaigns will continue to feature variations of these same political tactics. Thus, becoming acquainted with the Rovian “playbook” is a critical first step for opponents as they devise their campaign strategies…
How else would you explain being wrong on every social issue that matters to people since the New Deal?” “

Willard, as we all we go to the political wars with the priors we have., and your quote was coauthored by Hubert Humphrey’s campaign advisorJane Bruns, your very Rovian question is best answered by considering what matters to the electorate in the light of how many Presidential elections Humphrey’s party has lost since the New Deal. I admire the candor of President Obama’s shrewd remark that ” The American people don’t cotton to being ruled.”

198. Willard says:

> what matters to the electorate in the light of how many Presidential elections Humphrey’s party has lost since the New Deal

I’m afraid that rhetorical question has already been met, dear Russell:

The median voter model predicts that an increase in inequality, as captured by the gap between median and average income, should lead to an increase in support for redistribution and an increase in actual redistribution as policymakers cater to the median voter’s preferences. Yet, as shown by economist Ilyana Kuziemko and others (including myself), using the General Social Survey, there has been no increase at all in stated support for redistribution in the United States since the 1970s, even among those who say they have below average income.