Why engage with skeptics?

by Judith Curry

Many climate scientists have stopped engaging with skeptics, because they think it is either pointless or they don’t want to lend legitimacy to the skepticism. Those who think it is pointless seem mostly interested in protecting their time.  Those who view this as lending legitimacy to skeptics would seem to be acting in accord with IPCC/UNFCCC ideology.

An interesting new development in engaging with skeptics is the initiative led by John Abraham, where a group of scientists are prepared to go toe-to-toe with critics.  Well, I am all in favor of scientists who disagree having a debate about it.  But it seems like something else is going on here.   “This group feels strongly that science and politics can’t be divorced and that we need to take bold measures to not only communicate science but also to aggressively engage the denialists and politicians who attack climate science and its scientists. . . People who’ve already dug their heels in, we’re not going to change their opinions. We’re trying to reach people who may not have an opinion or opinion based on limited information.”  said Scott Mandia.  Sounds like the IPCC/UNFCCC ideology again; actually the changing minds part qualifies them for consideration as an ideologue.

So, if you take the ideology out of all this, why would a scientist engage with skeptics?  Nullius in Verba provides an eloquent rationale:

As I tried to make clear, if I met a flat-Earther I would still consider them to be incorrect, and I would not have any high expectation of being persuaded otherwise. And if I was not inclined at the time to engage in a long diversion into eccentricity I might well ignore them or put them off. But I wouldn’t call them a ‘denier’ or ‘irrational’ or ‘anti-science’ or a ‘crank’ or ‘McFraudit’ or any other epithets until at the least I had determined why they thought as they did, and whether there was any justification for it.

And if I am going to categorise someone that way, I do it on the basis of the fallacies they rely on, not the conclusions they draw.

As I said, if a person does not know, or has not been told what the real reasoning and evidence is even for something like whether the world is flat, then I would find scepticism-out-of-principle to be a perfectly acceptable stance, not at all deserving of being named “denier”. If some thought had been put into it, I might even consider it slightly superior to that of a person who insisted forcefully that the world was round, but didn’t have a clue why – although so long as they don’t claim their belief to be on scientific grounds I would have no objection to that either. On many other topics I am just as ignorant – I am in no position to throw stones.

It is perhaps a case of taking the scientific philosophy to extremes. I consider sceptics to be a valuable resource to science, to be nurtured and encouraged. We need such people, even to ask the stupid questions, and definitely to ask the more intelligent ones. If somebody turns up on your doorstep, motivated to study your work and check the details, for free no less, then you make sure they’re taught what they need to know and you set them to work. Whatever they’re capable of and willing to do.

Regarding scepticism in and of itself, even of long-standing and strongly confirmed theories, as somehow undesirable in science seems to me to get it backwards. It’s not the scientific conclusions that are most important, it’s the scientificmethod. So it depends on their reasons for disagreement.”

How did the scientists become adherents of the UNFCCC/IPCC ideology?

There seems to be another vicious positive feedback loop at work here, where attacking  either the science, scientists, or the policy reinforces the ideology.  A starting point for getting invested in the ideology may be any one or combination of these:

  • political ideology that is congruent with Green ideology or environmentalism
  • being personally attacked by someone that you are told is part of the denial machine
  • concern about the “war on science”
  • a path for acceptance by a certain group of peers
  • others?

To the extent that I was caught up in all this for a few years, it was definitely the “war on science” issue that got me invested in this.    The existence of this ideology, and the positive feedback loop associated with the institutions that support science, etc., reinforces the ideology.  Which reinforces the opposition to the ideology.  Which further reinforces the ideology. And so on.

Can we reverse the direction of this feedback loop?  In my previous essay on no dogma, I laid terms for an armistice with skeptics.  The most important starting point is with the institutions that support science.

Press release from the AGU

Many of the  professional societies have not behaved very well in all this, in my opinion, notably the APS.  But the AGU, under its current leadership, is among the best in this regard, IMO.  Here is their press release on the reporter’s mistake in the Abraham article:

American Geophysical Union

8 November 2010

AGU Release No. 10-37

For Immediate Release

Inaccurate news reports misrepresent a climate-science initiative of the American Geophysical Union

Media Contact

Peter Weiss: 202-777-7507, pweiss@agu.org

WASHINGTON— An article appearing in the Los Angeles Times, and then picked up by media outlets far and wide, misrepresents the American Geophysical Union (AGU) and a climate science project the AGU is about to relaunch. The project, called Climate Q&A Service, aims simply to provide accurate scientific answers to questions from journalists about climate science.

“In contrast to what has been reported in the LA Times and elsewhere, there is no campaign by AGU against climate skeptics or congressional conservatives,” says Christine McEntee, Executive Director and CEO of the American Geophysical Union. “AGU will continue to provide accurate scientific information on Earth and space topics to inform the general public and to support sound public policy development.”

AGU is the world’s largest, not-for-profit, professional society of Earth and space scientists, with more than 58,000 members in over 135 countries.

“AGU is a scientific society, not an advocacy organization,” says climate scientist and AGU President Michael J. McPhaden. “The organization is committed to promoting scientific discovery and to disseminating to the scientific community, policy makers, the media, and the public, peer-reviewed scientific findings across a broad range of Earth and space sciences.”

AGU initiated a climate science Q&A service for the first time in 2009 to provide accurate scientific information for journalists covering the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. AGU has been working over the past year on how to provide this service once again in association with the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference in Cancun, Mexico.

AGU’s Climate Q&A Service addresses scientific questions only. It does not involve any commentary on policy. Journalists are able to submit questions via email, and AGU member-volunteers with Ph.D.s in climate science-related fields provide answers via email.

The relaunch of the Climate Q&A Service is pending. When AGU is ready to announce the service, we will notify journalists on our distribution list via a media advisory that the service is once again available for their use.

For additional information about the Q&A service please see a 2 March 2010 article about the 2009 Q&A service that was published in AGU’s weekly newspaper Eos at www.agu.org/pubs/pdf/About_AGU_ClimateScientists.pdf, and a blog post about the service on AGU’s science communication blog The Plainspoken Scientist (http://blogs.agu.org/sciencecommunication/2010/06/17/matching-scientists-and-journalists/).

The American Geophysical Union was established in 1919, and is headquartered in Washington, D.C. AGU advances the Earth and space sciences through its scholarly publications, meetings and conferences, and outreach programs. For more information, please visit http://www.agu.org


556 responses to “Why engage with skeptics?

  1. I’m not surprised. I’m reminded of the interplay between the media and those who opposed the “Cold War”.

    • David L. Hagen

      Solomon observed (Proverbs 18:17):

      The first one to plead his cause seems right,
      Until his neighbor comes and examines him.

      The scientific method is founded not just on observation and modeling, but on challenging and testing those models. Only models that consistently withstand all challenges AND are useful survive in science.

      To date, global warming models do not appear to model the Pacific Decadal Oscillations, the 21 year solar cycles strongly influencing rainfall, nor solar modulation of galactic cosmic rays affecting clouds, nor whether cloud albedo gives positive or negative feedback or how much etc.

      “Robust” climate science would incorporate all these influences, and be able to determine the magnitude and causation of all significant natural and anthropogenic causes of both warming and cooling.

      Bring on the debate over SCIENCE.

      SEPARATELY debate how to manage changes (warming and cooling) in climate together with strong development for the poor.
      Why advocate global warming mitigation when it does not appear to be achievable or cost effective?
      What happened to the debate over Adaptation?

      More importantly, how are oil IMPORTING countries to fuel our civilizations sufficiently for them to survive the next generation?

      So by all means lets Debate the SCIENCE – and separate out the Politics while caring for the poor.

  2. All this sounds like a replay of the creationism debate.

  3. I’ve made an informal suggestion to the AGU (via a member of their leadership council) that they should just stay out of Cancun for the negotiations. None of this hinges on questions of science at this point, and it is better for the science institutions to stay out of it. My suggestion, for what it is worth. But I think the AGU is behaving better than most of the professional societies.

    • That sounds like an excellent idea.

      Seems that much of the problem is due to ‘science’ overstepping it’s expertise, moving into advocacy, being accused of advocating, and acting with indignation because it is being criticized as passing off advocacy-as-‘science’ ( which is exactly what it does)

    • The AGU story is still unfolding. It really depends on what “answers” they are giving to reporters questions about climate science. If they are simply presenting the IPCC line, which the AGU has done before, then the LA Times story is more accurate than the AGU press release condemning it. I doubt they are including the skeptical science in their answers.

      • I just got off the phone with someone on the AGU leadership council, which is meeting in DC right now. I’ve told this person what people are concerned about, and hope to get some clarification soon. note, this will hopefully be in the form of statement from the AGU, and if they want to be less formal, i’ve offered to do a q & a post at climate etc. on this to clarify. stay tuned.

  4. George Mallory (1886-1924), answer to the question ‘Why do you want to climb Mt. Everest ?’.

    Mallory’s answer: “Because it is there.”

    IPCC supporter answer to the question, ‘Why don’t you want to engage the skeptics?’

    IPCC supporter answer: “Because they are there.”


  5. The major reason for climate scientists to engage with skeptics is that they believe the risks posed by climate change are serious and that if they ignore the skeptics, they reduce the chances for effective climate change legislation.

    The argument that engagement legitimizes skeptics might work if skeptics really were fringe anti-science types like flat-earthers or anti-evolutionists or holocaust deniers, but skeptics, except for some extreme voices, don’t fit the fringe category. Forcing them into the fringe, especially after the Climategate revelations, makes climate scientists look bad.

    This doesn’t mean that every climate scientist must engage the skeptics obviously, but some, I think, must.

  6. Speaking for myself, one of my largest doubts about climate change is the frequent refusal of climate scientists to engage skeptics in an honest, forthright, Feynmanian manner.

    • huxley @6:47pm — This refusal to engage is the source of my largest doubts about the climate science as currently practiced, as well.

      • I asked a climate scientist once why he didn’t engage in debating ‘skeptics’. He he had tried, and it was a waste of time. In his experience, he would never convince them otherwise.

        Take a look at Scienceofdoom. No matter how hard he tries, he will not convince the ‘skeptics’ who don’t accept the greenhouse effect is real that there is a greenhouse effect. They get stuck on the 2nd LOT and cannot get past it.

      • snide : What you say about SOD and the 2nd LOT is surely correct. But … there’s lots of ways of being sceptical about this and the other side of the coin – exemplified by the earlier statements from the Royal Society – are I think at least as debatable and may have helped convince many a scientifically literate neutral to scepticism. They certainly did that job for me anyway.

      • If you think

        The new guide says: “The size of future temperature increases and other aspects of climate change, especially at the regional scale, are still subject to uncertainty.”

        The Royal Society even appears to criticise scientists who have made predictions about heatwaves and rising sea levels. It now says: “There is little confidence in specific projections of future regional climate change, except at continental scales.”

        It adds: “It is not possible to determine exactly how much the Earth will warm or exactly how the climate will change in the future.

        “There remains the possibility that hitherto unknown aspects of the climate and climate change could emerge and lead to significant modifications in our understanding.”

        Means that it is encouraging skepticism, you are misguided. “Unkown” means we don’t know it, so you may as well hope that invisible fairies will solve the problem, because they are also unknown. What we know is a far better guide for our thinking. The greenhouse gas effect is real, and we are doubling the concentration of one of the components. We can already attribute change to CO2.

        We cannot predict exactly how change will happen at a regional level. No, we can’t. But that is no comfort either. It will get warmer, and it is getting warmer. Sea levels are rising, as predicted, the cryosphere is shrinking, as predicted.

      • snide : I agree that the new guide is not encouraging scepticism. My point was that the *old* guide encouraged scepticism – or at the very least more digging – because it was so blatantly unbalanced.

      • Of course, that’s the way all skeptics are and if you can’t convince all skeptics then debating any of them is a waste of time. QED.

        This is such fallacious reasoning that could be avoided with garden-variety critical thinking that it makes me wonder just what sort of science climate scientists are doing.

        Sure, I get it as an expression of exasperation. Some people will never be convinced and it does feel lousy to beat your head against the wall. That’s life.

        However, one important thing this scientist missed is that while his debates may not have convinced his opponents, his replies may well have persuaded other people who were listening.

        Conversely, throwing in the towel and making false generalizations about skeptics only helps persuade listeners that maybe the climate scientist can’t make his case.

    • But in order to do this, the skeptics would have to have real positions that they were prepared to describe and defend. Furthermore, they would have to be prepared to admit that these positions were false if they were demonstrated to be so.

      For instance, I see a continuous refrain that somehow the sun is responsible for recent climate change. Yet I see no one actually making a falsifiable, scientific claim, just an endlessly repeated conclusion with no argument leading up to it.

      If we do not have a position to engage with, then, ‘engagement’ becomes a one-way street, in which scientists have to answer a never-ending stream of accusations of fraud, nit-picks, and misconceptions from people who never have to make a case themselves; this is very much in the style of Creationists.

    • snide (6:54pm) and Andrew Dodds (5:40am) —

      Neither of you have engaged with any of the answers to the question “Why engage with skeptics?” that appear in the body of the post, or the comments.

      If your point is that many “skeptics” have an inadequate grasp of the underlying science, are committed ideologues, are not careful thinkers, bitterly cling to their dogmatic beliefs, etc. — Yes. We can so stipulate. This is also true of many passionate advocates of the CAGW stance. For what it’s worth.

      This is not a slam-dunk reason for failing to engage with skeptics. Perhaps you could read this thread with fresh eyes, and note how many of the contributors do not fit the characterization of the prior paragraph, or your own preconceptions.

      You don’t seem to have understood the more perceptive comments here, and haven’t offered reasonable rejoinders to the points they’ve raised. In this, unfortunately, you seem to faithfully represent the stance of most Pro-AGW Consensus scientists and advocates.

      • AMac | November 9, 2010 at 9:25 am | Reply

        snide (6:54pm) and Andrew Dodds (5:40am) –

        Neither of you have engaged with any of the answers to the question “Why engage with skeptics?” that appear in the body of the post, or the comments.

        If your point is that many “skeptics” have an inadequate grasp of the underlying science, are committed ideologues, are not careful thinkers, bitterly cling to their dogmatic beliefs, etc. — Yes. We can so stipulate. This is also true of many passionate advocates of the CAGW stance. For what it’s worth.

        Climate science is incredibly complex. If you can’t understand all the science, (I know I can’t, it is far too complex), then erring on the side of the accpected state of the science than against it is the safe way to deal with the problem of having imperfect knowledge and understanding. The scientists themselves have to specialise in specific areas of the science because it is so complex, no one scientists is an expert in all areas.

        The issues raised by AGW are very serious, and I know I am concerned about the world my children and grand children will have to inherit. That means I don’t have the option of sitting back and doing nothing about it. It also means that when I look at what has to be done, I see people opposing me who are more often than not either completely wrong about even the basics of the science, or overly inflating the importance of areas of doubt, while completely ignoring the risks that have been identified.

      • snide,

        I like your 3:33pm response to my earlier (9:25am) reply. It’s clear, and it makes sense.

        Actually, it’s the attitude with which I approached climate science, too. AGW advocates and scientists would have had to have taken steps to cause me to distrust their positions.

        As you say, climate science is incredibly complex; I don’t think anyone should fault you for declining to engage with skeptics.

        Most of the “it’s worth engaging” arguments on this thread are directed at people like the climate-scientist friend you mentioned 6:33am. He and his peers don’t see the value–not because climate science is incredibly complex, but because, to them, “the science is settled” (except, stated with greater delicacy). So be it.

  7. Reply to WSJ reporter on the AGU situation:

    I am just learning about all this also. I have been speaking about this with my colleague Peter Webster, who is President Elect of AGU’s Atmospheric Sciences Section. The AGU Leadership Council is actually meeting in D.C. right now, through Wednesday. I think that the AGU, under its current leadership, is behaving much more objectively about the climate change issue and avoiding advocacy, behaving better than societies such as the American Physical Society.

    I don’t recall knowing how these 700 scientists were recruited or selected; it is possible that there was a general call or I was asked, but I just wasn’t paying attention. So I just don’t know. My personal feeling is that the policy discussions in Cancun don’t hinge on science at this point, but rather on politics. They have the IPCC AR4 to work from; they shouldn’t attempt to use updated science that hasn’t yet gone through a thorough assessment process. There will undoubtedly be scientist advocates in Cancun from both sides of the debate. My personal advice to the AGU would be to stay out of it. In this highly politicized environment, we need the institutions that support climate science to be as objective as possible and stay out of policy debates. Which I think the AGU is trying to do. But that then raises the question of “which 700 scientists?” We need to find out more about this. I suspect this whole thing will be discussed at the AGU leadership council now underway. I have confidence in this group, lets see what they have to say.

    • we need the institutions that support climate science to be as objective as possible and stay out of policy debates.

      As soon as you claim this you defeat your argument …

      institutions that support climate science = advocacy

      The science ought to speak for itself. Advocating it debases it.

      The lady doth protest too much, methinks.
      Hamlet Act 3, scene 2, 222–230

      • Professional societies to which climate scientists belong. Federal agencies that fund climate science. I said nothing about advocating. Support does not mean advocate, I was referring to the professional infrastructure of climate science, not anyone’s opinions about climate science.

      • Yes I agree with you.

        The vigorous twist & flex required to discover and emphasize the unstated/misconstrued/forgotten assumption(s)[*][**] indicates a prominent feature of the AGW ‘communication debacle’.


        a) …to be as objective as possible and stay out of policy debates. … [‘background assuption’ inferred as we need to try really hard to be and seen as being neutral/objective/credible ]

        b) …Just doing the science is not good enough anymore with the stakes so high. The world needs more scientist-activists because the message is not getting out with just “science”…

        Now (a) emphasizes understatement whereas (b) emphasizes overstatement. Both (a) and (b) have a strident desperate quality about them. That ‘stress’ is apparent in the unspoken background.

        People unconsciously pickup on that background ‘stress cue’ [1]. “I begin to smell a rat”

        There is nothing wrong in experts supporting/advocating/educating in regard to their expertise. The unspoken contextual inference plays an important role.

        Advocate away should you desire. …just don’t force it. It doesn’t need to be forced. (as you yourself assert forcibly vis a vis the importance of maintaining objectivity)

        If the arguments for the position are too weak or flimsy to speak for themselves ? Perhaps that evidence is insufficiently developed. Without doubt the evidence is poorly presented. Regardless it is important for those who are inexpert to reliably trust in the implicitly consequential AGW message.

        For my own sake, I am a very impatient and excessively desperate to express myself effectively. It kills my own credibility at the very “get go”. The background cues of my anxious desperation are picked up and degrade the credibility of my message. The keen desire to express my opinion tempts me rush out a prematurely formed, poorly expressed product.

        The IPCC was explicitly created to formulate a confident message. Media savvy overproduction, overstatement, competitiveness, overconfidence and a genuine tinge of religious-like zeal cramped and spoiled the intended product.

        [*](…Ergo, the ‘Raving’ context sensory process…)
        [**](…Ergo, the ‘Balancing’ heretic…)

        [1] Autistic type thinkers tend to be undersensitized to this sort of thing. Hence the APS disagreement culminating in Hal Lewis’s resignation has a curiously feckless quality to it.

        Non autistic type thinkers tend to be oversensitive to this sort of thing. Hence enviro-advocacy groups are quick to conclude that the credibility of the ‘science’ is being challenged. They respond by proactively and aggressively engaging in PR ‘spin’ management.

  8. It raises an interesting question, I wonder if AGU encourages AGU member Skeptics to participate. One assumes a majority of members support the Q&A Service idea but I would doubt a majority buy into AR4 as written.

    • My original opinion of this is that they scientists would be answering things about what drought might look like in africa, things like that. If this is the kind of questions that they are addressing, and they have a scientific expert on African drought answering, well that would be great. But I agree getting live bodies to spout the AR4 findings on detection or attribution, or worse yet, random individual opinions on this, would not be a good thing.

      • Judith,

        Could also be a name gathering to say that these scientist approve the IPCC doctorine entirely.

      • Unlikely, I think, the last time they tried this (255 NAS scientists), it got mocked pretty badly if i recall.

      • Alexander Harvey


        As a point of protocol, really specific questions such as drought in Africa, needs input from those countries involved. I assume that this would be sought and discretion excercised. Local national and region meteorological offices and bureaux tend to know their stuff particularly when it comes to drought patterns and consequences. Also drought has a political aspect. A problem we the media is that you don’t know how they intend to present the information, and Africa is wired .


  9. Professor Curry – The AGU has issued a “Position Statement”
    which, in my opinion, is excellent. Do you concur? Or would you change it, and if so, how? Or would you rather that the AGU did not issue such statements?

    Thanks in advance for your response.

    • The Earth’s climate is now clearly out of balance and is warming.

      Excellent? The opening sentence forces the assertion with the emotive insistence that “Too bad folks, it’s a done deal so accept it or lump it!”

      This isn’t science, it’s pushing something that is presumed to lack credibility. Worst of all it’s climate change scientists who are doing the begging!

      • Tomas Milanovic

        The Earth’s climate is now clearly out of balance and is warming.

        This is indeed an excellent example of wanting to pass a subliminal message which is not explicitely contained in the statement but that is absolutely intended to be there. What gives the intent away is the innocently looking now.
        This “now” is extremely near to a very serious scientific mistake btw.

        Compare the above statement with the following:

        The Earth’s climate has never been in equilibrium and has been in a warming phase since the last glaciation.

        The content is identical in both statements. Yet every reader will see a large difference of what is perceived as being the message.

      • Problem is, the statement:

        The Earth’s climate has never been in equilibrium and has been in a warming phase since the last glaciation.

        Is demonstrably false; the warming from the end of the last glaciation ended circa 5-6 thousand years ago. With no anthropogenic influence, we would expect to be seeing a (very) gradual cooling of the climate now.

      • Tomas Milanovic

        No spins.
        Just make a linear regression from the end of the last glaciation to today.
        If the sign is >0 then it is warming. If not then it’s cooling.
        It has the disadvanatge of linear regressions and can be interpreted in different ways. But the sign is well defined.

      • Please tell me you are joking.


        There may by significant local differences, but the idea of the Holocene Climatic optimum is not in my experience widely disputed.

      • Please help me, a natural historian and gardener. Question –
        When was the Earth’s climate ‘in equilibrium?’
        Maybe I do not understand the meaning of ‘equilibrium.’

      • Re: (undefined NaN NaN:NaN),
        Back-door assertion that current warming is anthropogenic. Another attempt to sneak a forced conclusion into the premises.

    • This is a good and appropriate statement, I don’t have any problem with it. Professional societies play an important role in educating the public. The worst kind of statements are the ones that the APS has been making, which are advocacy statements. The Royal Society statement is taking a position on details of the science and the public debate, which I think is unwise. So really, the AGU is behaving the most responsibly IMO, we just need more details on what this latest thing is all about.

      • I disagree. Even that one sentence contains a value assertion “out of balance”. If instead it said, “exhibits variability and is currently warming” then I would have no problem with it. Raving is quite correct here Judith.

      • Alexander Harvey

        I think that organisations might be advised to review all such statements by a member that can act as “devil’s advocate”. Someone who can indicate how it is likely to be perceived by people who will disagree. That is if they care.

        As you indicate the very first sentence is open to direct challenge, so you have lost a lot of people before the first full stop. It is an indicative statement of fact concerning balance that is difficult to defend againt the charges of “So what’s new?”, “Meaningless!”. or “Insufficient evidence?”.

        The statement as a whole (a position statement) is one of opinion. Perhaps it might have been better to start with a preamble that states that it is an opinion, whose opinion it is, how it was arrived at, and whether it was unamionously agreed upon. Then as a whole it would not be open to such a direct challenge as non factual. That it is an opinion is a fact.


      • Alex – almost any statement can be challenged if it can’t be documented exclusively by incontrovertible measurements but relies to some extent on both theory and observations. In this case, though, the assertion that the climate is “out of balance” is well substantiated to the satisfaction of most observers familiar with the evidence. The current imbalance is about 0.9 watts per meter squared, a quantity with significant implications for future climate change is greenhouse gas emissions are not mitigated.

      • correction: “if” not “is” in my last sentence.

      • Alexander Harvey

        But can you see, that it faces challenge as being nothing unusual. When was the climate in balance? Was the climate in balance from 1920-1940?

        Now the imbalance 1990-2005, and I thnk confirmed by OHC data was around the figure you mentioned. Unfortunately can you say it is currently so? I do not thing that the OHC data supports it, TOA may support it.

        BTW why it might not be so is an interesting question and if it truely is less that might have implications that show that CAGW is worse than you might think, it depends on why it might not be so. This would be a contentious argument based on whether the levelling off of methane and importantly CFC forcings has made a significant dent in the “exposed forcing”, forcing remaining after 1st and 2nd aerosol effects. But that is another topic.

        I see your statement as being hostage to inconclusive evidence, plus I am very keen to know if it is true or not.

        I am looking at the statement from the point of view whether it is opinion or, fact. This is a world where indicative statements are open to such challenges. Do you see that your use of the word “current” is open to question?

        Regarding the position statement I would have prefered an explicit preamble and not just the implication from the title.


      • Le me endorse what Alex has said. Fred writes ” In this case, though, the assertion that the climate is “out of balance” is well substantiated to the satisfaction of most observers familiar with the evidence. “. The bit that worries me is “most observers familiar with the evidence.”. This is the old sleight-of-hand practice of relying on the opinion of “experts”, and not the scientific evidence itself. There should never be any sort of appeal to the authority of “observers”. The only authority is the science itself.

        And just because you claim, Fred, that this evidence exists, does not mean it actually exists. From all I have read, the evidence simply is not there. The atmopshere is simply too chaotic and too little understood, for there to be any form of incontrovertable evidence. Even if the atmosphere is “out of balance”, whatever this means, there is no way in physics of saying how much this “out of balance” affects global temperatures.

      • The magnitude of an imbalance is derived from CERES observations, which despite short term variability, are a good measure of long term differences between incoming and outgoing energy. The OHC data imply a similar imbalance over the long term, with greater short term variability (they are only fairly reliable down to 700 meters while most ocean heat is below that, and recently reported data – in GRL if I remember correctly – demonstrate rises averaged over the past decade). The multidecadal rise in SST and global temperatures, despite short term variations, requires an imbalance. The associated multidecadal rise in sea levels (again, with short term variability) is incompatible with a balance in energy except possibly during short intervals. Short term variations are plausible on the basis of internal phenomena (ENSO) or short term forcings from volcanism, but there is no known plausible mechanism to erase the evidence for multidecadal responses to an imbalance, which emerges after short term variations average out. The AGU statement is based on this reasoning, and would require multiple independent lines of evidence to be refuted for the conclusion to prove unwarranted.

        I refrained from mentioning CO2 or models, but the CO2 data, fundamental principles of physics, and their quantitation in models all provide further confirmation of conclusions drawn from observational data. The probability of error is not zero, but it is rather close in terms of an imbalance. The exact number, of course, is associated with an uncertainty primarily related to the satellite data, since those data are subject to the smallest errors in ascertaining the difference between how much energy we receive and how much we emit.

        It is very likely that the climate was unbalanced between 1920 and 1940, but TOA data were not available at that time.

      • Here’s is a Levitus et al reference to ocean heat content changes, showing the rising trend over multiple decades, including an averaged slight rise recently:
        Ocean Heat Content

        It’s important to note, though, that although CERES TOA measurements identify the direction of an energy imbalance, even accurate measurements of upper ocean heat content may not (although the Levitus data show that observed changes are operating in the expected direction). Upper ocean heat content responds to TOA imbalances but also to imbalances with the deeper ocean, where most of the heat resides. If a TOA imbalance is small, and the upper/lower imbalance is large and in the opposite direction, the latter may dominate.

      • Addendum. Alex – In responding to your comment, I glossed over a few points that you were making that deserved more attention. First, I think the AGU would agree that the climate was out of balance during much of the past 100 years, not merely in recent decades. In fact, that would be part of their point – our future will be determined by multidecadal trends because the shorter term variations such as ENSO and volcanic aerosols (and even AMO and PDO) average out. Once the variations are accounted for, the long term imbalance is a warming one.

        Second, although you were somewhat cryptic, I agree with what I interpret to be your suggestion that as we remove some of the anthropogenically generated polluting aerosols such as industrial sulfates, we may increase TOA imbalances due to persisting forcings such as elevated CO2, and so the warming trend will be exacerbated. In fact, that is a considerable worry among those measuring the effects of aerosols as a climate modifier. The other side of that coin, of course, is the geoengineering concept of deliberately adding aerosols to the atmosphere as a desperation measure, should we be unable to constrain CO2-mediated warming to tolerable levels.

      • Alexander Harvey


        To be somewhat less cryptic, I neither want myself or others to dismiss any percieved reduction in the imbalance as random when it might be forced (CFC/CH4). If levelling off of these forcings has lead to a significant reduction in the imbalance that would indicate high values for aerosols forcings and high sensitivities. I understand that the OHC data is only for 0-700m but that is where most of the short term changes should I think reside. If the OHC data has flatlined (I am expecting more adjustments) we do have an issue in that the balances at the two significant boundaries disagree. As I understand you, if the TOA is correct then little has changed, but if the OHC is correct then that could be very bad news for both longterm climatic changes and the practicality of CO2 mitigation by reduction of fuel usage as opposed to CO2 reduction by capture and storage unless the aerosols are maintained by other means. I do realise that it is a complicated area, but I do regard the modulation of CFC emissions as perhaps the only significant climate experiment that we have deliberately undertaken, I simply hope that we can learn any available lessons. To that end I would wish to be perhaps overly open to a reduction in the balance (compared to what should have happened without the CFC protocol). I could ellaborate a little but this comment is deep into the blog margin.

        What I would wish to avoid is a flip-flop if it is realised that there has been a reduction, and that it supports AGW theory (which it would) and it implies that things are worse than we thought. That would be rightly critised as opportunistic. It might have been better, if in 2000, it had been stated that flatlining due to CFC mitigation (although not considered likely) would be a plausible indicator of very high sensitivities. Hansen did draw attention to the effects of CFC mitigation around 2000 but the story seemed to go cold immediately.


      • I’m not all that sure what the difference between the two is that makes your opinion vary so much. The policy advice part of the APS statement is:

        We must reduce emissions of greenhouse gases beginning now.

        And here’s the AGU:

        Mitigation strategies and adaptation responses will call for collaborations across science, technology, industry, and government.

        Is it the ‘now’ that separates it so much? Or that it is somewhat more direct in its wordage?

        The AGU says ‘mitigation strategies’ and APS says ‘reduce emissions’; aren’t they very similar statements of advice based on our current scientific understanding? Both are educating the public based on ‘best known’ evidence. I think this is important to discuss more deeply because the role that science plays in our society is essential, and disentangling science from policy making carries severe risk.

      • It is fixed simply by posing it as an ‘advisory’ or ‘precautionary’ WARNING.

        The *musts* kill the credibility. (In the AGU statement, the *must* is silent and implied)

      • We must reduce emissions of greenhouse gases beginning now.

        This statement tends to feed/support those who then claim: Hurry! Time is running out! No time for debate! Government must step in and…!

        Mitigation strategies and adaptation responses will call for collaborations across science, technology, industry, and government.

        This statement says nothing more than collaboration (cooperation) is called for.

        From my perspective, the difference between the two is glaringly obvious.

      • How you read the two statements is up to you, but both are advocating for “government” action, collaborative or not (in fact this would be a more comprehensive policy), and both are advocating a reduction in emissions (mitigation in climate change talk = emission reduction or sequestration). I’m not sure how one is ideological and the other isn’t, and according to Judith Curry, the AGU is:

        So really, the AGU is behaving the most responsibly IMO

        But the other:

        The worst kind of statements are the ones that the APS has been making, which are advocacy statements.

        I think we need to recalculate what we consider education, advocacy, policy suggestion, and ideology. those are all very different things which are getting very convoluted in this blog discussion (especially since the “feedback theory” post), to the point where when a scientist or a group of scientists say something that we don’t like, we just call it dogma or ideology and move on without any discussion of what is being offered. I had this discussion on other blogs, so I’ll just repost a snippet of what I put there:

        it is not ideological to advise that society reduce or sequester emissions if we would like to avoid possible problems in the future. This is a basic fact based on the evidence we have in hand and the lack of scientific alternatives for mitigation and adaption. The next step up would be advising on how to reduce emissions. This is the category that Hansen would fit into, but not many scientists really get involved in asking for specific policies. . To be ideological, a scientist or association would need to align their policy with some other group of ideals, philosophy, or comprehensive vision; ie conforming a policy with Marxism and using emissions policies to fight the bourgeois, or else dump policies that do not fit in with the overall political goals.

      • Further clarification: I see the difference in how the two statements can/will be used by politicians and policy wonks to further their own agendas.

        Statements like these are not made in a vacuum; I think it is wise for those making the statements to at least try to take into account the ways the statements could be used (and misused) by such opportunists, and take appropriate measures to ensure that the meaning and intent is clear and unambiguous.

        In the case of the APS, I think their statement crosses the line into advocacy of political / policy actions, which makes their statement a political one.

      • I’m afraid I agree with Raving, Robinson and Alexander Harvey. There’s insufficient acknowledgement of scientific uncertainties and, as a position statement, gives the impression of AGU unanimity that I suspect (read: hope) is inaccurate.

        Perhaps, as the position in 2007, it has value as a historical document, but I don’t think that in its present form the position statement can possibly represent current AGU “consensus” thinking so broadly. I certainly hope not, anyway.

      • I’m not at all ‘afraid I agree with Raving, Robinson and Alexander Harvey…,’ and Hopkinson. I am quite happy, and somewhat surprised to be in such company.
        Alchemy also ‘…has value as a historical …’ phenomenon.

      • Dr. Curry,
        I am a somewhat surprised that the AGU opening statement is good an appropriate to you (please understand that no disrespect is intended).

        With the uncertainty of clouds/water vapor, the AMO/PDO cycles, the solar influence , how can one know what ‘out of balance’ is.

        The rest of the first paragraph is very much along the lines of the ‘alarmism’ that has followed since the 2007 IPCC report about where we are headed (reduced agricultural productivity, loss of summertime arctic ice, melting Greenland ice sheets and several meters of sea level without 50% cut in CO2).

        Considering that the AGU statement was revised in 2007, that would make sense for its tone then ( . . when ‘the science was settled’ ). But not to today, IMHO.

      • Judith, as a follow-up I would love to see you defend the AGU statement to the “skeptics” who have posted here. I would hope that engagement leads to an education opportunity, a la Grumbine. I would like to see more challenge of, instead of affirmation of, fringe ideas.

        I gather that you believe that many of your colleagues are doing this the wrong way and I would be interested to see how this can be improved.

      • Well there are a lot of nuances in the AGU statement, if i were writing it, i would write it differently. As far as professional society statements on climate change go, this is definitely one of the better ones, IMO. In technical threads, I will argue specific technical points. I don’t want to get involved in Etc. threads trying to argue broad technical issues. And I definitely don’t want to go the route of hitting people over the head with factoids. The undebatabtle factoids in this whole thing aren’t very many.

      • No, I’m blaming the scientists for playing the power politics of expertise game badly. We ended up with a poor policy, and they played bad politics IMO. They could have stayed out of the politics (but engage in the policy process, the honest broker model). Once they go into activist/advocacy mode, then they can create political problems, which they did IMO, which has made things worse at this point, anyways.

      • Well, then I will look forward to the technical threads. I will be interested to see whether anyone will come around to the conclusions expressed by the AGU statement, NAS, etc. I would hope that’s the point of building these bridges.

    • Leonard Weinstein

      I read the AGU position, and it assumes the problem. They are entitled to an opinion, but they better support it with good arguments (and have not). The CO2 and Methane have increased a lot, probably due to human activity. The temperature has gone up a small amount, but we were coming out of the LIA. All models assume a large positive feedback for CO2 effects, but I have read their arguments, and seen Roy Spencer, Prof Lindzen, and others response that contradicts that, and I do not think you can call that settled. I have looked for the atmospheric hot spot, high altitude water vapor increases, and other REQUIRED features and not seen them. Sea level is not acting as stated. At this point CAGW is unsupportable, and weak AGW is agreed to by most scientists that are skeptics. The AGU statement is clearly a CAGW position and will come back to bite them.

      As an aside, I think the Ozone hole problem and human cause were not invalid, but exaggerated, and would not have ever become the big problem stated. See: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1nNI6cgA0WZ1jqR-CtGBdhpHrj8eXPPyn9GnpZud2NOI/edit?hl=en&pli=1#

      • Leonard –
        Thanks for your thoughts.

        I’m afraid that you and I have different views regarding the conclusions of the professional literature.

    • Re: (undefined NaN NaN:NaN),
      Also, they pick which experts get included. Dead easy to make sure they all have the same song-book.

  10. What value there is in engaging skeptics depends greatly on what you (anyone) means by ‘skeptic’ and by ‘engage’.

    ‘skeptic’ as it is used in blogosphere climate includes anything from those who deny that there is a greenhouse effect, to those who deny that co2 is a greenhouse gas, to denying that co2 has risen, to denying that the rise has anything to do with human activity, to denying that the rise could have _any_ effect on climate and on down to relatively (compared to the preceding) minor matters of wondering just how good the surface temperature record is.

    ‘engage’ is similarly broad. Some people mean merely that scientists should get out, as I have, and talk to groups (science cafes) where the focus is audience questioning, rather than death by powerpoint. I enjoy that, so anyone in my area with a group is welcome to invite me on down to chat. Others would like something else that I do — having a place on a blog or other easily accessed place where people could ask questions of scientists. (interesting to me is that those posts have lower than usual response). And then on out to extremes such as no climate scientist should be allowed to do any new work until the field has been reviewed to that ‘skeptic’s’ satisfaction.

    One mode of ‘engagement’ that many seem to like is debate. Debate is merely people defending predefined positions. I see no reason to encourage that. It’s what you do with competing dogmas, not with or about science. Further, nothing is learned about the topic. You’re merely scoring points and looking to score points — not to understand the topic. At the end, the debaters walk away feeling even more comfortable that they’re right. My preference is discussion — where it’s possible that everybody involved will leave with (st least somewhat) different positions than they entered. With more detail and nuance is http://moregrumbinescience.blogspot.com/2008/08/discussion-vs-debate.html

    Some types of ‘engagement’ with some types of ‘skeptic’ make sense to me. Others don’t — depending on what is meant by the terms. It’d be a step forward if people using those terms would define them.

    • Many if not most climate scientists (at this blog and elsewhere) seem to have a difficult time with the notion that they could welcome scientifically-literate, qualified criticism, whatever its source.

      It’s difficult picking out the “good” skeptical arguments. But it’s not that hard.

      It’s the approach that Richard Feynman would have advocated, I think.

      IMO, had this stance been adopted earlier, the field wouldn’t be in such hot water today. But in fairness, it was too tempting to “fight fire with fire”, as far as the organized anti-acknowldgement-of-AGW forces (which did exist).

      The leading lights of climate science didn’t have the wisdom to seek out more productive strategies, then. It would be better for all of us if they could change tactics.

      • Many if not most climate scientists (at this blog and elsewhere) seem to have a difficult time with the notion that they could welcome scientifically-literate, qualified criticism, whatever its source.

        I disagree with this characterization, though to paraphrase Dr. Grumbine it depends on what you mean by “scientifically-literate,” qualified…” and “most.”

        I think it takes a particular type of individual to weed through the invective and crankiness for the “‘good’ skeptical arguments,” and a very special type of individual to craft a thoughtful response that would likely (red 10%, white 30%, green 60%) be rebuffed on ideological grounds.

    • Looks like an interesting blog. I left a question for you at your ‘questions place’ post page


    • This is one of the biggest frustrations in my experience. There are so many different varieties of “skepticism” – ranging from genuine, healthy interest and uncertainty to outright idealogical denial. It can take a long time to nail down exactly what one individual is skeptical *of* – yet many view theirs as the One True Skepticism, and any implication that you have not fully grasped their particular flavour is picked up on as a cheap smear.

      The most useful engagement I’ve found has been to try and get to a discussion of an area of definite uncertainty, like climate sensitivity. Basically, if someone does not accept CO2 is a greenhouse gas, or that there has been a rise in temperature, or insists that rises in CO2 or temperature will bring about bounteous joy for all of humanity they are almost certainly unpersuadable by any means, and no amount of reference to science can change that. OTOH, if someone accepts warming, but expects little ill-effect because of a belief in a lower-than-normally-accepted sensitivity, that can be fodder for a genuine conversation.

      More and more though I find myself bailing early, rather than get drawn into a long and ultimately futile “debate”.

      • Well, I am going to host a thread (probably put it up around Thanksgiving, entitled “Skeptics: give it your best shot” and let people post what that have (750 words or less, with links) so we can all take a look and talk about it. Fish or cut bait time :)

      • Really? Why bother? Just declare victory now. “Take on the climate science establishment in 750 words or less. Go.”

        The only people who would think that is a good idea are the cranks (you seem to have collected a few; was that the whole point of this site?) who are going to ramble about the sun being made of chromium and the secret resonance that has with twenty inch rims (an effect established by no less than three papers on arXiv) that leads to an urban heat island effect which is unacknowledged by The Man’s IPCC, and therefore climate science is bunk. e.g. QED ipso facto etc….

      • Leonard Weinstein

        I think you should take your Valium now and take a nap. You will feel better later.

      • Dr Weinstein, your concern for my health and well-being is disarming.

        This 750-word shooting gallery sounds an awful lot like the rhetorical theater put on by environmentalists, where the goal is scoring cheap points, not discussing anything substantive.

        I was rather surprised to see this after Dr Curry had so recently emphasized that she devotes thousands of words to these posts and ensuing discussions. What good can come of a discussion based on sound-bites and gotchas? What would a thread of 750-word-climate-science-challenge snippets add? The more serious folks already have entire websites for that.

        On the other hand, I suppose there’s always value in more proof that there are plenty of folks willing to opine on the internet’s narrowest margins and “remove all doubt.”

      • Really? Why bother? Just declare victory now. “Take on the climate science establishment in 750 words or less. Go.”

        There is a danger that it will be turned into a barrel shoot by those who will gleefully point to the ‘crank’ offerings and tar everyone with the same brush. As I said in another comment on this thread, AGW advocates only engage with arguments they can knock down. They will use those as a smokescreen to avoid the really awkward points they can’t deal with. My experience is that when faced with such questions, obfuscation becomes the tactic used to ‘talk the debate out of time’. It is very frustrating.

      • Did not think 11/8 was full moon

      • My impression is that the whole point of this site/blog was engagement and an attempt to bridge a growing chasm between two polarized camps. And I think Dr. Curry has been amazingly successful in a very short time. No, nothing’s been solved, but at least one scientist is trying to raise and discuss some of the nasty, ugly issues with the unwashed masses (of which I am a card-carrying member).

        The ‘cranks’ appearing here aren’t scaring me or wasting my time. I check them out, and make my decisions based on the merits of their arguments. My BS detector works just fine. Yours does too.

      • Leonard Weinstein

        I will be glad to respond. I expect you to read my write ups and links and show me where I am not reasonable. I think if you get limited responses, it would only be due to a number of the best skeptics not being aware of your thread to come. I think it would also be worthwhile to request supporters of CAGW to do the same so you would have side by side comparison in the same format. In addition, there are many who are CAGW or strong AGW supporters, but are classed as skeptics because they think the main stream climatologists were not doing good science, or are partially but not fully correct. You personally also need to put in an entry in the same format of why you accept CAGW.

      • > show me where I am not reasonable

        I think you are not reasonable in your use of the fabricated term “CAGW”, for which the “C” part – as we have already established – has no specific definition, and acts as a casual smear and instant get-out-of-jail card in any argument.

      • Roddy Campbell

        Dave H – I use CAGW, as distict from AGW, to indicate that while both people accept the GHG effect, one is more inclined to believe that the impacts of warming will be so damaging that we need to mitigate starting now, even at some real economic cost, to avert future potential damage of some ‘catastrophic’ nature, say in human deaths from falling agriculture yields. Whereas an AGW person may or may not believe in the need for urgent mitigation – for example, I don’t.

      • Explaining your personal interpretation of the word “catastrophic” doesn’t actually help, because – unlike the other three words in that acronym – the meaning is entirely subjective.

        I would have to go through this same long-winded process with anybody who chose to use the term, and you (or they) can change or “clarify” this definition in any direction you like. It is sloppy, loaded language.

      • Given that the range of climate sensitivity is subjectively assumed and that the certainty of its consequent negative impacts are similarly inferred, it seems entirely appropriate that the C in CAGW also be subjectively interpreted.

        Given that the acronym AGW is itself an assumption of discernible warming, and that this is still much debated – and that it is possible the only heat in global warming is in the debate itself, rather than the atmosphere – it smacks of pettiness to object to the CAGW acronym. It is in the vernacular and is functional.

      • I have had this discussion a dozen times, and every time I get a different response.

        There is no implicit assumption in AGW, and no value judgement. You attempt to diminish the term by applying values that simply do not – cannot – exist as part of that term. AGW *defines* something – it does not *assume* that thing exists per se, nor apply any extent to the measurability, severity or desirability of the effect being defined.

        Uncertainty over sensitivity is nothing at all to do with this issue and is a very poor analogy. Sensitivity represents an empirical quantity, and while there is uncertainty and disagreement over range of values, to compare it to a *qualititative* term like “catastrophic” is just plain wrong.

      • I thought we stopped worrying about exactly how many angels could dance on the head of a pin yonks ago. Because we had discovered science.

        If any party is so pedantic that they genuinely fail to understand what the commonly used acronym CAGW os trying to convey, then I submit that we need another thread…’Why should sceptics engage with warmists?’

        In this case I can come up with no good reasons whatsoever. Life is too short.

      • Latimer,

        Define the “C” then. With precision. The other three terms are easy – so give me a definition of catastrophe as clear-cut as those that everybody can agree on. I assert that you cannot, because “catastrophe” is an inherently relative term.

        The definition given above was:

        > one is more inclined to believe that the impacts of warming will be so damaging that we need to mitigate starting now, even at some real economic cost, to avert future potential damage of some ‘catastrophic’ nature, say in human deaths from falling agriculture yields.

        But using the word “catastrophic” to define the word “catastrophic” gets us nowhere. What is the line between “catastrophic” and “not catastrophic but still bad enough that immediate measures are necessary”? Who defines that line? What if I fall just short of the line – do I need another term for the scale of severity I happen to consider realistic? Would your definition cover all forms of catastrophe or must the specific consequences be defined up front? What if I happen to expect the consequences for human life to be minimal, but for *animal* life to be in some sense “catastrophic”? That would fail the above definition, and again there would be a value judgement of whether a catastrophe that befell a species other than our own would constitute “C”AGW.

        The “C” adds no clarity, and is an empty smear – the implication of scaremongering or irrational belief (as opposed to someone who claims to accept AGW on some level but is “rational” enough not to believe in imminent doom for humanity) is clear.

        This is not angels on a pin – this is about widespread use in certain circles of an invented term, dressed up in the trappings of science but intentionally modified to assign negative connotations to the one so-labelled, and the groupthink justification for that.

      • “because “catastrophe” is an inherently relative term. ”

        But “Warming” is not a inherently relative term.

      • > But “Warming” is not a inherently relative term.

        By relative actually meant the sense of it being “subjective” to be honest.

        Warming *is* relative, but there is no value judgement or magnitude attached to the term, and no specific start/end point required for use of the word. Given an undisputed direction of change, determining whether the term “warming” is appropriate or not cannot be controversial. OTOH, given a specific negative outcome there are no objective grounds for determining the appropriateness of the label “catastrophe”.

      • PolyisTCOandbanned

        Lousy idea, Judy. This stuff has been chewed over to the max. For years? Now you want an all new thread to do it again? This place is becoming drama central. Just start a forum if you want that.

        If you want to advance thinking, it will be iteratively, with granular achievements based on new ideas you pose. You arw way too broad and scattered lately.

  11. Have the answers given to journalists and their questions from the previous Q&A been published on the net? It seems to me that in the spirit of openness, this would be a good idea, because it would give the interested lay public the chance to assess the reasons why the Society of Environmental’s Journalists have uniformly toed the IPCC line. Is it because of the answers they get from organisations like AGU, or from the training they get at Oxford? I for one would like to know what the questions were, and whether the answers expanded on issues such as uncertainty.

    Could anyone encourage the AGU membership to get the previous Q&A put online if it hasn’t been done already?

  12. Yikes, I just read the AGU position statement linked by Pt Cassen, so I guess that answers most of my questions.

  13. “Why engage with skeptics?”

    Why not? Climate science has nothing to lose and everything to gain if some bright skeptic has come up with a brilliant way of showing that climate isn’t really that comlicated after all and progress can be made with getting a better theory together.

    Problem is, although climate science has everything to gain, climate scientists stand to lose a lot if they are shown to have been barking up the wrong larch trees all these years.

    Loss of prestige
    Loss of funding
    Loss of face

    This is why climate scientists tend to restrict themselves to engaging with skeptics whose arguments they can knock down. It gives some publicly visible semblance of openness, while preserving the status quo.

    The real problem is they gave up being scientists years ago. Real scientists welcome rebuttals of their theories, but theories which are hitched to politically slanted policy can’t admit the possibility of error, or the paymaster may shift his patronage elsewhere.

    • There is so much science missing to base opinions and theories on.
      Here is the symptom and we ALL think this is the problem…y’all.

      No pressure understanding of the complex process this is generated from planetary rotation. Cloudcover NEVER crosses the equator. No motion at all is included at all in the theories considering the influences of centrifugal force, gravity/electro-magnetics and pressure that changes gases into water.

  14. Judith,

    As I’ve said before, I’m an agnostic about AGW, and a sceptic about the capacity of the proposals that governments have outlined to do anything at all to reduce CO2 levels. I’m not a climate scientist either, but an experienced assessor of proposals for funding research projects and programs, from the very small to the $100 million mark, and over thirty years.

    I ask questions. They form a sort of nested set: Why do you find this an interesting project? Why should I find it interesting? What will happen if you are successful in your quest? What if you’re not successful? Given that all this money could be put to other virtuous purposes, why should [your favourite ordinary citizen] cheer when he/she learns that you have received a grant? Other questions, obvious enough in context, follow from the openers.

    In my experience, physicists handled this sort of enquiry best. They knew that most people have no idea what physicists do, they knew they had to have lots of money, and they’ve learned how to ask nicely, plausibly and persistently. They take the long view, and recognise that not every request will succeed. They have thought about your questions, and have answers for them that you can understand.

    That has not been my experience in the climate science domain, though I would have to say that I have handled very few proposals for funded work in this area. But I go on asking. I do correspond with three scientists in the field, and what happens here happened with them. We will get to a certain point in discussion, and one will talk, say, of ‘tipping points’ and how dangerous they are. I ask for evidence of what tipping points are, and what effect they have had in the past. I am directed to papers by X, Y and Z. I discover there that tipping points, as far as I can understand it, are best seen as assumptions: there was a sudden change in climate, so something must have tipped it over. Working backwards, there must have been some kind of feedback that went exponential. The fact that the scientists cannot see any other possibility does not seem persuasive to me. So I say that these papers neither explain a tipping point or its operation. It’s really a notion, a possibility, hardly even a hypothesis. Could I have more info? There is silence.

    Since you set up this excellent site, from which I have learned a lot, even if I have had to watch gladiatorial contests that seem to go on too long, even for the crowd, I have raised points like this one, and a number of others, that explain why I remain agnostic. I have had no answers, unless I have missed them (and it is easy to do this, alas, because of the way the threads are constructed). There is a lot of silence.

    Someone has referred to what he/she described as ‘minor matters’ of temperature measurement. That’s what I call a dismissive hand-wave, and I encounter it a lot. It seems reasonable to me that the planet has warmed, in an irregular way, over the past century. But it also seems reasonable to me that the temperature data, gathered as they are from shifting sites, with a particular, almost Procrustean methodology, and subject, as they seem to have been, to lots of ‘adjustments’, are pretty crude. The final numbers have no real meaning any more. How we can talk of changes to them at the decimal point level makes me shake my head in wonderment.

    Other sceptical people have pointed this out. There has been no reply. I am told to read WG1, which I have done, and studied carefully. Or I am told, with another dismissive hand-wave, that these matters have been dealt with before.

    Like others who post, I wouldn’t have persevered with this study had the whole thing been dealt with in a more open, friendly and truth-searching way. The fact that ‘climate science’ seems almost the opposite in its approach cannot help make me doubt what are put forward as ‘facts’ or ‘truths’.

    Alas, I have no obvious way forward to propose. I hope for an incremental change as governments recognise that there is no real hope for a consolidated world-government approach, and move into domains like energy efficiency, lower dependence on oil, and adaptation to the climate change troubles with which we are all too familiar.

    Sorry, I went on a bit too long.

    • Don Aitkin (Nov 8 at 9:00 pm) —

      Your post captures a source of skepticism towards the Pro-AGW Consensus that is shared by many of us, I think.

      On the instrumental record, you wrote

      It seems reasonable to me that the planet has warmed, in an irregular way, over the past century. But it also seems reasonable to me that the temperature data, gathered as they are from shifting sites, with a particular, almost Procrustean methodology, and subject, as they seem to have been, to lots of ‘adjustments’, are pretty crude.

      I’d suggest taking a look at the posts that Zeke Hausfather has authored on this subject over the past year or so, at The Blackboard. For instance, Global Land Reconstructions and Global Land/Ocean Reconstructions.

      • Alexander Harvey

        Do you think that the progress with the thermometer record will result in a record that can achieve general acceptance, within the limits of its error bars?

        Also do you think that the satellite record has general acceptance?

        I would like to know what is and will be agreed upon and you may have a feel for this that I don’t.


      • Alex (Nov 8 at 10:57pm) —

        I am not able to offer a qualified independent opinion. That said, I would answer “yes” to both your questions. On the first, consider the concordance between the independent analyses of Zeke Hausfather, Tamino, CCC, GISS, Steve Mosher, Jeff Id, and others. Granted, they aren’t really “independent”, but the results show a robustness with respect to both data and methods. I recommend working through Zeke’s posts; see what you think of his and others’ methods, and the responses of the modelers to the (plentiful) critiques in the comments.

      • Alexander Harvey


        I have followed their progress and I am aware that the MET (UK) is undergoing a process on this front.

        Mine was a broader question, basically have the players got the broad respect of the community? I think so. They may not all get quite the same answer but hopefully the question of intentional bias and manipulation, or poor practice will be settled.


    • Don,

      Well written. Outstandingly written. Thanks. (not at all “a bit too long”.)

    • Michael Larkin

      An excellent, eye-opening post, Don. Many thanks for it.

    • Don, Raving and Judith>

      State the arguments .
      State Current responses/assessments.
      Allow deniers and fear-mongers edit opportunities.
      Confirm that the arguments are complete.
      State the questions, Don.

      Give us each Thanksgiving ’til Chrismas.

      Then, Judtih, we may have several 750-word jewels.

      Don, Thanks.

  15. I am a “for life” member of the AGU. I sort of remember receiving an invitation to add my name to an experts bureau, or list of scientists who could be called on by media for comments on the science. (It could have been another geoscience society who contacted me with the request, but even if it wasn’t AGU, it was likely GSA or AMA, so I think the view I convey below still holds.) Smaller town media like local faces because they are much more accessible than the Manns or Currys of the world. :-) If I recall correctly, the purpose of the request for experts was to assist the AGU in referring media requests to local scientists for their comment.

    I didn’t sign on because even though I believe I am fluent in current climate science (my PhD was in oceans and climate, my current area of study [and employment] is in air pollution e.g. particulate matter and ozone), I had no desire to comment on proclamations of doom that is less than certain. I am completely cognizant of the fact that those who dare to question the absolutes of CAGW (aka consensus) will be attacked by various means, and sometimes viciously. I chose not to be a target. I will never forget one Senate EPW Committee hearing where one member angrily proclaimed how he didn’t want to hear anything about uncertainty anymore. Talk about chilling!

    So, it is not only CAGW scientists that are attacked, those on “the other side” are attacked as well. ANY SCIENTIST who comments publicly on aspects of science that might contradict the advocacy position of the day is an open target.

    I think Judith might agree with this statement: If, as a scientist you publicly promote an idea and use your credentials as authority, be sure of your objectivity. Recognize where your feelings and opinions trump scientific (un)certainty and emphasize to your audience of such.

    PS – I couldn’t get past the 2nd sentence of the AGU position statement without objection. So Judith I do not agree with you that the statement is appropriate.

    PPS- I also disagree with you re sending an AGU rep to Cancun. Absolutely someone should be sent by AGU. The membership needs to know what went on. I don’t think we should have to depend for news upon, for example, the LA Times. The AGU rep should be given instructions to be an observer only.

    • AnthropoceneEndGame

      Can you be more specific on the uncertainty in the science that you mentioned? Unless I’m misinterpreting the IPCC’s latest statement, they’ve incorporated uncertainty into their latest statement (2007).
      If your science is sound and you can defend it, why do you fear being attacked?

      • Alexander Harvey

        You might consider whether being right or wrong alters the pain or the loss of blood. Were it I, my fear would be based on consequences.


      • IPCC uncertainty assessments (at least in the summary for policy makers) are not quantitative. They are qualitative estimates by “experts,” or in my opinion educated guesses. Also, imo, their guesses are as good as mine, and any of our guesses can be completely wrong.

        I’m not afraid of defending what we know about the science. I just don’t want to deal with (again) personal attacks on my integrity because I beg to differ with a certain, shall I dare say, dogma.

  16. Rod Montgomery

    1. Peter Drucker, in The Effective Executive, observed that effective decision-making is always based on disagreement, not on consensus.

    Only disagreement can tease out the assumptions the experts may not even realize they are making, especially figure-of-merit fallacies.

    Starting from that observation, I propose that the proper goal for both professional societies like the AGU and trans-national bureaucratic organs such as the IPCC is not formulating and articulating a consensus, but reaching what Herman Kahn (founder of the Hudson Institute) called second-order agreement — that is, agreement on what the argument is about:

    1st-order agreement is agreement on substance.

    2nd-order agreement is agreement about =what the argument is about=. “If A and B have achieved it, either should be able to explain it to C and each should be willing to accept the other’s explanation.”

    3rd-order agreement is “an understanding on why second-order agreement cannot be achieved. … When third-order agreement is reached, each party can explain satisfactorily to a third why his opponent thinks the two cannot really come to grips on relevant issues and facts and eventually achieve a second-order agreement.”

    4th-order agreement is “the simple assertion by one or both [parties] that the other is too stupid or biased for further discussion to be worthwhile”.

    Ref: Can We Win in Vietnam?, Praeger, 1968, pp. 3-4

    2. The current situation with respect to Climate Science is not the first time a scientific-bureaucratic-political complex has malfunctioned.

    In 1976, the Ford Administration had a “Swine Flu Affair”, which culminated in a botched, then aborted, attempt to immunize the entire US population. Richard Neustadt (beloved mentor of Al Gore) and Harvey Fineberg published an analysis of the affair, The Epidemic That Never Was: Policy-making and the Swine Flu Affair. It shows how scientists, bureaucrats and politicians interact with each other and with their various respective publics. Since the Swine Flu story has absolutely nothing to do with Climate Science, those embroiled in the current Climate Science controversy might be able to maintain some “emotional distance” while reading it.

    • This is a really interesting idea, thank you.

      • AnthropoceneEndGame

        1) It would be interesting if the IPCC was a decision making body. It is not.
        2) No detail here is provided of the alleged “malfunction” of the IPCC. Imperfect, yes. Malfunction?
        3) The AGU is now ready to offer a process to assist those members of the public who ‘don’t agree’ on global warming through their soon to be launched climate Q and A initiative. And scientists can still attempt to get published by the AGU.

        Perhaps the exercise cited by Rod would be useful as for the US Government.

      • Rod Montgomery

        The proposal that the IPCC focus on trying to reach second-order agreement, rather than on trying to reach and articulate consensus, is based precisely on the IPCC’s not being a decision-making body, but rather an advisory body.

        Decision-makers need rational disagreement amongst their advisors. Otherwise, the decision-makers become little more than puppets of the advisors, make their decisions on non-rational bases, or a little of each. That was the failure mode of the Public Health Scientific-Bureaucratic-Political-Industrial Complex in the Swine Flu Affair of 1976, and that is the failure mode of the Climate Scientific-Bureaucratic-Political-Industrial Complex today.

        The malfunction of the IPCC is that it has failed to present to the political decision-makers the rational disagreement that is the only possible foundation for effective decisions.

      • Re: (undefined NaN NaN:NaN),
        The IPCC is not nominally a decision-making body, but insofar as its periodic reports are taken as authoritative, is functions as one. It shapes the conclusions, and hence the “permissible” solutions to the problems as they define them.

        Control a person’s or group’s information channels, and you pretty much control their actions.

      • Dr C
        You have to look up the swine flu affair. It would be great if you could lay your hands on another book – The Swine Flu Affair – Pure politics Impure Science, by Arthur Silverstein, apparently a more charitable but equally penetrating book of the same debacle.

        The story is amazing. The US government gets the vaccine manufacturers to come up with the swine flu vaccine, and against a few lone voices of caution, starts a mass immunization campaign, even as the symptomatic wave of swine flu never actually materializes. Meanwhile a new respiratory ailment, previously never described – Legioniarre’s disease – breaks out in a convention center producing mortalities, with the causative organism only much later being identified as a bacterium and traced to be thriving in central air-conditioner units. This outbreak, mistaken to be the much-anticipated swine flu attack, provides the final push for getting the mass vaccination off the ground. The vaccine, for its part causes an increased incidence of Guillian-Barre syndrome – bringing the entire exercise to a grinding halt.

  17. Why engage with skeptics?

    Because every other science has to. Climate science must be no different. And by skeptics I don’t mean non-scientists, I mean scientists, even in other relevant fields. AGW hasn’t tollerated any skeptics from any other discipline of science. “Oh you are not a climate scientist, how can you possibly understand!” That has to stop.

    • With the climategate anniversary, reporters are contacting me to ask what it is like to interact with a climate skeptic, like I am the first person to walk on the moon.

      • That gave me a “teehee” moment! :-D

      • AnthropoceneEndGame

        Would you care to post your reply to the reporters? Or would that get you more unwanted attention?

      • Was this necessary? You give a good )though mild) example of why people do not want to engage.

      • Judith,

        They still don’t get it.
        The climate does change, just the science to figure this out stinks.
        The mechanics of understanding this planet stinks.
        The 300 year old un-updated physics stinks.
        The scientists working together stinks.

        I think I am in a stinky mood tonight.
        Took a bath, so that stink wasn’t a problem…

      • Sorry to burst your bubble Judith.

        Journo’s are mostly just looking for the latest easily defined, and potentially entertaining, bit of conflict…. and you’re delivering in spades.

      • my point exactly. why is it news for a scientist to talk about uncertainty, and say that it is a good thing for scientists to disagree, and that we should talk to skeptics? This isn’t news unless the science has gotten caught up in ideology.

      • It isn’t news at all.

        I think that you’ve completely misunderstood the issue here. I wasn’t talking about science, but about journalism. My point – journo’s aren’t attracted due to any interest whatsoever in any content that may be contained here, but in the existence of conflict.

        Ideology in science is not the cause of poor journalism.

        You can expect a strong majority (perhaps even all) of resultant articles to contain virtually nothing of substance about the science.

        It’s easy to atttract the attention of jounalists by creating an internet flame war, another altogether to add to the public understanding of science.

      • and how is the public understanding of science served by overconfidence in scientific results? overconfidence serves political purposes, not increasing the public understanding of science. Scott Mandia made it pretty clear that he want to change peoples minds about the science so they would support the policies, unless i am misunderstanding him. Journalists are right to be talking about this, its not bad journalism, they are writing about how science got tangled up in ideology, which has been the climate story of the last year.

      • Yes, I think you do misunderstand Scott a little. I think his point was that if poeople understood the science better they would be much more likely to support policies.

        And I think you are begging the question to some degree – this isn’t news unless science is caught up in ideology and journo’s are interested because science is caught up in ideology.

        The current nadir of journalism is pretty well recognised. Conflict is the frame de jour, as it’s easy – A says black, B says white and, hey presto, instant story.

        Flinging around terms like “high priests”, “corrupt”, “dogma”, etc will attract reporters like bees to honey.

        Which takes us back to Scott. Reporting stimulated by this blog primarily add to the noise out there. Scott’s informed public will be further diminished.

      • Scott is saying policy follows science, the linear model; that is part of the ideology. Libertarians that generally accept the WGI part, or point #1 in the ideology, think that the best way to handle changing and possibly adverse conditions is through economic development (of which fossil fuels are currently a big part of). So which of these policies are people supposed to support if they have a better understanding of the science? The policies are about values, economics, and politics. Yes, science has articulated a possible threat that has definitely made it into the policy makers’ radar screen (UNFCCC treaty and all that). what to do about it is politics. and if the scientists were smart, they would stop spending their time trying to “educate” the D students (all the framing/narrating/communicating stuff) and focus on exploring uncertainties and providing some useful information for the A students (e.g. economists, military intelligence, resource managers, etc.)

      • AnthropoceneEndGame

        Regarding D students vs A students:
        The IPCC statement, for those A students who took the time to read it, provides the science with ‘qualitative’ uncertainty–the “useful information”. Unfortunately, those economists, military intel, resource managers, etc, are taking their marching orders from, most typically, elected officials. And those officials are watching polls (and the majority of Americans are climate skeptics/D students). I already mentioned the influence of Big Energy on elected officials. I think you have an innocent view of power in the policy making process.

      • If majority of Americans are ‘D’ students, why do you ‘A’ students let us vote? I’m serious. Please defend the notion of universal suffrage amongst a population unfit to govern themselves.

        Frankly, I’m amazed at the self-contradictory attitudes among the elite.

      • if the scientists were smart, they would stop spending their time trying to “educate” the D students (all the framing/narrating/communicating stuff) and focus on exploring uncertainties and providing some useful information for the A students (e.g. economists, military intelligence, resource managers, etc.)

        You constantly emphasise this point that scientists should concentrate on exploring uncertainties but surely in order to do so they also define exactly where there is little or no uncertainty. Of course in doing so they may find that others disagree about the extent to which this certainty exists, in which case they are perfectly entitled to present their evidence, argue their case and try to persuade those others. And it is entirely right and proper that they attempt to do so.

      • “Scott is saying policy follows science, the linear model; that is part of the ideology”

        I think you’re making the same category error with ‘ideology’ no’ that you previously made with ‘dogma’.

        I’m pretty sure Scot has been saying that policy should follow science, ie, the best policies will be based on evidence.

        How this makes it ideology’ is a bit of a mystery.

        “what to do about it is politics”

        No, that’s policy, or possible policy. How we arrive at whatever we end up doing is politics.

      • Dr. Curry,

        It is not clear to me who you are including in your D student category. Therefore, I don’t know who you think scientists are wasting their time on while trying to educate them. Would you please clarify the matter?

        IMO, many scientists are focusing their attention on your A students, e.g., the resource managers.

      • Re: (undefined NaN NaN:NaN),
        She is paraphrasing Scott, not endorsing him.

    • AnthropoceneEndGame

      “AGW hasn’t tolerated any skeptics from any other discipline of science”

      What science should tolerate is credible science, and the evidence for AGW comes from numerous scientific disciplines, not just climatology. If you’re a skeptic in science research no one cares. Just cite the credible science and the process will take care of itself. Can you understand that?

      • Re: (undefined NaN NaN:NaN),
        “Climatologists” mash-moosh together DIY incompetent modelling, math, physics, statistics, forecasting, hydrology and paleogeology, and call it “Macaroni”. Phagh.

        They desperately need “input” (aka tutoring and thorough collaboration) from actual specialists. That they vigorously and rigorously reject it is not just telling, it’s fatal.

    • Latimer Alder

      I’d have more sympathy with the ‘you’re not a climate scientist’ line if anyone could show me what is unique about climatology that would be completely alien and incomprehensible to a physicist, a chemist, a mathematician, a statistician, a meteorologist or a geologist.

      This could be done in a number of ways…show me the syllabus for the examination needed to become a ‘climate scientist’, or to direct me to the standard basic textbook on the subject so that I can look at the detail for myself.

      Since neither exist, I am reasonably confident that my nasty suspicious mind that the Lodge of Climatology is just like a Masonic Lodge – insular, self-regarding, self-selecting secretive and very resistant to scrutiny or outside influence.

      I apologise to any of my Masonic friends who are mostly nice people when they put their trouser legs back down again and rejoin reality.

      • Latimer –
        You could start with Dennis Hartmann’s “Global Physical Climatology”. The Table of Contents and preview pages are available online. (Published in 1994, but has the basics.)

        Harvey’s “Global Warming, The Hard Science” (2000) is dense, but comprehensive; be prepared to use the many primary references given.

        Goody and Yung’s venerable textbook on Atmospheric Radiation is a great resource.

        “Principles of Planetary Climate” by Pierrehumbert is due out soon. I’m not sure if the draft is still available on the web.

        Cronin’s “Paleoclimates: Understanding Climate Change Past and Present” (2009) looks interesting, but I have not examined it in detail.

        Enjoy learning.

  18. “Why engage with skeptics?”

    Disclaimer: I am a Conservationist who is more than skeptical of Climate Science Claims and find the policy decisions and proposals for resolution appallingly inept.

    The Scientific Method begins with a “Question”. The Method ends with findings and the findings are constantly reexamined to ensure validity.

    When validity is conjecture, the system grounded in a lack of understanding, and resolution framed by unquantifiable factors (non-liners), one has to question why we aren’t All Skeptics.

    The only feedback loop that’s happening at the moment is the “Nag” to follow Process before Resolution. At the moment, the Scientific Method in Climate Science is Dead and turning it its grave.

    “Why engage with skeptics?”, we appear to be the last sign post of Reason.

    • “Why engage with skeptics?”

      How about “Why must we avoid skeptical criticism?”

      Anticipated Unspoken Assumption: The case for AGW is too important, too urgent and too fragile to withstand attacks from the peanut gallery, nut jobs or paid lobbyists.

      Moreover, it’s all out war. When the ‘fundies’ were allowed to challenge evolutionary process, they managed to twist co-opt and pervert rational truth in significant and preposterous ways by use of due process. That derailing cannot be allowed happen with the looming AGW cataclysm.

      Moreover we hold all the cards. We avoid the criticism because we can get away with doing so. Use it or lose it. We cannot afford to give up any advantage.

      • The “Unspoken Assumption” postulated by Raving (10:32pm) is consistent with my reading of the response of Pro-AGW Consensus scientists and advocates to the controversy surrounding the use of the Tiljander data series in the paleotemperature reconstructions presented in the high-profile publication Mann et al. (PNAS, 2008).

        This is a small affair that is on the periphery of the AGW debate: reconstructions are not critical to the AGW case, in my opinion, and the Tijander series were employed as temperature proxies in only a few recent cases.

        On the other hand, the issues at the heart of the controversy are straightforward, and can be understood after a couple of hours of background reading by most scientifically-literate laypeople. The methods used by Mann08 are unambiguously wrong, IMO. Notwithstanding that, the paper and its conclusions are adamantly defended by Consensus scientists and advocates.

        If this is an outlier, it should be possible to resolve the issues, per Feynman. If it is not an outlier, than it holds unlearned lessons for the climate science community, despite its relative obscurity.

        I have catalogued blog posts that have considered Tiljander/Mann08 here. Relevant citations to the literature are listed in a linked post.

  19. Dr. Curry,

    For an interesting read on how really, really smart people can really screw up, you should read the Big Short. The stat geeks who built models for Wall Street were the best minds coming out of MIT and Harvard B School. A whole lot smarter about stats than the likes of Mann, Jones, Rahmstorf and company. Which is why the claim to authority fallacy we get so often from alarmists is so funny. Or would be if the price tag they demand wasn’t so frightening.

  20. Alexander Harvey

    Why engage with sceptics? Why sceptics

    Why not engage with people you think might benefit?

    If people feel that the “sceptics” are getting it wrong, then perhaps they should pick up on the “believers” that are getting it wrong. I think that there is nothing more likely to promote engagement with “sceptics” than making “over-egging the pudding” as open to constructive engagement.

    A casualty of polarisation is intellectual reflection. Whereas it may be impossible to feel sympathetic, it may still be possible to empathise, to feel their passion and pain and imagine how they got to where they are. Perhaps to go so far as to assist them to deconstruct their position and see it for what it is.

    That applies to all positions whether held by “sceptics” or “believers”.

    So for instance, if someone maintains that the temperature record is irrefutable evidence of AGW since 1970. One might ask as to when that threshold was passed. If it had been .1C less or .3C less would that support “irrefutable”.

    If someone maintains that there is no or insufficient evidence that the temperature indicates anything that is not within the bounds of natural variation. One might ask what are those bounds, what would be evidence.

    In particular to ask opinion what they believe, not where their evidence comes from or who is on their side.

    I think that there are beneficial ways of engaging. Ways that are more akin to education than instruction. Drawing out not ramming home.

    Anyway just a thought.


    • Alex makes a good point, talk to the believers that get it wrong as well..

      Up until now, the perception has been that the IPCC, etc has kept quiet, because it helps drive policy (ie the glacier episode was like that, put in, becuse it helped the narrative)

      Are 300,000 peoply dying every year because of Climate Change?
      Because the 10:10 Campaign thinks so..
      (presumably they mean man made climate change)

      Franny Armstrong: “We ‘killed’ five people to make No Pressure – a mere blip compared to the 300,000 real people who now die each year from climate change,” she adds.


      Are a 150,000 people dying a year because of Climate Change? (man made?) Because GreenPeace (?) think so.

      “Already 150,000 people are dying every year because of climate change and, within 50 years, one-third of all land-based species could face extinction. If we carry on the way we are now, by 2100 the planet will likely be hotter than it’s been at any point in the past two million years.”

      I have climate scientists friends at the Walker Institute (lecture tomorrow in Reading, UK) and I very much doubt that a single climate scientist would go on the record and attribute ANY current or recent deaths due to climate change.(man made variety)

      All they would say, is extreme weather events kill people, recent events are NOT atributed to AGW, we may get some more extreme weather events, due to climate change (man made), in some of the IPCC scenarios.

      Yet the lobby groups are saying it is REAL and happening now. The climate scientists silence is worrying… ie they do not challenge these statements publically, where would there funding go, if greenpeace,wwf identified them as deniars.

      “We need to cut GHG emissions at least 40% (below 1990 levels) by 2020, and at least 80% by 2050. A useful immediate aim is for everyone to reduce their emissions 10% by the end of 2010.”

      The WWF statement on climate change, is pretty much what has been enacted in the UK’s Climate Change Bill – 80% reductions in CO2 by 2050, and we now have large concerns of an energy gap as coal powerstaions are due to close in 5 years, due too Co2 emmisions and not meeting EU.UK restricytions. Wind will not/cannot replace this base load in 5 years (or 50)

      wwf on climate change denial:

      “Climate change denial – some people might try to tell you: “Global warming is natural” or “The Earth is actually cooling” or “There’s nothing we can do anyway”…

      “Here’s the truth:
      it’s true the Earth’s climate has always changed, and temperatures risen and fallen over thousands of years. But it’s happening now at a far faster rate than ever before, which doesn’t give the world’s species (including ourselves) much time to react or adapt.
      it’s true the Earth was in a cooling cycle, slowly heading for another ice age in a few thousand years – but the wholesale burning of fossil fuels has upset that cycle, vastly increasing the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
      The good news is, if we accept that we’re a major cause of climate change, we can choose to do something about it. But we have to do it soon. ”

      One for Judith ;)

      Walker Institute: Will hurricanes or storms be more severe in the future?

      Walker Institute: Pakistan – Is the heavy rain the result of climate change?

      “Many of the climate models used to predict future climate suggest a wetter monsoon under climate change, although there is disagreement between models on the details. This image (credit: University of Reading) shows rainfall change over Asia by the end of the century from 15 different climate models used in the2007 IPCC report.

      Predictions also suggest that rainfall could come in heavier bursts and that the monsoon over India could become more variable – with drier periods followed by heavier periods of rain.

      However, it would be wrong to look at a single event, such as the Pakistan floods, and say that it is due to climate change. The world has always experienced extreme weather, what climate change will do is to change the frequency with which such events occur. So what scientists have to do is to look back at observations and see whether extreme events (like heavy rainfall and heatwaves) are becoming more (or less) common. There is a large amount of evidence to show that very warm days and heavy rainfall events are becoming more frequent and that human-induced climate change is playing a part. ”


      • Alexander Harvey

        Hi and thanks for your favourable comment.

        I think that this is the IPPC line; from:

        AR4 WGII Global burden of disease study

        “The World Health Organization conducted a regional and global comparative risk assessment to quantify the amount of premature morbidity and mortality due to a range of risk factors, including climate change, and to estimate the benefit of interventions to remove or reduce these risk factors. In the year 2000, climate change is estimated to have caused the loss of over 150,000 lives and 5,500,000 DALYs (0.3% of deaths and 0.4% of DALYs, respectively) (Campbell-Lendrum et al., 2003; Ezzati et al., 2004; McMichael, 2004).”

        So that is not 300,000 (although that figure must come from somewhere) it is 150,000 or 0.3% of all deaths.

        Just to give some scale to this figure. According to the UN:


        “In 2000 an estimated 1.26 million people worldwide died as a result of road traffic injuries. Road traffic injuries accounted for 2.2 per cent of global mortality and were responsible for 25 per cent of all deaths due to injury.”

        So although 150,000 is a big number it comes from a realm of very big numbers. The “Make Poverty History” campaign used the figure of “30,000 people die daily from the effects of extreme poverty and disease” or ~11,000,000 per year.

        What I would find more useful would be projections for when excess mortalities due to climatic change for business as usual (or other scenarios) would pass the above, and various other, marker points and ultimately would lead to a declining population. I do not know if such figures exist.

        Back to your point, the 300,000 figure is contradicted by the IPPC AR4 for the year 2000.

        As best as I can understand it, the IPCC/WHO figure comes out of a process that attributes death to various causes and then the sensitivity of those casues to climatic variables. From that it arrives at a figure for attribution to climatic change in the year 2000. It is a figure presented without any error bars in the IPCC AR4.

        This later report may give insight into the approaches used:



      • If it bleeds, it leads.

        Can you imagine Greenpeace or WWF saying “everything is fine” ? I’m sure their motivations are pure and selfless. But this is a way to rally support to the cause.

  21. “Why engage with skeptics?” Because the last time I and my fellow skeptics looked around our respective town halls, we found that were still in a democratic republic. So convince us that we should pay for all of this societal change as a result of your predictions of doom! You claim to know the future, so prove it. BTW, consensus is not a proof.

    • Alexander Harvey

      How would you like to see the pro-AGW/CAGW mitigation case laid out?What avenues are open to transformative discussion? If the CO2 mitigation part was out knock out of the ball park, would you be happy to discuss non-CO2 GG mitigation?


      • Latimer Alder

        I’d like to see some experiments to demonstrate the validity of the assertions made.

        It is simply not good enough to say ‘we can’t do experiments with the climate (because its too big or too complicated or too dangerous), so you’d better just believe all our untested theories’.

        As an ex-theoretician with at least one theory disproved by experiment, I require better proof than mere assertion by the Grand Masters of the Lodge of Climatology.

      • Alexander Harvey

        Of course the contradation is that mitigation whether on CO2 or non-CO2 GGs would be an experiment with the climate.

        I do believe in experimentation provided there is enough instrumentation.

        As I see it, the GHG experiment started unwittingly with insufficient instrumentation which is one reason for doubts about the evidence.

        It proceeded with CFC mitigation, for which we have a better instrumental record but I do not see much in the way of an attempt to monitor that experiment or analysis it.

        Hopefully we will be in a position to maximise our enlightenment when we next experiment with the climate, either with CO2 or more likely non-CO2 GG mitigation.


      • Sorry, I find your reply incomprehensible.

        Please could you rewrite it so that I can understand your point(s). I am only a simple soul with a Chemistry degree or two.

      • Alexander Harvey

        I am saying that we can and do make experiments with the climate.

        Every time we introduce some sort of emssion reduction policy or have started to emit some gas or substance it is an experiment provided we have the intrumentation, satelites, temperature buoys, etc., to measure and learn from it.

        There also unforseen natural experiments as in volcanoes.

        We could and I think should clean up emissions like aerosols, soot, etc. That would be an experiment.

        We can do experiments with the climate and we should do so.

        So I agree with you, I think that we should perform experiments and if people say that this is not possible, I would say it is and we have done it before.

        Is that any better?


      • Alex,
        You say that that we can and do run experiments now but need more/better instrumentation. What specifc observables would you propose to measure to provide sufficient evidence of favorable outcomes? I hope that you don’t say improved global temperature measurements.

      • Alexander Harvey

        That is a question for scientists. My point is that if we do things that affect the climate, what we have is a form of experiment. I do not want to hear that we failed to learn from the experiment due to lack of instrumentation. If the scientist say that we have sufficient instrumentation, that is fine. If they change their minds 10 years in and we failed to use available technology, we can shoot then. No pressure then!

        We certainly lack some bits of historic data, but we could neither have captured it nor seen the reason why. One would be high quality volcanic aerosol data pre-Pinatubo. Surely, going forward, we have a better idea of what to monitor. I will say that I think that we may still have some issues with the buoy network and we perhaps need a big step up in TOA energy balance monitoring, and monitoring of the not so well mixed atmospheric components. These items are my prejudices, there are poeple who would know a lot better than I.


      • Re: (undefined NaN NaN:NaN),
        Absum-lootley! A new model of thermometer, that gives a weighted average of the day’s temps, and another of the night’s, instead of the peaks and minimums (which may have lasted for minutes or hours). Oh, and they must be self-powered, self-calibrating, and report wirelessly over secure channels to a minimum of 20 different recording sites, simultaneously. Then distribute randomly over the Earth’s surface, providing the ones in water (lakes or oceans) with GPS reporting capability. Sites within 20 mi. of the boundaries of settlements of over 1000 people are not used, with random replacement by a qualifying site.
        Then record for 30 years before drawing conclusions about trend lines.

      • Alexander Harvey

        Another quick go.

        A claim made under AGW theory is that much of the warming due CO2 is masked by aerosols. High climate sensitivities require that this masking effect is large.

        Reduce the production of aerosols by a large amount. The aerosols wash out of the atmosphere within a few months.

        Temperatures climbing steeply would indicate high sensitivies and big trouble ahead.

        Temperatures that does not increase its rate of climb by much would indicate low sensitivies and hence not so much to worry about.

        It can and I think should be attempted, it would be a whole lot cheaper and quicker to clean up power station flue gases of sulphates than to shut them down or try carbon capture.

        I do not pretend to know the details of cost or schedule but I am sure it is possible. I perceive that there is a resistance to experimentation but I do not know why. The quick phasing out of CFCs was an experiment (it reduced the rate of growth in the flux forcing), and should have reduced the rate of growth in the rise in temperatures post ~2000. The rate of growth in the temperatures did reduce but no one seems to want to associate this with CFCs. Just like no one wants to claim the CFC protocol as a significant step in GHG mitigation. Sometimes it seems all a bit surreal.


      • To some extent this experiment is already underway. China is closing its older, heavily polluting power stations at the same time as building new coal fired stations.

        The only part of the experiment missing seems to be actual world wide measuring of aerosols.

      • Alexander Harvey

        Thanks, and that is quite good news, but any lack of monitoring is bad, very bad.

        It takes years to burn enough carbon to significantly increase the forcing and we cannot do it abruptly enough to make a clear signal to search for in the ensuing data. Increasing CO2 but reining in the aerosols does give us a shot at putting a clear signal in the records.

        If the combined aerosol effects (direct and indirect) in the GISS forcings are correct, a 60% reduction should equate to ~1W/m^2 of additional forcing or about 50% of their ~2000 combined forcing. It ought to make the temps twitch up substantially. If it didn’t? Back to the drawing board. It ought to put a mark in the ongoing record like nothing we have seen so far.


      • Alexander Harvey

        Here is a quote from a Hansen et al paper, bless him.

        “Global warming in the twenty-first century: An alternative scenario”

        “A common view is that the current global warming rate will continue or accelerate. But we argue that rapid warming in recent decades has been driven mainly by non-CO2 greenhouse gases (GHGs), such as chlorofluorocarbons, CH4, and N2O, not by the products of fossil fuel burning, CO2 and aerosols, the positive and negative climate forcings of which are partially offsetting.”

        My point being that there is a lot more to all this than CO2, a GHG which we can do nothing much about in the next decade or two.

        We can do other things, we can do and learn, we can do in order to learn.

        There are experiments that we can and perhaps must perform, and we could make sure that we have the instrumentation we need to get good data.


      • CO2 mitigation is putting the cart before the horse. Climate science is a long way from convincing me that natural variability is not the primary driver of the temperature increases of the last twenty or so years. Climate science is far from having convinced me that CO2 is more important than the sun, the solar wind, cosmic rays, water vapor or solar system gravitational effects or even planetary inclination and orbital progressions. However, the climate science to date is so heavily invested in the CO2 meme that the published science downplays its uncertainty and relies on scant verifiable evidence while largely ignoring or downplaying the vast number of other possible causes. Furthermore, quite a bit of the science is based on non repeatable data that was lost, deleted or outright falsified. A clean slate approach is the only way to proceed. If the current crop of climate scientists don’t like that then we shall have to find ones that are willing and able. Am I advocating that we throw out some of the existing “science”? Yes! Am I advocating that certain climate scientists that have become political advocates be removed from their positions? Yes! Do I think the UN IPCC, NOAA, NASA GISS, CSIRO and other national Government sponsored or funded organizations should be purged? Yes! Then and only then, will we be able to re-establish the research upon the required foundational principles of skeptical thinking. Nothing less is acceptable to me. Does this mean I am being a stubborn skeptic? Yes! But why shouldn’t I be skeptical and since when is being a skeptic a bad thing for science? If climategate taught me one thing, it is that members of the climate science research community the world over see themselves as above the common people, their position within their clique blinds them to the uncertainties and alternative theories that abound and surround them, they shout ad-hominem instead of carefully explaining and arguing in good faith and, worst of all, they claim their work is based in science while at the very same time resort to political advocacy that is little more than scaremongering. Enough!

      • Alexander Harvey


        I am interested in the scale by which the case is unproven. If I take one element, natural variability (internal, solar, galactic, etc), what would you judge to be the limits of these in terms of say the decadal increase in global temperatures as judged by the temperature record.

        Obviously what we have had does not impress you. Would twice that rate have made you consider that there was evidence of something more than natural variability, or a smaller figure, or a greater one? Alternatively, if the general rate 1970-2010 continues, give and take some variation, for how long could you see this as being natural?

        I am hoping that you have put a mental peg in the ground so if such things occur you have that point of reference. You are welcome to keep that opinion to yourself.


      • Hi Alex, I appreciate your pointed question. Taking the rate of surface temperature change as a single factor in this mess, one of two things would get my attention. First, a linear increase of perhaps three times the “observed” 1970 to 2000 surface trend. That would certainly get my attention since it would lie well outside of the known (similarly measured) record. Note that I place “observed” in quotes due to the uncertainty of the surface record. UHI being my pet problem with that and then, even Dr Jones himself admits that there isn’t as much of an increase as it’s all cracked up to be; something that I fear he would never have admitted to except that so much was exposed by the released CRU data. Be that as it may, I would be further impressed if there was some exponential (accelerating) component to the temperature increase but there is simply no sign of any such acceleration. After all, the claim has been made that 2 degrees increase is some kind of point of no return where we end up losing control of our climate. I find that claim to be quite laughable in and of itself. But yes, if a peg is to placed, it would be a linear increase three times greater than that seen or a measurable exponential component. The years 2000-2010 seem to show a loss of acceleration which makes matters even worse since India and China has been accelerating its CO2 output and since that CO2 makes its way directly into the atmosphere there ought to be very little lag before it compounds the temp. acceleration. So the surface temperature record shows neither a significant linear increase nor an acceleration. The 1980 to 2000 slope closely matches the 1920 to 1940 rate. And the acceleration 1930 to 1940 is also not unlike 1985 to 1995. Pre world war II industrial activity was an order of magnitude lower than 1980’s and beyond. So my gut tells me that the current solar minimum is about to make a mockery of climate science. But since I consider human activity to have the possible potential to affect climate (along with all of the other well known and well researched effects), I am still ready and able to be convinced that our CO2 producing activities are the culprits. But the evidence had better be good – so far it is not good at all.

      • Alexander Harvey

        Thanks, you have a detailed position.

        Some related comments of my own:

        The 2C figure puzzles me in at least two ways. It seems to refer to a baseline (pre-industrial temperatures) that seems uncertain or ill defined. Secondly I do not know what it is meant to imply in terms habitability or what precisely is the danger that >2C would imply. I am poorly informed and I guess I am not alone.

        You highlight forcings and other factors. I will say that it puzzles me as to why we are not much, much better informed, as to what the emission rates and the resultant atmospheric burdens of the GHGs, aerosols, black carbon etc., are. I ask myself: if these things are really important, why aren’t they in the news much like stock markets, house prices, and exchange rates. I also include gases with secondary effects (I think that CO, is one) and just polutants in general. Some of these components have decreased sharply in terms of rates of production, which would surely me something we could cheer about. If it turns out that this data is not available I think we might say “I beg your pardon, kindly go away and fix that”. Availability of such data might assist us all with regard to questions like: how come asian CO2 expansion whilst moderation in the temperature, OHC records. This may be because the importance of other factors CH4, CFCs is not highlighted. I think that we are not being dealt a full hand by the media, public science outlets, or even the climablgoshpere.

        Regarding UHI and going forward, we are very slow to build a standardised climate monitoring station network, this is only being implemented in the USofA, I think. Ultimately we must find truely global ways of building a record. I believe that a new generation of satelites that can slice the atmosphere into dozens of layers are now technically possible which could give us something equivalent to a ground layer temperature but also more broadly significant data regarding detailed atmospheric temperature structure.

        I think the issue of why the temperature record for the period post-Agung can be modelled with an accuracy not shared by the period prior to Agung needs addressing. It is an issue that bothers me. This is not quite the same as your issue but may share a common explanation.

        Regarding a triple rate temperature gradient and an exponential rate, this might be something that could be demonstrated for you, in that high sensitivity AGW theory suggests if we could rapidly clean up emissions for sulphates, an accelerating rise should result in a meaningful timescale (I think or rather guess ~15 years for a reasonably clear signal). Now taking aerosol clean up as a first step might seem bizarre to some but there is a qualative argument indicating that it could be shown to be neutral in terms of peoples beliefs. If nothing happens but cleaner air then high sensitivity AGW theory has a problem, if the temperatures start to soar we can cease the cleansing and we know that we must rethink mitigation as a simple stopping of carbon burning is not a safe solution.

        Now I am no economist but I think any or all of the above could be accomplished by a redistribution of spending but would be worth doing if it meant new money.

        It is obvious that I am looking for things that we may all be able to agree upon and even campaign for. I am also trying to see what the needs, principally data needs, are to assist us in our thinking and to allow us to navigate the climate if that is what we must do.


  22. “Why engage with skeptics?”

    Because lately they seem to be winning the political battles, which means that that government-driven mitigation is going to go nowhere really fast.

    Treating skeptics like leprous, raving, flat-earth creationists obviously hasn’t worked. Maybe its time for another tactic, like polite conversation.

  23. Judith,

    Real head bangers is trying to deal with politicians in Canada.
    As far as they are concerned, IPCC are absolute in perfection in the 3 major parties here.

    Seems, since the computers, brains now are left on shelves(except in a few people).

  24. Since we’re now adducing examples from other fields of how expert estimates can go systematically awry, I’d like to mention the field of infrastructure investment cost/benefit analysis.

    This readable and striking article on the topic (gated, but accessible to most academic users) is at http://oxrep.oxfordjournals.org/content/25/3/344.short

    The gist of my argument is the following: Here, just as with carbon-reduction policies, we have expensive public expenditures aimed at providing public benefits. Here, just as with carbon reduction, we have experts applying quantitative analysis based on various models to forecast costs and benefits. Here, just as with carbon reduction, we have incentives for the experts to give a positive verdict on each project (since a negative review will lead to less consultation in the future). Unlike carbon reduction, we have decades of experience with the results.

    The upshot? Fixed-rail project forecasts in both Europe and the US routinely overestimate benefits by factors of 100% or more and underestimate costs by 50% or more. Moreover these systematic biases have persisted over the length of the relevant datasets (decades). Large projects using information technology show even poorer but equally biased estimation. Careful analysis shows that cognitive bias can account for only a minority of the systematic error. The balance appears to be caused by incentive problems, and direct interviews with the experts involved strongly confirms this analysis.

    So if a well-understood area like building rail lines can generate overly optimistic estimates of favorable cost/benefit ratios, how easy is it for ideology and self-interest (in the form of professional credibility, influence, and research funding) to cause runaway bias in an novel and speculative area like carbon reduction? Answer: pretty easy.

  25. “Why engage with skeptics?”

    Because that is the way science works.

    With kind regards,
    Oliver K. Manuel
    Former NASA Principal
    Investigator for Apollo

  26. Many people labeled as skeptics/deniers/etc are merely those suspicious of the economic havoc the enviro lobby will create. Envrionmental extremists seemingly would like nothing more than to tax gasoline at $10 a gallon as part of a mitigation strategy. It smacks of a punitive sin tax rather than a real plan: “Yeah, just make it expensive for people to drive and emissions fall off. Really simple, that.” Or worse: “Let’s build 50 zillion windmills, have the taxpayer pay for it, and pray the winds stay steady enough to handle 5% of the grid by 2052.” Skeptics are FAR more skeptical of politicians and special interests than the science itself.

    On the other hand if the plan was to build 1000 new 1.21 gigawatt 3rd generation or thorium reactors and decommission coal plants as they come online, make for cheaper electric to pave the way for eventual widespread electric autos, etc. then this is something that at least sounds reasonable. And say paying $1 extra per gallon for gas in the short term for getting a terawatt of cheap electricity in the long term? Sign me up.

    Instead, I cringe when I hear the word “advocacy” because it doesn’t *ever* mean “here’s a workable plan for a pathway to the future.” Instead, it means telling people that they need to make do with less coupled with nonsense talk about “renewables” (and usually the icing on the top is the promise of the New Green Job which seemingly has more in common with the New Soviet Man than anyone cars to aadmit.)

    The point is this: you can’t engage skeptics until you grasp what they’re skeptical about. If they’re convinced that your “engagement” is merely a clever way for changing their lives for the negative, it won’t matter how sound your scientific argument is. Let’s make something clear: outside the group of people who like esoteric scientific subjects, there are no skeptics that aren’t skeptical first and foremost of the ramifications of letting imbeciles with an agenda have free rein with the economic keys.

  27. How does one provide expert advice in a credible manner?

    Consider the variants of the Surgeon General’s warnings. Notice that those statements, aside from their foreboding are cautionary and advisory. Either no guarantee of certainty is provided or else certitude is indicated without a qualifier of gravity

    WARNING: The Surgeon General has determined that the consumption of this product, which contains alcohol, during pregnancy can cause mental retardation and other birth defects.

    WARNING: Drinking this product, which contains alcohol, impairs your ability to drive a car or operate heavy machinery.

    WARNING: This product contains alcohol and is particularly hazardous in combination with some drugs.

    WARNING: The consumption of this product, which contains alcohol, can increase the risk of developing hypertension, liver disease, and cancer

    WARNING: Alcohol is a drug which may be addictive.


    Now consider the opening sentence of the AGU Position Statement. It is both certain and indicative of gravity. It is neither cautionary nor advisory in character.

    The reader isn’t being advised. There is no wiggle for contemplation. The reader is told what must be accepted.

    The Earth’s climate is now clearly out of balance and is warming.

    • Alexander Harvey

      I picked up on that opening sentence as a matter of tone and force.

      I should agree with the statement but I cannot swallow it.

      Clear to whom? Well to the collective opinion.

      “It is clear to us that the Earth’s climate is out of balance and is warming.”

      Would be truthful and not contentious, and I would not quarrel with it.


    • My first ever foray into reading about climate science was Plimer’s opus ‘Heaven and earth.’ It struck me as having a somewhat repetitive quality – I also found a couple of graphs seemed unsourced. Later, I saw Plimer’s debate of the Australian ABC with George Monbiot. Monbiot angrily accused Plimer of falsely citing a reference. I checked out the reference and indeed Plimer had grossly misrepresented an author. I felt a bit betrayed since Plimer had been lionised and would otherwise have resonated with my somewhat conservative outlook on the issue and my suspicion of any orthodoxy du jour.

      I found my way into the blogosphere. For what it’s worth, Climate Audit tended to be too technical except when dealing with forensic issues around the content of the Climategate emails. WUWT had some interesting pieces (including pieces supportive of the AGW consensus) but I find the commentariat there far too self-congratulatory and rarely worth the effort of a response.

      What I did find disturbing when looking at consensus sites was the lack of respect shown to folk who seemed to be posing what seemed like genuine questions. For example, reference to the uncertainties appearing in original journal articles was no a way to win friends. Even so, in the process, I had many very courteous exchanges with a number of good people and became far less ‘sceptical’ than when I started out. Today, I would today be far more accurately described as a ‘lukewarmer.’

      I think there is a large pool of folk out there who have genuine concerns but would like to see the science presented without alarmism and without ‘activist’ agenda. The surgeon general’s warnings provide an excellent example of providing people with the information they need to make intelligent decisions. Telling people that only an utter moron would drink alcohol is counterproductive as opposed to a far more constructive approach of stating risks in certain well-defined circumstances.

      The warnings become an invitation to stop and think about what you’re doing. They engage those who seek to be thoughtful. Moreover, they leave room for the possibility that modest consumption of alcohol may have health benefits (though I don’t think putting that information on a bottle of Jack Daniels is quite the way to go from a public health perspective :-)).

      In short, I see myself as a ‘sceptic’ turned ‘lukewarmer’ who found himself constructively engaged in the context of courteous dialogue. So yes please, keep talking to sceptics – don’t hector them (which by the way is what Plimer tends to do from the sceptic side). Above all, provide accurate information and acknowledge all uncertainties honestly. In my own case, Plimer’s misuse of sources forced me to take a second look. However, ‘warmists’ need to avoid the Plimer modus operandi as happens in sites like Real Climate which are often so rudely dismissive of dissenting point of view as to leave one wondering whether one’s dealing with genuine scientists with a love for objective truth.

      • Leonard Weinstein

        Almost all serious “skeptics” are mild ‘lukewarmers’, and some are even mild CAGW supporters, but think the science has been badly handled. Almost all scientists on both sides of the issue make occasional mistakes, so jumping on those as proving the overall validity of the presenter is a wrong response. It sounds as if you have tried to be fair, and I respect your position. The issue is how bad AGW can affect the reasonably near future. If the answer is not much, the extreme positions are in the wrong, and the monetary cost, induced fear, and loss of development would be a waste of epic effect.

      • My problem with Plimer lay in his refusal to acknowlegde a glaring mistake – he actually ignored the question and ducked and weaved.

        Plimer is not a ‘lukewarmer’ IMO.

  28. Any chance of my long previous comment getting out of moderation jail?

  29. ” I do it on the basis of the fallacies they rely on, not the conclusions they draw.” Nullius has said something quite important here. One of the few memorable and cogent points that Ayn Rand made was that if rational people disagree,then their premises differ. Much of the climate brouhaha arises from arguing conclusions rather than examining – and debating – premises.

  30. PolyisTCOandbanned

    Well, the reason, you OUGHT (in a better world) to interact with skeptics is because they are teaching you, are sharpening the science, are communicating ideas in a clear and pleasant and efficient manner. However, that is pretty much WAY different from what goes on in the premier “skeptic sites” like Climate Audit, The Air Vent, Watts Up. Instead you deal with years and years of blog post triumphalism with little to show for it (and often even incapacity to understand their own errors). Pretty far from the Grace Hopper and Richard Feynman skeptic you would want. Your students pretty much called the ball on the skeptics in 2006. Now, we are 4 years further down the road! And they still have little to show!

    At this point a very rational stance would be to blow the skeptics off. And I say this as a hard right conservative. I wanted the skeptics to deliver. But they just can’t. Move on…

  31. PolyisTCOandbanned

    Now I don’t see anything wrong with engaging with skeptics like Christie, Lindzen, Burger, etc. that have formulated their thoughts into papers. But the bloggers? No way. Not worth the time.

    • Michael Larkin

      Then why waste your time? On a blog? Which skeptics are reading? Doesn’t make sense.

    • TCO.

      History says you are wrong on this.

      Mann and others thought that they move their message though the MSM. Problem? MSM reads the internet. They have to, the internet killed them.

      And so, the climate scientists rightly diagnosed that the real issue was getting the message out on the internet. But, the communications team they sent still tried to operate by old MSM rules. epic fail.

    • TOO

  32. In regard to the AGU topic, repeated from a post I placed on WUWT:

    “Sorry, I think the point is being missed

    It’s not that answers to questions from journalists may be biased or not, it’s this:

    a) who selects which questions to answer ? Certainly, not all questions will be entertained
    b) will answers that refer to uncertainty and differences of interpretation actually be published without expurgation, along with the actual question ?

    In short, no matter how earnest the AGU may be, the MSM will censor the results anyway before publishing … and then will the AGU scientists responsible for the answers object in public ?”

    This is the core of the “interface”

    • Silly answering myself, I think, but I’ve raised this exact issue quite a few times and it always draws the courageous silence of non-replies … always

      Someone else on this thread maintained that cynicism is a “mental attitude” (whatever that psychobabble means). In this area, it is the only intellectually defensible position to have

  33. ….”To the extent that I was caught up in all this for a few years, it was definitely the “war on science” issue that got me invested in this.”

    Thanks for this info! I think that explains why you are now engaging with skeptics/deniers/the other camp. I think that the elements you mention that can trigger a scientist to join the ideologue camp are right, but they are not equal, some are much more potent (in the sense that it makes changing your mind more difficult) than other.

    Imho, the green/environmentalism is the most potent one, by a long shot., because it is the one that have the most implication on policy and the policies are where the gap between the two camps is really huge, and probably not crossable.

    Those points also explains why the “denier” camp is quite a varied bunch. For example, I am from this camp because I feel the AGW hypothesis is not too solid, but also, clearly, because I do not like the hard environmentalist tones. Environmentalism was nice in the beginning, but at some time it went from protecting endangered species and avoiding pullution to a quasi-communist control thing, mixed with consumerism guilt trip and gaia animal rights.

    On the other hand, in the skeptic camp, there are indeed people rejecting science, for which climatology is work of the devil just after darwinism, and how dare anybody go against “growth and multiply” sacred injuction? Not a nice company, and when I am associated with such crowds, it is much more painfull that being tagged “denier”, “skeptic”, or “big-oil puppet”. Those skeptics would be as unmovable as the gaia founder, and would reject AGW even if the ocean where boiling. But the skeptics whose ideology is mainly opposed to hard environmentalism, rather than science, can imho change their minds. What would be needed is a decoupling between science and policies, avoiding sensationalism, but also more convincing science ( this will probably be automatically obtained when policies-griven research and sensationalism are avoided)

  34. ‘Why engage with Skeptics?’

    As has been succinctly pointed out above: because it’s the scientific process. You cannot call yourself a scientist and shut yourself off from outside examination of your work / methods. Period.
    The minute someone refuses to share their data/methods they stop being a scientist, it’s one of the fundamental tenants- replication of work.

    However, this is not the same as giving in to every crank on the net with an axe to grind.

    Here, I find the ‘consensus group’ to be their own worst enemy. In the political (and so far successful) attempt to marginalise ANYONE who has ANY questions over the cAGW stance as a skeptic they have lumped in all the good, with the bad- making the type of sweeping generalisations and dismissals (that we see here on this blog too) that ignore any opposing viewpoint because someone deigns to ask a question or offer a differing viewpoint. ‘Your questioning the ‘science’ therefore you are a flat earther’ etc etc.

    I’ve encountered it myself on this very blog- I raise questions about uncertainties in the data, the system it’s drivers and in the next reply I’m accused of believing that the earth hasn’t warmed- something I’ve never said (and don’t believe).

    It seems if anyone asks a question they are automatically assumed to be of the ‘worst’ brand of skeptic (usual lines include – denying earth has warmed, GHG effect, IR measurements, basic physics etc etc). Responding to the caricature of a skeptic rather than the individual is the default position of many.

    It is VERY easy to spot a skeptic who is genuinely interested in debate, genuinely interested or confused on certain issues and genuinely want’s to learn- regardless of the outcome. The same is equally true of the ‘consensus’ viewpoint, it is exceptionally easy to spot an ideologue on either side.

    The issue with not engaging with the skeptics is actually one of self-preservation for this theory and the ones who support it. By marginalising the skeptic view point and refusing to engage they have only succeeded in doing the same to themselves. This isolation removes the possibility of fresh, external ideas and viewpoints (vital in science) and instead promotes stagnation.

    So why should the consensus engage with skeptics? Despite it being the cornerstone of scientific process? They should do it for themselves; it’s in their own best interest.

    • Latimer Alder

      Because you will get better science at the end of it.

      Climatologists set great store by ‘peer-review’ as a supposed quality control mechanism. And done correctly and with integrity, it can have a place in ensuring that only decently done work gets published. But done badly (as we have documentary proof) it can be used as a tool to stifle opposing viewpoints and to promote only one version of The Truth.

      In a small field where everybody knows each other well and where a few individuals hold positions of great prestige, power and patronage, Groupthink can easily become entrenched.

      Reading many of the climatologists contributions, I get the serious sense that some have become divorced from reality and like the lady who was surprised that Nixon got elected because nobody she knew had voted for him, they genuinely cannot comprehend anybody who does not believe the party line. They work with other climatologists, drink with other climatologists, read Climatology Today in bed…….but no engagement with the outside world.

      But a debate with knowledgeable sceptics really gives an intellectual workout for your ideas. We are unconstrained by thoughts of our next paper or conference submission, nor by the consequences of upsetting the applecart.

      Many sceptics that I know of in the blogosphere (at Bishop Hill particularly) have or do occupy senior positions in their chosen fields of expertise, as well as mostly having had scientific training. As such they can bring a far wider perspective and experience than this who have been constrained solely by the academic life. And they are far less likely to be convinced by weak and woolly arguments about correlations and causes, about the relationship between models and experiment, about how to collect and analyse data and about a myriad other things…. they have probably been there and done that and learnt valuable lessons. Possibly even written the standard books on their subject.

      Of course any controversial field – and AGW is undoubtedly that – attracts nutters on both sides of the argument. And it is sensible to ignore the more egregious ones who call themselves sceptics. But to characterise all sceptics with the abilities of the most bizarre is both insulting and another example of the strabglehold of Groupthink. Tolerating the nutters is the price you must pay for being a memembr of the human race and being in receipt of public funds. Annoying perhaps, but it comes with the territory. Tough.

      And please stop using the term ‘climate change deniers’. Very few deny that the climate is changing. It too is insulting and a mischaracterisation.

      Finally, the stuff about Big Oil funding and Koch Industries and tobacco and all that crap is just childish. If there were Big Oil funding available to be a sceptic, rest assured that I would have located it and be benefiting form it already…it would beat actually having to work for a living. So I have a strong incentive to find it. But I’ve looked and there ain’t any.

      That’s why and how you should engage with sceptics…to get the benefit of an outside perspective, to widen your horizons and to do an external reality check on your ideas. You will be better scientists as a result.

      • Latimer Alder

        A further couple of points.

        My impression is that each individual researcher works in a pretty specialised corner of the climatological field. There are paleo specialists and ice core specialists and modelling specialists and so on. Even the creation of the IPCC report is divided into individual chapters who are largely written independently of each other. A consequence is that the researcher may be very competent at their little bit of the building, but have few opportunities to view the whole edifice. They have the individual masons view, not the architects.

        A sceptic is not so constrained. We look at the whole endeavour and see the links. Where they are strong and where they are shaky (or imaginary). We judge not just whether an individual wall is suitably strong or well-carved, but whether the building as a whole is well-designed, well-built, robust and likely to be used for an extended period. Much of my scepticism comes from such an analysis.

        And for an individual scientist, engagement with sceptics is a sensible career move. If you ever contemplate in your wildest dreams that you may need or wish to build a career outside academe….and nothing is certain in terms of funding as the AGW cash splurge runs dry, you need to experience a little bit of the real world.

        It is an absolute prerequisite of any job more challenging than self-stacking in Tesco that you are able to get along with people…even those who may fundamentally disagree with you. To get beyond burger flipping, you will also probably need to persuade people of your point of view. Hiding away from debate because the other side is beneath your intellectual contempt is not a good way to practice these skills and will not be persuasive to any future employer.

        So get out there and engage. Academia is not the whole world..it is a mistake of Jonesian proportions to believe that you can be forever isolated from the rest of it. Like poor Phil you may become very unpleasantly involuntarily aware of this truth. And to be entirely unprepared is not a savvy thing to be.

  35. Judith,

    ABRA…..CADABRA……Now I wave my magic wand and can show the answer to what you seek. Cool? Start reading.

    Single individual mind of thinking with limited knowledge thrown into a group is current science.
    A true group science would be many people contributing together in an interactive forum with many areas of knowledge.

    Many times I am ignored not because of the science I have studied but many areas of this research go beyond the knowledge base of the individual I am talking with. They don’t want to look stupid by saying it is incorrect when they really have no clue as to the other areas involved. But the areas coming together make so much sense, there is no real area to argue with unless it is that individual’s area of expertise.
    If we generate a truely correct climate model, it should be able to go back a billion years into the past and show the true climate then when there was no evaporation going on.
    Vukcevic reminded me of single minded observation to a complex minded problem. Rotating a hard boiled egg, then a fresh egg. Simple? Observationally yes, but there is far more going on when you disect them together. The fresh egg will always be the last to stop rotating due to the storage of energy in the liquid inside the egg.
    So the advance complexity of the two eggs then come into play of the hows and whys and what are the individual composition and layers of different densities.

    See what I am getting at?
    The science then crosses many boundries of individual areas of knowledge into many areas of science.

  36. In almost all blogs, the most progress is made at the tail end of threads, when the blusterous self righteous egos , and the clamorous flaming trolls, have lost interest, as the blog high activity attention seeking environment, they thrive on, has moved on to the next, and fresher topic.

    It will be the same with the engagement of skeptics, when the flames and guffawing have died down, then the real progress of discussion, with the eye to advancement of a better understood basic system of how the climate really works, can begin to re-advance scientific understanding of the total process.

    Currently there is a myopic focus on CO2 because of the political will to tax and regulate it. The real health of the climate is unknown in regards to most of the long term risks and benefits. Why we have ice ages, and where we are in regard to the next one, or if there will even be a next one, are more important questions to me, it is this myopic focus that makes me a “skeptic of the results” being produced.

    I think that with the advent of no till farming practices, use of waterways and terracing, the landscaping of personal homes, and businesses, the urban sprawl, the return of trees to the prairies with the loss of the bison, have all helped to modify the extremes of the climate of the USA. These are the land use practices that most positively effect the resultant climate, in other countries they still have clear cutting of forests, (look at the destruction, due to vulnerabilities to extreme weather events in Haiti for instance).

    The continual introduction of cultured trees and vegetation in suburban areas will compensate for the loss of natural habitat for wild animals and birds, in giving them new places to live in habitats with more real diversity.

    Skeptics have their own set of unknowns, and new options to bring to the table, new perspectives will always cause the myopic vision to widen as it needs to, to see all of reality as interactive and dynamic as it is. Without the interaction of all of the forces at work in weather and climate being considered, there will be little advancement, or just more of the same slow progress, in finding solutions to the real important questions we need science to answer.

  37. TimTheToolMan

    The moment the real scientists engage the skeptics, out will come all the real scientific uncertainty because thats what real scientists acknowledge and that wont do any good for the AGW machine.

    • Correct,
      which is why they want Judith to *SHUT UP*.

      I was amazed to discover that the controversy over the measuement and calibration of total solar irradiance rests on a very small percentage of the error range.

      It wouldn’t take much of a reinterpretation of TSI and an appreciation of the multi-decadal storage and release of solar derived energy from the oceans to fully explain the relatively small variation in global temperature we think we’ve measured.

      However, you can tax peoples co2 emissions, but you can’t tax the sun…

      • But you can’t tax the sun..

        Want to bet?
        Too many lambs lined up for slaughter mentality.

      • Latimer Alder

        Please do not set challenges like that. Our legislators are wily birds and you may just have set somebody thinking………….

        Some thoughts are best kept private :-)

      • Have you noticed the new commodity on the market?
        Rain fall futures are being traded!

      • actually the whole weather risk management thing using weather derivatives is a good way to manage weather and short term climate risk.

      • I’m gonna soak up the sun
        While it’s still free
        Gonna soak up the sun
        before it goes out on me

        -Cheryl Crow-

      • Judith–please further explain your thoughts on this idea. If you are suggesting “weather insurance or a futures market” it would simply not be practical for the majority of the world. (affordability) .

      • i’ll explore this issue in a future post, there are some interesting ideas along these lines that are worth exploring. In terms of how this might work in the developing world, i have been reading Yunus and the Grameen Bank.

      • Talk to Piers Corbyn, astrophysicist at WeatherAction, he sells his forecasts to event insurance companies.

      • TimTheToolMan

        “Have you noticed the new commodity on the market?
        Rain fall futures are being traded!”
        Wow. And I thought playing the stock market was highbrow gambling but this takes it to a whole new level.

  38. Turn the question around.

    Why should skeptics engage with climate scientists?

    $Billions have been spent and the climate community have only come with a hypothesis. A hypothesis that is dependent on scientific dogma, political advocacy and environmental alarmism.

    Ordnary people see thru this scare story.

    I doubt the current climate community will survive it as a consequence.

  39. I am more hopeful of a caterpillar / butterfly metamorphosis result, by the shining the light of truth, and debate by the application of standard scientific methods of inquiry. May all of the pupils emerge from their pupa enlightened, free of their bristly armor, to fly together freely in the sun.

  40. While your two points are correct, it takes more than acceptance of those two points to agree with the hypothesis of AGW via CO2. The problem is that this hypothesis assumes ceteris paribus. It also assumes that we, as humans, know every other possible variable which may have an impact on the average global temperature (both warming and cooling). In short, it assumes we have “perfect knowledge”. Clearly, these two points are sufficient to ask for more proof that by controlling human output of CO2 there will be an effect on the earth’s climate. (The degree of the effect is also of significant debate.)

    So, what we have is a large degree of uncertainty. If the “warmists” were to accept that the degree of uncertainty is too large to advocate any action, then perhaps the debate can occur. In short, it takes open minds from both sides of the debate.

    Through my personal experience, moderation on the “warmists” blogs is much more heavy handed than on the “sceptics” blogs. Does that say something to me? Of course it does!!

    • Hopefully this post ends up in the right spot. My previous post was suppose to show up as a reply to: snide | November 9, 2010 at 6:33 am | Reply (in post number 6)


    The interpretation of the data shown below


    The above data has a pattern of 30-years of alternate warming and slight cooling. The continued application of the pattern will be verified if we have slight cooling until 2030. Based on the data from 2000 to 2010, it appears it is going to do just that.

    Look at the following deceleration of global warming rate in the two last decades:


    A deceleration by a factor of 8.3 from 0.25 deg C per decade to just only 0.
    0.03 deg C per decade!

    Where is the man-made global warming?

    It just does not exist.

  42. I am more hopeful of a caterpillar / butterfly metamorphosis result, by the shining the light of truth, and debate by the application of standard scientific methods of inquiry. May all of the pupils emerge from their pupa enlightened, free of their bristly armor, to fly together freely in the sun.

    By Richard Holle on November 9, 2010 at 7:15 am


    Richard Holle,

    A positive mental image. That kind of message inspires any who have become weary of the argument. Thanks.


  43. John;
    There is no sense throwing more fuel on the flames,
    it is the coals that do the best cooking,
    burnt or tender, rent asunder,
    or chewed thoughtfully,
    food for thought?
    There is nothing more unstoppable than,
    true love, truth, or an idea whose time has come.

  44. Nullius in Verba paints a very rosy picture of skeptics, to which Judith Curry seems to subscribe. I’m sure the shoe fits in circumstances, but I’m equally sure that at times it doesn’t. Unfortunately, I observe the latter more often than the former.

    Of course it’s true, as Nullius notes, that
    “We need such people, even to ask the stupid questions, and definitely to ask the more intelligent ones.”

    But as I have written in my comment policy:
    “Questions are encouraged; bold assertions are not.”

    It’s no different than if you want to discuss things with your medical doctor. Taken from a webiquette on how to discuss your internet-research with your doctor:

    (http://ourchangingclimate.wordpress.com/2009/10/15/web-iquette-for-climate-discussions/ )

    2. Keep the tone conversational, not confrontational.
    9. Definitely ask about what’s confusing or troubling you.

    To which I added:
    Asking, yes. Bringing up doubts, fine. Rational discussion, absolutely. Accusations of fraud, claiming that we just want to steal your SUV, nah.

    • Latimer Alder

      Up to a point Lord Copper.

      If the climatologists did not act in a way that looks like they are being dishonest and fraudulent, then us sceptics wouldn’t make such claims .

      Publish the methods, publish the data, if papers are so important to you, let those other than ‘approved’ climatologists publish them.

      And most of all ..do your work with the standards that the rest of the professional world has to observe. Rightly or wrongly that means that you actions have to be externally auditable and subject to detailed scrutiny. Phil Jones confessed that in thirty years, nobody had ever asked to see his detailed work or data.

      That world has gone. However much you may dislike it. you have to get used to it, or you will find that those who hold the purse strings will not be so generous in future. And your collective credibility as ‘bringers of the truth’ will sink yet further.

      As one who found it a nasty shock when my then employer first asked me to fill in detailed records of how I had spent my time each month, I recognise that it is an unpleasant change to make. But in retrospect being held to account for my time helped me focus much more closely on what was important and what is not. When I started to work for myself it was really effective in concentrating the mind.

    • Bart Verheggen,

      The tone of your comment suggests you are unilaterally trying to influence the setting of the venue for an IPCC supporter (consensus supporter) discussion with an independent thinker (a.k.a. skeptic). Why?

      The discourse between any two thinkers is by mutually agreement as to the rules of engagement. If it is the consensus trying to decide such things, then it looks like the ideology/dogma thing again. Let the individuals play the dialog game and leave the consensus out of it.


      • Good point.

        One thing that comes through over and over again as I read some of the comments is that the AGW proponents have a huge sense and unhealthy sense of entitlement.

        They believe that only they are entitled to have an opinion about anything related to their field.

        They reserve to themselves the right to choose which criticism are worth responding to – and which are beneath them

        They wish to have any discussion only on their terms (see immediately above)

        They reserve the right to choose the mechanism by which they shall engage…by peer-reviewed papers only

        They reserve the right to determine which of their own behaviours are acceptable (all) and which of the ‘sceptics’ is unacceptable (all)

        They will grudgingly obey the law (eg FOI), but only very reluctantly and not because they think that openness and transparency is right…but because they can’t find a way to wriggle out of it….

        and so on.

        While such behaviour may have been acceptable just one short pre-Climategate year ago, it is rapidly becoming less so. Judith has wisely pointed out that Climategate was a watershed.

        It is time that many here realised that and began to modify their behaviour to have quite a lot less arrogance and a lot more engagement. The clock is ticking, and if I read the runes aright I doubt that we will be having this same conversation a year hence. Events will have overtaken it.

        Sceptics have some good points to make and genuine doubts about the field of climatology. Dismissing them as crazed denying lunatics is not a good strategy. And refusing to engage constructively with the wide world as it is…and not necessarily as you would like to to be is very very short-sighted.

      • John Whitman,

        Sorry, you lost me. Could you be more specific what you mean?


        Those broad brush accusations are useless for any kind of constructive conversation, which I conclude you’re not interested in having, so I’ll leave you alone.

      • Well that’s a shame.

        If you choose not to observe the general behaviours of your colleagues and the effect that such things have on the public perception of your field…..with consequent loss of credibility, that is your privilege.

        But I think you will come to reflect that it was a very short-sighted view.

        How a message is delivered is just as important – and sometimes can be even more important than – the message itself. As more and more external scrutiny comes upon your work..and increasingly starts for a slightly hostile position, then presentation style will become a part of that message. Within academe you may be able to fool yourselves into thinking that is the pure science and only the science that counts.

        But in the big bad world, its more complicated. Some of your more enlightened colleagues are beginning to understand this…and Judith is doing a great job by acting as a catalyst.

      • Well, knock me down the day Bart will accept any criticism of ‘the entire climate science community’.

        Any and all criticism is always ‘broad-brushed accusations’

      • Latimer Alder

        I think we can safely conclude that Bart is stuck in the mid 2000s time warp, when to be a ‘Climate Scientist’ was to feel yourself securely immune from any criticism.

        But times have changed, and he is finding it difficult to recalibrate his mental position. Many others will be in the same boat….the sensible ones will try to adjust.

      • I try to stay out of other Barts’ business as much as possible. Confusing enough as it is.

        However, there was a time when a Climate Scientist felt securely immune from criticism?


        It wasn’t the 1990’s, or earlier.

        It wasn’t 1999 or later when people were asking why it wasn’t warmer than 1998.

        What the heck split second of which obscure minute of what sleeping hour of what day in the mid 2000s was there no criticism of climate scientists from powerful political, media, other academic forces, or each other?

        Times have not changed, so far as I can see, other than increased boldness to act openly in ways that an earlier generation would have considered shameful and crass.

      • ‘Times have not changed, so far as I can see, other than increased boldness to act openly in ways that an earlier generation would have considered shameful and crass’

        Well put Sir!

        Like you and so many others, I was deeply shocked and saddened by the bad behaviour revealed in the Climategate correspondences. They should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves and resolve to behave properly in future.

        That way the credibility of their field might be rescued from the general contempt that it currently enjoys. But there is a long, long way to go. And time is short.

      • Latimer Alder

        I’m glad you agree.

        It’s simply shocking. What were they thinking?

        Latimer, you see clearly; no doubt your experience echoes my own. A mere decade before CRU, the majority of working scientists in my experience avoided email (and where possible network connections to their data) like the pure-hearted avoid soul-stealing daemons.

        How are you going to publish original work if it gets shared before you publish? It isn’t really original if others have laid eyes on it then, is it? And what if they steal your work, slap on some shoddy footnotes, and rush it through a friendly publication before you can slap on some shoddy footnotes and rush through a friendly publication? This is the most important thing in science at stake, Latimer, you see that — prestige!

        Why open oneself up to peer review of one’s working papers when one can narrow exposure of one’s critics to only what one wants them to see?

        No serious scientist in the last millennium who thinks as you have illustrated, Latimer, with any ambition or self-regard would so violate the trust of the institutions and investors who supported their research by leaving approval of their experimental outcomes to chance in this way.

        Latimer, you’re right; if you can’t properly manufacture an air of credibility by controlling what people know, how can you even call yourself a scientist?

        Glad you put it so well.

        The sooner we can return to those times and practices, the better it will be for the prestige of science.

        I mean, you don’t see McIntyre exposing every correspondence he exchanged in the fifteen years before he retired and became a gadfly as a hobby. More people ought follow his example.

      • “will accept any criticism of ‘the entire climate science community’.”

        … no one sane would accept that

      • Bart Verheggen,

        I am saying ‘mano e mano’ engagements between IPCC supporter (a.k.a. consensus/settled science supporter) and independent thinker (a.k.a. skeptic) will increasingly occur voluntarily. This includes ‘mano e mano’ for the voluntary mutual agreement of venue and rules of the engagement. No overload consensuses can really control its spontaneous occurrence. : )

        Sorry, Bart, that means you and I do not get to either influence or control the individual engagements with our expectations or demands; only the participants.

        Note: Needless to say, ‘mano e mano’ doesn’t rule out the formidable females of our species. : )


      • John,

        Thanks for elaborating. I don’t see though how your comment is related to or in response to what I wrote. “unilaterally trying to influence the setting” of the discussion…?

    • … and Bart in turn paints a very rosy picture of the discussion patterns of consensus scientists. Unfortunately Bart’s assertion that:

      “Questions are encouraged; bold assertions are not”

      like several other of Bart’s assertions simply does not map well to reality. This may be how Bart would like to believe these discussions unfold, but more typical are events like the following:

      1. Examine the discussion around Eric Steig’s antarctic temperature reconstruction that occurred around the blogosphere at CA, Air Vent and briefly at RealClimate. In this case you had a highly technical informed discussion concerning the methods of the study by some folks with pretty heavy capabilities. What happened ? Eric started to get owned technically, decided that face was more important than a deeper understanding of what was really gong on, turned off comments at RC and disengaged.

      2. Lets examine what happened with Tamino’s toy two box model. What happened when Lucia ask a direct question about the 2nd law of thermo ? Pretty obviously Tamino didn’t consider this and hadn’t done this portion of the work. How was this pertinent and on topic question received ? It didn’t fit in with the narrative Tamino desired so insta-ban. Very “Open minded” huh ?

      These are just starters. I can pull any number of these sorts of events from past discussions. I think Bart’s narrative fits only when Bart mentally excludes all of the cases he simply doesn’t want to think about.

      • Artifex,

        “Questions are encouraged; bold assertions are not”

        is what I wrote in my comment policy, as a rule of engagement on my blog so to speak.

      • Bart,

        … and I agree that in spirit it is a wonderful concept. It just doesn’t happen very often with your compatriots and this seems to be the default and accepted state. Let’s not pretend this is the general standard.

      • Artifex,

        Perhaps we could agree that on both sides of the fence (i.e. the one doing the asking/asserting and the one doing the replying) honest questions are sometimes (or even frequently) confused with bold assertions.

    • Maybe Dr Judith could coax Mann or Jones onto her blog to explain the statistical method behind ‘hiding the decline’? I’m not familiar with it but that must be because I’m not a pedigreed climate scientist; then I would. ;)

  45. Judith

    Apologies I have not had time to read this post or the comments but you and your followers may be interested in an exchange between Matt Ridley and David Mackay, chief scientific advisor to Britain’s Department of Energy and Climate Change which can be found here


    Couple of things that I find interesting:

    1. David Mackay appears to address the issues as a scientist not as an advocate – you have no idea how refreshing this is for a UK citizen!

    2. This appears to be a real engagement between proponent and sceptic

    as Matt Ridley points out this could not have happened a few years ago

    all very interesting

    Regards Gary

  46. Simon Donner has a great post on the role of blogs in the climate discussions, which relates to the themes of introspection, de-polarization and bridge building:


    • Nice bart.

      Yes we can beleive that AGW is true, that action ought to be taken AND STILL be critical of the characterization of Steve McIntyre as an Oil shill.

      In fact, here is a test of whether one is controlled by ideology or not.
      Can you ( not you personally ) say the following.

      AGW is true and we need to take immediate action and Steve McIntyre is totally wrong in his criticism of Mann, but Mann has no evidence to believe that Mcintyre was back by Oil companies and was wrong to impugn his work on that basis.

      I like these little tests because I think they show how pervasive the ideology is. There are similar ideology tests for skeptics. But skeptics have to worry less about maintaining a consistent ideology. That makes engaging with them VERY difficult.

  47. ‘Why engage with Skeptics?’

    It is a lose-lose situation now for IPCC supporters (a.k.a. the consensus/settled science supports) either to engage or not to engage. A lose-lose situation they have brought upon themselves.

    Their fate is now consistently in the hands of the independent thinkers (a.k.a. skeptics).

    Openness should have been, should finally start now, and be the modus operandi of the reformed/renaissance climate science that is happening quickly.


  48. Suggestion: Can everyone please stop calling each other names???

    OK, I understand the need for labels to rapidly convey your meaning… but, if you’re going to do so, please use better descriptions! Labeling one group as skeptical and another as not skeptical seems like a really bad idea globally for science.

    Being skeptical is a positive character trait of good scientists. Good scientists QUESTION. They explore. They try not to make assumptions.

    If you position the argument as one group that does question, that doesn’t make assumptions, that isn’t inquisitive, vs. another group that are reportedly “scientists”, then people will have an incorrect understanding of the necessary character traits of good scientists!

    The real difference in “belief” or dogma or whatever you want to call it between these two main camps isn’t in whether humans have caused warming. It’s really the belief in the sensitivity of the climate to those human influenced forcings. So, “senstives” vs. “insensitives”??? No? How about, “catastrophists” vs. “realists”???

    Whatever. Just don’t call people skeptics and attempt to use it in a derogatory manner. It doesn’t further your cause.


    • good point well made.

      Personally i like the idea of being called ‘insensitive’ …..

  49. Really?

    “AGU is a scientific society, not an advocacy organization,” says climate scientist and AGU President Michael J. McPhaden. “The organization is committed to promoting scientific discovery and to disseminating to the scientific community, policy makers, the media, and the public, peer-reviewed scientific findings across a broad range of Earth and space sciences.”

    That is NOT the AGU that Dr. Dwarka Das Sabu and I experienced in April of 1976 in Washington, DC when we presented a paper showing the implications of these 1975 data for the origin of the solar system:


    AGU claims to have separated from NAS (National Academy of Sciences) in 1972: http://www.agu.org/about/history/

    But AGU and NAS have avoided experimental data since 1969 on:

    a.) The Sun’s origin.
    b.) The Sun’s composition.
    c.) The Sun’s source of energy.
    d.) The Sun’s influence on Earth’s climate

    John Abraham et al. should study the data shown here:


    With kind regards,
    Oliver K. Manuel
    Former NASA Principal
    Investigator for Apollo

    • there is new leadership at AGU. the new executive director is outstanding. Mike McPhaden (current union president) is excellent, and he means what he said in that statement.

      • Thanks for the information.

        I would be happy to talk with Mike McPhade, one-on-one.

        There are decades of data distortions to resolve, including the finding of excess Xe-136 in Jupiter [“Isotopic ratios in Jupiter confirm intra-solar diffusion”, Meteoritics and Planetary Science 33, A97, abstract 5011 (1998)] as predicted [“Solar abundances of the elements”,
        Meteoritics 18, 209-222 (1983)].


      • In a book scheduled for publication before Thanksgiving, I acknowledge that I “helped precipitate the crisis in Western science by first refusing to concede to tyrannical actions by science editors and federal bureaucrats that distribute research funds for science, and then by using science forums to vent years of anger and frustration in personal attacks on pitiable leaders of the scientific community and their consensus followers.”

        I have no interest in punishing the pawns who hid and/or distorted experimental data in the past.

        But I will do everything in my power to end the prostitution of science so that future generations of young scientists have a chance to enjoy a life of continuous discovery without becoming pawns of the power brokers who distribute research funds. om

  50. Why is it that so many, when talking or writing about warming/cooling almost never specify time scale?
    Talking about warming or cooling makes NO sense without specifying time scale.
    At the moment earth is both cooling and warming, depending on time scale.

    • AnthropoceneEndGame

      “At the moment”
      Look up the definition of weather. Then look up the definition of climate. Then get a momentary education at NOAA’s website on the planetary warming over the last decade.

      • He may be saying is is cooler now then it was in July, or perhaps he is saying it is cooler now then it was at the Holocene Optimum. The latter would probably qualify as climate not weather. As far as the last decade, the NOAA stated in their State of the Climate 2008 report published in BAMS that the ENSO adjusted trend from 1999 – 2008 was 0.00 +/- o.o5C. You have no reason to be confident in any portion of your statement.

      • This is a typical response. Edim makes a perfectly valid point about timescales. The sneering response presumes ignorance and suggests looking up definitions. AEG should work for RealClimate – perhaps he does.

      • It would be hilarious if the AGW community wasn’t so hungry for money and power. It is the weather chasing aspect of AGW that shrunk climate timelines from ~century scale to the pitiful point where climate scientists opine about particular weather events as *proof* of the climate apocalypse.
        It is the combination of self-righteousness and arrogant bald faced greed of the AGW promoters that was one of the first ‘tells’ of the emptiness of their claims.

      • Eliminating time scales smaller than 30 years does not change anything. We still have 50, 100, 500, 1000, 2000, 5000, 10k, 50k, 100k, 500k, …

  51. I realize that it must be terribly frustrating to ‘engage’ with the ‘other side’.

    I would like you all to consider that there are many people who do not comment (engage) on the blogs (‘lurkers’) who are trying to learn about the subject, and are willing to consider any well-reasoned argument on the merits. It is those people who make the debate worth having, and you may never hear from them on your forum of choice.

    In any event, the flaming, name-calling and polarization (coming from both sides, of course), and attempts to squelch dissent because of a presumed ‘looming crisis’ (coming from some in the pro-AGW/ACC camp) do little to help build trust and understanding.

    And please, pro-AGW/ACC people, try to remember that it is those who are making calls for radical changes based on claimed scientific evidence (some of which has been called into question) who bear the burden of proof. Skeptics/’deniers’/others opposed to the pro-AGW/ACC story line don’t have to prove anything, because they aren’t asking for any changes. Or are they?

    I find it amusing (and slightly discomforting) that in this case, it seems that extraordinary claims do not require extraordinary proofs. (I’ll gladly consider any reasoned argument that we already have all the extraordinary proof we need.)

  52. I don’t understand the meaning of all this stuff about which kind of skeptic, or which skeptic’s arguments. This should be not about skeptics, but about “the science” (using IPCC’s words).

    IPCC et al are producing some statements, from climate science. With some strong disagreement – not big numbers, but highly qualified. Good enough. But not all sciences have the same level of maturity, nor the same demonstrated skill to provide predictions which come to be true. So, “the science” is not that meaningful. Climate science is the question. And the question is judging what climate science is bringing to the table, not if they’ve got a consensus or not. And this have nothing to do with skeptics and their arguments. Lacking evidence, it has to do with whether IPCC’s arguments, and “attributions”, “projections”, “certainties”, etc, stand scrutiny and reason, or not. The only reasonable meaning of “engagement with skeptics” I can see, is IPCC’s proponents presenting their case face to face against qualified devil’s advocates.

    And by doing so, you wouldn’t be worrying, not even talking about skeptics who can’t accept greenhouse effect. That’s completely irrelevant to the question, which is: do alarmists have a good case? Do their statements hold their ground? You may perfectly have a situation where skeptic’s arguments are garbage … but so are IPCC’s statements. In fact, that would be a very common situation with an immature science.

    • AnthropoceneEndGame

      “the science is not that meaningful”
      “lacking evidence…”
      “Do alarmists have a good case?”

      Given that you’ve concluded that’s there’s ‘no evidence’ and in general the ‘science is not meaningful’, your answer is predetermined. I don’t really care about your opinion though, they’re a dime a dozen. What’s more interesting is that the majority of those engaged in the research on AGW have concluded something quite different. So, for the educated layperson, one of the issues becomes who knows the science and who doesn’t. The other issue is. does plazaeme provide any science to back up his claims? (No).
      Time to move on.

  53. Why Engage engage with skeptics?

    1. because the notion that you can simply ignore them ( Gore’s approach) was and is stupid in the internet world. That tactic has been tried. It has failed.

    2. because the tactic of trying to delegitimize them on non scientific grounds has also failed and backfired horribly.

    The question is not whether to engage with skeptics the question is how.

    1. Go ahead and let them speak at your university.
    2. go ahead and let them speak at conferences.
    3. invite one to participate in your investigations of wrong doing.
    4. co author a paper with one, (rather than just using his data and not giving him co author status )
    5. Acknowledge the errors they point out.
    6. Be nice to the angry ones.
    7 send those with doubts about C02 to http://www.scienceofdoom ( that man is saint and agodsend)
    8. link to their blogs.
    9. invite them to guest post.

    In short try all the things you have NOT tried. cause what your doing now hasnt worked for years.

    • Good points Steve. One could add:
      10. Listen carefully to what the skeptics are saying.
      11. Don’t assume the skeptics are stupid.
      12. Don’t assume the skeptics are ignorant of climate science.
      13. Try to understand the skeptic’s argument and point of view.
      14. Think carefully before trying to respond.

      It would be good for science if the methods steve suggests were followed. But the language in the text (“aggressively engage the denialists”) suggests that this will not be the case.

  54. Judith- IMO you are still missing some key basic points in reaching a relative agreement on the issue of AGW

    Why engage the skeptics???

    Please first define the term for the basis of discussion. This has been tangentially addressed in several of the posts, but there are skeptics at many levels of the discussions. Some seem to have a limited basis for their position, but others seem to have ideas that are well founded. I suggest that if you look at “a” through “g” you will notice the different types of skepticism. Scientists need to address these points clearly; and there will not be a consensus for action until that is done.

    a. Is the planet getting warmer?

    b. Is humanity the cause of the planet getting warmer?

    c. Is human released CO2 the predominant cause of humans warming the planet?

    d. What is the rate of the planet’s warming?

    e. Is the warming of the planet bad for humanity overall in the long term?

    f. What is the suggested plan to mitigate the harm to humanity and what does it cost over what period

    g. What would be the results over what time period if the suggested plan “f” was adopted.

    Regarding the AGU’s policy statement of “The Earth’s climate is now clearly out of balance and is warming.” While I may agree that the statement is factually correct, it is also biased IMO. Over what previous period would that statement not have been accurate? The statement could have been written to be far more neutral.

    Your proposed article/blog scheduled for the Thanksgiving timeframe would be more neutral if you had people address points “a” through “g” with their supporting reasoning vs. having the blog as an opportunity for the undefined term of “skeptics”. With all due respect, that term is prejudicial.

    • Two additions to a-g which have been brought up several times on this thread:

      i. Is the ongoing work in climatology being done according to the norms that are accepted in other physical sciences? (Is the discipline aspiring to the ideals described by Richard Feynman?)

      j. Given the public-policy implications of the body of recent work in climatology, does this field accept standards that are comparable to the standards that other applied (i.e. policy-relevant) sciences must meet?

      • AMac- “i” and “j” would be a biased questions IMO and really not key to reaching a general agreement….and what you don’t like “h”??

      • h. is all about the extraterrestrial unknown driving forces of the weather and climate patterns that require knowledge of the interactions of the entire solar system and its responses to the changes in galactic background electromagnetic and particle density, and their effects on the interface between the solar wind, ionosphere, mesosphere, and even the Van Allen belts.

        It is only with in the last several years that we have had satellite data gathering capability, looking at the solar wind and earth’s magnetosphere interactions, and most of this data is still unaccessible to the general public.

        Many new areas of study are available to help determine the electromagnetic components, and their interactions on the weather produced on the earth, solar studies are ongoing at the fore front of knowledge, new NASA missions are starting.

        THEMES outer two satellites are being repositioned to orbit the moon, to give them a more stable base of operations to study the interactions of the earth moon sun system in much needed detail to answer lots of questions the IPCC have totally ignored.

        With the advent of increased knowledge of the extended solar system effects on the weather, long term cyclic patterns due to the transfer of momentum, and electromagnetic effects between the solar wind and the earth, the game plan will change and the “its only CO2” crowd will be left high and dry, playing with their 2% of the total pie chart.

  55. Judith I have written on your series of November articles at http://chriscolose.wordpress.com/2010/11/09/934/ in large part opening up a need to really clarify better terms and definitions

  56. “Why engage with skeptics?”

    The question is misplaced. It assumes that any contrary view is entitled to a place at the table. But climate sceptics come in all shapes and sizes. Not all sceptical views are equal.

    There is no reason to enage with someone just because they express a contrary view, and this applies to any subject.

    You engage with people because they make worthwhile, relevant comments/criticisms of the science. The issue then is not so much who is not being heard as what deserves to be heard.

    • I suggest you are not considering that “skeptics” include those whom have not yet determined whether or not they will support the implementation of a particular course of action. Scientists that believe that AGW is a concern…..and wish action to address said concern……need to follow a path of explaining why their position is reasonable, logical, and based upon good evidence. Their positions/conclusions need to be able to withstand the arguments of those that disagree with their positions to the extent that a significant majority of decision makers agree with their conclusions.

      There are several hundred nation states on the planet, and frequently those leading (or electing other to lead those nation states) need to have a case for action clearly delineated. If you consider what was written in point “a” through “g”, I suggest that it becomes much harder to reach a consensus when discussing the issues beyond point “b”. If you wish an action plan to be implemented this is ultimately essential.

      • Rob Starkey: Well said.

        As many here have noted, there are many kinds of skeptics and many kinds of engagement. There is no “one size fits all” answer to the topic question.

        I’m not a skeptic like Steve McIntyre who can go toe-to-toe arguing the statistics behind the Hockey Stick. I’m not a doctrinaire free-market skeptics who sees the New World Order behind all environmental science.

        I am an American voter and taxpayer with some doubts about climate change science and no small horror of the abuses exposed by Climategate.

        If climate scientists want my vote and my support for the agenda to mitigate climate change, they had better be willing to engage skeptics like myself and skeptics like Steve McIntyre and a fair number of other skeptics (though not all) as well.

      • Rob Starkey: “I suggest you are not considering that “skeptics” include those whom have not yet determined whether or not they will support the implementation of a particular course of action.”

        I think the term is being used in this thread to refer to those who actively doubt AGW. Nevertheless, my point was that not all views are of equal worth, and that applies across the board, whether to the decided or the undecided.

        And it goes without saying that scientists should explain their reasons and evidence for holding their views.

    • Was it worthwhile for the best and brightest in medicine to ignore for years the skeptical idea that ulcers were actually bacterial?
      Only for the pepcid mfr. and the status quo.
      The pomposity of AGW science that has led to this question even being asked is as large an indictment as any. The only thing more self-incriminating is the posing of the true believers in this apocalyptic clap trap.

      • hunter: “Was it worthwhile for the best and brightest in medicine to ignore for years the skeptical idea that ulcers were actually bacterial?”

        I’m not familiar with the issue, so can’t comment on the specifics. However, I will say that a claim that x causes y is not a sceptical claim, but rather a competing explanation. Strictly speaking, the sceptic does not take a definite position, beyond that of doubt, questioning and witholding of agreement.

        In general, human beings should act on the knowledge they think is best supported by the evidence. Currently, most climate scientists consider that the evidence supports AGW. That may change, but we are not able in the present to take advantage of hindsight.

        “The pomposity of AGW science that has led to this question even being asked is as large an indictment as any.”

        I disagree. Many people are self-styled sceptics about climate science. Not all of their views are worth considering. Take these examples.

        “The plain fact of the matter is that the ground temperature network was never designed for the kind of accuracy and precision needed to establish temperature trends of tenths of degrees per century all over the globe.”

        “This current crowd of kooks has clearly far exceeded the late 1970′s pop-science Ice Age fearmongers. The closest comparison I can think of is the Heaven’s Gate comet death-cult.”

        In my view, one of these comments is worth consideration, the other is just noise. I don’t think it is pompous to make a distinction between the two.

      • Which do you see as pointless?
        One is a technical critique and the other a social.
        Which do you find unworthy?

      • And, perhaps you should study the heliobacter issue a bit before commenting on it, And perhaps realizing that the serious skeptic has been offering a competing claim for quite some time would help you reflect on why climate science is in trouble.

      • hunter: “Which do you see as pointless?”

        The title of this thread is: Why engage with sceptics? Throwing insults is not engagement, it’s just venting. There’s nothing wring with venting, but it’s the sort of thing you do to appeal to the home team rather than engage with your opponent.

        “And, perhaps you should study the heliobacter issue a bit before commenting on it,”

        I didn’t comment on the heliobacter issue. I commented on this claim: “Was it worthwhile for the best and brightest in medicine to ignore for years the skeptical idea that ulcers were actually bacterial?”

        This comment makes a claim about a “skeptical idea”. But scepticism is an attiude, a habit of mind, not the content of thought. Therefore, a claim that x causes y is not a sceptical idea, but rather a hypothesis/theory.

  57. Naughty little sceptics run away from the big ‘hockey stick’ of doom and hellish temperatures brandished by the IPCC firebrand preachers, but are they going to be tempted by the auntie Judith’s cookies?

  58. There are cookies? I thought only Lucia had cookies.

  59. Regerding the AGU and APS statements, it does not logically follow that reducing greenhouse gases is a necessary conclusion from the IPCC results. We could conclude that 1) the most likely warming (let us say 2 deg C) is on net beneficial or a wash, or 2) that adaptation is far more cost effective, or that 3) the risk of social collapse resulting from restricitng GHG is too high and we will have to wait and see for a decade or 2. This jump from “we have a potential problem” to “carbon tax” is simply a mindless knee-jerk reaction.

    • I agree. Too bad the USC hadn’t considered your three points more thoughfully before they decided MA v EPA case and the EPA also before they issued their Endangerment Finding. This raises the issue: “Who are the decision-makers that Dr. Curry is talking about”?

  60. I suggest that another reason to engage skeptics is that climate scientists — and scientists in general — have doubled down on climate change so many times that if the catastrophic effects fail to manifest in this century, it will be a terrible blow for the credibility of science, which I think will be a terrible blow for civilization.

    Engaging skeptics now would help demonstrate the integrity of science, the willingness to bend over backward to get the science right according to the lights of Richard Feynman, and possibly improve climate science.

    The bunker mentality of climate scientists suggested to many of us outside that there is something pathological going on inside the bunker, and the Climategate scandals proved it.

    How serious that pathology is remains to be seen, but climate scientists had better be aware that their credibility has taken a serious hit. Pretending otherwise or complaining about the quality of skeptics won’t change that at all. The scientific community as a whole should be attention also.

  61. I have spent over a year reading the blogs (both sides) trying unsuccessfully to work out where I stand on the climate issue. I have never before posted a comment so by writing this missive I am losing my blogosphere virginity!! Thank you Judith!

    I suppose I am currently a skeptic in that I accept that the earth’s climate is warming and that a proportion of that warming is caused by man’s CO2, but I am not yet convinced that the climate is changing catastrophically or that the policy response needs to be so extreme.

    I think I should be engaged because I am a voter and the only way that climate policy can be enacted is with my democratic consent. If you don’t convince me then you won’t get my vote and if enough voters take the same view then nothing will happen and policy makers will soon lose interest. That’s how democratic politics works and is why the science is inseperable from the politics. The proponents understand this and the scientists have unwittingly been roped in.

    The problem with the climate issue is that the proposed policy response is extremely expensive and has the distinct smell of long held green ideology. This makes me instinctively suspicious. It raises the bar and increases the level of understanding that I require to be convinced by the proponents’ arguments. That’s the ‘why’.

    But without going OT there’s also the ‘how’:

    One of the problems I have encountered and perhaps the reason that I have drifted towards more skeptical blogs is that the scientists are hopeless at communicating in plain language with ordinary people like me. Take RealClimate for example. They currently have a post covering the science of climate feedback. I tried to follow it but was faced with pages of incomprehensible equations that I couldn’t follow. (As an aside, I wouldn’t dare raise this matter there as I would be shot down in flames or accused of being a troll so instead I suffer silently despite being open minded). lnstead of complex equations and scientific terms that nobody understands why can’t they use plain language to explain their assumptions. Like this:

    The feedback ‘A’ varies according to the variables x, y and z. We are certain of this because………….

    The peers can review the maths, I just need to understand the theory and the extent of the uncertainty.

    Thanks for your excellent blog Judith. It is ordinary people like me that need to be engaged. I fear the extremists on both sides are a lost cause.
    Regards, Rob.

    • Michael Larkin

      Nice post, Robb. My case is similar to yours, and I agree, they aren’t communicating – when they say something comprehensible at all, it’s most frequently couched in condescending and – dare I say it – dogmatic terms.

      Feynman was of the opinion that it is possible, even with hard stuff like Quantum Mechanics, to put things across in an understandable way that still captures the essence of the science correctly. Of course, he had a certain genius for this kind of communication, but I can’t think of very many, if any, on the orthodox side who have demonstrated this skill.

      However, some sceptics DO have some skill in putting things in simple terms, and it’s only because of them that I have gradually (over the course of a year, like you) become able to understand at least something of the science.

      Eventually the penny dropped that the key issue concerns feedbacks. I don’t need to understand equations. I just need to know whether it has been proved that they are positive rather than negative, to such an extent that serious deleterious effects are inevitable.

      If not, then the jury’s still out, and I think that’s the actual situation. Spending lots of money tilting at windmills at the present time would seem to be ill-advised.

      Now, is there anything crazy about that view? One might disagree with it, sure, but it is not without merit, I think. People who are sceptical about this point need to be engaged with. The first question I’d ask is: am I wrong? Have climate feedbacks in response to increasing anthropogenic CO2 been proved to be markedly positive, and has it been proved that the results of that would be catastrophic?

      Were every climate scientist to say that, even the likes of Lindzen (who can on occasion can put things in comprehensible terms), then it’d be a no-brainer.

      Consensualists can’t simply claim that it’s already a done deal because there are, purportedly, so many of them who believe that. The fact is, there are some prestigious scientists who definitely don’t believe it, and for drastic action to be taken, I’d feel far more comfortable if it was unanimous. You know it’s very probably right if even sceptical scientists agree on it.

      One of the few things that pretty much everyone agrees on is that CO2 is a GHG that in its own right can only account for modest amounts of warming. To become a serious problem, feedbacks have to be positive.

      I may not understand climate science, but I learnt something about feedbacks when I studied zoology at university. There are many negative feedback mechanisms in organisms – e.g. when human beings get warm, they sweat (and dogs pant), and that helps dissipate excess heat; and there are many negative feedbacks at the biochemical level involving such things as hormonal effects on specific tissues. Without these feedbacks, none of us would live very long; in fact, in some genetic disorders, where feedbacks are disabled, an early death is highly likely.

      We bring to the table whatever past scientific understandings we might have. I look at the consequences of negative feedbacks being disabled in organisms. Then, looking at the climate system, I ask myself why the earth has lasted as long as it has if it has no way of coping with an increase in CO2, when in the past, CO2 levels have been much higher (again, no one seems to disagree with that). What is different about a comparatively small increase due to anthropogenic activity? It’s all the same CO2, after all.

      Is it the rate of increase, perhaps? Does that make it difficult for natural negative feedback mechanisms to cope over the short term (decades or centuries rather than many millennia)? If so, that’s accepting that negative feedback mechanisms exist. Might it be that there aren’t positive feedbacks, but factors that inhibit, in the short term, negative feedbacks?

      I don’t seem to hear about this kind of possibility being considered – if it is, it may be couched in such arcane terms that I’ve missed it. I only hear an argument about whether positive or negative feedbacks apply.

      If CAGW is real, and if its ultimate cause is inhibition of negative feedbacks, then this could give some indication of how to tackle it effectively without reducing anthropogenic emissions. To give an analogy, some diabetics can control blood sugar through adjustment of diet. That’s rather like reducing emissions. However, some diabetics need injections of insulin, which is a more specifically targeted response.

      You can’t mess around in medicine; you have to understand what the issue is and address that. You give type 1 diabetics insulin, because you know their pancreatic beta cells have been destroyed. You can’t envisage the equivalent of some of the geoengineering solutions to AGW that have been proposed in the absence of complete knowledge of how the climate system works.

      I suppose I’m opening up how I, a non-expert, am approaching the climate issue. Experts need to talk to me in terms that I can understand, and furthermore, not, a priori, think me stupid, obdurate, or not worth talking to.

      If they don’t talk to me, or folk like me, well, that’s their prerogative. But the consequence is that people may well conclude they aren’t talking because they can’t counter our arguments effectively, or simply and politely enlighten us as to misconceptions. At the very least, they are incapable of listening. No matter which applies, the effect is the same. If we don’t get comprehensible answers, we will give up and not bother supporting them. In the end, it’s we who will decide because we all get to vote, and they’re already losing us in droves.

      The short answer is, to engage with sceptics is the only way to have any hope of survival. Not engaging is like turkeys voting for Christmas.

      • Hi Michael – I was idly wandering through these pages with no intention to comment, because most of the commenters who are unfamiliar with climate science phrase their comments as assertions rather than questions, and to my mind, that invites arguments I prefer to avoid. Your clear desire to enhance your understanding struck me as an admirable exception, and so I’ll attempt to respond. My response is intended primarily for you, however, and I’ll probably resist getting into an exchange with anyone who wants to argue – there are enough arguments of that type already.

        You have correctly identified a critical issue as the magnitude and sign of feedbacks. By itself, the warming effect of CO2 and other anthropogenic greenhouse gases is modest, but if amplified by feedbacks, it becomes a potentially serious threat. Unfortunately for everyone outside the climatology field, climatologists have defined feedbacks in a unique and confusing manner, and so the first task is to dispel the confusion.

        When the Earth warms through any mechanism (solar, CO2, aerosol reduction, etc.), it behaves like any other object that absorbs heat, by tending to shed the extra heat. The mathematics are given by the Stefan-Boltzmann equation which tells us that to the extent an object can absorb heat, it also radiates heat in proportion to the fourth power of its temperature – in essence, the hotter we make the Earth, the more heat it emits upward toward space. That is a negative feedback. It is sometimes referred to as the Planck Response. It is universally accepted, and explains why the Earth doesn’t burn up just because we’ve added some warming components to the atmosphere.

        The semantic problem is that when climatologists discuss feedback, they include the Planck response in their calculations but often don’t list it as a feedback. For climatologists, positive and negative feedbacks are those that alter a response from what would occur if only the Planck response were operating. For example, the warming estimated from a doubling of atmospheric CO2 is about 1.2 degrees Celsius when the effects of CO2 are counteracted only by the Planck response. Anything that might magnify that warming is called a positive feedback, while anything that might diminish it is called a negative feedback. Ultimately, when the Planck response is figured into the calculations, net feedbacks will always turn out to be negative, but in the lexicon of climatology, the definition of positive or negative depends on whether the feedback in question magnifies the effect of an initial perturbation (a positive feedback) or diminishes it (negative feedback). Thus, for the example given above, a positive feedback would cause temperatures to rise higher (before the Planck response reestablishes equilibrium) than would be the case without the feedback.

        Armed with these definitions, can we say whether net feedback responses to changes in CO2 or other greenhouse gases are positive or negative? Briefly, we can state that they are positive with high but not absolute confidence. The supporting evidence comes from multiple sources, spanning hundreds of millions of years of Earth history up to the current time, and again, my purpose is not to argue the point but rather to describe current thinking on this topic.

        The main source of positive feedback is water vapor. Warming induced by CO2 (or any other source) causes water to evaporate, and water vapor, being a greenhouse gas in its own right, therefore magnifies the intial warming effect. A second positive feedback in a global scenario entails the melting of ice and snow, particularly in the polar regions. These substances reflect sunlight back to space, and if a warming influence causes them to melt, some of the reflectivity (“albedo”) is lost and the resulting ocean water or bare land, being less reflective, absorb more heat. A third potential source of positive feedback involves changes in the extent and nature of clouds, but much of the uncertainty about net climate feedbacks is due to the fact that this element of the climate system is not as well understood as many of the others. In theory, if cloud feedbacks are strongly negative, they might offset or outweigh the positive water vapor and ice/albedo feedbacks. Cloud feedbacks are generally estimated as slightly positive, but the issue remains controversial.

        There are many other positive and negative feedbacks, but one worth including in this discussion is the “lapse rate feedback”, which is negative in sign. It is based on the fact that when water vapor condenses at high, cold altitudes, it releases considerable heat (the latent heat of vaporization). This enhances the escape of heat to space, thereby augmenting rather than retarding the Planck response to a rising temperature. In general, the water vapor positive feedback exceeds the negative lapse rate feedback, but under special circumstances, this relationship might potentially be reversed.

        I hope this exposition, which is I believe factually accurate while remaining understandable, satisfies you more than some of the cryptic explanations advanced elsewhere.

        Finally, a word about Richard Feynman, whose expository skills I admire as much as anyone. In specific regard to quantum mechanics, however, whose counterintuitive nature bedevils even the experts who accept its truths based on what the equations tell them without actually being able to picture what is happening in any realistic detail, I believe it was Feynman who stated “anyone who says he understands quantum mechanics doesn’t understand quantum mechanics.” I don’t think climate science is quite as hard to reconcile with our ordinary concepts of reality.

      • Fred M.,

        I for one found this helpful, and have not previously read about it in this way. It’s probably a bit late in the thread, but I’d be interested to read a discussion on the point you make.

        With thanks,


      • Michael Larkin


        I am extremely grateful to you for this exposition. Indeed, I will save it off to my hard drive for future reference. It has helped me grasp certain things better than I have before.

        The overall impression I get is that, as I said, the jury is out, perhaps particularly in regard to the influence of clouds. I also think that my biological understanding of feedbacks doesn’t map precisely to how climate scientists think about feedbacks, and that has given me some pause for thought. I’m going to have to let your post sink in a bit, and it could well influence how I approach things in the future. This could take a few days or weeks, and I really wouldn’t be able until then to come back with further points or questions; I don’t want to be too previous.

        It seems to me that you are a most reasonable fellow, and it says a lot that I can’t really divine what your stance on the climate issues is. That doesn’t actually matter, though. I’m just happy to see some convivial and useful dialogue in operation.

        I’m hoping that when Dr. Curry puts up the contributor profile thread, you will say something about yourself – your web site seems to concentrate on your achievements as a songwriter, but it wouldn’t surprise me if somewhere in the background was some experience in science. Not that if there isn’t, that would detract from the worth of your response.

        Maybe we will converse further in the future. I’m always happy to learn new things. :-)

      • Fred
        Excellent post and couched in neutral terms that even I can understand. I agree with Michael that it would be intersting to know a little about your background. Regards, Rob.

      • PS I like the website!

      • Fred Moolten:

      • Another “Fred Moolten +1”.

  62. I am seeing lots of emphasis on the obligation of scientists to engage, and how they should behave when they do so. I’m not seeing so much about any reciprocal obligations on the part of the skeptics. Engagement is only meaningful if it works both ways.

    • And I have seen your objection many times on this blog and not been impressed.

      I for one am not saying that scientists have an obligation to engage skeptics. However, if they want support from voters for their work and for their agenda, they will have to engage. The onus is on the scientists if they want their work to change society. We live in a democracy; that’s the way it is.

      What sort of reciprocal obligations do you have in mind?

      • The kind which will lead to a discussion which is actually meaningful.

        Off the top of my head –

        Have the same respect for the scientists’ knowlege and expertise in their field as you would expect others to have for yours (whether you are a scientist or not).

        Accept that just because you think their work may be flawed it doesn’t mean they are dishonest or part of some great conspiracy.

        Accept that if you accuse them of the above either directly during the discussion or in other forums you can hardly expect a polite response.

        Make sure you have evidence to back up your arguments and consider the credibility of your sources.

        Remember that expecting them to give proper consideration to your arguments does not mean they can’t tell you that you are wrong.

        Just to be clear I don’t mean you personally, but based on numerous discussions I have seen I think they are fair points.

      • andrew adams: Mostly you are describing the etiquette of civil discourse — which is violated regularly on both sides of the climate change debate — and I support civil discourse.

        As to respecting the knowledge of scientists as I would have others respect mine, that’s a bit trickier. Sure, I respect the knowledge of scientists and I do try to listen closely when they speak within their field, but that does not mean that I am obligated to accept whatever they say from their position within that field.

        Furthermore, I must point out that I have had online exchanges with climate change scientists in which the scientist struck me as flat dishonest and manipulative. I reserve my right to reach such a conclusion without, of course, assuming that all climate scientists are dishonest and manipulative.

      • Andrew:

        I think these are valid points, but none of them applies to me or to a number of others, at least I believe not.

        I have great respect for scientists’ knowledge and expertise. I do not think there is a conspiracy, and have said that repeatedly. I don’t accuse people, and I don’t use ad hominem arguments. I try to use data (evidence) to back up my questions. I don’t have arguments, because I don’t have an alternative explanation other than the null hypothesis (that whatever warming we are experiencing arises through what is called ‘natural variability).

        But I have raised several questions both here and elsewhere, and I either get silence, or hand-waves, or suggestions that I read WG1, or that I go to this or that link, where whatever question I have raised is not actually answered.

        What am I doing wrong?

      • I do realize that there’s a wide range of people all saying that they’re skeptics. It’d be a plus if some of you would take issue, and provide explanations of the science to, the others who are, say, denying that ther’s a greenhouse effect. the plus being that it’d make it easier for the scientists to spend time on your more substantive questions. I don’t think I’m unique in aiming explanations to the most erroneous (in my estimation :-) end of the spectrum. If you’d take care of that, my (our) efforts would go more readily to questions of how we can know ‘so well’ that … whatever it is that is interesting to you.

        as to your questions, since you don’t give an example, I don’t know what’s up. I do know that it can be difficult to ask a good question — one that gets an answer that’s meaningful to you. I’ve had some iterations with people in my ‘question place’ (most recent is august — still open) to figure out what their real question was, as we had to translate from the obvious-to-them original phrasing to the obvious-to-me phrasing for me to answer. You’re welcome to come over to my place and give it a try. of course, I’m not omniscient, so you could have a perfectly good (well-phrased by the standards of the field) question and I still couldn’t help you. Still, I’m something of a generalist, so it’s worth a shot.

      • Robert Grumbine (12:10pm) —

        We can take the mistaken use of the uncalibratable Tiljander data series as temperature proxies in Mann et al (PNAS, 2008) as an illustration of scientifically-literate skeptics’ concerns with the state of climate science.

        As a case study, it has these advantages:

        * The scientific issues are small, clear-cut and readily grasped by scientifically-literate laypeople.

        * Leading lights of the Pro-AGW Consensus have weighed in on the controversy, all on one side.

        * The skeptics’ concerns with climatology process can be clearly stated: contra Feynman’s sage advice, mainstream climate scientists seem unable or unwilling to acknowledge errors that (erroneously) lend support to their preconceived notions.

        * Links to relevant papers, data, and blog posts are already assembled for ready reference.

        * You have already blogged on this topic.

      • don’t know why you want that as your type case. if so, though, you illustrate a different point as well — why it is a scientist might not want to ‘engage skeptics’.

        You described my post as “A full-throated defense of Mann”.

        The three main points of it were:
        1) Watts was wrong in saying that Mann had _absolutely everything_ upside down.
        2) Mann may or may not have used Tiljander’s data wrongly.
        3) Whether he did or not seemed to make little difference to his results (the curve without Tiljanders or some other questionable data was quite similar to the one with).

        To call that ‘full-throated defense’ is, well, wrong at minimum. I’d say it’s fair to call it a lie even. Almost nobody actually followed your link to my article to judge for themselves whether you were accurate in your description. Why engage with you when you lie in places that I’m not present about what I say?

      • Response to Robert Grumbine downthread, here.

      • Robert,

        OK. I’ll go to your website (I have learned about many more since I came to Judith’s site!). But as an opener, and accepting that the planet has probably warmed over the past century, I find the methodology of obtaining the global temperature anomaly sloppy, open to several forms of error, Procrustean (using the average of highest min and lowest max), affected by the numbers of sites used, the change in their location, the use of adjustments that are not explained and seem always to produce a higher warming trend, and interpolation where there are gauges. The resulting number is then used to a number of decimal places, and referred to as though it were ‘accurate’. Have I got this wrong? It looks ludicrous to me — and, as I say, I’m prepared to accept that there has been some warming. How we could we know, from such a number, whether the warming is unprecedented (which would be my next question), escapes me.

        But Rob Starkey | November 9, 2010 at 12:04 pm above provided a list too. You could try those.

      • the surface temperature record is not an area I know in much detail, so can’t say very much. One thing, though, that is at the base of your problems in finding out how, exactly, things are done and why it is considered ok to do them that way, is that it’s an old field. it’s very likely (not a certainty, but I’d bet this way) that the things you are concerned about in the data management were considered — 50-100 years ago. (I’ve seen references to urban heat island from the 1950s, for instance.) modern process is continuing with things that were previously shown to be ok. but it’s so much previous (like the 30 year averaging period) that nobody today seems to know exactly when/where/how it was shown to be ok. one thing that does is give room for someone like you or me to start rooting around the foundations to see what the original papers were, what they said or tested exactly, and whether that’s still good enough. (I’ve done some blog posts on finding a climate averaging period, applying some considerations I think are reasonable — 30 years come back out of it, but at least now I can point to a particular reasons for choosing 30 rather than 10; may write it up for a journal note.)

        to the end of tracking back where the early papers are, I like http://adsabs.harvard.edu/ It’s publicly available (as is google scholar) but in addition to letting you search for papers, some papers also have full reference lists. You can then start with some recent paper from cru, giss, ncdc, and pull up the papers it cites. then the papers cited by those papers, and so forth. its better for astronomy/astrophysics than earth science (no surprise), but a useful start.

        ‘unprecedented’, I don’t find a very useful term, myself. It’s rather like ‘natural’ — as in advertising how ‘natural ingredients’ were used. Well, cyanide and arsenic are natural. natural doesn’t necessarily mean good. It would not be unprecedented for there to be a couple miles of ice over Canada and the northern US, or for sea level to be 70 meters higher than present. unprecedented or not, it probably wouldn’t be good.

    • Andrew- ultimately, it is useful to define your goal (or at least it is much easier to get there if you know where your are attempting to get).

      If you are a climate scientist that believes that the planet is warming due to human caused actions, and you believe that this is bad for humanity overall over the long term…….and you want people to allocate resources to do something to potentially mitigate this concern, the only choice is to go through a process similar to what was outlined in the post of 12:04.

      It is unreasonable, IMO; to expect people to commit limited resources without valid rationale for doing so; and without knowing that those resources will actually positively effect the situation. All reasonable people start as skeptics when asked for money/resources.

      There is a “process” for getting people to commit resources, but many who have studied AGW seemingly wish to by pass the process and get mad/frustrated when their opinions are not blindly accepted.

      • Rob,

        If you are a climate scientist that believes that the planet is warming due to human caused actions, and you believe that this is bad for humanity overall over the long term…….and you want people to allocate resources to do something to potentially mitigate this concern, the only choice is to go through a process similar to what was outlined in the post of 12:04.

        Yes I’ve read your post and as I see it apart from point f, ie defining what specific actions need to be taken* and the cost, this information is precisely laid out in the IPCC summary for policymakers and also in the information published by the various national science academies (Judith Curry ludicrously sees this as unacceptable advocacy) , and various sources on the web with links to the underlying scientific literature.
        So if people genuinely want to understand the scientific case for AGW and why it is likely to be a serious problem there is a whole wealth of information out there which is comprehensible to a reasonably intelligent layman. If they have questions there are plenty of forums where they can put them and get a perfectly reasonable answer. If they want to throw around accusations of fraud, malpractice and conspiracies or make authoritative sounding statements on the state of our knowlege of climate based on no authority but their own or some guy with a website then they might find themselves made less welcome.

        *I don’t count reducing emissions in itself as a specific action, people may have very different approaches to how to do it.

    • Latimer Alder

      Sorry guv, you are the guys attempting to persuade the rest of the world that you have a valid point and that we need to do something about it. And peripherally to keep paying you guys to keep on investigating the ‘problem’.

      We can think of this as a sell/buy transaction…you are selling an idea, and others may or may not buy it. If you cannot engage the buyer’s interest in ways that are congenial to him, it is a failure on your part. There is no absolute obligation on the buyer to even listen to your case. And in a democratic system you do not really have the luxury of picking and choosing your potential customers…it is everybody.

      And years of experience in sales tells me that the best and longest lasting sell/buy transactions are ones where both sides feel that they have achieved something of mutual benefit.

      Climate science has traditionally been sold on the fear factor……something along the lines of ‘we are very clever people and we tell you that if you don’t give us lots of money right now and change your evil ways your grandkids will fry to a crisp or drown or starve’. Which doesn’t really meet the criterion of mutual benefit at all. And is likely only effective in the relatively short term.

      But when people see things like Climategate and start to say to themselves ‘well they might be very clever people and all that, but they seem to behave like a bunch of dodgy second hand car salesmen’, then their grasp on their wallets becomes that bit tighter and their willingness to believe in imminent Armageddon that little bit less. That effect is real and you can already see it in opinion polls and it was reflected a little in the US election results.

      Which may seem a long way from the question ‘how do you engage with sceptics?’ But isn’t really, because the real answer is ‘whichever way the
      sceptic wants you to do so’.

      And a final hint….shouting loudly that the sceptic is an evil Denier, is in the pay of Big Oil, not a climate scientist and therefore is not entitled to have view or is just too plain stupid to worry your Great Brains about are not ways calculated to win their trust and admiration. Nor their money.

      Which would mean you have failed by not analysing the problem and modifying your behaviour correctly. A strange failing for scientists to have.

      • Latimer Alder: Enjoyed your post!

        You make the case colloquially and clearly that it comes down to climate scientists to engage the rest of us *if* they want our support for their work and their agenda.

        Further bad news for climate scientists and their supporters — this is not a two-way street.

      • We can think of this as a sell/buy transaction…you are selling an idea, and others may or may not buy it. If you cannot engage the buyer’s interest in ways that are congenial to him, it is a failure on your part. There is no absolute obligation on the buyer to even listen to your case. And in a democratic system you do not really have the luxury of picking and choosing your potential customers…it is everybody.

        This is why the policy/political side is so worrisome. In a way, it’s an end-run around that process, forcing the product on the consumer via government regulation.

      • Oops, my reply was intended for Latimer. Sorry.

      • Hi BS

        Your post looks interesting. But please forgive me for not understanding an ‘end run’. In UK we don’t play much American Football or Baseball. Please explain. Tx.

      • Re: (undefRe: (undefined NaN NaN:NaN), ined NaN NaN:NaN),

        end run
        1. Football A play in which the ball carrier attempts to run around one end of the defensive line.
        2. Informal A maneuver in which impediments are bypassed, often by deceit or trickery: made an end run around the departmental finance officer in order to increase the budget.

      • Thanks Brian. I think I understand now. To avoid or sidestep something rather than to confront it?

      • Re: (undefined NaN NaN:NaN),
        Yeah. Context matters; can suggest a constructive or a sneaky maneuver.

      • First of all, I’m not a scientist, no one is paying me anything. To quote Monty Python, I’m arguing in my spare time.

        Apart from that, and the points I made to Rob above, the main problem I have with your argument is that it seems to view the scientists’ desire to “sell” you AGW as neccessarily self-interested, and that if you aren’t persuaded to buy it then it’s only their problem and there are no consequences for you.
        Contrary to what you may believe, the vast majority of scientists (and those of us who are convinced by the science and want to argue the case) really aren’t doing it for any personal gain or to achieve any political end – we are doing it (and here there certainly is some self-interest) because we believe that it is a serious problem for us all.
        Of course given the seriousness of the threat and the potential costs involved in taking action it is right to expect the scientific arguments to be compelling and rigorous, but I find the notion that the onus is entirely on the scientists to jump through whatever hoops you dictate in order for you to give consideration to their arguments absurd.
        If you could consider for a moment that they might be trying to persuade you for your benefit as much as theirs and that they are not asking you to pay a price they are not willing to pay themselves then you might be more willing to at least give proper consideration to their arguments. If not, why should they bother – they don’t have to persuade everyone.

      • I find the notion that the onus is entirely on the scientists to jump through whatever hoops you dictate in order for you to give consideration to their arguments absurd.

        andrew adams: It’s not absurd; it’s reality. We live in a democracy. Ultimately voters make the decisions as best they can, whether scientists and climate change advocates like it or not.

        As citizens we are constantly bombarded by authorities of all sorts attempting to convince us that such and such a threat requires our highest priority and much of our money. Sometimes they are right. There are real threats out there. But not all of the authorities are right and we can only attend to so many threats at once.

        If climate scientists have a new threat for us, I’m sorry, they will just have to get in line and make their best pitch. I don’t see any way around this. Do you?

        Some scientists and pundits like James Lovelock and Tom Friedman suggest that we should suspend democracy for climate change, but I’m against that. Where do you stand on this?

        Those skeptics who sense a heavy-handed authoritarianism lurking behind climate change aren’t imagining things.

      • Huxley,

        I don’t have time to post a full reply right now but in answer to the question

        Some scientists and pundits like James Lovelock and Tom Friedman suggest that we should suspend democracy for climate change, but I’m against that. Where do you stand on this?

        I am completely opposed to this.

      • I am completely opposed to this.

        andrew adams: Bang on! Thanks.

      • I make no assumptions about the reasons behind climatologists desires to sell us their product and whatever they are it does not change my argument one iota.

        They could be doing it for religious reasons, for the good of humanity, for the opportunity to make fast buck, because their partner asked them to do so, because they find it fun, because they have a personality disorder, because they enjoy being fawned upon by journos, because they enjoy telling other people what to do or because they are the greatest benefactors of humanity since the Medieval Warming Period. Or a myriad of other good or bad reasons. Their motivations are completely irrelevant to the argument.

        In your particular case, *you* believe that *we* have a serious problem ,and *you* want *us* to do some quite unpleasant things to mitigate this problem. Again, whether you are willing to do these things yourselves is irrelevant. The world is full of sincere people who are happy to do bizarre things for causes that they believe in. And some of those things (suicide bombing for example) are positively destructive. Sincerity is not an infallible protection against being misguided.

        So I don’t think that your points really change the argument at all. Among many calls on people’s attention, time, effort and money, doing something about global warming is only one among many.

        However difficult it may be for committed people like yourselves to understand worrying about a few feet extra on the sealevel in 100 years or more or whether the winter nights get a little bit less cold comes pretty low down most people’s worry list. Getting the kids to school and looking after the people who are around now and who is going to win Strictly Come Dancing, not about their potential great great great grandchildren are much much higher priorities for most.

        I suggested some basic communication and sales ideas that you guys seen to have missed big time. 10:10’s disastrous ‘No Pressure’ movie showed just how appallingly bad you have been at it. When you seemed to have a following wind and could do no wrong in the politico’s eyes, then maybe this was a relatively unimportant point.
        But the Zeitgeist is changing around you … even faster than the Antarctic ice is increasing. Something that mattered little when you were playing offense becomes very very important when you are in defense.

        I am not suggesting that scientist should be made to ‘jump through hoops’. But that if you wish to engage people’s attention then you have to speak to them in a way that they understand.

        Joe Sixpack (or Latimer Alder) may not think that screeching ‘MBH98 – so there you ignorant denier voodoo bastard oil shill’ is an adequate answer to his vague memory from school history that Greenland used to be a place where people went to farm or that the Romans grew wine in Yorkshire. and even less so when some other quite reasonable sounding guy is sayimg ‘well actually MBH 98 is seriously flawed and likely wrong’. Less stilll when MBand H refuse to tell anyone exactly how they came to their conclusions…it almost shouts ‘fix’ to the public. Or even worse words beginning with f……

        It may be that you personally would prefer all arguments to be settled in the tidy world of academic papers…(until recently I had not fully appreciated just how much academic careers were dependent on the quantity of publications, not their quality), but Joe and Latimer – who are the people you need to persuade – are not regular readers of Energy and Environment or Geophysical Research Letters. Do not view the academic perspective as the only valid one, even if your own life experience is relatively sheltered by it.

        And most especially do not go around with that huge sense of entitlement that makes you believe that you are automatically entitled to be listened to.

        Final point. In my earlier remark I said that keeping the pot boiling and the planet gently frying is one way to ensure future funding of climate scientists. You may view that as a cynical and unpleasant observation. But it is a valid objection that will come up again and again from Joe and Latty. They see oodles of their cash being hosed into climate research and know that the field is expanding. More cliamtology mouths to feed….just to tell us that while they go to Bali on IPCC conferences we can’t get a sunshine holiday this year because flying is bad for the planet and the taxes have gone up and again.
        Joe and Latty view that as rampant hypocrisy – which they loathe – and the answer that ‘we’re doing it all for your long-term good’ is inadequate in the extreme. You need to work on it.

        You don’t just have to be right (if indeed you are, which I still take leave to doubt). You also have to win the argument. The second can be harder than the first.

      • I wish I’d said that. Well done.

      • Oh, and allowing Al Gore to be the point man in the sales pitch was a serious error in judgment.

      • Ya know, I cannot recall any vote ever being taken among the climate science community as to whether al gore should be allowed to make his movie. Nor, once he did, whether the media should be allowed to act as if he were the ‘point man in the sales pitch’.

        perhaps you overestimate the power of climate scientists by several (tens of) orders of magnitude.

      • They could be doing it for religious reasons, for the good of humanity, for the opportunity to make fast buck, because their partner asked them to do so, because they find it fun, because they have a personality disorder, because they enjoy being fawned upon by journos, because they enjoy telling other people what to do or because they are the greatest benefactors of humanity since the Medieval Warming Period. Or a myriad of other good or bad reasons. Their motivations are completely irrelevant to the argument.

        I’m happy to keep motives out of it, and I wouldn’t claim that someone’s good motives make their argument correct. As long as skeptics are going to stop impugning scientists motives in order to support their case.

        However difficult it may be for committed people like yourselves to understand worrying about a few feet extra on the sealevel in 100 years or more or whether the winter nights get a little bit less cold comes pretty low down most people’s worry list.

        But the predicted consequences of AGW are much more serious than that. If you are not going to even give proper consideration to the arguments how can you hope to make a rational decision?

        Getting the kids to school and looking after the people who are around now and who is going to win Strictly Come Dancing, not about their potential great great great grandchildren are much much higher priorities for most.

        I don’t think that dismissing the possible consequences of our actions because it will be future generations not ourselves who face the costs is not a defensible position IMO.

        Joe Sixpack (or Latimer Alder) may not think that screeching ‘MBH98 – so there you ignorant denier voodoo bastard oil shill’ is an adequate answer to his vague memory from school history that Greenland used to be a place where people went to farm or that the Romans grew wine in Yorkshire. and even less so when some other quite reasonable sounding guy is sayimg ‘well actually MBH 98 is seriously flawed and likely wrong’. Less stilll when MBand H refuse to tell anyone exactly how they came to their conclusions…it almost shouts ‘fix’ to the public. Or even worse words beginning with f……

        MBH98 is one of the most closely examined papers ever. You may disagree with its conclusions but Mann’s methodology is hardly aa secret. And it’s not us on the pro-AGW who are fixated on it, we recognise that the science has moved on since then and it has been superceded by many other studies which have reached broadly similar conclusions.
        As for Greenland and Roman grapes, these arguments have been firmly but politely and rationally countered by scientists countless times. Is it any wonder that they sometimes might lose patience with those who continue to repeat them.

        And most especially do not go around with that huge sense of entitlement that makes you believe that you are automatically entitled to be listened to.

        I don’t pretend to have any authority or expect people to listen to me – I am not a scientist. But if I was a climate scientist or indeed an expert on any subject I might expect that expertise to be recognised and my views on the subject in question to be treated with some seriousness even if people ultimately disagreed with them. Do you not consider yourself expert in your own particular line of business and would you not take the same view?

        n my earlier remark I said that keeping the pot boiling and the planet gently frying is one way to ensure future funding of climate scientists. You may view that as a cynical and unpleasant observation. But it is a valid objection that will come up again and again from Joe and Latty. They see oodles of their cash being hosed into climate research and know that the field is expanding.

        I disagree that it is a valid reaction as it based on lazy assumptions and not facts. Scientists don’t get rich from grant money – climate scientists are highly qualified people and if they were simply motivated by money they would go into the private sector where they would almost certainly be better rewarded. And in any case there will always be a need to study climate ragardless of AGW.

      • Andrew

        We are taking at cross purposes, and I fear that we will never have a meeting of minds. But let me try one final time to explain. If I fail this time then we’ll probably have to leave it there. I’ll try a different tack that I hope will appeal to you.

        Life for climatology as a field of study and for those who want us to make big societal and economic changes to cater for their belief dreadful things will happen if we don’t is getting much harder. Public faith in their pronouncements is falling.

        Voters in UK and US have shown that the belief in big time government or supranational action to ‘solve big problems’ is weakening. Congress holds the purse strings in US..and it is a Congress dominated by sceptics. China and India – with huge populations increase their emissions rapidly and with little thought of AGW.

        In UK our once respected Met Office is now ridiculed after three or four spectacularly bad mid-term forecasts. Even the statist BBC seriously considered going elsewhere for its weather forecasts. And the MSM are dropping AGW based stories like a hot potato as they have discovered that they turn people off bigtime. China and India show no signs at all of joining the guiltfest..and carry on generating more power in any way they can, regardless of emissions.

        Put simply…you guys are losing the battle for the public’s opinion and their attention. And it is not really interested and reasonably scientifically literate people like me that you have to convince by raking over the coals of the intimate details of MBH98 and short-centred proxy reconstructions. Or about whether it is even possible to make believable predictions 100 years out from models that lack any short term experimental verification and that are based on data that is laughably badly collected and curated. Fun though it is.

        You need to convince Joe and Jenny Sixpack. Each of their votes carries just as much weight as yours or mine. And J&J don’t give a flying f… about making rational choices for 100 years from now. You may regret this, you may think it very short-sighted, you may curse their names and wish you or they lived on a different planet. But if you want to change it, you need to speak to them in ways that they understand. Telling them that they should really make sacrifices now to save the sealevel rising 3 feet in a century does not appeal to them when their major interest is how to get to the seaside at all right now.

        You seem to have difficulty grasping the fact that humanity as a whole – and people as individuals are not perfectly rational decision making machines. Scientists try to be more so than most. But where public opinion is concerned, perception is reality.

        And as recent events have unfolded, the perception is increasing that AGW is yesterday’s news, promoted by another bunch of swivel-eyed lying loonies wanting yet more tax money to frighten the living daylights out of us.

        You do not regain their trust and confidence by telling them ever more loudly that they are irrational idiots who are too stupid to understand your great thoughts (as you have got very close to in your post above). You could try persuasion rather than hectoring. But that, I fear, is a talent genetically missing in the makeup of most climatologists.

        PS ‘

        But if I was a climate scientist or indeed an expert on any subject I might expect that expertise to be recognised and my views on the subject in question to be treated with some seriousness even if people ultimately disagreed with them. Do you not consider yourself expert in your own particular line of business and would you not take the same view?’

        Yes – I do consider myself pretty expert in my line of business – which is loosely called Technical Sales. With the emphasis on the technical. But from the Sales side I know darned well that before a potential client will give me even ten minutes of his valuable time, I have to ‘buy the right’ to a hearing. I have to establish to his satisfaction that I have something to say that it is worth his while hearing.

        I cannot just barge into his office and start shouting that ‘I have an MSC in Chemistry form a top university and I am a very very very clever person with a very very very big computer and I am telling you that you are an ignorant silly person doing it all wrong and if you don’t do exactly what I tell you I have the lives of your great great grandchildren in my hand’.The client would rightly call security and have me thrown out.

        There is absolutely no obligation on the client to listen to anything I have to say until I have established sufficient credibility in their eyes that they feel I have something worthwhile to say to them. Thinking otherwise – that your view is ‘entitled’ to be heard is a big big – and extremely arrogant – mistake.

      • Re: (undefined NaN NaN:NaN),
        Please! Cite and quote the source that “firmly but politely and rationally” erases the observation that largish tree stumps are appearing in Greenland as the glaciers withdraw.

    • Skeptics have been engaged.
      They are pointing out the emperor has no clothes, the tulips are over priced and that derivatives of derivatives valued with fancy models are still made up securities.
      Climate science is what is in denial.

  63. There are three categories of sceptics. 1) The big name bloggers like CA, who are hated by many. But this category includes some like M&M who it is best not to ignore because they are too often right. Ignoring or slandering them makes advocates look bad 2) Amateurs who comment. Many of these make contributions that could improve the science. Watts started out as one of those. Many fields have made good use of amateur contributions (astronomy and wildlife studies and archaeology, among others) rather than slamming them. 3) Scientists who discover something that shoots a hole in an IPCC premise, but are not prone to blogging about it or issuing press releases. I have a whole file cabinet full of such work. What does the IPCC do with such work? Mostly ignore it. In all 3 cases, the IPCC-type response is the wrong one.

    • Craig: I would add ordinary citizens as a fourth category.

      They are not skeptics in the sense of those actively doubting climate change, but they do have questions and many of them are not convinced.

      Although I have read a fair amount on climate change and posted my share of comments in various places, this fourth category is where I place myself.

  64. Dear Judith Curry,
    Thanks very much for all the time and energy you’re putting into trying to build bridges between the two equally convinced camps on the Climate Change issue. I’m trying to do the same thing on an individual level. It can be frustrating, as I’m sure you know only to well.

    My first approach is to try to get my friends, on both sides, to stop using terms like ‘denier’ and ‘fraud’ because those pejorative type words only close doors of communication and never open them. Plus, terms like those assume that the user of them knows the motive of the other person, which is highly unlikely. Of course there should be differing viewponts from all sections of the spectrum. Of course there should be open debate among specialists, among generalists [like me] and communication between us all.

    One major stumbling block for me is that the folks I know are all good people, all trying to do what they believe is right. But we humans are somehow taught to think that ‘seeing is believing’ whereas, in reality, it’s the opposite. First we form a seive of culturally derived beliefs, then we only allow incoming ideas that fit through our seive to penetrate our paradigm. So in fact ‘believing is seeing’. I guess that that prejudice is part of what the scientific method attempts to overcome by the peer-review process. Still though we end up where some believe the end product is concensus, others see the same results as group-think. What’s a poor pantheist to do?

    The only part of the debates i’ve had a chance to read about in much depth is the ‘hockey stick graph’ controversy. From my non-technical perspective it seems that some of the problem is caused by the differences in the scaling of the graphs. If, somehow, the opposing sides could be convinced to use the same scaling for the graphs it’d be far easier for everyone to understand. The other big problem, in my opinion, is the difference between correlation and causation which I see no way to ‘prove’ either of with the graphs and interpretations, as they are now, under consideration.

    In one recent blog entry you mentioned “IPCC scientists debating skeptics about the science” which is great except that one side distrusts the expert’s motives, the other side distrusts the skeptic’s motives. How can there be real communication if there is no trust? It seems that, other than a space alien maybe, nobody will ever except any moderator as ‘objective’ and, considering the believing is seeing metaphor, never will.

    My solution is to build a point/counterpoint type website where both sides of the ‘hockey stick’ problem, for instance, submit their graphs, math and conclusions. Then ‘we the spectators’ [secialists and generalists] use the power of our many minds to gradually, comment after comment, iteration after iteration, build common ground perhaps first through tackling the confusing graphing scale issue. Next, perhaps some of the margin of error and math details could be resolved by this process. Then, at some point, the gorilla of causation-correlation could be approached [banana in hand perhaps]. In my opinion, only the parallel processing power of many minds can evolve the big solutions we need to the enormous problems we now all face whether it be in Climate, Economics or anything else.

    Thanks again for the huge effort you’re putting out to bridge the chasm of our beliefs.

    Bob Wiley

    • Bob: thanks for your contribution here. It is extremely important for folks not involved in the generation of new scientific knowledge become familiar with the science, no matter what their educational background or training happens to be. It’s just an important part of being an effective citizen.

      BTW: Your observation the believing is seeing is spot on.

      However, your understanding/summary of the hockey stick isn’t accurate… the hockey stick issue is most definitely NOT a graph scaling problem. It is a bad science problem.

      For a very nice but easily understandable summary of some of the important issues, please check out this posting from Ross McKitrick.

      In this note, Ross is responding to a summary that was created by some people at Deutsche Bank Group.


      • Hi Bruce, Thanks for the link, it was easily understandable, even for a person with my education, though a bit one sided. Your’re probably right, i may not have chosen the correct terminology when i said i thought that a clearer undestanding could be acheived by everyone, especially we the non-specialists, by resolving the ‘graph scaling problem’. i agree that the IPCC report was ‘bad’ science and that trying to shoehorn overly broad conclusions into a preconceived small shoe will always turn out painful.

        Please help, what term should i have used to describe my confusion when i saw that one set of graphs goes back 100,000 years while another goes back 2,000 – one set of graphs considers North America’s more recent tempratures, the other worldwide temps. from caves etc.? – one group only wants to consider tree rings analysis, the other wants to consider tree ring analysis plus the insturmentation only available in the recent past? As i said in my original comment, “what’s a poor pantheiest to do?”

        My goal, admittedly hard to achieve, is to open doors of communication, not close them. It seems to me that, regardless of the jargon a person uses, the problem of bridging the chasm between the camps of ‘believers’ is the main issue. It seems important also, at least in my opinion, to understand that generalists like me often are the ones who generate new ideas. Who, through the power of many minds, find big solutions to big problems because we have a broad range of general knowledge to apply to specific issues.

        Perhaps you’d enjoy following my growth every day, on this and many other topics, at The Mud Report [http://themudreport.blogspot.com/ ], where i attempt to ‘ask every question and question every answer’

        Thanks again for the help, Bob Wiley

    • Hockey stick? You want a few teams or do you want the whole league?

      It’s a bit difficult to talk about “the” hockey stick because there are so many of them.
      You choose.
      Ice cores ….. corals ….. nasty mucky stuff from lake / ocean bottoms …. any number of other studies. When you’ve assembled a range of options, have a look at particular papers and go from there.

  65. Malcolm Miller

    Sceptics are called “deniers” by people who fear that the world will end – that is, their world! – if authority is defied or questioned. I’m a sceptic.

  66. “Those who think it is pointless seem mostly interested in protecting their time. ”

    I’d think that’s a fairly reasonable question. as mentioned in the comments already, scienceofdoom will apparently spend a lifetime without convincing everybody that there really is a greenhouse effect. Roy Spencer has also encountered this. again, in talking about engaging skeptics, it would be good to specify what skeptics are meant.the reason I bring back this line of Judy’s is different, and more important. Namely, people (scientists or not) are more likely to engage in activities that are rewarded. If Judy were to hire someone whose main contribution was engaging skeptics — rather than to be bringing in grant money and publishing in the peer-reviewed literature — that would send a serious message to the community, and be serious support/inducement to people who might be engaging in these ways. Otherwise, it’s a fairly simple cost/benefit calculation — I (not me personally, but one of the people Judy would like to see doing such engagement) get grants and tenure based on publishing in the professional literature, and death threats and marks against tenure (if only by loss of time for writing papers) for going to the blogosphere and ‘engaging ‘skeptics’. Alternately, hire, say, Steve McIntyre to a tenured position. Again a serious sign of there being a professional future. (Judy and I know each other from way back, hence she’s Judy and I’m Bob when we talk; no disrespect involved.)

    In addition to clarifying what ‘skeptics’ and ‘engagement’ are meant, it is looking useful to get some specificity about where that engagement is supposed to take place. There were several comments about how ‘this is how science is done’, meaning engagement of skeptics. That’s true enough — if you mean in publication in the relevant professional literature and presentation at the relevant professional societies’ meetings. But that doesn’t seem to be what most people mean — though it’s hard to tell, hence my desire for specificity. It seems that what is generally meant is for scientists to read and comment regularly (profusely) in ‘skeptic’ blogs. If so, I’ll point back to the issue of time. When wuwt threads can be several hundred comments, It’d take quite a few hours to reply to even a fraction, which means little time left for writing professional articles.

    sorry about the delay approving your comment. it’s up now, and I’ve given what response I can. tropopause is rather high for me — I normally work much lower. still, interesting, and i provide my thoughts on what you could try next, and a lead to a relevant paper. thanks, too, for posting to the right thread — question place.

    labmunkey 9th 4:30 am
    “It is VERY easy to spot a skeptic who is genuinely interested in debate, genuinely interested or confused on certain issues and genuinely want’s to learn- regardless of the outcome. ”

    that doesn’t seem to match with what I see out on the blogs. there, there are quite a few people who declare, and their fans affirm, that they are serious, honest, seekers after knowledge. while there’s some agreement that there exist some not genuinely interested in the science (see, again my discussion vs. debate note), there doesn’t seem to be agreement about who they are. how about you list off a spectrum of blogs from most dishonest use of the label ‘skeptic’ to the ones most honestly working to understand (or even improve) science? then let’s see how much agreement there is even just here with your classification.

    robB 3:57 pm nov 9:
    I’ll suggest that you stop by my place. a) I show very little math and b) I do encourage questions — about the science. whether I write in plain (enough) language is something for you to tell me, and which I take seriously. but do remember that my place is about the science, not politics, policy, or the latest blogospheric tizzy. climategate is not on topic, but whether and how there might be a connection between solar activity and some part of the climate (tallbloke’s question) is.

    insofar as i’m concerned on the blog about policy, see:

    n.b. as you’ll see in recent notes at my blog, I’m not going to be writing much for a while, and response times are going to be way up. Still, some of my readers are pretty knowledgeable, and can give good ideas even when all I can do is approve notes.

    • “scienceofdoom will apparently spend a lifetime without convincing everybody that there really is a greenhouse effect. ”

      He will convince those who wish to make more informed decisions then “James Hansen is an expert and he said so”. There isn’t a single field of inquiry where ‘experts’ haven’t been wrong.

      • TimTheToolMan

        Agreed. ScienceOfDoom is a particularly good blog because it focuses on the science and doesn’t simply write off alternative points of view but rather tries to address them with further science.

        Not always successfully in my opinion ;-)

        But it always makes for good learning.

      • harrywr2: Exactly.

        Scientists who wish to protect their time are welcome to do so. It’s their choice and I for one support them. However, explaining their choice not to engage skeptics because they “can’t convince everybody” is just a rationalization.

        The efforts of climate scientists to persuade people of the risks of climate change have not been in vain. Years ago there were still people questioning whether global temperatures had increased. Few argue that anymore. Likewise, most people — though not all — accept that CO2 is a GHG and contributes to warming. Now the debate takes place on more complex fronts, where the questions are usually those of degree, not black-and-white.

        I’m glad that there are sites like scienceofdoom around to explain things patiently however frustrating it may be. I suspect SOD accomplishes far more than is apparent from the comment discussions. Likewise this site by Dr. Curry.

        I think scientists underestimate their power to persuade when they go about it like scientists as opposed to political activists.

      • SoD is a great guy, but he is so focused on the miniscule level he is missing the obvious.

      • don’t be coy. What obvious thing is sod missing?

      • [interjects]

        Science of Doom isn’t missing anything. His (her) explanations are cogent and reliable.

        Some commenters won’t agree/aren’t amenable to being convinced/like to argue/etc. This is the Internet, after all.

        SoD’s great virtue, I suspect, is the effect that his (her) content and manner have on lurkers’ views of the topics discussed there.

      • SoD is missing the simple lack of the apoclaypse.
        Like you, I will bet.
        Trees for forest or forest for trees?

  67. I am a scientist (chemist) with no stake in this discussion, but have been curious and following this AGW issue for some time. There seem to be quite a few posters that are convinced one way or another, both the skeptics and the alarmists. I do not see how the earth’s average temperature can be determined within 1 deg C, when typically, 5 weather reporting stations close to me in the Atlanta area have a spread of 4 deg F. I have read quite a bit about data being discarded from some reporting stations, many stations being deleted, thermometers in places influenced by local anomalies and even artificial heat sources, data manipulation, etc. Would anyone offer to explain how it is that so many people seem comfortable discussing average temperature changes with any confidence?

    I hope I am ok to ask this question on a thread entitled “Why engage the skeptics”. That answer to that is; you may learn something and others may learn something.

    • For answers to your questions, you could do worse than to go to the source:

      Why use temperature anomalies (departure from average) and not absolute temperature measurements?
      Absolute estimates of global average surface temperature are difficult to compile for several reasons. Some regions have few temperature measurement stations (e.g., the Sahara Desert) and interpolation must be made over large, data-sparse regions. In mountainous areas, most observations come from the inhabited valleys, so the effect of elevation
      on a region’s average temperature must be considered as well. For example, a summer month over an area may be cooler than average, both at a mountain top and in a nearby valley, but the absolute temperatures will be quite different at the two locations. The use of anomalies in this case will show that temperatures for both locations were below average.
      Using reference values computed on smaller [more local] scales over the same time period establishes a baseline from which anomalies are calculated. This effectively normalizes the data so they can be compared and combined to more accurately represent temperature patterns with respect to what is normal for different places within a region.
      For these reasons, large-area summaries incorporate anomalies, not the temperature itself. Anomalies more accurately describe climate variability over larger areas than absolute temperatures do, and they give a frame of reference that allows more meaningful comparisons between locations and more accurate calculations of temperature trends.

      How is the average global temperature anomaly time-series calculated?
      The global time series is produced from the Smith and Reynolds blended land and ocean data set (Smith et al., 2008). This data set consists of monthly average temperature anomalies on a 5° x 5° grid across land and ocean surfaces. These grid boxes are then averaged to provide an average global temperature anomaly. An area-weighted scheme is used to reflect the reality that the boxes are smaller near the poles and larger near the equator. Global-average anomalies are calculated on a monthly and annual time scale. Average temperature anomalies are also available for land and ocean surfaces separately, and the Northern and Southern Hemispheres separately. The global and hemispheric anomalies are provided with respect to the period 1901-2000, the 20th century average.

      You may also find the explanation posted at Watts Up With That to be helpful.

      • But as we see, anomalies are based on inferences of accuracy and significance that are dubious at best.
        Additionally, attribution of cause- CO2- and crisis- (worse than predicted)-
        requires changing historic records and ignoring the fact that the manifestation of climate is doing nothing unusual. Credible climate scientists point out that CO2 is but one of many forcings, that temperatures are in fact doing nothing unusual and natural variability well encompasses temperature, storm frequency and strength, dorught, Arctic ice variability, natural disasters, etc.

      • More evidence, please, and fewer assertions.

      • You guys claim that the world is experiencing right now global climate disruption.
        Where is it?
        Why should I have to produce any evidence at all?
        The evidence is to look away from your monitor.
        As to the many climate forcings, are you denying that there are many?
        You are looking like a fool to persist in such transparent denial.
        And I am frankly tired of true believers who have nothing more than their faith trying to pretend that their faith statements trump reality.

      • Why should I have to produce any evidence at all?

        You don’t have to do anything. However, if you want to engage in dialogue and debate, it would help to provide evidence for assertions like “anomalies are based on inferences of accuracy and significance that are dubious at best,” “attribution of cause- CO2- and crisis- (worse than predicted)-requires changing historic records,” “temperatures are in fact doing nothing unusual.”

        These are statements of belief, unless and until they are supported by facts. You are, of course, free to publicly proclaim your beliefs whenever and wherever you wish. However, beliefs are not conducive to debate.

      • And you have offered………………………

      • …no assertions.

        Really, if all you have is this odd tu quoque reflex, we can stop now.

      • AnthropoceneEndGame

        Please cite those credible climate scientists and their work.

      • AEG,
        Since yo ufantasize that yo uget to declare who is and who is not credible, it is really rather pointless. In AEG land, to disagree with AGW dogma is to demonstrate one’s lack of credibility.
        Enjoy your round room. the penny is in the corner.

      • AnthropoceneEndGame

        Here’s you “credible climate scientists point out….
        You’re the one deciding who is credible, no?
        I just want to know who and what you’re citing. I can’t disagree or agree until I READ what you’ve read. Or maybe you just make crap up?
        Yes, this is my ‘land’. It’s called the land of science.

    • I address a portion of this question at http://moregrumbinescience.blogspot.com/2010/03/how-can-annual-average-temperatures-be.html unfortunately, since you’re a chemist, you probably already know that part. can’t say much about the rest.

  68. “Many climate scientists have stopped engaging with skeptics, because they think it is either pointless or they don’t want to lend legitimacy to the skepticism.”

    The other possibility is that some scientists simply don’t think heavy engagement is necessary. Maybe they look at the persistence of some skepticism among the public about many other areas of science – evolution, causes of autism, etc. – and come to the reasonable conclusion that skepticism about the science of climate change is likely to persist for many years among a fraction of the public regardless of communications efforts by the scientific community. So they just keep doing their scientific work and ignore (what appears to be) the sideshow on the blogs. That’s the attitude of most of my colleagues. You may disagree, but I’d hardly call it an ideology.

    • @simond

      ‘and come to the reasonable conclusion that skepticism about the science of climate change is likely to persist for many years among a fraction of the public’

      You still don’t get it. Scepticism is increasing…belief in AGW is falling. It is not a matter of a small number of immovable fanatics who are sceptical…it is approaching the majority.

      Lets play this out ten years. Assuming current trends continue (which as climatologists I am sure you will find an entirely valid assumption), then by 2020, belief in AGW will be the minority view.

      When only 20 or 25% believe that it is a major problem serious politicians – national leaders rather than fringe groups – will notice and will put their attention elsewhere. If there are no votes in the game, a wise politician folds and leaves the table. You can see that Al Gore (for example) has already disappeared from public view.

      And when the politician leaves the table, the funding money goes too….not overnight, but it gradually slips down the list of priorities. People wonder if yet more examination of the chicken’s entrails will provide a better answer than 30 years of work have done so far…and probably decide that it won’t. The academic field will start to contract. This has consistently happened to every field that has grown rapidly and on a splurge of cash.

      As in academe, so in society as a whole. There will be less willingness to make sacrifices for a cause that only a few believe in. Shouting about the imminent Apocalypse is only a scare tactic for so long..people eventually get desensitised.

      Climatology will fall into disrepute and even ridicule. The Met Office in UK used to be highly respected but is now a laughing stock for making highly inaccurate predictions of climate/weather.

      As climatologists who I will assume are committed to the cause, your only possible strategic response must be to attempt to shore up support. To persuade people that the cause is right and that the changes you would like to see are worthwhile. It may not prevent the decline on belief but it could slow the rate.

      But your tactic is to bury your head in the sand and ignore the critics!!

      I think you will come to regret this bigtime. It immediately sends all the wrong messages…that you can’t be bothered to try making a case…maybe because you don’t really have one. That the public’s views don’t matter, but we’d still like your taxes for our grant money please. That we know best and should be allowed to get on on our own sweet way………all of which are very negative.

      Personally, I rather hope that you continue on this path, but as an observer of such strategies it seems misguided in the extreme.

      Napoleon and Moscow springs readily to mind. General Custer and the Indians. Or turkeys voting for Christmas.

      • AnthropoceneEndGame

        What percentage of climate scientists actually researching and publishing in the field of climate change support the tenets of AGW?
        Why is that?

      • Maybe because a very large number of young scientists entered climate science during this AGW boom to research AGW and they are very sensibly going with the consensus in order to establish themselves. It’s not mysterious.

        US funding for climate research alone is now running about $2 bil\year, which is 30-40% more than funding for computer science, physics, or chemistry. ( http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2008/08/25/r_d ) If you go back 20 years that number was probably less by a factor of ten.

        I once saw a cartoon which showed a lecturer addressing an auditorium of climate scientists. The lecturer asks, “Hands up! Who thinks greenhouse gases have no effect and therefore we all need new jobs? Anyone?” It’s a skeptic cartoon, but there’s still a point there.

      • I love humor.

        So, can you explain the joke, then?

        I mean, is the climate going to disappear if there’s no greenhouse effect in the cartoon world? I don’t get that. Does it go down a drain in the floor of the auditorium?

        Or does interest in science vanish without these gases? Does the cartoon mean greenhouse gases are some sort of stimulant for curiousity, like energy drinks or nitrous oxide?

        Is this some slag against hurricane researchers, implying they do nothing important? Or those who study oceanography? Or weather? Or pure unapplied science?

        I want to laugh too! Tell me how the joke works.

        Explain it.

      • Easy. If scientists have a large personal stake in a scientific position, e.g. AGW and their careers, they may be unlikely to rock the boat and disagree with it.

        Of course, I don’t really believe that you didn’t understand the joke. You may not agree with it or you may not find it funny, but I’d bet you did get the joke, even if you don’t like it.

      • Can you imagine the scientists who can disprove AGW are going to make? There would be many millions grants tomorrow if they could do that from private sources, and sympathetic governments. The problem is, they can’t.

      • And why would there be “many millions” to be made? I don’t see M&M making “millions” from finding the errors in MBH98.

        Please provide justification for your assertion.

      • That would be because the paper didn’t “disprove” any theory (or observations) of global warming. There isn’t even a challenge to the more recent papers, so finding errors in a paper now superseded by years and years of later research isn’t going to do it.

      • PS. When someone responds entirely with ridicule to a substantive comment, I tend to assume that he or she lacks a substantive response.

        BTW, you and Anthro might take a look at my comment http://judithcurry.com/2010/11/08/why-engage-with-skeptics/#comment-10306 .

      • huxley

        Cartoons are substantive in the way shotguns are communication devices.

        Poisoning the well is not a substantive argument, it’s simply an unsubtle attempt to instill or sustain a prejudice.

        “Hands up everyone who admits poisoning our neighbors and each other through waste and greed is not sustainable, and we’re all going to have to stop being free-riding parasites.”


        Have I got the joke, do you think?

      • a bit too much coffee, I htink.

      • AnthropoceneEndGame

        Schneider is dead. Hansen is no spring chicken. I don’t think age has anything to do with it. If the science that gets published is truly garbage, it will surface. Based on the research , I think there’s a true consensus within this population of climate scientists.

      • Huxley answers the point well about the 97%….if I had Mikey Mann and Gavin Schmidt and other warm fuzzy cuddly creatures at the head of my profession with power of patronage and examinations and ‘peer-review’ and the IPCC, then I’d be pretty circumspect too. They are noted, of course, for their open-minded and welcoming approach to all and every view – even sceptical ones -, but Judith’s recent unhappy experience suggests you ca never be too careful.

        Back in the late 1890s, there was a great consensus that all of physics had been done. That it was all understood. Lord Kelvin, that great man of Thermodynamics voiced it thus:

        ‘There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now. All that remains is more and more precise measurement.’

        and within twenty years they discovered quantum mechanics and relativity. Within fifty they had been put to ‘use’ in the atomic bomb.
        Also worth noting that Kelvin did not believe that powered flight was possible.

        So, despite your claims to the contrary, I do not see the existence of a consensus as a big deal. There is probably a consensus among sceptics posting here that some or all of AGW theory is a load of old hooey..but I don’t see you using that as an argument for us being right.

        A far more interesting and relevant question is – why is it only 97%? Who are the other 3% and why don’t they believe it all?

      • AnthropoceneEndGame

        Who are the other 3%? I’d be more interested in their science rather than identifying personalities. When I ask for it, I get blogs.

      • Dutch tulip traders and Wall St. MBS traders probably reached 97% belief in tulips or MBS’s as well.

      • Probably because the 97% includes the position of every skeptical scientist I am aware of. The 3% that don’t believe in the GHG theory or land use changes or urban heat island affect have so far escaped my view although it does seem they are out there. It is a worthless number.

      • Re: (undefined NaN NaN:NaN),
        Too late! In the US Climate Change already ranks last in voter surveys on a list of 28 or so “priorities”. Climate Science has squandered its aggressively appropriated credibility. The boosters who infest this and other sites are pushing on a string.

        Oh, hi there, AEG! Careful, you’ll strain something!

      • Hi Brian

        Delighted though I am to hear this heartening news, can you please provide a quotable reference? Tx

      • Google is your friend. Many recent links, here’s one:

        As the nation struggles to climb out of a recession, 45 percent rated the economy as the most important issue in deciding their vote if the congressional election were held today, followed by 21 percent who said government spending, 20 percent who chose health care reform and 9 percent who said the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Just 4 percent ranked climate change as the top issue.

        Another: http://awesome.good.is/transparency/web/1010/political-climate-chart/interactive.html

      • Thanks again Brian.

    • Simon D: You and other scientists may consider climate skepticism “a sideshow on the blogs” but this sideshow has broken the spine of the climate movement’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions.

      It seems odd that scientists who accept the conventional wisdom that climate change poses substantial risks should be so unconcerned about this skepticism. Perhaps deep down these scientists don’t really believe the claims of climate change so much either? Or maybe they’ve given up on doing anything about climate change? Or maybe they haven’t thought it through?

      OTOH we do have other scientists — the Climategate gang — who are willing to squelch skeptical viewpoints by rigging peer review and blog discussions, refusing to comply with FOI requests, and threatening to destroy data.

      However, most scientists aren’t concerned about the unscientific Climategate abuses either.

      I have a hard time figuring how what scientists do care about with respect to climate change. Between these dismissive responses on one hand and the frantic controlling approaches on the other I am not exactly filled with confidence in scientists.

      Maybe this doesn’t matter and scientists should tend their gardens as they like. Maybe it all works out in the end.

      But if scientists feel any urgency about climate change and wish to see global action addressing climate change sooner rather than later, they have some heavy lifting to do in order to restore their credibility.

      • AnthropoceneEndGame

        The skepticism that you want climate scientists to be concerned with is out of their control and is, for the most part. public opinion. When you have 97% of the climate scientists publishing on climate change supporting the tenets of AGW, the best you can do is read their science and come to your own conclusion and quit concerning your yourself with what THEY need to do. They’re already doing what they need to do. The question is do you have the confidence to read and understand the science.

      • AnthropoceneEndGame: If skepticism is truly out of climate scientist’s control, then it is out of anyone’s control — short of starting a world dictatorship based on climate change.

        In which case, game over for climate change.

        I do have the confidence to read and understand the science, and I have done so regularly and intensively at the layman’s level for about five years now. Thanks for asking.

        I must say that the sort of detached condescension that climate change advocates like SimonD, his colleagues, and AnthropoceneEndGame regularly exhibit seems almost calculated to annoy people who might otherwise support the climate movement.

        Before Climategate I used to defend the climate change position. No longer.

        Being civil and semi-gracious is within everyone’s control. That so many climate change advocates behave poorly eludes me.

      • AnthropoceneEndGame

        This is sweet, you essentially condemn not individuals, but all scientists who feel urgency about CC; they need to do ‘some heavy lifting to regain credibility’. Sure. Thanks your honor. Confidence levels are on the mend, and to your standards.
        And you have the audacity to speak about being civil and gracious.

      • AEG

        You have correctly stated the problem you have, and then run away from it.

        ‘The skepticism that you want climate scientists to be concerned with is out of their control and is, for the most part. public opinion.’

        Sadly for you, public opinion is exactly what you must influence for your careers and position to continue. And even more so if you want society to make far-reaching changes.

        Public opinion is not obliged to read the latest scientific papers on the subject…much of public opinion would be quite happy never to hear about it again.

        I’ve written elsewhere in this blog about climatologists sens of entitlement…your remarks merely show how far removed from the Big Wide World you have become.

        *You* have to persuade *us*. Simples!

      • It’s a simple case of the Golden Rule. He who provides the gold makes the rules.

      • AnthropoceneEndGame

        It gets sweeter. According to you, the public is not obliged to read the latest scientific papers on the subject, but we do (I’m not a climate scientist). But even I did recommend that you get your ‘science for the layperson’ from the Royal Society, AGU, NOAA, NASA, etc., so that you can persuade YOURSELF, you want to place that burden on ME or research climate scientists, who, as I said, are not responsible for educating skeptics.
        If you strip this down and attempt to wean yourself off the conspiracy theory (it’s all about money, prestige, grants, fraud, etc), try and focus on what the scientific evidence says. At this point, that could be next to impossible.

      • AEG

        You still do not get it.

        I’m perfectly content for nobody to feel responsible for ‘educating sceptics’. I’d be quite content never to hear about AGW ever again. And to stop paying any and every bill associated with it. And I guess so would a big consensus of all British taxpayers.

        Under the previous government we had little choice but to comply with their wishes. Like you they were hellbent on ‘doing good’ to us whether we the voters liked it or not. They were the Masters then. And that attitude is one of the reasons that they were turfed out of office.

        The new one is showing one or two more signs of sanity and given a few more years will probably have come up with a sensible energy policy at long last, and will give unfounded worries about CO2 the consideration they deserve..which IMO is not very much.

        In US, the new Congress has a highly sceptical tinge, and holds the purse strings. Can you really not see that this is likely to spell very bad news? Does it not occur to you that telling these elected representatives that they really should take the time to educate themselves, and that you guys are far too busy to bother about making your work accessible, is unlikely to bring joy to their hearts and to open their cheque books? You may rightly or wrongly think that these guys are complete innumerate morons who do not deserve to be even in the same room as Climate Scientists, let alone to be granted an audience to recieve their wisdom. But whether you do or not is completely irrelevant. They are the guys with the money. And unless you can find a way to do climate science out of pocket money you had better get into the process of educating them and their constituencies pretty bloody quick.

        If all the Realpolitik stuff is beyond you, or worse – you think it is beneath you, then I fear you lack the analytical skills necessary to make a successful career in any field – let alone one in which you supposedly demonstrate a deep understanding of a very complex system.

      • Think of it as intervention, not condemnation.

      • AEG: I am not condemning climate change scientists. I’m saying that IMO their behavior seems inconsistent with their climate change beliefs.

        I’m pointing out that the credibility of climate change in the public mind has dropped like a rock, and consequently there will be no global action on climate change unless someone or some group persuades the rest of us that such action is necessary.

        Climate scientists have been writing their papers for twenty or so years now, but it hasn’t worked. Again, climate change has dropped to the bottom of people’s priorities.

        If climate change is this huge terrible risk on the horizon, why aren’t scientists coming out to engage the world on this? And if they don’t, who will? And if they don’t, why should the rest of us care? I really don’t get it.

        Ignoring skepticism as an inconsequential sideshow or demanding that anyone who disagrees read climate change papers until they are rehabilitated strikes me as entirely naive.

        I give Dr. Curry full marks because she acts on her concern that climate change a serious risk. She sees that what scientists have done hasn’t worked — in fact it’s been blown up in their faces — and she’s willing to try new approaches — engage skeptics, reach out to the public, embrace uncertainty — in order to respond to the problem.

      • AEG keeps quoting the bogus 97% figure from the flawed Anderegg et al paper. Apart from the numerous criticisms from skeptics, it was criticised by:
        Spencer Weart (“this paper should not have been published in the present form”)
        Roger Pielke (“may very well mark a new low point in the pathological politicization of climate science. But hey, at least now we have a list. A black list. “)
        and extensively by Judith Curry herself (“I don’t think it was appropriately analyzed in the PNAS paper”).

      • AnthropoceneEndGame

        Please cite a comparable study that is not ‘bogus’. If you can’t, please provide your own number for specifically climate researchers publishing on global warming, and the evidence that supports your number.

      • Von Storch has survey which he conducted. Pielke Sr also has one. There is also a study conducted by Harris Interactive and published by STATS “Climate Scientists Agree on Warming, Disagree on Dangers, and Don’t Trust the Media’s Coverage of Climate Change”
        S. Robert Lichter, Ph.D, April 24, 2008

        The poll you refer to doesn’t specify a source of the change and the only qualifier is that it is significant. Statistically significant is commonly used in science and can be a very small amount depending on the amount of noise. I have seen the 97% poll referenced time and time again. If you want to convince skeptics they are justified in their doubts then poorly supported arguments such as the poll results you reference are an excellent way of doing so.

      • AEG,
        Again, stop thinking of skeptics as people who are condemning you, and instead see us as the people who are trying to intervene before you get much worse.
        That you simply toss the 97% number out as if it is not questionable and is reliable and reject the criticism of it by people like Pileke, sr. deomonstrates your desperate need for intervention.
        The world is not facing a climate catastrophe caused by CO2. It will be OK.
        We will muddle though.

      • Again, what definition of skeptic are you using? There certainly are people who say they are skeptics who are condemning scientists. Condemning, calling for mass firings, floggings, jail time, executions … depends on which ‘skeptic’ you’re looking at.

        Now, if other people who called themselves skeptics took umbrage at those people flying the same flag and behaving in such ways, it would be easier to realize that there are different sorts of skeptic. And to get some brand differentiation. As it is, though, the only people who object to such attacks are the same ones who are being attacked.

        it’s also odd to see your ‘trying to intervene before you get much worse’. Er, isn’t one of the major complaints about the scientists that they act like they know better? Strikes me that your statement there is very much that you know better and the scientists should shut up, quit doing their own thinking, and do what you decide they should in the way that you say. Why should scientists react any more favorably to this than anybody else does?

      • I think a useful definition of a skeptic would anyone who is able to laugh at the pomposity of present-day IPCC climate paradigms

      • Clearly, there’s nothing pompous about someone claiming that anyone who disagrees with him needs an “intervention.” Humble, open-minded people regularly invoke the language of addiction and recovery to dismiss other points of view.

      • And tolerant reasonable people use terms like ‘denier’ and ‘heretic’ to describe those who dare question AGW to attempt to stifle conversation.
        ‘Intervention’ is a great way to describe what the skeptics are doing with the AGW community. Too bad there was no intervention on the Wall St. fubar.

      • And tolerant reasonable people use terms like ‘denier’ and ‘heretic’ to describe those who dare question AGW to attempt to stifle conversation.
        ‘Intervention’ is a great way to describe what the skeptics are doing with the AGW community. Too bad there was no intervention on the Wall St. group think disaster.

      • robert,
        If you take my comment irt intervention as seriously as you seem to be….then maybe you do need intervention after all.
        I would also suggest that the last thing the AGW community is guilty of is too much independent thinking.

      • AnthropoceneEndGame

        There’s that guilt proclamation again. Thanks your honor!
        What silly crap you post.

      • AEG,
        From you that is a badge of honor for the recipient.
        You are perhaps the poser child here for death grip strength of faith.

      • And….does your recent lack of repeating the 97% mean you realize its problems, or are you just catching your breath?

  69. Why do I engage with skeptics?

    Mostly, it’s aesthetic, for me.

    There’s something ugly about asymmetrical skepticism. Disbelieving everything that leads one way while blindly accepting everything that leads another is hypocrisy. Which is also an argument for engaging scientists.

    Also, it’s that I disagree with everyone. Always. My initial gut-reaction reflex to everything I read or hear is, “NO! THAT’S NOT RIGHT!”

    It takes all of my force of will and self-discipline to examine by whatever tools of reason and absurdity, humanity and art I have plucked from the jetsam and flotsam of my indifferent studies to strangle that beast long enough to find the gems and pearls, the treasure plain and brilliant as day, in what is written and said.

    I sense that same trait in many skeptics and scientists too.

    This is purely a selfish exercise for me, and if my contribution lends anything to the discourse it is an accident only.

    I sense that same trait too in many.

    Why I engage _climate_ skeptics is a different matter; there are certainly other seas of rabid dispute one could dive into, as important, as broad, as inherently interesting.

    That one, I’ve got to think about.

  70. A few thoughts in engaging with proponents of CAGW. One area where dialogue should be possible, is with respect to measured data. If we have numerical, measured data, with appropiate error bars, then this should be a basis for discussion. I notice that Fred Moolton claims that the data from the CERES satellite supports the idea of CAGW. Roy Spencer, in his paper in GCR, claims the opposite. I suspect that both cannot be correct.

    With a nod to Star Trek, as a skeptic/denier of CAGW, I know the “force is with me”. I am not interested in a dialogue with the proponents of CAGW. Sooner or later the world will know that CAGW was a hoax. When this happens, I hope my name, in a very small way, will be associated with the anti-CAGW idea. This is why I participate on this sort of blog.

    • Jim, with respect, your position is not that of a “sceptic”. It’s more explicitly that of a “denier”.

      Firstly, you say “I am not interested in a dialogue with the proponents of CAGW.” Surely a sceptic is interested in exactly this dialogue, so as to understand the reason for the belief in CAGW and to understand if there is merit in the belief or not.

      Secondly, you say “Sooner or later the world will know that CAGW was a hoax.” This is a statement of belief, not formulated in science, and no less religious than a CAGW proponent declaring that the threat IS real without having a “robust” scientific basis for the claim.

      Whether theist (“alarmist”) or atheist (“denier”), neither position – being underwritten by no sturdy scientific justification – are belief systems and their claim to “truth” are gnostic rather than scientific.

      I’m not criticising your belief, but I think it’s important to have it clearly distinguished from scientific knowledge.

      • Ooops.. “neither position” should read “both positions”. Sorry.

      • Simon, I agree with everything you say. However, I am convinced there is an extremely robust scientific basis for my claims. It is just that any sort of blog is unsuitable for discussing the nitty-gritty of the science. Specificly, I would dearly love to see a proper discussion of how you go from change of radiative forcing to change of global temperature; but I cannot believe that this will ever be possible on a blog.

        I am always interested in what the proponents of CAGW say. However, all I am really interested in, is not so much a dialogue, as a chance to show where they are wrong.

      • Jim, I suspect that the principle source of your apparent “denialism”, then, is similar to that which is quite common in religious “atheism”. When I talk to atheists, most of their objection is not to the proposal that there is a god, their objection is to the societal imbalance between the advancement of religious concepts, versus the advancement of non-religious (or a-gnostic) notions.

        What is craved is a level playing field. If I may presume (please do correct), you feel that the blog format doesn’t hold a candle to the more authoritative peer reviewed literature format, and you are infuriated that the peer-review process is corrupted to the point that balance cannot be assured and, thus, the scientific advancement of global warming theory (and indeed counter arguments) can have no integrity. Even if every CAGW notion were wholly obliterated in the blogging arena, the “sharp and pointy end” of scientific knowledge would continue to perpetuate and advance flawed science through its peer review process and IPCC vehicles.

        I apologise for the review. I’ve a particular interest in juxtaposing CAGW belief and denialism because I suspect that many CAGW proponents have surrendered their parents’ religious faith in deference to modern science on the presumption that one is the antithesis of the other. In certain aspects of climate science, I am not wholly convinced that this presumption is well-founded and may be somewhat naive.

      • And here you’ll find a few Christians (and others) sharing their views about faith and climate change.

      • Interesting sub-thread. Simon Hopkinson makes the case for a stance that I have come to adopt, as well. I suspect this is the case for many other scientifically-literate “lukewarmers”, as well.

        Jim Cripwell says, “I would dearly love to see a proper discussion of how you go from change of radiative forcing to change of global temperature; but I cannot believe that this will ever be possible on a blog.”

        Take a look at the format used by Climate of the Past.

      • Simon, Once again I agree with everything you say; what is required is a level playing field, and the ability to cross examine. On WUWT, Anthony has an open invitation to any proponent of CAGW to post there. There was the famous interchange between Willis Eschenbach and Walt Meier. Willis first, then Walt, then Willis, then silence. We are still waiting for Walt’s reply. On RealClimate, Gavin censors anything that has proper science in it, and opposes CAGW. So there never can be a proper discussion.

      • There was the famous interchange between Willis Eschenbach and Walt Meier.

        Link(s), please. Being relatively new to the game, I want to read that exchange.

      • I cannot, off hand, find Willis’ original. But his final reply to Walt is at


        Walt’s response to Willis is at



        If I find Willis’s original, I will post it, but dont hold your breath.

    • Re: (undefined NaN NaN:NaN),
      I agree. Except that it was “Star Wars”.

  71. Paul in Sweden

    Why engage with skeptics?

    -Because despite more than twenty years of Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming campaigning by the UN IPCC, the leading national science academies, the leading eco-NGO’s, the majority of the western world’s media, etc.. global anthropogenic CO2 emissions continue to grow.

    -Because during the last twenty years there has been no massive coordinated global efforts to build dams, reservoirs, aqueducts, levies, etc to adapt to catastrophic droughts, floods and sea level rise predicted by CAGW proponents.

    -Because during the past twenty years there have been no reasonable low carbon energy policy/technical solutions proposed that will sustain the developed world much less bring the almost 1.5 billion people in the developing world who live without even basic electricity for use in irrigation, refrigeration, illumination, communication, etc.

    If Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming is real, the message doesn’t seem to be getting out there or it has been rejected. If the nations of the world took the CAGW message seriously there would have been movement on the items I mention above. Supposable sinking Island nations such as the Maldives would be building seawalls, levies & instituting population control measures instead of building new airports to bring in more tourists to strain their supposed fragile resources. China & India would already have low carbon energy technical solutions instead of rolling out massive numbers of coal fired power plants. Planting a few windmills and calling it a farm doesn’t provide billions of Chinese with electricity nor does it save the planet.

    Those consensus “Climate Scientists” who believe they have presented compelling CAGW evidence and feel it is now up to climate realists to present evidence that the Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming hypothesis is wrong…well I guess I’ll just have to say: have a great trip to Mexico in a few weeks for the IPCC Cop16 and a nice trip to South Africa in 2011 for Cop17 & so on…and so on.

    How many more decades are proponents of CAGW willing to maintain the status quo?

  72. Biologists have spent ~150 years engaging “skeptics” over evolution and I see no fruits. This case is no different.

    • Michael Larkin

      Come now. Having been trained in zoology, I’m not sceptical about evolution (a mainly American phenomenon, creationism), but I am somewhat sceptical about CAGW. Just because evolution has definitely occurred, it doesn’t mean that CAGW is a fact.

      Not that it would matter much if I WAS sceptical about evolution. CAGW is something else. I’d be very surprised if there weren’t some creationists who believed in it. Check this out:


    • Paul in Sweden

      The Pope, Osama Bin Laden, The archbishop of Canterbury, the Dalai Lama & the IPCC do not share a common belief in creationism but they do share a belief in Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming. What good is it if their faithful and the rest of the world do not share their ‘belief’ that the end is nigh due to CAGW after more than 20 years? CAGW proponents have failed to convince the world to seek realistic decarbonized energy solutions. Instead 20+ years & 100s of billions have been wasted implementing not ready for prime-time alternative energy & carbon trading schemes.

      The only way to convince the world that anthropogenic CO2 emissions will result in catastrophe is to engage those who do not share a belief in CAGW or just continue waiting around for a few more decades hoping for some sort of global CAGW epiphany or the ‘Climate Science’ predicted Armageddon.

    • Many biologists spent a tragic number of those years supporting eugenics, the draling progressive public science policy of its day. And a large number of good scientists supported the Piltdown man, for awhile.
      Did you have a point hidden away in your post someplace?

      • The point is, just like the creationists who won’t accept evolution until they see a dog evolve into a cat, denia…”skeptics” won’t accept climate change unless it never snows or never gets cold somewhere on the planet again.
        So, unless you’re doing it for sporting fun, there’s no sense to engage them.

      • And if you define ‘sceptics’ as ‘the general public’ – which is becoming increasingly true, then that bodes very badly for future funding, careers and influence.

        Play in your sandpit in splendid isolation (using your own money) if you will…but as the guys in Japan eventually learnt, you cannot keep out the Big Bad World for ever.

        If you choose not to try to persuade the unconvinced that you have a case, they will not be prepared to fund your cause.

        And if 30 years of shouting down the opposition haven’t worked for you yet, do you really think that another 10 of ignoring them will bring ‘victory’?

      • And what is this obsession with creationists? I have never met a creationist, am not a creationist – I think evolution is a very good explanation of past history and good friends of mine were Dawkins’s early research students, and have never encountered a sceptic – either on a blog or in the real walking talking world who has ever discussed or mentioned creationism.

        Are the like the bogeymen that Mum used to tell you about if you didn’t eat your greens? You’d better believe in CAGW or the creationist will get you?

        Continual reference to these just illustrates how far removed into your own little isolated world you have withdrawn…..not a good place for a bunch of supposed scientists to be.

      • And if 30 years of shouting down the opposition haven’t worked for you yet, do you really think that another 10 of ignoring them will bring ‘victory’?

        You weren’t paying attention. Just like with the creationists, there will never be a “victory”. In a 100 years time, even with the effects clearly evident, there will probably still be “skeptics” denying it, saying it’s just a theory, something else, or a conspiracy.
        You should probably seek out a creationist and introduce yourself, you may find you have a lot in common.

      • Doug McGee: I”d say you aren’t paying attention.

        No one here is saying that the objective is to convince all skeptics. None of the skeptics in this discussion fit the “creationist” jacket you insult us with.

        Sure, we can wait 50, 100 years to see how well the IPCC scenarios play out. Climate change will be sorted out in time — one way or another. We are not the sort of skeptics who will ignore reality. In fact almost all of the skeptics on this blog accept the basics of global warming.

        However, it is the climate change side that is all-fired up to rush into mammoth restructuring of the global infrastructure and economy to mitigate climate change before it’s too late. We skeptics aren’t convinced of these schemes.

        If you are content to wait and see how the climate changes, so are we, and there is no need to engage.

      • huxley,
        One of the tells that cliamte scientists are full of it in terms of policy is that they claim they have happened to discover a great terrible future that can only be avoided if we do what they say.
        And then when pressed most of them deny they are talking about a climate calamity.
        If- big if- the CS community has actually found a deadly future irt CO2, then why are they the ones promoting the solution? This is not like a 1950’s b sf movie, where the scientist who discovers the blob also figures out how to kill it.
        If CO is a real problem, then engineers are the ones to actually solve it. Instead we have Hansen droning on about a pass through tax, or whoever talking cap-n-trade or carbon sequestration- as if their being a climate science gave them expertise in tax policy or subterranean geology.
        (sequestration, by the way, looks like a total loser of an idea).

      • One of the tells that cliamte scientists are full of it in terms of policy is that they claim they have happened to discover a great terrible future that can only be avoided if we do what they say.
        And then when pressed most of them deny they are talking about a climate calamity.

        hunter: Yes, I’ve noticed that too.

        Although I was surprised yesterday to learn that some climate change folks construe CAGW as a calumny on par with Denier. Never mind that many AGWers really do speak of catastrophe, and that catastrophe has no Holocaust association.

        Likewise I see this with regard to the “science is settled” then when that becomes too onerous to support we hear someone like Gavin Schmidt say, “Oh no, we never said that,” then blame the claim as an evil distortion perpetrated by skeptics.

        Like politicians, climate change advocates want the power but not the accountability.

        The problem is that every time they get caught in a straddle like this, they lose credibility with the public. Then, as usual, they blame the loss of their credibility on skeptics.

      • Fine. I’m happy to wait 100 years rather than embark on the daft self-destructive plans that the CAGW plans advocate.

        And even when I meet my local true greenie…misguided nutter though I think he is….we still manage to have a civil, if heated, discourse. And to share a drink or two.

        But why do you hate the creationists so much? Did one frighten you in your cradle?

      • Re: (undefined NaN NaN:NaN),
        Email me at brianfh01-at-yahoo.ca . I have some info that should bemuse and eelight you.

      • Re: (und
        efined NaN NaN:NaN)
        typo: “delight” of course.
        My machine and browser are overloaded by these long threads. On a very fast connection, but it took almost 10 min. for this page to reload/refresh!
        I get twitchy.

      • So cute.
        You assure that you will lose.
        And you did completely dodge my point about a significant number of scientists not only being wrong, but being horribly wrong.
        I would suggest that in this conversation you are the only person in denial.
        So keep playing with yourself and your pals in your echo chamber.
        You know why I bother to engage with true believers?
        Because it makes my arguments stronger, and makes the utter weakness of you guys on this topic clearer by the day.

  73. I thought this extract from an interview with Vincent Courtillot, the French scientist, was worth passing on:

    ‘I’ve participated in many discussions between scientists that were quite technical and animated but always respectful. For instance discovering and understanding why the earth’s magnetic field undergoes impulses or why dinosaurs have disappeared is of interest to specialists or an interested public, but this has little impact on society. The debate on climate has a distinct character. For the first time, the debate about climate involved everyone, not only our colleagues but journalists, politicians, the general public: all have an opinion. It has changed everything. I first used the concept of “disentangler” in a television interview. I was trying to explain in a simple way that scientists have to answer questions by saying whether something is true or false whereas citizens want to know if it is good or bad, ethic or unethical. I believe that the danger with the current debate is to confuse the questions: “Is it good or bad”, “is it good or evil?” with the question: “is this true or false? » When we talk about global warming, we can say whether it is true or false (depending on our own understanding of this gigantic and very complex problem, and often with great uncertainty) unfortunately this answer is immediately translated by: “it is good” or “it is bad”, and actually “you are good” or “you are bad”. This error is fundamental, and this is what I wish to sort out and separate. I can say what I understand about the causes or the reality of global warming as a scientist, but to say whether global warming – and its possible causes – is a good thing or a bad thing is an issue for citizens. If I say I do not believe the majority doxa in terms of science, many people will immediately conclude that I am either good or bad, a perverse combination of moral and science which is very dangerous if it is not disentangled.’

  74. The constant attempts by the left to silence the right makes you wonder why the left is so afraid of discussing their ideas in a neutral forum. perhaps it is because they cannot defend them in the arena of ideas and can then only silence opposition so as not to appear the fool.

  75. So I ask the climate change contingent here who seem to disagree about engaging skeptics, what then is the plan?

    Latimer, myself and others have argued that if one believes that climate change is a serious threat, then skeptics must be engaged. Ignoring them, censoring them, and ridiculing them hasn’t worked. In fact it seems to have had the opposite effect.

    But how do you see it?

    Keep in mind that climate change is now a low political priority and climate science has lost credibility among ordinary citizens. If global action on CC is desired, those must substantially improve.

    What is the strategy for making climate change a higher priority again? Can it be done without engaging skeptics? How?

    • You are right, Huxley. Trying to stop climate change is the height of folly!

      If the climate change contingent wants to spend public funds on this project, they have no option but to engage critics. If they want to spend their own resources on this nonsense, they are welcome to do so.

      Those who warned of global warming foolishly overlooked the fact that everyone with a thermometer can check the validity of their prediction.

      Like it or not, the e-mails showed that the warnings of global warming were based on less than high-quality scientific studies.

      Oliver K. Manuel

      • Oliver: Well, one way that climate change could regain its credibility would be if global temperatures started a steep warming incline like in the Nineties. Back then I remember thinking, “It really has gotten warmer,” and I was right.

        Maybe that’s what the climate change advocates are hoping for, which will spare them the messy business of engaging skeptics.

        But if that doesn’t happen soon, the climate change folks are going to find themselves in the same dustbin as Paul Ehrlich who predicted global famines starting in the 1970s.

        Of course that’s not a bad dustbin. Ehrlich is a tenured professor at Stanford. His colleague, John Holdren, is Obama’s chief science advisor. So for scientists there is no downside to making failed apocalyptic predictions. In fact there is quite a lot of upside.

        I would include this as part of the positive feedback Dr. Curry warns against. It’s one of the reasons that climate scientists can point to their hundreds or thousands of peer reviewed studies validating climate change, and I just think, “Won’t get fooled again.”

        Until I see clear and forceful negative feedback for scientists who make incorrect predictions, I am going to assume that the process of today’s environmental science is ineluctably weighted to yield frightening predictions.

      • Re: (undefined NaN NaN:NaN),
        Like any “agency” funded to take care of a problem, they will defend the problem to the death.

    • huxley (Nov 10 at 10:38pm) —

      > So I ask the climate change contingent here who seem to disagree about engaging skeptics, what then is the plan?

      In his responses to the comments of this post at his blog, Pro-AGW-Consensus climatologist Chris Colose (who has contributed to this thread) offers some relevant opinions.

      He basically defines “legitimate scientific skeptics” as his colleagues in mainstream climatology, noting that “There’s no example of a non-climate scientist who has raised any valid point concerning deficiencies in the science of AGW…”

      • H’mm

        I think a legitimate riposte to Chris Coloses remark that

        ‘There’s no example of a non-climate scientist who has raised any valid point concerning deficiencies in the science of AGW’

        is that Steve McIntyre and Ross McCitrick certainly managed to take the Hockey Stick (MBH 98) away from the oublic gaze..to the point where Mikey himself is pretty keen to downplay its significance. Without those individuals (non-climate guys) it would still be brandished on every conceivable occasion..as it was originally.

        So CC is talking out of is a..e. Behavious I have come to expect from climatologists. The remarkable thing is now if they say something even remotely sensible..not the opposite.

    • er, huxley, so far nobody has defined what is a ‘skeptic’ or how they are or can be ‘engaged’. Until that happens, it’s going to be pretty hard for me, at least, to decide whether I agree that it would be a good idea or not.

      seriously, given what’s been said so far, I can’t even tell whether I’ve ever ‘engaged’ a ‘skeptic’, nor, if I haven’t, what I would have to differently in order to make that happen. if you (any of y’all) are serious about wanting scientists to engage skeptics, you’re going to have to start putting some substance behind those labels.

      but, too, keep in mind that my concern is the science. The science doesn’t say ‘serious threat’ or ‘no threat’. Those are value decisions which we’ll all make differently, for non-scientific reasons (as well we should; science doesn’t have much to say about morals). The science can say things like ‘this much sea level rise over this time span, give or take’. if that’s a sort of question that you want scientists to engage skeptics over, I could, perhaps, do so. If you will tell me what you mean by ‘skeptic’ and ‘engage’.

      the rest of your comment is about the pr situation. science isn’t about pr, and scientists (unsurprisingly, same for bankers, truck drivers, …) aren’t very good at pr. 150 years after darwin and wallace, over half the US doesn’t think that humans evolved. if your point is that science only matters if it _does_ win the pr battle, well, then, science is toast — humans don’t evolve, quantum mechanics doesn’t work, relativity means some rather bizarre things that einstein would not recognize, it’s about as likely that the earth takes 1 day to go around the sun as 1 year, or maybe it’s 1 month. ad agencies and pr firms, maybe assorted ‘think tanks’ are the places for the pr experts, not scientific conferences.

      • Robert Grumbine: Many participants in this discussion have pointed out the vagueness of the “Why engage skeptics?” question. I think I did too. There are several levels to it and at least two sides — the strictly science side and what you call the PR side.

        Climate change as science and as PR has lost credibility. Not all credibility, to be sure, but both are currently in retreat. Skeptics at all levels have pushed back, and now climate change polls at the bottom of the list of people’s concerns.

        It’s clear that “Why should I give you my data when all you want to do is find some problem with it?” is a response that has cost climate change dearly.

        Your reaction and that of others is to continue to complain about skeptics and characterize them as anti-evolutionist cranks who can’t be satisfied and are unworthy of engagement.

        That approach sounds inaccurate and short-sighted to me but you are welcome to it. As Latimer said, I would be happy not to hear anymore about AGW ever again. Climate scientists and advocates can make the rules and play in their climate change world however they wish.

        But if they want my cooperation, my votes and my money for their large schemes to mitigate climate change, they are going to have to engage skeptics from Steve McIntyre at the technical level on down to interested laymen like myself and ordinary citizens. I am far from the only skeptic or citizen who thinks this way.

        If climate change is the serious threat its scientists and advocates say that it is, they need to restore its credibility, which I would say requires engagement with skeptics at all levels.

        But that doesn’t look like it will happen, aside from a few exceptions like Dr. Curry. From that I conclude that there will be little or no global action on climate change.

      • er, again, you never get around to defining ‘skeptic’.

        many of the people who claim to be skeptics are, in fact, also young earth creationists. since you, nor did anyone else, don’t provide a definition of skeptic, self-identification is all I have to go by. So it would be reasonable to include young earth creationists (most, not all) as ‘skeptics’. it’d be wrong to say all self-identified ‘skeptics’ are young earth creationists.

        but, in any event, I wasn’t equating skeptics to young earth creationists. yec just provide a convenient illustration, well-known, of people who deny science long after it is firmly, within the scientific world, established. the popular vote on the accuracy of a piece of science doesn’t have much to do with the quality of the science. that’s all.

        since you don’t say what you mean by ‘skeptics’, your talk of ‘skeptics at all levels’ is no clearer.

        and, since you don’t say what you mean by ‘engage’, I know no more than I ever did.

        again, if you’re serious about wanting scientists to ‘engage’ ‘skeptics’, you’re going to have to define your terms.

        your complaint about data availability would be relevant to talking with me if I were saying the thing you quote. But I don’t. I make my data available to the extent it’s legal to do so, and likewise the programs. Since the people who complain about scientists not making data available never manage to get around to mentioning those of us who do make it available and do provide decent support, you don’t know about us. casting stones attracts more blog traffic than pointing to people doing what you want. and, of course, if you were to go looking for flaws in my stuff, you’d find it. latest complaint I noticed from one of the complainers was that files were in .tar.Z format. I don’t happen to use that, but if that’s what constitutes a serious matter, I’m sure that I’ve committed equally serious offenses.

        anyhow, your comment:
        Your reaction and that of others is to continue to complain about skeptics and characterize them as anti-evolutionist cranks who can’t be satisfied and are unworthy of engagement.
        is pretty off-base. I wasn’t complaining about skeptics, I was asking you to define who they are. If you’ll ever tell me who they are, maybe I’ll complain, maybe not. Likewise, I can’t say if they’re worthy of engagement until you tell me what you mean by engagement.

        n.b. Only 1 person has ever defined to me what he meant by ‘cagw’: provably human-caused temperature rise, globally, of 10 C by 2050. I don’t think that’ll happen.

      • Robert Grumbine: In the context of climate change, skeptics are a broad, diverse group. If you must have a definition, skeptics are those who disagree with some aspect or aspects of mainstream climate change. But hey! keep beating that dead horse that skeptics are basically creationists.

        I’m not demanding scientists or anyone to engage.

        I’m remarking on the apparent inconsistency of climate scientists’ claiming that climate change poses serious threats to humanity and their unwillingness to engage with skeptics even though skeptics have eroded the credibility of climate scientists to influence society about climate change.

        If climate scientists just want to do their work and don’t care what happens to the world, that’s fine with me. It just seems odd.

      • “If you must have a definition, skeptics are those who disagree with some aspect or aspects of mainstream climate change.”

        ok. by that definition, I and everybody I’ve ever talked to about climate, including people who were in the ipcc working groups, and ipcc report authors, are skeptics. seems a bit broad a definition. perhaps you could refine it some?

        it also means that young earth creationists are skeptics, same as everybody else is. so it’s odd that you lie about what I said, or are offended by the factual observation that most yec are ‘skeptics’. a implies b does not require that b implies a. most yec being skeptics does not mean that most skeptics are yec. I’ve never made that mistake.

        now all you have to do is define ‘engage’ and I’ll know what you mean in talking about how scientists should engage skeptics. if ‘engage’ is equally broad, I’ve been doing it for years.

      • As a result of his remarks on this and earlier Climate Etc. threads, mainstream climatologist Chris Colose and I had a relevant discussion in the comments to a Curry-themed post at his blog.

        As a “lukewarmer”, my own view is that climatology has hobbled itself. I think that mainstream climatologists are prone to accepting weak arguments and faulty arguments, if and only if they support the Pro-AGW Consensus.

        That’s pretty weak tea, as far as skeptical stances go (not much for Robert Grumbine’s young-earth creationists to sink their teeth into). If I can articulate and document particular concerns — I can — you might think that those in the mainstream of climatology might interact productively with me.

        Not so. See, for example, Chris Colose’s position. As best I can tell, he thinks that about the only “legitimate scientific skeptics” worth engaging are colleagues who are mainstream climate scientists.

        As far as “what you mean in talking about how scientists should engage skeptics”: if concerns such as mine were found to be valid, a correct scientific response would entail (1) civility, (2) acknowledgment, (3) correction of mistakes, and perhaps (4) broader steps.

        As I noted, the AGW Consensus hasn’t achieved success with what should be the easy cases. Bringing the conversation full circle, back to huxley’s points.

      • AMac: I checked the Colose page when you mentioned it earlier and had a similar reaction.

        I’ve found, partly informed by years of online debate, that people who have strong arguments make strong arguments. People who don’t have strong arguments resort to the censor, delete, ridicule, ad hom, technicalities, shift the onus, delegitimize etc. games.

        My conclusion is that climate change folks don’t have the ammunition to make the claims they wish to make.

        Which is not to say that they lack good arguments — IMO they are persuasive that the earth is warming and mankind has something to do with it — but they want to say something stronger, something that will really put teeth in Cap-and-Trade or Kyoto or Copenhagen.

        But they can’t seal that deal in an open debate. So they make excuses or ignore the issue or demand definitions for ‘skeptic’ and ‘engage’ as though defining those words would make all the difference. Or they beat up on creationists, say, because that’s an argument they know they can win.

      • It seems like it’s worth clarifying my position, which is much like Robert Grumbine’s in that this “debate” gets nowhere due to fundamental disagreements on definitions and premises. For instance, I do not consider myself to be “pro-AGW” in that I like AGW or I want AGW to be a reality, just that I find the physical science that humans have become a substantial component in altering the global temperature over the last century to be overwhelmingly convincing. It is this to which I was referring that no non-climate scientist (and no climate scientist for that matter) has poked even a slight hole in. In fact, at least the qualitative connection between increases and CO2 and alterations in the planetary radiative balance and temperature is on as solid ground as evolution or any other theory you want to pick from a hat.

        The quantitative component for CO2 is constrained to within reasonable limits to be useful, albeit scientifically unsatisfactory (~2 to 4.5 C per 2xCO2) due to various feedback processes which act to modify the radiative perturbation (which Fred has described in articulate detail in this thread, you can also see my recent RealClimate piece “more on feedback” for a bit more mathematical grounding).

        Whether or not the degree of warming mentioned above is “catastrophic” is a value judgment, and thus the transition from ‘AGW’ to “CAGW” only serves as a conduit for extreme vagueness. The transition is not even about magnitude, climate sensitivity, or whatever; it transforms a statement about causes and events (anthropogenic warming) to a statement about values, and can thus not really be scientifically defined to be useful (perhaps this is why certain people like to use it, because it’s impossible for anyone to support or refute).

        Finally, whether or not the hockey stick is a reasonable representation of the time evolution of global temps over the last 1000 years is irrelevant to this. I don’t claim to have any specific expertise in dendroclimatology or statistics, but as far as we can tell, some dozen papers are all coming to a similar looking type of hemispheric-to-global scale analysis, so there’s no indication it is very much off the mark, nor has climategate or SteveM showed that the shape of this curve should be dramatically altered; if so, to what degree? I think the more separate issues of data availability or how “polite” scientists are is another topic. I would really like to see, however, how many of the people yelling to “show me the code!” would actually look at the code. I think that would serve as a reasonable indication of the number of people reasonably interested in historical paleo-reconstructions vs. those who just want to make noise. The more fundamental issue I have, particularly within the realm of my interests, are those who try to extrapolate these issues to the degree to which humans have or will alter the climate. It doesn’t logically follow.

        Thus I find the continual pushing of the ‘hockey stick’ issue to be a general admission of evasion rather than an argument, regardless of whether that aspect of the science is “correct”. While I appreciate that some select few may actually be interested in the detailed specifics of that issue, the number of bloggers who pretend to be deeply interested in the underlying dendroclimatology and technical statistical arguments (EOF’s, r2, etc), while inappropriately connecting the dots to “AGW” (or detection and attribution, or the radiative physics, etc) is an indication to me that they are taking a separate issue as a sound byte. The level of technical detail in that debate is just not relevant for anything particularly pertinent to modern and future climate change, but of course if you move on and let the dendo/statistics people worry about it then you get accused of “not addressing serious issues” and “dogmatic activity”. The end goal here is to better understand the climate, and the level of noise brought about by certain groups hung up on these issues will never improve that.

      • H’mm – a lot to digest there, so I’ll confine myself to just one immediate point without further cogitation.

        ‘Show me the code’ has a double purpose.

        For those suitably qualified and interested (McIntyre, Keenan, Graham-Cumming etc), it provides an opportunity to delve into the deep stuff and to check that the technical work has been done correctly. And we know already that in one very high profile case (MBH 98) it wasn’t. Such detailed scrutiny showed (and I will be charitable here) that it was defective in its method and hence its iconic conclusions.

        But for the rest of us, who may have neither the time nor the inclination to become personally involved, ‘showing the code’ is a mark of confidence.

        With the stench of the Climategate misbehaviour still reeking in my nostrils, I simply do not believe a climatologist when he says:

        ‘I have a new great conclusion to share. Based on my secret methodology and undisclosed data I can demonstrate effect x to my satisfaction…and to that of my peer-reviewing drinking buddy and mate Fred who wrote a paper with me last year. Y’all just better believe me because I am a very important climatologist’.

        But if the climatologist is upfront and says ‘here is my work..here is my method..here is my data. I believe my conclusions x and y an z are robust, but I welcome anyone to try to improve it or find errors’, then my belief in that guy’s abilities and in his science is much increased. My respect for him as a knowledgeable commentator increases likewise.

        It almost doesn’t matter too much whether anybody takes up the challenge..it is the knowledge that such a challenge could be there that helps to keep such things robustly argued and free from obvious error.

        In UK Company Law, every company is obliged to submit and publish annual accounts for public scrutiny. When choosing to do business with them or not, the very first question one asks is ‘have they filed their accounts?’ A negative answer immediately sets alarm bells ringing and says that there is likely something dodgy going on. I see no reason at all that such a commonsense reaction does not apply to climate science.

        That climatologists have for so long resisted this obvious way to increase their credibility speaks badly of them. And it is not down to you to complain about our behaviour at this time. First you guys make sure that everything is published….then we, the public, will decide what use we want to make of it.

        And lest I be accused of hypocrisy, somewhere in a warehouse in Swindon is a publicly available copy of my 1970s MSc thesis. In it you can find all the data and all the source code I used to create my theoretical model of high atmosphere reaction kinetics using an ICL1906/George 3

        If you are very very sad, you are welcome to try to reproduce it, and I challenge you to find more than the one reasonably serious error that I (and the examiners) know about. Whether you can still find a working ALGOL compiler is another question…….good luck.

      • Chris Colose,

        Thanks for the response. A year’s worth of trying to follow certain AGW-related issue has improved my ability to separate derogatory remarks from substance. If experience is a guide, you’re probably unaware of most of the insults that slipped into your text. And comparatively speaking, they’re pretty mild.

        That aside, you’ve addressed some important questions thoughtfully, for which I thank you. At the same time, you’ve elided the other issues that “skeptics” have raised in this sub-thread and in the comments of your blog. I’ve had my say on those.

        It might be helpful to look at these questions from a “public relations” perspective. Are you and other pro-AGW-Consensus scientists (*) communicating clearly and persuasively? To the extent that the answer is “yes,” all is well. Where it is “no” — why not?

        – – – – – – – – – –

        * I use the term “pro-AGW-Consensus scientists” because it is clear, and because its use references a straw-man argument in your comment: that “skeptics” such as I believe that you like AGW or want it to be a reality.

      • While seemingly off-topic, this comment by “Brian” at Razib Khan’s blog might be of interest to those following this sub-thread. He outlines his thoughts on the intersection of creationism and politics.

      • i actually have a guest post on this lined up, entitled “Religion, politics, and climate change.”

      • curryja | November 13, 2010 at 11:24 am |
        i actually have a guest post on this lined up, entitled “Religion, politics, and climate change.”

        Excellent. Unlike Galileo Galilei they *actually* burned Giordano Bruno at the stake for heresy.

        Ximinez: NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition! Amongst our weaponry are such diverse elements as: fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency, an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope, and nice red uniforms – Oh damn! (To Cardinal Biggles) I can’t say it – you’ll have to say it.

      • amac
        1) civility would be nice. has to be a two-way street, though. say start by you and huxley not lying about what I say.
        2) acknowledgment of what? I acknowledge that you think Mann has done horrible work. is that what you mean?
        3) Correct what mistakes? I’m in no position to correct Mann’s mistakes. And you haven’t shown me any of my own.
        4) broader steps? means what?

        But still, even those points are describing how the engagement should proceed — without, still, ever saying what engagement you mean? TV debates? Start a journal where all ‘skeptics’ may publish and all they publish is considered true until they agree that scientists have written an adequate rebuttal? all scientists should quit publishing in science and pursue nothing but answering in blog comment threads until all skeptics agree that the science is correct?

        huxley’s 7:41 PM nov11 followup:
        if you won’t say what you want (either), you probably won’t get it. Doesn’t matter whether it is from scientists that you want it or a restaurant.

        as to the creationists: scientists almost always lose debates with creationists. http://ncse.com/ That’s one reason I don’t think debate is a good model for anything. all it tells you is who is more personable and makes better connection to the audience — not who has the more correct scientific content.

        as to the relevance of creationists and creationism to climate change policy see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_7h08RDYA5E, h/t phil plait, badastronomy.

      • ‘Civility would be nice’.

        Indeed. Perhaps you could suggest this to your colleagues on various pro-AGW blogs, where it has been noticeable by its absence. For confirmation note the posts on the Denizens thread, and see how many cite unpleasantnesses there as one of the reasons for them to question the AGW theory.

        It will be probably be a new concept to them, so you may have to explain what you mean carefully.

      • Robert Grumbine (Nov 14 at 4:14pm) —

        1) civility would be nice. has to be a two-way street, though. say start by you and huxley not lying about what I say.

        To be clear, I am not tag-teaming with huxley or anybody else. I don’t know exactly which of his/her harsh words you consider lies. I hope you two can resolve that.

        As far as my own words, I must take responsibility for them. I do not know which of them were so offensive that you consider them lies. Upthread, you mention that I called your post on Tiljander a “full-throated defense” of Mann’s position. I cannot locate my use of that phrase. In one comment a while back at Lucia’s Blackboard, I lost my temper at your post, and called you “untrustworthy.” Later in that thread, I apologized for my unfair characterization of you — and you accepted that apology in the same thread. We went on to have a reasoned discussion, if I recall correctly, though without arriving at a meeting of the minds.

        I cannot offer a further apology without knowing exactly how I have given such offense to you. If you provide a link, I will follow up, or we can take it up offline. (AMac.contact -at- gmail -dot- com)

      • http://rankexploits.com/musings/2010/unexpurgated-reasons-to-refuse-data/

        I was not a participant in that thread. It was rather later that you and I had the exchange you describe, my ‘untrustworthiness’ being related to some other topic.

        no, I don’t think you and huxley are ‘tag-teaming’. just happens that you both had done similar things wrt me, and both replied to me at this part of the comment thread.

        anyhow, I’ll suggest that lying about people behind their backs is not an action conducive to a goal of civil discussion.

      • I have responded to Robert Grumbine’s charges downthread.

      • Got any stats and sources on ‘many AGW skeptics being young Earth creationists’?

        It is annoying that so many in the AGW community whine about ‘CAGW’ being used and actually pretend that it is a meaningless term.
        We are bombarded daily by climate scientists claiming that the Earth is going to undergo a terrible climate change due to CO2. Then others in the community pretend that has not in fact been stated. This only underscores the intellectual puniness of the AGW community.
        Holdren himself, Ehrlcih and Schneider’s pal, science director of the WH, calls it ‘global climate disruption’. Hansen uses the term ‘tipping point’ claiming Earth will be like Venus. Unless those here who whine about skeptics using ‘CAGW’ are ready to talk to their own about this, please take a hike.
        And, by the way, if there is not a catastrophic climate future caused by CO2, then why in the !@#@#%$#! are we spending so much money on it?

      • I haven’t seen a poll constructed to tease that out. But it seems many of the “skeptic” high priests are. Fred Singer is a creationist, Roy Spencer is a creationist, odds are M&M are too, and several of the circulated “anti-“petitions and statements appear to be a Who’s Who of creationists/IDists.
        Every Republican creationist Ive ever discussed it with is also a”skeptic”.
        Acceptance or rejection of AGW and evolution also appear to trend about the same in the USA +/-5pts. Coincidental, perhaps.

      • As a fully paid up Canadian liberal, I think it most unlikely that Steve McIntyre is a creationist. He is far too interested in forensic analysis

        As you are so worried (obsessed??) with them, come to visit UK where I have hardly ever heard the subject even discussed. Looks like creationism it may be a purely colonial phenomenon. Dunno if they are big in Oz/NZ or RSA as well though.

      • Doug McGee,

        Do you base these characterizations on self-characterizations? On third-party descriptions?

        Could you provide a citation for “odds are [McIntyre and McKitrick] are [creationists] too”?

      • Doug McGee: Fred Singer a creationist? Do you have a cite for that?

        I look at Wiki — a notoriously pro-AGW/anti-skeptic source — and find no mention of creationism or even Christianity. According to Wiki, he was Jewish. Singer and his family barely escaped from Austria after the Nazis invaded.

        I also see that Singer has one helluva pedigree:

        He taught physics at Princeton while he worked on his masters and his doctorate, obtaining his Ph.D. there in 1948 with a thesis on “Extensive Airshowers of Cosmic Rays.” His supervisor was John Archibald Wheeler, and his thesis committee included J. Robert Oppenheimer and Niels Bohr.

        Like the climate change movement, I think you need to shore up your credibility here.

      • You’re quite right. I had faulty recall. It was another creationist (Beisner) who wrote an anti-evolution/climate change screed with Spencer and McKitrick.

      • Doug McGee,

        This Deltoid blog post ending “I wonder if McKitrick is a Creationist as well?” must be your uncited source.

        Credibility -1.

      • Obviously since McKitrick signed his name to it, he is a creationist, or do you think he’s prone to signing his name to stuff he doesn’t believe?

      • Silly argument.

        You don’t quote McKitrick. You don’t even paraphrase him. You don’t even state the source for your charge.


      • A Call to Truth, Prudence, and Protection of the Poor:
        An Evangelical Response to Global Warming

        By E. Calvin Beisner, Ph.D., Paul K. Driessen, Esq.,
        Ross McKitrick, Ph.D., and Roy W. Spencer, Ph.D.

      • Doug McGee (Nov 13 at 3:07pm) cites but does not link “A Call to Truth, Prudence, and Protection of the Poor: An Evangelical Response to Global Warming” to support his charge that Ross McKitrick is a creationist. I have searched that document for “creation”, “intelligent design”, and “evolution”, with the expected results.

        I regret responding to Doug McGee’s posts, since that implies that he has raised topics that are worth discussing.

        [Hunter S. Thompson related] a story from the ’68 presidential campaign in which Lyndon Johnson “told his manager to start a massive rumor campaign about his opponent’s lifelong habit of enjoying carnal knowledge of his own barnyard sows.” The campaign manager protests that nobody will believe that the guy’s a “pigf****r.”

        “I know,” Johnson replied. “But let’s make the sonofabitch deny it.”

      • look at page12.
        It is ironic that many supporters of the ECI rely heavily on the claim of scientific consensus to buttress their view of global warming. The role of the IPCC in climate studies is similar to that of the Jesus Seminar in New Testament scholarship in the 1990s and Darwinism for the past century. It is a self-selecting group with a narrow point of view favored by the political left and mainstream media, and it tends to respond to critics with derision or dismissal rather than collegial engagement. Evangelicals have been quick to criticize the process behind the Jesus Seminar and Darwinism. They have resisted the idea that complex scholarly issues could be decided by a majority vote among club members. Those same critical instincts need to be kept in place when evaluating claims of consensus on global warming.

      • @doug mcgee re your quote from McKitrick

        As far as I can see the crucial piece is this:

        ‘They have resisted the idea that complex scholarly issues could be decided by a majority vote among club members. Those same critical instincts need to be kept in place when evaluating claims of consensus on global warming.’

        which seems pretty reasonable fare to me. Where does it have any relevance to your obsession with creationism, other than peripherally?

      • This Deltoid blog post … “The role of the IPCC in climate studies is similar to that of … Darwinism”

        That’s funny seeing as how Darwinisim is a soon to become a defunct theory …

        (Better get back to work on my subjective+objective synthesis)

      • What’s even funnier is how you denialists all think your the next great prophet. They’ve been saying that about evolution for the last 150 years and they’ll be saying it about AGW for the next 150.

      • You must be referring to the AGW zealots.

        As for Darwinism, it’s already moribund and two thirds dead. The failure of the concept of ‘sustainability’ weakens the significance of representation by frequency. Survival of the fittest or relative increase by the most fecund is neither here nor there.

        Focus on individual selection has now shifted onto selection over groups of individuals at multiple scales. It is a patchwork re-adjustment intended to maintain the view of evolution in a forward looking, convergent perspective.

        What keeps Neo (or Postneo) Darwinism alive is the lack of any plausible alternative ‘process’.

        I say process and not hypothesis because the weakness of evolutionary theory is based in process. The premises were inappropriately chosen.

        Darwinism was great for it’s day. It is due for revision and redirection elsewhere.

        BTW, I’m not a creationist, nor a mystic. Sorry if that disappoints you.

      • Once again AGW fanatics have to bend definitions to control the discussion.
        Believing in God does not make one a creationist. Having philosophical issues with evolution does not make one a creationist. And it especially does not make AGW true.
        If signing one’s name to something means one is whole hog in favor of it, does this mean Hansen is in favor of a terrorist solutions to climate and enviro questions?

      • Greg Graffin completed a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology at Cornell University under Professor William Provine. His thesis was on the religious beliefs of leading evolutionary biologists. … He added that a San Antonio, Texas, attorney wrote recently to him asking

        “Is there an intellectually honest Christian evolutionist position? . . . Or do we simply have to check our brains at the church house door?” The answer is, you indeed have to check your brains (Provine 1988, p. 10).

      • Heard Provine mention it at this symposium whose theme was to examine a directional arrow to evolution . I.E. Is there a indicator of evolutionary progress?

        The opinion at that time was no. Don’t know how it’s changed since then.

        The journal cited for Bart Voorzanger paper below might be of interest.

        Another example ….
        Nils Chr Stenseth, Audfinn Tjønneland and Tore Lindholm, Can rationality and irrationality be reconciled? Biology and Philosophy
        Volume 3, Number 4, 475-483

        Hah! No norms and no nature — The moral relevance of evolutionary biology Bart Voorzanger

        The following may also be of interest if you do not know of it.


        Flock of Dodos DVD Extras, “Pulled Punches”

      • But how can you determine ‘progress’ in evolution? What counts as progress or regress (I’m assuming that regress is the opposite to progress??). My own view is that evolution does not have a good/bad, progress/regress, advanced/primitive nature. It just ‘is’.

      • That’s a really puzzling question. I went to that conference *certain* that evolutionary development was ‘directed’. I mean all that progress from single celled organisms on through homeotherm birds & mammals. You would have thunk there would be some principle component of improvement huh?
        Alas but no. … at least not back then…. Well maybe the slightest “hint” of directionality. Even that was pushing it.

        The symposium was a bit of an eye opener. Instinct told that evolution has to be directed. I knew it was hard to finger but when I heard the paleontologists tell it like it was! [mumble, confusion].

        About 5 years ago I solved the problem. The directed aspect is stunning and intensely apparent.

        I haven’t got around to writing it up. Intensely simple and ubiquitously apparent but for those same reasons, infuriatingly difficult to describe. It’s all in context and too darn poignant.

        Saw a law/maxim/rule a year ago (similar to Goodwin’s Law of Nazi analogies sort of thing) that hit upon that directness precisely. You wouldn’t imagine that is what it was for seeing it. It’s rather counter-intuitive.

        I’ll see if I can relocate it. Shall post it when I find it.

        [Clue: It had to do with hard coded design being replaced with software ] Now that’s one thing … Explaining how that represents a vibrant galvanization to a directed evolution?


      • @raving

        I used to have such moments of enlightenment too. Mostly at university when a particularly good batch of dope had hit the city or after about 8 pints of Theakston’s Old Peculier.

        But like dreams..or the beautiful girl that you pulled with your beer goggles on, they were usually gone … or plain ugly in the morning.

        No doubt yours have been more robust, but given your chosen moniker, I suspect the worst :-)

      • By the way, it is Godwin’s law.

      • That would be Mike Godwin

        I have fond memories of Brian Goodwin.

        Sorry about the mistake.

      • Hmmmm…..do I agree with a fanatic atheist or do I believe
        someone who has actually studied the issue?
        who discovered this when she actually bothered to research the issue:
        Oddly the pattern in these controversial topics seems to be that fanatics assert they know what just ain’t so.

      • We can’t see it. We can’t touch it. We can’t smell it or taste it. Most importantly we can’t measure it. But it is there and if we don’t do what we are told it will cause death and destruction. Could be God. Could be the missing ocean heat.

      • Catstrophy has been the biggest part of the pr ‘message’
        An Example, New Scientist (UK) a few weeks ago..
        Thermogeddon – on the cover.


        Followed up this week by:
        New Scientist: Countdown to ‘thermogeddon’ has begun
        “THERE may come a point, if the world warms enough, when parts of the tropics will become so hot and humid that humans will not be able to survive. Models predict that this could start to happen in places in as little as 100 years in the worst case scenario. Now, observations show the process is already under way.”

        I’m still annoyed by their
        Age of Denial – Special Report. 15 May 2010

  76. The “C” adds no clarity, and is an empty smear – the implication of scaremongering or irrational belief (as opposed to someone who claims to accept AGW on some level but is “rational” enough not to believe in imminent doom for humanity) is clear.


    David H: The catastrophic “C” is not a smear skeptics made up and skeptics are responsible for delineating.

    Just google “catastrophic global warming” and see for yourself. Here are a couple, one from the MET Office and another from a Joe Romm article:

    * http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/sep/28/met-office-study-global-warming
    * http://www.salon.com/news/environment/feature/2009/03/09/bill_gates

    The climate change movement relies upon catastrophe to press its agenda. After all, if climate change is not likely to be catastrophic, why should we do anything about it? If we are faced with catastrophe, then we should do something about, as the climate change movement says.

    Otherwise we can just enjoy our warmer winters, warmer nights, warmer northern latitudes, and longer growing seasons, and raise a toast of a fine English wine — now that grapes can be grown there again as in the Medieval Warming Period — and enjoy our good fortune.

    • Bring it on!

      Bloody cold in Surrey this morning :-(

      • Wine has been made commercially in England since the 1950s. Which I guess means that the 1950s were as warm as the MWP, which means it must be much warmer then the MWP now.

      • Nearly all commercially grown wine in England is made south of the Thames – there is a very successful vineyard about ten miles away from me now in Dorking.

        But records show that in Roman Times it was grown as far as 200 miles further north in Yorkshire, where it is a lot colder and bleaker. As any true Yorkshireman will tell you (at interminable length :-( ) anywhere south of Doncaster is populated by soft southern pansies who wouldn’t know a decent winter from their elbow.

        And I am not aware that anybody would contemplate such a commercial venture in Yorkshire even now.

        Do not assume that ‘England’ is climatically homogeneous. It ain’t.

      • And I am not aware that anybody would contemplate such a commercial venture in Yorkshire even now.

        umm… Levanthorpe?

    • Grapes were grown in England from the time the Romans introduced them. They were certainly being grown *before* the MWP, because ‘The Venerable Bede’ mentioned them.

      The main reason wine growing stopped as a commercial activity in Britain was because French imports became more readily available – esp since the Norman invaders favoured French rather than English products.

      • I’ve been to Fountains Abbey, in Yorkshire, Adelady, and it is plain that wine was being made there in the 15th and 16th centuries. I’ve not encountered your historical explanation before. Could you give me a reference?

        As for wine being commercially grown in the UK since the 1950s, again, I do not know of this. But I have drunk a decent sauvignon blanc from Kent in the last few years. Again, a reference would be a help, but I guess I could do my own homework.


        Don Aitkin

      • This looks good (even though I didn’t see it yesterday).
        and then there’s this

      • Thanks, Adelady. I’ll look them up later today.



    • Let me just add that the vast majority of skeptics agree that AGW is happening. The question is, how dramatic is the temperatue rise as a result of doubling CO2. We agree such a temperature rise will occur, but claim the rise is negligible, and undetectable against the background noise. So we need to modify AGW. Whether C, Catastrophic, is appropiate I dont know. But we need something.

      • Jim:
        do you have a source for your ‘vast majority’? Certainly there are a lot of people denying that the temperatures are rising, and additional who deny that human activity has anything to do with it.

  77. Re: (undefined NaN NaN:NaN),
    Utterly disingenuous response. As pointed out several times, AGW supporters have adduced all manner of drastic and urgent and critical consequences due to happen almost inevitably and wiping out large swathes of civilization etc. because of a few degrees C, and/or because of the ‘runaway’ that would turn the Earth into Venus 2.
    That’s where the “catastrophic’ label came from. Pretending those things haven’t been said and leveraged into gazillions of gubmint funding dollars and Euros is pointless, because the evidence is everywhere.

    • Yes, Brian.

      Scaremongering has become the goal of government-funded science.

      Michael Mann and associates are mere pawns. Researchers who cannot find and report some evidence of catastrophic, impending doom will be without government funds next year.

      Punishing Michael Mann is not the solution. The corruption comes from those who control the flow of government research funds.

      • Nonsense.

        There are (hundreds of?) thousands of researchers, many who I work with, who compete for and receive funding every year and their research has nothing to do with “impending doom”.

      • Doug McGee: I’m sure that’s true. However, those researchers do so within a framework of catastrophic climate change and a media narrative that reports every hiccup within the natural system as evidence of this impending climate change.

        The reason that these “(hundreds of?) thousands of researchers” have jobs is ultimately because of catastrophic climate change. Before it, climatology was a backwater in science with far fewer researchers. Now climate science receives more funding than physics.

      • No, their research has nothing to do with climate change.

      • Jeez…are they doing something even less relevant than that? Do tell us what it is…….

      • Never heard of a biologist? Botanist? Ecologist?

      • Fair comment, Doug. I misinterpreted the previous discsussion. Posting past by bedtime!

        I mistakenly thought that you meant there were climatologists that got funds for something that wasn’t involved in climate change. And was struggling to imagine just how obscure and useless that might be.

        I have heard of botanists and ecologists. My local greenie is supposedly an ‘ecologist’. Goes around like Fotherington-Thomas exclaiming ‘hello clouds, hello sky’ and is completely incapable of distinguishing between correlation and causation – post hoc ergo propter hoc.

        Interestingly, he is also the only person I have ever met who is obsessed with creationism. When I told him that I had read the Climategate e-mails and been disturbed by the behaviour of the scientists, and appalled by Harry_Read_me, he immedaitely assumed that I must be a creationist in the pay of Koch Industries.

        Are all ecologists are as deluded as climatologists?

      • Are all ecologists are as deluded as climatologists?


        They are prepared to compromise and forget their intuitive understanding because atmospheric physicists have lend credence to their ecological perspective.

        (Borrowing from religion …)
        For ecologists, humanity is flawed by original inborn misanthropy.

      • Uhm maybe I should rephrase that ….

        Ecologists are blessed with misanthropy.

  78. One reason to engage with skeptics on AGW theory is to clarify, improve and hone the understanding you have of the subject.
    Trying to communicate the opinions you may hold on the subject, and construct cogent supporting arguments is very useful in delineating where your own understanding is robust, and where it is closer to an unwarranted belief.

    This is an integral part of the scientific method, although perhaps not formally recognised or described as such. Scientific speculation, hypothesis and theories compete for survival of the fittest in a Darwinian ecology of ideas. Pitting the different narratives against each other is a very effective way to identify those that are well supported by good data and credible reasoning – and those that aren’t.

    The problem with this is that there are a large minority of ‘skeptics’ who reject the science outright. They have no interest in the ‘fitness’ of the AGW theory in competition with alternative scientific hypothesis. From their point of view the science is being used to promote a POLITICAL agenda.
    From this POV science has already been used in the past to justify government regulating or banning the free market (and individual) from using lead (and other heavy metals), asbestos, particulate smoke, acid rain emissions, CFC’s, organophosphates and tobbaco. They see AGW theory as just another POLITICAL power grab by governments to control the behavior of the free market and any validity of the science is irrelevant given the more important (from their POV) role of the science in justifying policy actions that they are ideologically opposed to.

    This section of the skeptic ‘tribe’ are unable to help in improving the science because they reject as an a priori the legitimacy of science as a means of deciding policy so have no real interest in its accuracy.

    • You make a large number of assertions about ‘sceptics’ motivations. Can you name any names of people who actually behave as you suggest they do. Or provide any other evidence?

      Because I suspect that you are discussing a caricature popular among greenists, rather than any true strand of sceptic opinion.

      I am about as sceptical as can be, but the root cause of it is the shoddiness and shakiness of the science.

  79. The answer to “why engage the skeptics” is simple – I’m surprised nobody has seen it. It’s because all these “D students” you so easily dismiss are among those who must pay the significant cost of climate-related policy decisions. You may very well be right, but you owe them an explanation before enabling the government to shove its hands deeper into their pockets.

  80. I’ll accept Judy’s encouraging invitation before any formal announcement of a crank shootdown event, probably in less than 750 words here, willing to adjust when needed:

    My take is that there is apparently a clear correlation between multidecadal-multicentennial climate shifts (18O) and solar influence (14C, 10Be) as seen in various proxy records. Since its precise mechanism cannot yet be and have not been incorporated in models – TSI at least varies only by very little – it’d seem warranted to just crudely prescribe into the models a more sizable solar forcing as implied by the proxy record. This in turn I suspect would call for a revision downwards of CO2 sensitivity, especially if a solar-albedo effect was built in instead. It wouldn’t even need a full Svensmark effect in that Stephen Wilde’s jetstream shift mechanism offers an alternative workable mechanism.

  81. Re: (undefined NaN NaN:NaN),
    ALGOL! Lovely stuff. I found it, as intended, a great improvement on FORTRAN. Ran a treat on the Honeywell at AECL back in the ’60s.

  82. willard (Nov 11 at 4:04pm) —

    [In “Cargo Cult Science”, Feynman] used this analogy to speak of [bad scientific theories]:

    > It’s a kind of scientific integrity, a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of utter honesty–a kind of leaning over backwards.

    Feynman’s principle of scientific integrity is not that clearly defined, but sure is moralistic. Reading this essay many times now, I still fail to see how this moral principle prevents scientists from indulging into a cargo cult. The story that personal integrity justify scientific institutions is yet to be told.

    Interesting points. As somebody who practiced cell and molecular biology with some success for well over a decade, I struggled with the tension between two concepts when writing for publication. The first is what Feynman discussed–the imperative to be honest, and to recognize that the easiest person to fool is oneself.

    The second is that scientific presentation is the art of the narrative. Data dumps are boringly unreadable and thus unpublishable; what the audience want to know is, “How do you make sense of the reported observations and experiments? What story are you telling? Is it interesting and important? What are its implications? Is the theory that underlies your narrative falsifiable? Are there competing narratives that are ‘better’ (e.g. more parsimonious)? What predictions does your theory make? What future work does it suggest?”

    People who haven’t spent some significant amount of time practicing science usually don’t appreciate this storytelling aspect. They are often repelled by it, preferring to think that the cutting edge advances by full and complete disclosure. Or, mostly by full and complete disclosure.

    This is not so in biology, so I can easily build from my experience to stipulate that it is not so in climatology.

    All science is not equal; all scientists aren’t equal. I’d suggest that one of the major traits of successful science and scientists lies in the attention paid to the advice Feynman gave in “Cargo Cult Science.” The easiest person to fool is yourself.

    Is his principal of scientific integrity not clearly defined? To a philosopher like you or Mike Zajko, probably so. To a (former) practitioner, his points seem plain, and his examples are easily grasped and appreciated. The rats in the maze, follow-ons to Millikan’s classic, the comparison of deuterium and 1-H, ESP.

    Moralistic? I dunno. That’s an ambiguous term. So what if he is; so what if he isn’t.

    I bring up Feynman in these conversations because “everybody” agrees that his “don’t fool yourself” advice is correct, and important. A corollary is, “if you make a mistake, be forthright about acknowledging it and correcting it.”

    This, in turn, allows outsiders to ask an insightful question about a discipline: how do its leading practitioners handle (seeming) mistakes?

    My own field earned its biggest black eye in the Baltimore/Imanishi-Kari/O’Toole affair, where prestige and power trumped facts and logic (I can’t locate the best account, Google must suffice). Collection of sorry tales from throughout the sciences here.

    So a single instance can’t entirely discredit a field of study. Given human nature, we’d have nothing to talk about.

    But such cases still shine an important light on how Best Practices are thought about, and about how they are — or aren’t — implemented.

    My own view is this: “Some mainstream climatologists are prone to accepting weak arguments and faulty arguments, if and only if they support the Pro-AGW Consensus.”

    I think that this is a tractable issue, and that the science of climatology would benefit from efforts to address it.

    Though I could be fooling myself. :-)

    • AMac,

      Thank you for your response. I have no time to comment it now, as David Stove took it all for today.

      I’ll simply note that double-blind experiments might be seen as refuting Feynman’s idea. We are fooling ourselves all the times. It’s better to have a way to neutralize our fooling around.

      Best practices are never retroactive.


    1) the global mean temperature trend for the 20th century has a pattern (no acceleration or deceleration) as shown below:


    2) And the global mean temperature trend for the 21st century is nearly flat at 0.4 deg C as shown below:



    1) the global mean temperature trend for the 20th century has a pattern (no acceleration or deceleration) as shown below:


    2) And the global mean temperature trend for the 21st century is nearly flat at 0.4 deg C as shown below:


  85. per ‘raving’s’ comments (November 13, 2010 at 9:07 pm, November 14, 2010 at 12:19 pm ) about the imminent demise of ‘darwinism’, see

    Glenn Morton’s “The Imminent Demise of Evolution: The Longest Running Falsehood in Creationism”

    also, those of you complaining about creationists being considered skeptics … note the existence proof, and the fact that none of you took issue with him.

    • Robert,
      Evolution is not relevant to global warming theory. Evolution was dragged up, in a sad corrallary of Mike Godwin’s law, as an apparently successful distraction by someone defending AGW.

    • > … and the fact that none of you took issue with him.

      I haven’t accepted the assignment of contesting existence proofs of those who express creationist beliefs. I don’t even know what an existence proof is.

      Creationists are among those who are “wrong on the internet.” To counter every person who is “wrong” — in my opinion, that is — would be a full time job. And not a very fulfilling one.

      I am writing this because Robert Grumbine is a prominent science blogger in his own right. It may help him to understand that not responding to weak positions expressed in the comments of a high-traffic blog does not map to approval of those positions.

      • Very similar and just as (ir)relevant to not everyone taking their time to respond to technical criticisms of tree ring science or how nice people are in their email exchanges :-)

      • > Very similar and just as (ir)relevant to not everyone taking their time to respond to technical criticisms of tree ring science

        Sorry, I’m not sure I see the parallels.

        To be clear: as far as I am concerned, neither you nor anyone else is obliged to take their time to respond to technical criticisms of tree ring science, or any other subject.

        If you were to make a general argument along the lines of “no scientific work in Discipline A has been shown to be faulty,” I might respond by citing work done in Subdiscipline A1 that I think is faulty. A1 would then be fair game for discussion.

        But nobody is required to discuss anything.

      • If you think the stuff that came out with the emails is just some people being ‘nice’ to each other, you have a lot of catching up to do.

      • I’m prominent? My traffic figures certainly would not suggest that. Not a whine about my traffic, just curiosity about ‘prominence’.

        You, personally, not commenting in response to raving means little and is uninteresting. I generally don’t either. where it gets interesting is that in this very discussion (not just you) there has been much comment about how skeptics are not creationists, shouldn’t be treated as if they were, etc., etc.. Yet, presented with a creationist skeptic, not one of those who were wishing to not to have creationists included in their tent (at least in terms of scientists’ responses) objected, responded, etc. to the creationism. if you (collectively) don’t want scientists to think that creationists are under the some tent with you, then it should be possible to see you (some of you, some of the time) objecting to young earth creationist climate ‘science’.

        or you (any of you) could have presented a definition of ‘skeptic’ that excluded those who reject scientific conclusions on the basis of prior religious conviction. certainly that would be better than the flat denial of there even being such people. dunno, your call as to what you do.

      • OK. I think belief in creationism is a very large negative, as far as the credibility of another person’s views on any scientific matter. This includes AGW.

        They might still have good arguments for or against the Consensus view, and I wouldn’t dismiss them out of hand. But I would be very skeptical of them.

        In a recent comment on a recent thread here (which I can’t locate), I linked to commenter Brian’s remarks at Razib Khan’s blog. I thought he had a subtle and informed take on a closely related issue. He starts with, “‘What do you believe, and why?’ is one of the most crucial and revealing questions of all…”

      • Robert Grumbine (6:40pm) —

        > certainly that would be better than the flat denial of there even being such people.

        That just kind of hangs there as a general statement. Who are you referring to? Could you provide context and address this to the relevant person?

      • Raving