Education versus indoctrination: Part III

Michael Larkin has done an excellent job of synthesis and analysis of the some of the more cogent points made on the previous threads.   The text of Michael’s comments are provided below:

The dichotomy between “indoctrination” and “education” is easy to view as stark. But, having read the previous thread and thought a little, I’m gradually coming to a more nuanced view.

Consider things like:

1. What a person needs to understand
2. What a person wants to understand
3. What a person would like their understanding to show
4. What a person’s capacity to understand is
5. How much time a person has to devote to coming to understand
6. If one is in the business of educating, how to help people understand


There’s a distinction in education between “pedagogy”, which, strictly speaking, concerns the education of children; and “andragogy”, which concerns the education of adults. The key thing about andragogy is that adults learn best what they *want* to learn, because it is of direct relevance for them in their life and work.

Few adult non-scientists would worry much about climate science had it not been linked with the issue of global warming. They wouldn’t have wanted to learn about it; but as the issue became more and more prevalent and had more and more impact on people’s lives, a lot of adults wanted to learn more.

What is it adults want to learn? This varies. Some want to learn only that there are others who share their particular view, and especially, others who are deemed experts and/or authority figures. They themselves may not have the inclination, time, or capacity to understand, but psychologically, may identify with experts who act as proxy holders for the understanding they themselves don’t possess. I make no distinction between people on either side of the debate: I think this dynamic is ubiquitous in any contentious area that impinges on people’s everyday lives.

Utterances by preferred experts/authority figures can be put across at different levels of understanding. This doesn’t cast a priori aspersions on those experts/authority figures. They may be speaking as truthfully as they can to their understandings.

Those who start with a preferred internal narrative (and I think we all do to some extent or other), and who are principally concerned with confirmation of that narrative, may be content to learn by rote what are effectively simplified mantras, though there may be an appearance of logic and depth to those.

A lot of debate in the blogosphere is conducted at this level, and because at bottom people are proselytising or defending narratives that are essential to their image of self and society, such debate is passionate, rowdy, and full of invective. At this level, it isn’t a debate about science, but about the kind of reality one needs for there to be. Yes, I think it is a *need*. Take away the foundations of what human beings need for reality to be, and you take away their very essence; and that’s very frightening for anyone – for me, for you, simply anyone.

Now: we need to separate this kind of thing from scientific understanding – or, at least an idealised view of scientific understanding. In that idealised view, investigators are completely objective, completely able to divorce their investigations from the need to prop up internal narratives. It’s a tall order, and I’d be willing to bet that few if any scientific investigators ever completely and at all times manage to separate the two. I think they’re most successful when whatever they investigate doesn’t in any way link to their own raison d’etre.

I’ve talked about “scientific understanding” here, but the essence of that doesn’t just apply to scientists. People in all sorts of disciplines can strive for the same kind of objectivity. Moreover, some who aren’t highly trained in any discipline, but in fact are just ordinary folk going about their ordinary lives, strive for it too. Some of them may actually strive for it, and achieve success in doing so (limited by their capacity to understand), to a greater extent than experts do.

Okay: so I think we have a spectrum. At one end, there are those for whom internal narratives, not based on objective evidence (even, conceivably, where that evidence actually exists), usually take precedence over the objective search for truth. At the other end, there are those who most often place the latter above the former. We’re all on this spectrum somewhere, perhaps each of us in a number of different places depending on how a particular area of investigation relates to our need for reality to be a certain way.

So, at least as adults, we aren’t empty vessels into which information or understandings or skills or trainings can be poured. Something that comes at us may be consciously and carefully prepared indoctrination designed to make us believe certain things and act in certain ways, but it could nonetheless be welcome if it plays into existing internal narratives – in which case, we become complicit in the deceit.

If we detect the attempt to indoctrinate, and seek to resist it, we might well go out and search for something else more conducive to our own narratives, with which we can indoctrinate ourselves. Then again, there may not be a concerted effort to indoctrinate; it may be that the way something is taught precludes the development of critical thinking skills. And of course, no one is denying that there are such things as genuine and successful attempts to teach and learn that actually do develop critical thinking skills.

That which we are indoctrinated with may be intentionally designed as such, or it may not; it may have some substance in reality or not. No matter; the key thing is, our motive for seeking it out, or for actively promulgating it; that is what will determine our behaviour and method of approaching it.

Going back to the blogosphere, there are also those who are principally focussed on finding out the truth. Whatever side they are on, they can make intelligent and thought-provoking contributions, and can seek to learn or teach in a principled way. Some of them are actual climate scientists, others not, and so there are those within the full range of knowledge and understanding and capacities to improve who can interact in educative ways. It’s quite delightful when that happens, and it happens more often here than pretty much anywhere else I can think of. This isn’t to say such people are totally invulnerable to unsupported internal narratives. But they’re doing their best to strive for objectivity, and at the very least can maintain civilised behaviour.

But let’s not kid ourselves. I think a majority of people in the general population are invested in the support of internal narratives. The message that has been put out there, designedly or otherwise, has mostly managed to polarise through external or internal indoctrination. In a few cases, some have managed to rise above it and reject this indoctrination and become truth-seekers, regardless of what the truth may turn out to be.

Also, an increasing number of those who simply accepted the pro-AGW message, which has recently been exposed to unfavourable publicity, may now be relying on internal narratives that are telling them this has never been about the science; it is about politics, and in that, Joe Bloggs is as expert or more expert than many scientists. As always, there may be some truth behind this narrative, but it’s irrelevant how much for many people: the narrative IS reality.

In my view, the responsibility for this lies with those who chose a certain way of constructing and disseminating the message; and, those who knew better, but either didn’t grasp what was going on, or did, and chose to ignore it because the results were favourable to them.

The result is that the situation is now FUBAR. Frankly, on reflection, I don’t think it can be mended with specific reference to the disseminating of educational materials about the nuts and bolts of the actual science. Too many people have bought into too many narratives.

So is it all hopeless? Is there no way to educate everyone – experts and non-experts alike – so that we can move forward? If there is, I think it might lie in open investigation of the dynamics of the AGW saga, which is, in my own small way, something I have been attempting to do here. I have avoided demonising either side, not because I want to appear disinterested and use that as a rhetorical device, but because I actually believe no demonisation is necessary. People have just been behaving as people do, as they have always done. Presenting an analysis of the situation without favouring sides allows listeners to avoid plugging into narratives that tell them: “this is a disguised attempt to blame me for the mess.”

Once people understand the dynamics, and if they can resist the temptation to use that understanding merely to shape some other method of continuing to do the same thing (but this time hopefully more successfully), then we have a chance of deciding what needs to be done and how to achieve that

234 responses to “Education versus indoctrination: Part III

  1. I’m intrigued with the way this little series turned out. It was not intended to be a series, I was looking for a interesting discussion topic for the weekend and came up with education vs indoctrination, based upon Michael’s original comment and Randy Olson’s article.

    The comments for Part I included a lot of “venting,” but some interesting comments were made and ideas emerged. In Part II, I tried to focus the discussion a bit with some specific questions. The comments in Part II were much more focused, and there was a clear evolution in thinking on the subject (I could sense my own thinking on this topic changing). Then Michael Larkin made his lengthy comment, which immediately struck me as providing important insights, which I am featuring in Part III.

    I hope that we can proceed in this general manner on some of the other topics, where participants engage in distilling the “signal” by making a summary, synthesis, or other assessment.

  2. Small OT comment.

    I like the way we can vent on part I of a series, freeform our ideas on part II and be part of the “serious focus group” on part III, simultaneously. It’s working well as a format. :)

  3. Thought this was excellent. The philosophy of pedagogy & andragogy, I have to recognise myself in it.

    • Just a quibble – Michaels point about pedagogy being “strictly speaking” about teaching children is not correct. That is confusing the etymology of the word with its meaning.

      • Michael Larkin


        You may have a point. However, I do think it is useful to draw a distinction between the education of children and adults. Children are more open (and that can be both a blessing and a curse), and adults aren’t, in the sense that they usually view education as a means to an end – getting better job, helping develop a hobby, and so on.

  4. John F. Pittman

    I would like to address a comment “”So is it all hopeless? Is there no way to educate everyone – experts and non-experts alike – so that we can move forward? “”
    It is not hopeless. One does need to engage in best practices of crisis management at this point. Wiki has a good quick reading to understand the salient points and need for crisis management. First in best practices, there are several practices that effect us here in blogland that many have shown appreciation in their comments. An example is the civility and openness that Dr. Curry has fostered here. Though there have been “personal attacks”, she has managed to downplay the antagonism, and keep the thoughts and conversations going. Whether it was done conscious or not, it was effective. Another is the high signal to noise ratio. Adults hate wasting their time. Here with excellent comments from many different sides, interesting reading can be had. Adults appreciate not being too bored. If you have to bore them, there needs to be a payoff. One of the problems with telling someone to go to ScienceofDoom for example is actually twofold. They have asked you with no tangible result. Looking for one answer among many without explanation is typically frustrating. Think of the times when someone asked Dr, Curry a question, but she was unable to answer. It is unsurprising that she was chastised. Note, I am not laying fault at Dr. Curry’s feet. People take the things they are interested in or questions that they have asked, personally. When you have experienced as I have, the “go look it up”, the “you need to spend eight years at a university”, especially if you already have, what conclusion can you come to other than a negative one? If not at first, then sooner or later.

    Hopeless, no. Do things need to be done differently? Only if you want your side to be heard and appreciated.

    • Crisis management, this is something i want to take a look at.

      I am continuing to struggle with how to allocate my time here (which is already starting to swallow up my life). I have settled on trying to foster and promote group discussion and learning, rather than trying to personally answer technical questions in the comments (which can be very time consuming); I mainly point to future threads where I will dig into the topic of interest. This strategy is enabled by the large number of domain experts that have shown up here to participate on the technical threads.

      The bottom line is that i tend to respond to questions that i actually spot on my dashboard when i check in, and that I can deal with in about 2 minutes. If people want fewer threads, especially with technical content developed by me, then i can spend more time in the comments answering the technical questions. Advice/feedback on this topic is welcome.

      • Ah, you’ve hit the” blog wall”. :)
        You have achieved a lot in a short space of time, but the enormity of what you’ve started is now confronting you.
        You’ll need some help from friends to moderate, though it seems to be settling down a bit anyway. But it’s handy to have a couple of trustees to mind the store. Write the posts including a few extra you can schedule to go up when you are not around, comment when you feel like it. Leave the answering of technical queries to domain experts as much as possible.

      • Actually moderation hasn’t been much a problem. No one has been banned or sent for “time outs” and I’ve only deleted a few posts for non relevance. My idea was to have a few posts “in the bank” to draw on when i am busy; well i used those up in the first month, and now I am scrambling to keep up. I really want to do one meaty technical post per week (which take about 10 hours each to pull together), filling in with posts on nontechnical topic stuff that I can pull together in less than two hours. Suggestions for topics in the latter category would be most welcome, as would guest posts!

      • Passing thought that may be of some use to you. Consider the use of Learning Objects or Portfolio Objects that include Q&As.

        The blogs are very 2 dimensional and rarely incorporate the use of multimedia as a teaching mechanism. Targeting a variety of audiences based on demography can be achieved within the same Object and a meta Object template can be utilized to minimize development.

        Example: the Green House effect is typically discussed in conjunction with a flawed graphic. Where is the learning object that properly explains the mechanisms?

      • “Where is the learning object that properly explains the mechanisms?”

        Outside in the open air.

        “C’mon kids, let’s go out into the school yard and draw some clouds. See those high ones? When you stand with your back to the wind and the low ones cross underneath the high ones from the left”…. and so on.

      • The other benefit of web based Learning Objects is the ability to quantify response, back-test Object assumptions, and leverage the improvement of the centralized object and meta template over time.

        Currently, there is a very willing group of Skeptics who see the benefit of resolving this mess before it does more damage. Damage like AR5 Geo-Engineering [Climate Hacking] which [IMO] is pure insanity.

        Learning Object templates are typically Flash objects that leverage QTI XMLs. It possible [but unlikely] that a WordPress plug-in exists to offer the same Object framework.

      • Taking the idea one step further and isolating the logical developer for the design and implementation of a centralized communication network.

        My choice would be a video game manufacturer or Microsoft who has already invested Billions in R&D game engine development.

      • The last aspect and logically the toughest to define is the logic framework for the Objects.

        Scientists are very dis-functional at this. One can be a Scientist condemned to a specific nomenclature or an Educator.

        My pick for the logic framework would be Kepner Tregoe.

        If this is a Global effort using our tax dollars, why are the UN AR and Climate Science solutions so Juvenile?

      • Kepner-Tregoe processes are also used in school districts and classrooms. Through the efforts of the Tregoe Education Forum, a non-profit organization, educators and students in the U.S. and Canada are using these processes to resolve critical issues, enhance active learning, and use information effectively.

        “Subscribers, explained a TregoED spokesperson, can present students with real-world and hypothetical scenarios, provided by SCAN, that raise issues, highlight points of dispute, stimulate discussion, and generally set participants on a course of pragmatic analytical and critical thinking applicable in their education, most notably in assignments and exams that require extensive thought and analysis rather than simple answers or multiple choice bubbles, and in real-life situations.”

        About SCAN — “Science is Next”

      • steven mosher

        One thing you can try is to call for submissions.
        For this to work you would need trusted volunteers who can read through submissions and quickly sort them into worth another look or worthless.
        The ones are that worth another look ( by you) are put into your que in draft status and you make a final call.

        Ps. I’m not volunteering for this, but here is how it would work.
        You select 3-4 people who you trust. people submit work to you
        and you forward it to the reviewers. The reviewers do not need to
        review in depth ( unless you want them too) they merely give you
        a thumbs up or thumbs down with a minimum of comments. Its a very lite editorial function. If you like you give one of your editors access to your blog and they prep the submission for display, put it in new posts as a draft and you hit the publish button when you approve.

        Its a very soft peer review, but you have to pick people you trust.

      • Latimer Alder


      • You were warned! The better the blog, the more life it swallows.

    • “Not hopeless” and FUBAR don’t mix. FUBAR literally means “f’d up beyond all recovery”.

  5. It seems that focusing so much on the educational aspect of this begs the question of content.
    What is the content to be taught?
    That is more important than any specific style.
    History offers some guides on this.

  6. I find how passinate you are with your presentation is how impressed people are to listen to what is being shown. Just teaching the same boring stuff daily with no emotion turns people off and puts the blinders on.

    In the early stages of researching, I was showing a public school principle the theories and ideas of where I was going and she was more impressed with the passion of the learning of this area of science than with the presentation.

  7. Long post- apologies.

    There is a tacit assumption here that there is a ‘single’ narrative to ‘educate’ people too and I think this is where the problem lies; the uncertainties and assumptions are so large that from a scientific viewpoint there ISN’T one.

    The general public (contrary to the opinions of many on this blog) are not stupid and they can tell when something is (or is presented AS) half-baked.

    So, to put my ‘warmist’ hat on for a moment- the focus of the ‘narrative’ has been all wrong. The tactic so far seemed to be ‘bombard’ people with as much information as often as you can highlighting every single downside/Side-effect of cAGW that will occur. Leave them in no doubt what will happen if they ignore it and then take it from there.

    This has back-fired spectacularly- with even the coining of the running joke that anything can be used to prove cAGW- even postage stamp prices in the US.

    There needs to be REAL focus. Concentrate on the crucial aspects- clouds, climate sensitivity and natural versus man-made forcing’s (including internal and external forcings).

    It is patently obvious to anyone with a modicum of scientific training that arguing over sea-level rises, ice melting, potential droughts etc etc is pointless. They are irrelevant to the cAGW theory (they are symptoms, not ‘proof’ of a cause). So- what IS needed is a direct and open focus on the ‘causal’ aspects of the theory. THIS is where the education can come in.

    However, rather than try to educate a certain viewpoint, ‘we’ should be educating how to think scientifically- or at least openly and publicly showing HOW ‘we’ do this for ourselves.

    Picking one core aspect and debating this in the climate journals/media reports etc would do wonders- think of it as a public case study. People will not be able to understand the more complex aspects of the theories (hell I still struggle on some, being a lowly molecular biologist) but once the thought processes- the rational examination of data, the logic behind the conclusions and the OPEN debate is demonstrated, then the public will take a FAR greater interest in the whole matter.

    Preach to people and they’ll switch off- actively involve them (if even on the periphery as an observer) and they’ll become far more interested.

    To put my sceptic hat back on (it has bells and shiny bits), this approach would not only benefit the ‘warmist’ camp- but the sceptic too, as it re-focuses the whole matter on the science, rather than any perceived ‘stance’. That’s the way forward- not some attempt to ‘educate’ those who don’t toe the line. Though both sides would need to accept that this process could erode their position considerably- but hey, that’s science for you.

    Well, my two pence anyway.

    • Richard S Courtney


      The existing mess would probably not have arisen if your suggestion had been adopted from the start.


    • Good and relevant post, sir


    • Two points: 1) there are whole developed sciences and specialties dealing with aspects of both the cause and effect sides of the AGW hypothesis, and to date they have had/been allowed little entrée into the debate. This is a virtual guarantee of deeply embedded error.
      2) The political and economic aspects can’t be told to just “stand on the sidelines” until the debate is resolved, or brought to some higher level of confidence in its conclusions. Already massive government and inter-government forces are playing Hob with some of the economic fundamentals of the world; here, agendas are stark and often overt, though not always. Whether Joe & Friends should be quick-marched into (probably) life-long relative penury to advance “mitigation schemes” is going to have to be dealt with up front. My clear sense is that EUsians had been more or less resigned to the prospect, but are becoming reality-shocked, and that Americans (and to nearly the same extent Canadians) are far from acquiescent (see the bottom-of-the-pack priority ratings given the subject in poll after poll).

      So as JC suggests, the current state of entanglement is very severe, and not to be simplistically resolved by just selecting some noble objective eddicaters and letting them have at the public.

      • Well, frankly it is not the role of science to deside policy, only inform it. It should matter not a jott to a scientist what the politicians or governments think.

        Pull science AWAY from the political and ‘point scoring’ arena and let it return to just being science- it is literally THE only way out of this mess.

    • @Labmunkey

      Excellent summary. Let me add my penny’s worth as a “luke warmer”.

      “Science” first: the theory itself, the fact that humans emit GHGs and then all the many “uncertainties” regarding impact of natural variability/forcing, CO2 climate sensitivity (with and without feedbacks from water vapor, clouds, albedo, etc.), i.e. “what do we know”, “what do we know we do not know” and “what could there be that we do not know” (“unknown unknowns”). This part must be broader than simply the “mainstream” view (as represented by IPCC). Reasonable, scientifically-based, other opinions from skeptics of the “mainstream view” should also be included.

      Estimated “impact” of projected warming should be second, including the many “uncertainties” with regard to “extreme weather events”, “sea level rise”, “glacier retreat” , etc. plus secondary effects: “droughts or increased rainfall”, “crop loss or gain”, “desertification vs. greening”, “geographical shifts in vector-borne diseases”, etc. – with an objective assessment of “winners and losers”, rather than just a listing of “losers”.

      The third step (if 1 and 2 point in this direction): definition of specific actionable proposals (rather than simply emission targets, caps or taxes) to achieve specific goals (including cost/benefit analysis for each), with step 4 being objective and non-emotional communication to gain public support for these specific proposals by those who will ultimately pay for the implementation of these proposals, i.e. the general public in the industrially developed and developing nations of the world; (most important in this communication: no fear mongering or sense of hysteria).

      We are still in step 1 today, with some of step 2 (which is contingent on the outcome of step 1) also started. In my opinion, these steps need considerable additional work before we should progress to steps 3 and 4.

      Let’s not allow a politically motivated “sense of urgency” to move us into doing something that may have a greater negative impact than a positive benefit, before we have all the facts we need to make a rational decision.


      • The problem is that your pious wish not to let us be stampeded into “doing something” is seriously too little too late. A great deal of “something” is already being done; every wind and solar farm urinating money into the teeth of the wind is evidence of that. Proposals for global override taxes on every erg of energy produced and used are being offered, and the US EPA has ruled that CO2 is a frikking POLLUTANT that can be and must be controlled with taxes, fines, prohibitions, and mountainous paperwork justification requirements. Etc., etc.

        That battle is already joined. Conscientious objectorhood is not an option.

      • @Brian H

        I agree with you that “the battle is already joined” (why would we be discussing this all here otherwise?).

        But look around you. It’s sputtering.

        The hysterical cries of imminent “tipping points” or “we have X months to save our planet!” are dying down or falling on deaf ears everywhere, as a growing number of scientists plus the general public are realizing that the “science” behind the hysteria is far from “settled”. The “uncertainties” are so great that they represent the difference between AGW being a major cause for concern and no problem at all.

        Copenhagen was a disaster to a large part for that reason – no one really expects Cancún to be any better, even if politicians continue to give the story lukewarm lip service. China and India will be very polite, but will not slow down their economic growth to placate the “rich white man’s” wishes (those days are over).

        The UK (to which you refer) and some other EU nations are a particular case. In their enthusiasm to “do the politically correct thing”, the political elite of many of these nations ended up doing a lot of very expensive and totally stupid things, as you note, at the same time avoiding to do the things they should have, in order to ensure a continued energy infrastructure for their citizens. Will the new UK government (as well the governments of other EU countries) be astute enough to react to a growing public opposition and change this course? I live in Switzerland, where the problem has not yet reached the same level of insanity as in many EU nations, so cannot do much directly.

        But, again, I am convinced that the best weapon for ensuring that the truth will emerge and prevail is total transparency and the free exchange of information (through venues like this one).

        If the “science” behind the AGW hysteria is real, then it might be necessary to consider specific actionable “mitigation” actions backed by cost/benefit analyses (by this I do not mean a carbon tax or a cap and trade scheme, which will not change our climate one iota).

        If it turns out that the “science” tells us there is no real danger to be expected from AGW, then we can call the whole thing off and concentrate on other, more urgent, problems.

        (I personally think that that is where we are headed, Brian – but maybe I am an optimist.)


  8. Not having studied psychology I do not know what an “internal narrative” is, nor is this central concept explained. As a philosopher, engineer and logician I work on the assumption that people are rational. The internal narrative narrative seems to suggest otherwise, so I have no use for it. To me the central question is how do we make good technical decisions in a democracy? I see the present situation as healthy, not ruined. It is just a big debate. Live with it.

    • I agree that a big debate is healthy. But what of people in high places, e.g. Gore, who are selling “the debate is over?” I would be interested in a discussion on the assumption that people are rational, vs the more complex internal narratives that Michael Larkin is discussing. If people are rational, how do we explain things like the Easter Islanders cutting down all their trees? When competing values come under conflict, things get very complicated and resolutions are often not rational.

      • But what of people in high places, e.g. Gore, who are selling “the debate is over?”

        What he said was “The debate is over. There’s no longer any debate in the scientific community about this.” And there’s not; there’s uncertainty about magnitude, timing, and consequences, but the science – as was seen in the “greenhouse” threads – is sound.

        Gore was not suggesting – and would not, I daresay – that there is not a debate in society, or that there should not be one about policy.

      • the science is sound? so we’ve solved the feedback and cloud issues then??

      • Yes, I think so.

        We haven’t solved gravity either, but we’re not going to wait around for another 100 yrs to see of we can develop perfect knowledge.

        I think this points to a misunderstadning of how scienctific knowledge has, and does, develop.

        We have perfect knowledge about pretty much nothing. We come up with approximations and continually refine them, all the while acting on our current best approximation.

      • Seriously?

        I’m fully aware that there is a difference between ‘proof’ and ‘confident’ in science, and i know that you can be extremely confident in a theory even without what we would refer to as ‘hard’ evidence, however by my understanding we still cannot even explain all past events, let alone explain current ones and that we can’t even identify all the natural cycles in climate let alone the unnatural- how can this be the case if we’ve ‘solved’ the issue?

        IN that case can you provide answers for the following points (genuinley interested)?

        -the approximate climate sensitivity wrt co2 using empirical measurements that specifically include clouds and NOT relying on GCM’s?
        -all the factors that affect clouds and specifically, how they respond to rising co2 levels
        – details of all the natural cycles/forcings that affect the planet and how they respond to raised co2 (rough outlines will do)

      • Yes, srsly.

        As for your questions – again we don’t know some stuff, isn’t that what I was just saying and you were agreeing is a no-brainer?

        Though the first question has been answered for quite some time. Approx climate sensitiviry has been established without models and from observation. Try Arrhenius in 1896. I think he did it without his Mac (was at the repair shop).

      • michael- again i’m not being dfficult for the sake of it here.

        I was under the direct impression that most work showing high climate sensitivity was based on models that either didn’t include clouds, or modelled them poorly.

        This makes the work, strictly speaking and from an auditors viewpoint, useless.

        To try to clarify (and see if you can help me get past this ‘logic gate’) this is how my minds working-

        -Climate sensitivty is irrevocably linked to clouds.
        -We know very little about how clouds respond to co2 9or clouds full stop).
        -we can therefore not model them or make any conclusions on their relationship with co2.
        -therefore making any conclusions on climate sensitivity is not possible.

        does that make sense- again i’m approaching this from a very strict regulatory/cGMP viewpoint.

      • I was under the direct impression that most work showing high climate sensitivity was based on models that either didn’t include clouds, or modelled them poorly.

        Nope, that’s a mistaken impression. It’s not just models. Satellite data for the radiation budget, response to major volcanic eruptions during the twentieth century, palaeoclimate reconstructions from the past millennium, as well as direct estimates between the Maunder Minimum period of low solar forcing and the present, all converge on the of 2 to 4.5°C range.

      • The radiation budget doesn’t really help though, as it assumes a plane, the volcanoes are short-term events and not demonstrative of longer-term trends (short term correcting mechanisms are generally FAR more severe than longer term controlling mechanisms- ask any engineer) and the paleoclimate reconstructions are FULL of data issues.

        Again, i’m REALLY not being difficult here for the sake of it and i’ll be the first to admit i’m wrong.

        Perhaps we should take this discussion to a more relevant thread and we can pick one instance and you can show me where i’m going wrong (should you have the time/be bothered).

      • Latimer Alder


        In what way do you think ‘we haven’t solved gravity’, that is comparable to the issues of clouds and sensitivity? Please explain your assertion.

        We may not be able to explain the fundamental cause of gravity, but we understand its effects with sufficient accuracy that we can plot the past and future locations of all the planets in the solar system over eons of time,..we can build and navigate probes around that solar system and we can use our knowledge to help us get a decent estimate of the size and future fate of the entire universe. 400 years ago Isaac Newton wrote down a simple equation that allowed us to do all those things.

        By comparison it seems that we don’t even know the sign of the supposed feedbacks..whether they increase or decrease the initial effect. It is arguable whether they exist at all, and if they do we certainly do not have enough knowledge to make predictions a coupe of years in advance, let alone the millions of years that the Laws of Gravity can do.

        I look forward to your explanation of why you think the two are remotely comparable.

      • > 400 years ago Isaac Newton wrote down a simple equation that allowed us to do all those things.

        Except that building and navigating probes with any accuracy requires relativistic mechanics (hell, GPS uses two different kinds). Newton provided an approximation, one which has been improved upon since then. Would you say that Newton’s equations have no value because they cannot predict perturbations in the orbit of Mercury? We still haven’t detected gravity waves – does that mean that relativity is useless? Since some galactic-scale mechanics are still uncertain with relativity – and suggestions such as dark matter fill the gap in the knowledge for the moment reasonably well – does your GPS stop working?

        This is the point – there are degrees of wrongness. You inflate all flaws in our understanding of the climate until the basic theory behind AGW becomes useless – but this is not a logical necessity. Saying the sun goes round the earth is wrong. Saying the earth goes round the sun is wrong, but is at least a step in the direction of improved knowledge and understanding.

      • ‘Would you say that Newton’s equations have no value because they cannot predict perturbations in the orbit of Mercury?

        I certainly make no such remarks and you are wilfully misrepresenting my views by suggesting that I did.

        Newton’s Laws of Gravity are a very very useful tool for us in doing and understanding an enormous variety of different things. Though Einstein showed us that they are only a subset of his wider relativistic universe, we also know exactly which problems we need to worry about that in, and for which Newton gives us a good enough approximation for our purposes. And we know this because we have demonstrated countless times in endless different ways that predictions made by his theory are congruent with what we observe/measure/experiment.

        By comparison, I do not see a body of experimental confirmation of current climate theory. In fact I don;t see any confirmation of current climate theory at all. Nor do I see any climatologists who seem remotely concerned that it doesn’t exist. And brush aside such objections with handwaving arguments that Newton wasn’t 100% right either.

        Well maybe no Lord Copper but he does work for a very high90s percentage of all practical problems on earth. Climate theory has not been demonstrated to have left the start line at all.

        Your attempt to equate the two levels of uncertainty is simply ludicrous.

      • It’s a tough call to say how much confirmation climate theory has gotten. GHGs have gone up and the earth has warmed, but how tight that correlation is and how much we can extrapolate decades into the future seem less clear.

        However, the current decade-long lull in global temperatures is not a confirmation of AGW theory and the models, though not a refutation either.

        There was one interesting moment in the talk [in Cancun], however. [Secretary of Energy Steven] Chu started out by noting that 2010 was one of the warmest years on record. However, he also reluctantly acknowledged that global average temperatures have been plateaued for the last 10 years. Chu quickly added that we shouldn’t focus on just the past 10 years, but should look at 50 to 100 year temperature trend. But that raises the question: If the temperature plateau continued for another 10 years, would that be enough to cast doubt on the climate computer model predictions?

        Cancun Climate Change Shakedown

      • The recent hydrologists’ study of the hind-casting skill of the top 23 GCMs found they were all over the map on both point projections and large areal ones. They showed virtually no skill better than the naive “tomorrow will be like today” level, usually less.

        Abstract We compare the output of various climate model to temperature and precipitation observations at 55 points around the globe. We also spatially aggregate model output and observations over the contiguous USA using data from 70 stations, and we perform comparison at several temporal scales, including a climactic (30-year) scale. Besides confirming the findings of a previous assessment study that model projections at point scale are poor, results show that the spatially integrated projections are also poor.

        At what point do climatologists acknowledge that “falsification” has occurred? There seems to be no acknowledgement that such a point even exists, or could exist.

      • > I certainly make no such remarks and you are wilfully misrepresenting my views by suggesting that I did.

        Your faux-affrontery amuses me.

        > I do not see a body of experimental confirmation of current climate theory. In fact I don;t see any confirmation of current climate theory at all.

        You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink – especially if he covers his eyes with his hooves and insists there is no experimental confirmation of the existence of water.

        Anyway, pursuing this (fruitlessly, no doubt) you say:

        > Newton gives us a good enough approximation for our purposes. And we know this because we have demonstrated countless times in endless different ways that predictions made by his theory are congruent with what we observe/measure/experiment.

        So, a thought experiment. We know that the radiative properties of CO2 lead to warming, and we can reproduce this experimentally. If you doubt this, there is no point in further discussion, but assuming you’ve actually bothered to get this far in reading the posts *on this very blog*… by the same token we can predict the behaviour of falling bodies in Earth’s atmosphere in small-scale lab experiments also.

        You might object that small scale experiments with CO2 do not properly scale up when applied to the atmosphere, because of other (difficult to predict) confounding factors.

        Well, I tell you what – drop a man out of a plane without a parachute at 20,000 feet, and – using only Newtonian mechanics – draw an X on the ground where we might expect to find him. The same logic applies – there are confounding factors when dealing with large and complex systems, where very simple physical properties can be *largely* correct, without being completely accurate.

        I would expect your guess to be not a million miles away, and the man virtually certain not to have remained suspended in the air indefinitely for some completely unknown reason, but I would expect that your estimate would be by no means entirely correct. Independent observers might even point at your estimate and claim that because it is wrong, your understanding of gravity is fatally flawed and you cannot draw any conclusions whatsoever.

        However, if you studied a series of drops, you could probably figure out a sort of “average” landing point without even bothering to account for factors like wind shear, clothing, body shape when falling etc. Eventually this may allow you to make better predictions based on the factors you do account for. You might even be able to refine this statistical approach to account for different drop heights, weather conditions etc.

        The principle is the same – scaling up small observable properties that are easily replicated and applying them to a large and complex system through a process of observation and statistical analysis to incorporate increasing knowledge of that complexity to refine future estimates.

      • I like this gedankenexperiment!

      • Dave H

        We know that the radiative properties of CO2 lead to warming, and we can reproduce this experimentally.

        True. This much is known. From this we can also make an approximate estimate of the 2xCO2 temperature impact excluding any feedbacks. I have seen several estimates, ranging from 0.65C (Lindzen) to 1.4C (Sharnock + Shine). IPCC prefers a figure of around 1C (Myhre et al.). All estimates agree that the relationship is roughly logarithmic, so that a further doubling of CO2 would have approximately the same temperature impact.

        What is not known is the 2xCO2 climate sensitivity including all “amplifying or mitigating effects” from feedbacks. The uncertainties here are great. IPCC prefers generally positive feedbacks, with a resulting 2xCO2 CS of 2C to 4.5C (average of 3.2C).

        But, just to take one example of a critical “uncertainty”: IPCC AR4 WG1 models conclude that the net impact of clouds is strongly positive, in fact strong enough to increase the 2xCO2 CS by 1.3C (from 1.9C to 3.2C) on average. IPCC also concedes “cloud feedbacks remain the largest source of uncertainty”.

        If the model simulations are wrong here (and there is some evidence from satellite observations as well as model runs using superparameterization for clouds that this may be the case), then we might actually have a 2xCO2 CS, which is 1C or less.

        There are also uncertainties regarding the very basic question whether or not clouds act as a natural “forcing” themselves (rather than just a “feedback” to greenhouse forcing). Then there are uncertainties regarding the magnitude of the impact of “water vapor feedback”. The most critical “uncertainty” is the role and impact of natural climate forcing (or variability). IPCC has assumed that this is essentially negligible, but the lack of warming over the past decade, despite record increase in CO2, has been attributed to natural factors, so they are obviously not negligible.

        The uncertainties surrounding the impact of clouds alone would already have a major impact on the validity of the premise that AGW, caused principally by human CO2 emissions, has been the primary cause of past warming or that it represents a serious potential threat to humanity (which would point to the need for actions to adapt or mitigate against this threat).

        So yes:

        We know that the radiative properties of CO2 lead to warming, and we can reproduce this experimentally, but we do not know whether this will lead to potentially serious warming of our planet or simply add another few tenths of a degree of global warming over the next 100+ years, as we gradually switch from a fossil-fuel based energy infrastructure to something new.

        And that is the basis for our debate here: should our scientists, educators and political leaders “indoctrinate” pupils, students and the general public with the mainstream IPCC “party line” that AGW represents a real and present threat requiring immediate action, or should we “educate” them by presenting all views on this topic, along with references to the backup studies, and allow them to make up their own minds based on the data presented?

        I would personally prefer the second option.


      • Nullius in Verba

        “400 years ago Isaac Newton wrote down a simple equation that allowed us to do all those things.”

        The rightness of Newtonian gravity is an interesting question. (I hope you’ll pardon the diversion – it’s quite interesting from the point of view of the philosophy of science.)

        One of the things that bothered Newton was that his gravitational law involved instantaneous action at a distance. Newton found this philosophically repugnant, but could see no way round it. So right from the start, scientists were aware that there was something a bit questionable about it.

        In 1805 Laplace performed an explicit calculation in which he tried to combine gravity with a finite propagation speed. But it runs into a problem. If we take the Earth-sun system as an example, we find that the Earth is attracted towards where the sun was several minutes ago (which to be fair is not far from where it is now), and the sun is attracted to where the Earth was several minutes ago, which is a considerably larger difference. If gravity moved at the speed of light, say, it would be about 8 minutes ago.

        The forces don’t balance – they are not equal and opposite, which violates Newton’s third law. Worse, the imbalanced forces apply a couple, which acts to slow the Earth’s orbital motion.

        Laplace did it properly, but we can do a back-of-envelope calculation by asserting that the sun’s gravity can completely reverse the Earth’s orbital velocity in 6 months, and the sideways component of the delayed-action force is a fraction proportional to the sine of the angle, which is 8 minutes over 12 months which is roughly one part in 65,000. So the couple accumulates enough angular momentum change to completely de-orbit the Earth in on-the-order-of 30,000 years.

        Laplace in fact worked out that for the solar system to be as stable as observed, gravity had to propagate at at least seven million times the speed of light.

        But when you learn about Newton’s gravitational law at university, they don’t tell you about this bit. You get to calculate the orbits of the planets by the prescribed method, and you automatically use the implicit instantaneous action at a distance without worrying, probably without even noticing, and if you did ever think about it, you probably assumed that it’s an approximation of a negligible number for the sake of easy calculation, like in most physics calculations. Except that in this case the number isn’t negligible.

        We do happen to have an answer for that question, but there are others for which we do not, and you can get into some really deep philosophy from some apparently quite simple questions. Teachers gloss over those complexities for perfectly understandable practical reasons, but I think they do students a disservice by glossing over them too completely, because doing so gives the student an illusion of complete understanding. It’s not as easy and obvious as you think it is, and there is a minefield of subtleties that can blow up under the unprepared scientist who has been led to believe by his teachers that he is on safe and explored terrain.

        Nowadays, the big question in gravity is the galactic rotation curve – the stars rotate around galaxies at the wrong speeds according to the usual theory of gravity. The two main proposals are to invent work out the discrepancy and invent ‘dark matter’ to act as a source for the extra force, and the modified Newtonian dynamics (MOND) people who are trying to find a way to adjust the law slightly to get it to fit. (And of course the other big question is quantum gravity, but that’s probably too hard to really address at the moment.)

        No, even today, gravity is still a subject of active research, with much still to explore. How much more so, then, with the much younger science of climatology?

      • Michael Larkin


        Oh, how I do admire your eloquent posts! :-)

      • LA,

        DaveH has it pretty right.

        That the specific problems don’t invalidate the entire enterprise is the most point to remember….unless you propose to throw the whole of Newtonian physics and quantam physics.

      • AnyColourYouLike

        What exactly is the “entire enterprise”? To fiddle and fit the numbers so that significant AGW is “proven” ie, confirm the hypothesis which is politically expeedient, or to take an open-minded attitude and pour comparable amounts of money into exploring natural climate variablity and see how the underlying physics fits there?

      • No.

        It’s that we have an excellant undertanding of the green house effect, we know past climate states well and understand the causal factors, most of the feedbacks are identified and most quantified to a ball park figure, and there is strong agreement on the likely range of climate sensitivity, with very strong agreement that the true lower bound is around 2C, though more worringly, much more uncertainty on the upper bound.

        It’s folly to suggest that because we don’t know everything, we actually know nothing.

      • Richard S Courtney


        You say;
        “Any well accepted proposition has a number (usually small) of people who disgree, ala Spencer, hence my comment was about “strong agreement”, not ’100% agreement’.”

        Sorry, but the data – not votes – decides in any real science.

        So, your “comment” is an assertion that AGW is either politics, pseudoscience or both. And it seems that a growing proportion of the public agrees with your comment.

        Can you not see why the subject of this debate is important and that a “comment” such as yours is counter-productive?


      • Oh, and where this idea comes from that no one is looking at natural climate variability is a mystery.

        Simply not true.

      • ‘We understand all the other factors involved in the climate and we can only explain the recent warming by adding CO2 to our models. Therefore AGW theory is right’

        Any climatologist over the last 20 years. That is the argument. There is no other.

      • AnyColourYouLike


        ” most of the feedbacks are identified and most quantified to a ball park figure” simply isn’t true.

      • . . . there is strong agreement on the likely range of climate sensitivity . . .

        ‘strong’ agreement? I don’t think so. Maybe for the AGW proponents.

        Dr. Spencer clearly isn’t part of that, and neither is Dr. Lindzen. In addition, Dr. Spencer’s recent paper (peer reviewed) calls that high climate sensitivity into question.

        I suspect that a fair number of climate scientists (or those involved in climate research) who post here would not agree on ‘the likely range’ of climate sensitivity (2-4.5 degrees C), though no doubt there are a lot here who would agree. Saying there is strong agreement, however, to me is the ‘appeal to authority’ argument.

      • Martin C,

        Any well accepted proposition has a number (usually small) of people who disgree, ala Spencer, hence my comment was about “strong agreement”, not ‘100% agreement’.

      • As a science policy matter it is not that no one is looking at natural variability, but rather that these programs are far too small. The debate will only be settled when we understand natural variability, so the sooner the better. We need a big push here.

        We do not need a hundred more what-if studies on AGW, which is where the bulk of our money seems to be going. Seems like we are getting a news story a day on pointless research that simply assumes AGW. This is a colossal waste of money that is doing nothing to resolve the scientific uncertainties surrounding natural variability in climate change.

        Science often gets an idea and runs away with it, but it is time to stop running after AGW.

      • Latimer Alder

        Specific problems?????

        Pretty big and all-encompassing specific problems I think. Little evidence, proof by assertion, predictive models that have no track record….

        If I were undertaking a transatlantic voyage I’d probably be happy to accept that my navigation system might be imperfect and that I could be a few inches out when I got to Boston. I can do those final adjustments to get me on my mooring by eye and seamanship.

        But it would not be the same matter when my vessel has a compass that doesn’t point anywhere consistently, a sextant that is broken, a chart that is seriously incomplete, and a mendacious navigating officer whose most accurate of plotting a course west is to follow the setting sun.

        These were about the conditions that Columbus set out with on his epic voyage to the Indies. A lot of faith in an idea but little actual evidence. And as we know, he never got there. His experiment did not match his theory. He arrived somewhere else.

        With Newton , I know I’ll get to Boston…with just faith and untested models I might just as well end up in Australia.

      • The science is sound. It seems like you’re responding as if I had written “the science is settled,” which I did not. I don’t even know what that phrase means, and I never use it.

        Clouds are a significant area of uncertainty – though understanding is increasing – and it should be treated as such. “Uncertainty” is not the same as “we know nothing,” however. Too often it seems like that people conflate the two.

      • this is maybe a semantics issue we’re getting dragged into here.

        To be clear, i know there are uncertanties and i know that these do not immediatley detract from the theory. I also know that the state of knowledge is rapidly accellerating.

        However, this is not the same as saying we have reached a level of knowledge where our understanding of these systems are sufficient to make the conclusions we currently do.

        Remember- i’m from a cGMP research background, so my thinking is coloured by a VERY strict sence of what is ‘provable’ and what is not. A specific example- should the change you are trying to measure (such as temp) fall within the error limits of your equipment- then you can make ZERO conclusions on that data. regardless of the ‘correctness’ of these conclusions.

        I am not being belligerant for the sake of it- i promise.

      • Cyclic guanosine monophosphate?

        Seriously, as an engineer I understand the desire to use engineering – or manufacturing – practices to assess scientific certainty. The problem is that there is no quantity that can be ‘measured’ or any definitive experiment that can be done without another Earth to act as control. So you are just never going to have anything like a six-sigma process capability.

        The question of how to proceed in an environment of such uncertainty cannot be answered scientifically. That is a matter for the political realm. But the uncertainty should be framed accurately and taken into consideration reasonably rather than merely throwing up one’s hands.

        The climate is not a manufacturing line that can be re-run if the output falls below spec. We have one shot at this.

      • this i understand, accutley believe me.

        However, you can then not pass it off as science if you are unwilling to hold your theory, or data to the same levels of rigour or scrutiny.

        If we cannot say something with any degree of certainty using science (which i don’t think we can yet), then you cannot use the science to justify preventative actions.

        if you’re using the precautionary principle, fine i can accept that- but you cannot pass it off as science.

      • I think you were correct to say that this is OT for this thread. I’ve responded <a href=""over on the Italian Flag thread.

      • thanks PDA- i’ll have a look now.

      • isn’t Lauer et al 2010 based on simulation rather than observation, which is what LabMunkey is looking for?


      • If the science is sound, what happened to the unique AGW signature? Has it been found?


      • I also think that people are rational, but this is not sufficient to explain their behavior from outside. I think people indeed maximise their profit within their constraints, but if you do not know what their personal profit is (it is not only money, even if in modern society it is a big part of it and is a good starting point), and what their constraints are, the fact that their are rational will not explain much, nor allow to make any prediction.

        Your eastern island is a good illustration: If you think about it globally, it makes no sense for a rational society to engage in a behavior that amount to mass suicide. If you think in term of rational individual, that is interested in his well being, his relative well being, and his position in society, but can not influence the behavior of other much…It makes a lot of rational sense to cut as many tree as possible to help big statues (social prommotion!), and above all, to get some fire wood before his neighbor the closer ones, the ones that are easily accessible. Game theory and evolution theory (heavily linked, the mathematics involved are the same) provide a lot of tool to think about this, the non-rational (and often non-optimal) pattern comes out individual agent maximising their own goals within the constraint of unknow/uncontrolable behavior by others. This is why approaches to a global problem starting with a “look, now if everyone just collaborate on this and accept small sacrifices, we could achieve a better global situation” is almost garanteed to fail ;-)

      • Like I said, I do not know what an “internal narrative ” is so I can’t discuss it. (I have a diagnostic system of 126 kinds of confusion in information and the Vague Concept tops the list. The concept of an internal narrative is meaningless to me. I have never heard the term before. Maybe I don’t read the right magazines.)

        How is an internal narrative different from what we believe to be true, which is what it sounds like? Is it bigger or smaller, more encompassing or less? What language is it in? Who is the narrator? Is it something we hear in our heads, like voices? Is it on all the time? I don’t seem to have one.

        I am not familiar with the Eastern Islander’s case. How does that go?Maybe they needed the wood.

        I do not see how competing values and complications make resolutions irrational. They just make them hard. We are often wrong but there is nothing irrational about being wrong.

        The funniest part is that when someone claims that we are all irrational it follows that we have no reason to believe them. For two reasons: they are irrational and so are we.

      • One of the funniest things about this debate is that the central issue is whether there is a debate, the debate notwithstanding. Those who claim there is no debate have a difficult time debating of course, so many don’t, but some do, arguing that it is all an ignorant, stupid, or evil mistake. The dance is sublime.

        Perhaps it is not an accident that I began studying the logic of complex issues when the environmental movement hit me between the eyes (in 1968).

    • Well, as an engineer, a blogger, and one who has lived among the humans for nearly 45 years, I have worked on the assumption that people are sometimes rational and sometimes not. This seems uncontroversial.

      Making “good technical decisions in a democracy” would suggest understanding what people’s needs and motivations are, and effective leadership would entail proposing solutions that achieved worthwhile ends without alienating a significant part of the citizenry.

      Debates can be healthy or unhealthy. I would posit that there is an unhealthy debate (i.e. people shouting past each other) on abortion in the United States. Gay marriage is a similar such issue, and climate policy seems headed down the same road. If a more productive debate can be fostered, it should be fostered.

      We have to “live with” many things in this world. How we communicate with each other, on the other hand, is something we can choose.

      • But in this case proposing solutions is getting ahead of the issue, which is whether or not there even is an AGW problem. The government had taken the policy position that this issue is settled and the people are reacting against this premature finding, with increasing skepticism.

        Improving the debate means, first and foremost, acknowledging the debate. Democracy demands it. You will look in vain for evidence of skepticism on US government websites. The government has to rethink its policies regarding climate change and AGW.

        In short we are precisely at that stage where how technical issues are resolved in democracies is a central issue. Education and communication are a big part of this issue, but they are not simple. We are in the midst of a technological revolution, the social web, which in many ways is driving the climate policy situation. Policies that assume people are irrational will not work.

    • Doing a bit of catch up on this discussion rather late in the game, but it’s a welcome relief from what I should be reading. “Internal narrative” is not really (or only partly) a psychological concept. There’s a rather interdisciplinary field of narrative studies which studies how we make sense of the world through narrative. The argument goes that thinking in terms of stories and situating ourselves within them is simply natural for human beings. We drop events and people into this narrative to decide how they relate to each other and our lives. I had a teacher who was a big player in this field and find some of the work very intuitively persuasive. Psychology might approach the same sort of issues as matters of bias (like confirmation bias).
      Rational choice theory ( has been treated as bedrock in a number of disciplines, I think partly because there is some undeniable truth to the claim that we are rational actors maximizing outcomes, but also in large part because it makes modeling behavior so much easier (especially in economics). Recent years have seen quite a number of contrary studies showing just how irrational people can be – think of gambling/stock trading, voting against your interests, etc. In fact, some human forms of irrationality are rather consistent (perhaps indicating some other, underlying rationality). Now, defining reason is also extraordinarily difficult, at least in the general human sense. When it comes to philosophy and logic things get more straight forward (though by no means self-evident) but I don’t really see teaching people better logic as the answer, though it would probably help.
      I’m still digesting the general problem of this series. On a related note, the Public Understanding of Science discipline/movement has shifted from the linear model of knowledge transfer (where experts tell the public what’s true), to a more interactive model (where lay understanding is taken seriously and there is some sort of mutual interaction), but now existing in a bit of an unsure normative state (having a town hall where everyone has equal say is not always a good idea to decide what’s right). The problem of how to educate without simply treating the learner as a receptacle for your truth is a hard one to get around, as is how to involve a multitude of people with very different understandings to have a productive discussion.
      I think teaching critical thinking is very important. One of the major values of science is its ability to revisit and revise assumptions. Scientists, being human, aren’t always good at this, but they tend to be better than most.
      Stepping back and reconsidering the very framework that has allowed you to make sense of a situation can be uncomfortable work, and overdoing it leads to paralysis, but I prefer it to the paralysis of thinking you know a fixed truth.

      • Sorry but I do not “drop events and people into this narrative to decide how they relate to each other and our lives.” Not so I can tell anyway. Do you spend time dropping people into stories? What is that like? Metaphor is no substitute for science and this sounds like some outlandish metaphor. Maybe that is the story.

      • “As a philosopher, engineer and logician I work on the assumption that people are rational.”

        That’s a narrative, big guy.

      • Where I come from it is a sentence and an assertion. How is this declarative sentence a narrative? A narrative is a story. My simple statement is not a story. If I say my truck is brown is that too a narrative? Is everything I say a narrative?

        You folks are making up language that sounds deep but is not. In fact it seems to be meaningless.

      • Your narrative informs the running monologue in your head as you go about your day. You’ve got a complex of beliefs, viewpoints and value judgments that have built up through your life and create a story about how the world is. Things that don’t jibe with that story tend to get discarded, in a sort of reflex action, as bogus.

        Your internal narrative, in other words, is what leads you to reflexively reject the idea that people have internal narratives which lead them to reflexively reject ideas.

      • Lol – I don’t agree with some of what you say PDA, but I did enjoy that one. Nicely put!

      • Okay, it sounds like what you are calling a narrative is what I and my fellow philosophers have called “understanding” for the last 300 years or so. That is, it is my understanding of the world. So far so good.

        What I then object to is this unsubstantiated idea, namely that I reject things that don’t jibe with my understanding as a reflex. I pointed out several threads ago that it is quite rational to be skeptical of such things. This is not a reflex, it is a rational response.

        Moreover, by calling my understanding of the world a narrative you folks have demeaned it into something reckless and ephemeral, perhaps even something trivial. That is not what life is like. Life is far more serious than a story.

      • What I then object to is this unsubstantiated idea, namely that I reject things that don’t jibe with my understanding as a reflex

        Never? Good on you, then. You would be the first human in my experience not to have that extremely common response from time to time, but that’s neither here nor there. The original post argued that “those who start with a preferred internal narrative” (in other words, those who are not David Wojick), “and who are principally concerned with confirmation of that narrative, may be content to learn by rote” and that “a lot of debate in the blogosphere is conducted at this level.”

        The question, then, is how we might best move forward in investigating this issue, given this reality.

      • Unfortunately you are back to using “narrative” as though it were a well understood concept in cognitive science. That is precisely what I am questioning so you are begging the question. You and others are making very strong claims about human cognition using, so far as I can tell, empty metaphors. As a cognitive scientist I find this unacceptable.

      • Well, narrative studies has a bit of its own narrative,which is maybe part of the point – narrative is hard to escape. When we’re “doing science” (and I’m thinking of the hardest possible sort), this is probably not the best explanation to use, even if you can find indications of it in people’s writing (unfortunately, metaphor pervades science through-and-through, although metaphor is not synonymous with narrative).
        But the argument is that events make sense to us in context, and that context gets built up in a sort of narrative form which is influenced by the various narratives around us. To reduce all we that we think and do to this is not a good idea – there’s only so far that road will get us, but I think it makes visible a few things about how we relate to our surroundings, including the people in it.

    • “What an internal narrative is”.

      If would be very inefficient to store knowledge as explicit bits and bytes.
      We don’t do it in computers.
      To oversimplify an “Mpeg” movie stores the first frame, then what changes from frame to frame.

      Asians rarely take note of hair or eye color. If one lives somewhere everyone has black hair and brown eyes then hair and eye color is useless information.

      People who live on busy streets stop hearing the sound of traffic but might find the sound of a rooster crowing at 5 AM quite startling.

      Survival is out most basic instinct, survival depends heavily on identifying ‘friend or foe’ and ‘threats’ in an efficient manner.

      Obviously we can’t constantly examine everything as a potential threat. So we all make a decision at some point in our life about ‘non threats’, I.E. traffic noise or a rooster crowing. If you live on a busy street the presence of traffic noise becomes part of your ‘internal narrative’. If you live on a farm a ‘rooster crowing’ becomes part of your ‘internal narrative.

      Anything that doesn’t match your stored sense of the way a safe place should look or sound activates ‘fight or flight’ as it’s a potential danger.

      Most of us don’t like being in a ‘fight or flight’ state, so we tend to avoid situations/information that doesn’t match our stored definition of ‘safe’.

      • Anything that doesn’t match your stored sense of the way a safe place should look or sound activates ‘fight or flight’ as it’s a potential danger.</blockquote?
        I use that when desensitizing horses to various 'scary' situations (as do mounted police)

        On a humourous note, my rooster Vinnie starts crowing about 4am every morning.
        Seems my internal narrative isn't yet used to his external narrative, I want to wring the little ba@#%$ds neck

    • Michael Larkin

      Sorry that I didn’t explain fully what I meant by “internal narrative”, David, and please note I claim no expertise in psychology or that this is a recognised term. I guess I mistakenly thought it would be obvious what I meant. My bad.

      I had an interaction with Tallbloke on the previous thread where he explained in an excellent post what naive realism and positivism were about in relation to GCMs.

      I linked that in with the idea of an internal narrative, viz. that models can substitute for reality, in effect *become* reality.

      This is only a rational approach in cases where a model has been thoroughly tested against the real world and proved rock solid. The engineers who post here have expounded eloquently on examples of that, and noted how real-world technology demonstrably works on the basis of their thoroughly-tested models.

      GCMs aren’t like that. Our knowledge of climate is still nascent and if anything, the models have proved woefully inadequate in modelling it – in terms of such things as making predictions or hindcasting. I and a lot of people don’t believe it is rational to rely on the models to the extent that some seem to.

      If we are correct about that, then the idea that models are a good substitute for reality isn’t true – it’s actually just an internal narrative in the mind of the modeller, who may not even be aware it is held, unjustifiably, to be true. There appears in some people to be an almost fanatical insistence that this narrative isn’t just a narrative, but the way things really are.

      It astounds me that they can have this conviction; but It’s entirely possible that I myself have internal narratives I have not yet properly identified and determined to challenge. The battle about attaining objectivity is about knowing what you are taking for granted as being real without adequate substantiation.

      Indoctrinated people aren’t too bothered about rooting out and dealing with their internal narratives. But those who want to be educated routinely question themselves and ask if they are actually telling themselves comforting stories about how the world works, stories that won’t challenge cherished beliefs about reality.

      WRT the basic science – GHGs, radiative physics, etc. I think climate scientists are being rational. It’s when we get to fuzzier areas that I begin to suspect they’re relying on internal narratives that are telling them there’s more certainty than is warranted. There seems to be this compulsion to shore up that narrative; reasons for doing that could be allied to desires for prestige, desires to be deemed part of the elite, even personal opinions about the importance of environmental concerns.

      I hope that clarifies the matter somewhat. If it doesn’t, doubtless you will let me know! :-)

  9. I admit that I am not a climatologist on the issue of global warming. However; I support the principle that young people should be educated, not propagandized — and I know something about what that means.

    One of the most important differences between education and propaganda is how they deal with great controversies.

    In education, students are taught about the controversies. In propaganda, they are shielded from them.

    In education, students are taught both sides of the important debates. In propaganda, they are taught only one.

    In education, students are taught both the strengths and the weaknesses of the officially favored theory. In propaganda, they are taught only its strengths.

    In short, education is the training of minds, while propaganda is the training of prejudices. In a democracy, the public schools should not propagandize, but educate.

    As we find in the science section of these guidelines, students must learn to “analyze, review, and critique scientific explanations, including hypotheses and theories, as to their strengths and weaknesses using scientific evidence and information.

    The issue is that although students should be taught about both sides of a scientific theoretical controversy, your assignment, based on the description in your permission request, appears to only present one side and are shielded from the weaknesses. contained in. BC Science 10.

    How can a student write a critique about assertions made on global warming without having anything to compare and contrast the assertions to? Your permission/assignment sheet gave no indication as to how, if any, the views to counter Anthropogenic Global Warming would be taught.

    In addition, it is not clear what alternate assignment is available to the student/teachers should they choose to Learn from a climatologist instead from a television show hosted by a journalist with no science degrees.

    If the “theory” of global warming is to be taught in your classroom, I urge that the topic should be taught like the other sciences and like other controversial theories — with honesty about both . When classroom activities and/or textbooks are biased, you(the school board)) are the check and balance.
    Statements are made in Science 10 that are assertions that mix cause and effect: “climate change is affecting our planet right now. Ice is disappearing earlier in the spring, trees are budding earlier, and extreme weather events are causing more outbreaks of disease than 20 years ago.” They are not only inaccurate but also dishonest.

    I urge The school board to require that the scientific data to both sides of this controversy be taught and that not one side be suppressed.

    To do so would be not only be good training in science, but good education in citizenship.

    W Robichaud

    Williams lake BC

    • good post, got me thinking as to whether propaganda is a better word for indoctrination here.

      • Is it propaganda or indoctrination to teach the science behind the Greenhouse Effect?

        Some on here will say that it is and that the ‘opposing’ theory should be taught with just as much emphasis.

        Surely it should be recognised that there are some aspect to the science of AGW that are not propaganda or indoctrination but are fact?

        When children are first taught the laws of physics, etc. Are they taught in such a way that they understand the derivation and the science behind the laws or are they just taught these as facts?

      • Heretic!

        Children need to be taught both sides of the controversy. On one side we will have the AGW theory (with emphasis on just a theory) and on the other We-know-Everything-is-gonna-be just-fine Theory.

      • you’re either missing the point or obfuscating willingly.

        There are MANY aspects of the cAGW theory that are to all intents and purposes, undebatable (or taken as much as ‘fact’ as can be given right now)- however the critical aspects- i.e. the attribution of man’s influence (climate sensitivity, clouds etc) are hotly debated and hardly understood.

        Teach the hard science yes- the ghg effect, the basic physics etc etc, but the have the decency to show the massive uncertainties at the attribution of cause. These are the debatable issues, not the rest.

      • Labmunkey – you may be happy to say “Teach the hard science yes- the ghg effect, the basic physics etc ” but there are very many on this site alone who don’t agree with that statement.

        And then again, when you say “have the decency to show the massive uncertainties at the attribution of cause” that again is your opinion and there are very many who would disagree (especially regarding ‘massive’ uncertainties).

        For some here, teaching the science IS indoctrination. For others, not mentioning ‘massive’ uncertainty IS indoctrination.

        Where is the line drawn? Who decides?

      • Well this is where the distinction comes in.

        There ARE certain aspects of the theory that, even i as a sceptic, would class as pretty much settled- the afforementioned GHG effect and the rise in co2 etc etc.

        However, you’re stretching matters to say that there are not massive uncertainties in this theory- i am not trying to force a particular agenda here, it’s just that everytime the climate establishment has tried to ‘force’ a particular view by overstating the certanties it’s blown up in their faces spectacularly.

        This reflects poorly on ALL science.

        If we teach the uncertanties and the ‘knowns’ (as far as they can be) openly and honestly, it will allow people to see when people are flogging a dead horse (i.e. debating the ghg effect) or whetehr theya re ACTUALLY interested/concerned (debating the roles of clouds).

        See the distinction? This, hopefully, will remove the nuts from both side of the debate (who unfortunatley get too much airtime) and hopefully allow ‘us’ to meet in the middle where the science can progress.

        that’s my hope anyway. I don’t care if i’m right, i just want to make sure that the science is SOUND.

      • Labmunkey – I am all for teaching the children science but teaching eight year old children sufficient science so that they understand the GHG effect is not going to be possible. Therefore, is it taught to them as a fact that they must learn by rote? Or do we just not tell them anything about climate change (A or otherwise) until they are capable of understanding the science?

        You say “If we teach the uncertanties and the ‘knowns’ (as far as they can be) openly and honestly, it will allow people to see when people are flogging a dead horse (i.e. debating the ghg effect) or whetehr theya re ACTUALLY interested/concerned (debating the roles of clouds).” which is great when teaching to interested adults.

        But what should children be taught at age 8?

        No doubt your opinion will differ from very many people on here and no doubt some would think your version is ‘indoctrination’ (from both ‘sides’ of this debate).

      • they probably WOULD see it as indoctrination- however in my first post i stated my position clearly.

        instead of trying to teach the specifics, we should be teaching the methadology to allow them to apply it themselves.

        The problem with teaching a set ‘viewpoint’ is that if this later turns out to be wrong- you’ve effectively biased an entire generation.

        If you teach them the skills to evaluate the situation themselves, then it matters not if you’re right or wrong, ‘they’ will always be able to adapt to it.

        The methadology should be taught (logical reasoning, ways to collect evidence etc etc) NOT a particular viewpoint.

        Then when they’re older they can go into as much, or as little detail as they want- with an already sound grounding.

      • “But what should children be taught at age 8?”

        That they don’t need to be frightened by bullys who show them videos of exploding children and drowning polar bears.

      • Louise,

        Do we teach 8 year olds nuclear fission as a “fact to be learned by rote” since they’re incapable of understanding the physics behind it?

        What would be the purpose in teaching climate change (or any other topic) that they’re not capable of absorbing?

      • If you look at the state standards you will see a very sensible progression, with later concepts building on earlier ones. The greenhouse effect is taught in high school in most states, which is quite sensible. It would help if people actually looked at what is taught.

        Nothing is taught by rote. What we teach is understanding.

      • Louise: Who decides? Each of us does.

        I think it comes down to one’s personal integrity to educate rather than indoctrinate. I think most people are smart enough and moral enough to understand that distinction and use it, albeit imperfectly because we are human.

        However, I also think that a number of people on both sides but particularly on the climate change side have decided that the issue is too important to allow people to reach anything other than the “right” conclusions, and those people are intentionally indoctrinating.

      • randomengineer

        Is it propaganda or indoctrination to teach the science behind the Greenhouse Effect?


        Note that there’s no skepticism with any scientific discipline that can result in the creation of a working widget. Electromagnetics? Piece of cake, kids, your cell phone doesn’t work without it.

        Evolution is a bit more difficult, but not much: it’s tough to make new species in a 90 minute lab environment, but overwhelming, easily measured evidence comes from everywhere.

        Climate science? Tough sell. There’s not ONE working widget that’s been made from the study of climate. There’s no easily measured evidence. (If this existed, deniers would not, just as there are no deniers of electromagnetism.) Confidence levels and “we think” can’t outcool a working widget.

        Nope. When you have no easily grasped evidence, all that’s left is indoctrination and propaganda.

        (I suppose in keeping with the parlance of the thread, let’s just say that working stuff meshes with the expectations of the average person’s inner narrative, which frankly sounds really stupid.)

      • Given its manipulative connotations, propaganda does fit the bill better than indoctrination.

      • Propaganda! – oh no, please don’t go there.

        That will only compound the errors of ‘ideology’, ‘indoctrination’, etc etc.

        The problem with these single word highly emotive terms is that they tend toward epithets to be weilded as weapons rather than as descriptors telling us something meaningful or insightful.

      • I basically agree,
        In my view propaganda is often taken to imply a central point from which the propaganda emanates, and in that sense I think indoctrination is a little better for what we’re trying to get at. Still, both choices seem to be heading down the wrong path and end up bringing plenty of baggage to the discussion. Sometimes labels and spectrums are helpful. I’m still digesting this but I’m not convinced that’s the case here.

      • On the contrary, the role of propaganda, ideology and indoctrination is central to any understanding of the present situation. This is primarily an ideological struggle. The science is secondary, primarily because it is so unsettled.

      • No, they are different and distinct.

        Proofs and Propaganda are tools and subsets of:

        Education and Indoctrination, respectively, which are processes.

        I knew the new math Venn diagram BS from the 1960’s would come in handy one day.

      • This thought sent me back to my Dictionary:

        Indoctrinate….1 teach (a person or group) systematically or for a long period to accept (esp. partisan or tendentious) ideas uncritically. …
        Propaganda ….1a information, esp. of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote a political cause or point of view. b the dissemination of such information. …

        So indoctrination is the act of teaching, and as we understand it here, specifically to gain the uncritical acceptance of partisan or tendentious ideas.
        Propaganda is the information content of the teaching, in which is expressed the partisan or tendentious ideas.

        The IPCC TAR and AR4 are the centerpiece information packages. An Unfortunate Truth, and an on going stream of academic papers and media promotion, is devoted to the indoctrination of their intended message. It seems we are of one mind here that the message is flawed, although we may disagree widely on the extent, so that there is firstly a perception of a real need for a counterbalance with more objective information. Then there is this matter of true teaching, including an obligation to not accept things uncritically.

        Does this resolve your muse? IMHO it appears the indoctrination is really what you meant.

      • Thanks, agreed.

      • Hmm.

        The technical threads here are quite good.

        The others. There’s no polite way to say this – when you get off your area of expertise the level of thinking and analysis is woefully shallow. That’s why we keep seeing all this clutching at single words which are then bandied about like crude slogans, and definitions listed as if the meaning of a word has some magical explanatory power all of its own.

        It’s simply awful.

    • cagw_skeptic99

      For me propaganda means the intentional use of deceptive methods to change the minds being subjected to the propaganda. Half truths, outright lies, distortions, appeal to emotions, etc. are the techniques used to build a propaganda message. Repetitive delivery by a source likely to be trusted is another important component.

      Indoctrination would occur when the teacher accepts the material without questioning it, but isn’t involved in the deception. Maybe my definitions are old and derive from military intelligence training many years ago. Propaganda was something done to the enemy. Indoctrination is something we do to ourselves.

      CAGW true believers regularly use deceptive images of drowning polar bears to attempt to convince viewers to support their policy objectives. Misinformation is used to justify endangered status for an animal that is regularly hunted in Canada because there are too many of them. Al Gore’s film used propaganda techniques to recruit believers, and the falsehoods led to judicial sanction against showing it to school children in England.

      The IPCC use of Himalayan glaciers qualifies as propaganda if you believe the assertions that the authors and reviewers who included the reference knew at the time that it was false. They included a deliberately deceptive text in hopes that people would again support their policy to save the millions who live downstream from harm.

      It is the propaganda aspect of the CAGW message that initially caused me to regard all of their communications with suspicion, and I continue to use that aspect as a filter for climate related communication. The (C)atastrophic part of CAGW may or may not have a scientific basis, but I am not likely to ever trust the pronouncements of those who constructed and used propaganda techniques to enrich themselves or buttress their claim to prominence on the world stage.

      • randomengineer

        For me propaganda means the intentional use of deceptive methods to change the minds being subjected to the propaganda.

        You’ve never been cornered by a True Believer trying to help you see the everlarting light on your doorstep? I don’t think they’re deceivinig you intentionally. They believe this stuff.

      • You believe humans are impacting the climate, just not to the degree of it being a disaster?

      • randomengineer

        Correct enough.

        6 billion with agriculture and fire and technology would be hard pressed to NOT impact the environment.

        What did I win?

      • cagw_skeptic99

        I would call what you describe proselytizing based on belief. Most people not responsible for preparing the message (bible, script, CAGW propaganda) would be proselytizers spreading a message that they believe to be true. Many environmentalists fall in this category. Some group like the Sierra Club tells them that recycling plastic saves the world and they start a collection program; it matters not much if most of the plastic so collected is burned or buried – what matters is that they motivated others to help save the world.

        I don’t hold the message carriers guilty of much more than being naive. The climate ‘scientists’ who I believe know very well that they are not being completely truthful are the ones who should be held up to public scorn and disgrace. This is happening, and will increase in intensity, but there is still a huge investment by governments and institutions that will take some time before a climb down and pirouette can be accomplished.

  10. I can agree wholeheartedly with “I urge The school board to require that the scientific data to both sides of this controversy be taught and that not one side be suppressed.”

    If we stick to the science, the kids will get the message. The problem here is that when the children are given the science, some here view that as indoctrination.

    There is no/very little science to support the full-on skeptic view (as opposed to the lukewarm/uncertainty is unquantified skeptic).

    • Richard S Courtney


      Please read your post and think about it. The atitude it displays is why we find ourselves in the opresent mess.


  11. Dear Julia,
    While I was groping my way to educational methods that worked for me as a teacher, I was introduced to the well-established concept of ‘guided discovery learning’, which I found, over the years, works well with all age groups, with the proviso that the educator cannot ‘be all things to all people’. First, the educator must have a firm grasp of the ‘entry level’ of knowledge posessed by those he/she is attempting to educate and how each learner can access the subject, which means that one cannot uselfully work with a group that contains ages and developmental stages from toddlers to mature adults. This translates, of course, into the would-be educator selecting a defined group as to existing skills and knowledge held and designing a series of ‘discoveries’ that those learners can be led to progress through until mastery of the specific topic is acheived. ‘Guided Discovery’ works wonderfully in school and university classrooms where the educator can narrow the educational aims suficiently to capture the group’s prior learnings and abilities. It’s a little harder, but still very effective when working with adults who volunteer for a vacation course or something similar.
    In attempting to educate the public at large, the educator must lay out a range of ‘discoveries’ that will lead people into and on through to understanding the topic, but one also has to realise that ‘the public’ may have only limited interest in a topic or set of what the educator sees as vital understandings and must be prepared for disappointments.
    Would-be educators need to be aware that any given topic can have many discrete entry points for learners, that there is no such thing as a ‘learning curve’ – individuals’ learning can be visualised as the profile view of a very informal staircase that begins with with steep little ‘risers’ as learners take in new knowledge, followed by long, flat ‘stair treads’ on which learners will take tome to assimilate the new stuff and practice using it, then another little riser for more new stuff followed by another long tread or asymptote for more joining news skills to existing ones and practicing all this stuff. And so on, with learners having to go back down the ‘stairs’ a way to brush on new-ish stuff that got forgotten. Some learners might miss out a stair or two – the ‘aha’ experience – others will have to plod slowly upward without missing a step.
    This is very brief and incomplete, but a wonderful and exciting process when learners begin to develop their own knowledge and skills. It gets really exciting when former students start to lift the educator’s knowkedge and skills to higher levels. And, in my experience, one is never too old for thrill of it all.
    Alexander K

  12. Sorry, left left a bit out;
    this has nothing to do with military-type instructing, which usually works on a need-to-know basis for the learners and from their very rigid ‘programming’.

  13. AnyColourYouLike

    I was enjoying the thrust of this new thread, with its introduction of philisophical and psychological perspectives over the nature of how we educate. Unfortunately, PDA couldn’t help him/herself, diving into to handwave away Judith’s casual remark that Gore was selling the “debate is over” mantra with:

    “What he said was “The debate is over. There’s no longer any debate in the scientific community about this.” And there’s not; there’s uncertainty about magnitude, timing, and consequences, but the science – as was seen in the “greenhouse” threads – is sound.

    Gore was not suggesting – and would not, I daresay – that there is not a debate in society, or that there should not be one about policy.”

    The nuance of Gore’s message was certainly lost on me. The blunt statement “The debate is over” was an egregious example of propaganda and not teaching. That this meme has been used widely as battering ram with which to stymie attempts by other voices to say “Hey, wait a minute!” was not helpful in educating anyone, and swept away many an attempt at getting some sensible debate going. The idea that Al Gore, as an experienced high-office politician, would be somehow unaware and therefore not responsible, for the resonance of such absolutist, headline-grabbing, blanket proclamations is pure tosh.

    There is only debate (on blogs mainly, hardly ever in the MSM) about those issues of ” uncertainty about magnitude, timing, and consequences” because we managed to get passed this deeply manipulative attempt to shut everybody up! Also I’d like to know who exactly is this cosy “scientific community” he refers to. There seem to be a number of scientists here debating many aspects of AGW, without the need for Al’s permission, there seem to be climate scientists who don’t agree with “the debate is over” – I presume these unfortunate fellows are not part of this lucky “community”?

    And yes, the physics is sound, but the chaotic consequences of the physics are very, very far from “settled” are they not? Do you really believe this was a point Al Gore was interested in “teaching”?

    • There is only debate (on blogs mainly, hardly ever in the MSM) about those issues of ” uncertainty about magnitude, timing, and consequences” because we managed to get passed this deeply manipulative attempt to shut everybody up.

      This is a deeply confused comment. Gore’s statement was about debate in the scientific community. He said nothing about debating on blogs.

      Read the original quote before you accuse others of ‘handwaving.’

      • AnyColourYouLike

        My argument stands, there is a “scientific community” debating this stuff on the blogs.

  14. John F Pittman

    Dr. Curry, I think some are thinking that AGW/CC and its failure is an education problem. I would like to propose something different. Wilbert touched on it obliquely. I would propose that the AGW/CC concensus failure was an identification problem. The reason I come to this as a crisis management problem is that is how it was protrayed by the IPCC. Consider three different groups.

    The first group is like a universisty where the professor has the population come to them and teaches them. He has almost sole authority, responsibility, and knowledge. The university is like a monopoly, or could be considered a local monopoly.

    The second group is a local industry. Though it has similarities to the first group, as in the plant manager can fire and hire just about anybody, in actuality, it is cooperative. The maintenance technician will be a local expert, as will the process operator. Each can contribute, and if they don’t there will be a demonstrable negative effect. Managers see themselves not as professors, but as coaches and facillitators.

    The third group is a group of citizens meeting with a local politician. Even though he passes laws, and may be there to discuss passed laws, in a democracy, these are his bosses. Even though not one can fire him, together they can. At this point we have ended at the complete opposite spectrum of the university for our example.

    In crisis management you are dealing with the third group. As best demonstrated, IPCC presented it similar to a group one presentation. The politicians employed tactics similar to group two, like being the plant manager, or the “boss.” The public see themselves in the third group, the real bosses, and they are.

    In crisis management you have a problem. There are several good write-ups using a tylenol recall as an example. There is currently a problem of bad food management that is leading to calls for increased regulation of food. One needs to understand that the ultimate judge in these two cases will be the public. From my point of veiw, the AGW/CC as represented by the IPCC failed to correctly identify the ultimate judge and ultimate consumer, the general public.

    In this sense, Climategate was blamed for the Copenhagen failure, but it is simply a scapegoat. The real problem is that the public was refused admittance when the forum was established. NGO’s, government officials, diplomats, etc were allowed in. No better example of the effects of misidentification is the Chavez speech with the standing ovation afterwards, do I know of. It encompasses what was misidentified, what horrible statements can be delivered when a misidentification occurs, and finally, the groups that needed to be convinced, one of which was the US public, were demonised and castigated publicly with the guaratee of a backlash.

    It is hard to find a poorer showing. Except maybe the quotes from the Toyota managers after “fooling” the US Congress.

    In many endevours, misidentification is synonomous with failure. I think a good case could be made here.

  15. As an example annoucements of sea level rises, pre Copenhagen, education/indoctrination/propaganda? (2m – 3 m or 4 m thrown around)

    Does Al still believe in 20 feet sea level rises… or even 2 metre ones.

    To question ‘sea level alarmism’ pre-Copenhagen, or even this year – was to be called a ‘climate change deniar”

    The UK Met Office now say NOT…
    Daily Mail: Alarmist Doomsday warning of rising seas ‘was wrong’, says Met Office study

    “Alarming predictions that global warming could cause sea levels to rise 6ft in the next century are wrong, it has emerged.
    The forecast made by the influential 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which would have seen cities around the world submerged by water, now looks ‘unlikely’.
    A Met Office study also rules out the shutdown of the Atlantic Ocean’s conveyor belt, which would trigger Arctic winters in Britain like those seen in the film The Day After Tomorrow”
    However, the report says the IPCC was right to warn of a sea level rise of up to 2ft by 2100, and that a 3ft rise could happen”

    Read more:

    The Guardian report the same Met Office study, and the same facts are in the article…ie Upto 2 feet, 3 feet WORST case scenario….

    But they burythe sea level good news in the latest bit of alarmism instead…

    My take on it…

    So when there was copious coverage of the 2m 3m 4 m projections what was going on? education or propaganda… if you look at the Cop 15 Conference video, I would say indoctrination/propaganda.

    • From the Met Office report:

      AR4 model range of sea-level rise for this scenario was 0.21–0.59 cm. However, some of the newer evidence suggests that a sea-level rise of 2 m cannot be ruled out, but an increase of more than 1 m is currently viewed as unlikely.

      So wherever the ‘6 feet’ was coming from, it was not “the influential 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.”

      • That was the IPCC report in 2007…
        Following that there were numerous announcements of it is worse that AR4. Steve Mcintyre had a post on the Silence of the lambs (ie scientists/IPCC)

        Why were they NOT correcting the media, lobby groups or politicians then! The suspicion is/was because it helped push policy.

      • No. The IPCC report in 2007 had the range of sea level rise predictions at 0.21–0.59 m. (Amusing that the Met Office report says “cm.”)

        For clarity: 0.59 m < 1 m. The Met Office is saying the likely rise will be greater than what was predicted in the IPCC report.

      • And unless the rise is multiple times worse, it will be no big deal.

      • Unless of course you live in a low-lying area, in which case it sucks to be you.

      • Latimer Alder

        Sea level has been rising overall since the end of the last Ice Age. The small rises predicted are nothing new and could be easily accommodated with the technology of 1000 years ago. What evidence is there that this will not be true in the future too?

      • Nullius in Verba

        Ummm… those population areas they mention are all on river deltas.

        I don’t know, maybe they don’t teach how river deltas work in geography lessons any more? When I was at school, I seem to remember spending rather a long time studying rivers…

      • Specifically, Bangaladesh is entirely a river delta, and its area has been growing in recent years, net/net. Some washes away, more washes in from the heights.

      • Latimer Alder

        That is just a myth put around by evil denier shill Geographers. Without an advanced degree in climatology what can they possibly know about anything?

      • What artificial moral construct did you inhabit during the previous contrived panic-worth crises, Y2K, the coming ice age, nuclear winter etc?

      • How did it go Barry? Something like “We have to drum up scary scenarios” or some such.

    • cagw_skeptic99

      During the period of satellite measurement, the sea level rise seems to average about 3 mm per year and the rate has been decreasing for the last few years. If we are inexorably destined to deal with rising sea levels due to CO2, does anyone have an explanation why the rate of increase is level or declining while CO2 is ever increasing? Does someone have a basis for a prediction as to when the rate will start to increase? Three millimeters per year makes less than 12 inches per century, so presumably the rate of increase will have to change in order to allow any of these catastrophe predictions to come true.

  16. Michael Larkin says: “Some……may identify with experts who act as proxy holders for the understanding they themselves don’t possess.”

    This is certainly true of myself and, I’m guessing, many other laymen who are playing catch-up on this whole fascinating subject. I think the idea of “learning by rote” to then further support an emotive choice for one viewpoint over another is something that the blogosphere can actually help to avoid.

    My journey to date I think would be fairly typical. I became interested via the MSM and accepted “by rote” (or was it a lack of passion for the subject at the time?) the alarmist position and the perceived support it enjoyed from the IPCC and the “consensus”. It wasn’t until I read an article that claimed Arctic Ice melt (not Greenland, just the Arctic ice) would cause a catastrophic rise in sea level that my critical faculties awoke from their slumber. Even I knew this had to be wrong, so I ventured onto the net.

    As I was looking for sites that might shed light on discrepancies rather than supporting the well-worn MSM position with which I was already familiar, I stumbled upon WUWT.

    WUWT was my first learning source for the science and the counter consensus viewpoint but soon messrs Watts at al had piqued my interest to further learn more about all the scientific nuances of the debate.

    From there my reading list has expanded further into the scientific realm (CA, RC, Tamino, Lubos Motl, here, to name a few) and also the “bridging” sites between science and the nedia (Pielke Jr and Sr, Bishop Hill, Lucia).

    Of course I still visit my many favourite “extreme” sites: (Climate Depot, James Delingpole, Joe Romm, Deltoid) as they always provide some entertainment – and I still visit and read WUWT every day. It’s the most important entry level resource for becoming involved in the debate to this day IMHO.

    My point with all of this is to try and illustrate that confirmation bias amongst adults new to the mechanics of the climate debate may not be as problematic as it seems at first glance. Rather I think that most adults have the advantage over younger students, in that their critical faculties and psychological maturity allow them to pick a path through the blogosphere, free from the kind of peer pressure (no pun intended) that often is at the root of confirmation bias.

    Indeed the blogosphere itself, anarchic little beast that it is, reflects the gradual upward mobility of the cognisant adult readership with the emergence of sites such as this. If one reaches back a few years, a site like “Climate etc” would have been the preserve of fully committed, academically qualified atmospheric physicists and the like. The fact that these experts now rub shoulders with informed laypersons says alot about the latter’s increased confidence with the subject matter – confidence born of self-education largely via the blogosphere.

    It’ entirely understandable that experts, with years of academic study behind them, feel completely out of their comfort zone when confronted with interested but relatively untrained adults, thirsting for knowledge in a seemingly haphazard and naive manner. All I can say, from personal experience, is that the learning experience via the blogosphere is already creating a large group of informed citizens who increasingly know alot more about this than both the MSM and the governments of the day.

    This has to be a great thing, a triumph for the future of critcal thought and informed debate , no matter where your allegiance lies. So, although I think Michael has once again written a thoughtful and insightful essay, I can’t share his view that “the situation is now FUBAR”.

    Quite the contrary, actually.

    • cagw_skeptic99

      My journey was similar to Saaad’s. Those who now believe that immediate action is necessary to suppress CO2 emissions to ‘save the planet’ are the ones who seem to think that education is the solution. ‘Education’ means convincing a voting majority to vote policies consistent with that belief.

      I have not seen ‘education’ used to mean that the voting public should know enough to critically analyze the pronouncements of the CAGW true believers about imminent catastrophe and possibly reject them. There are now even studies claiming that the public has psychological problems induced by catastrophe overload, or some such babble.

      Most of the public figured out that they were being lied to and now tune out any pronouncements from those believed to have proved themselves to be untrustworthy. ‘Education’ has no chance of fixing this problem because they were lied to and there really isn’t any credible science that supports the ongoing predictions of imminent catastrophe.

      Maybe someday when independently verified research is produced by people not previously involved in what has happened so far, and then actually verified and accepted as legitimate, public opinion will change. I don’t personally believe that anything published by the ‘Team’ or its associates and collaborators will ever achieve trusted status, but maybe rehabilitation is more possible than I think it is.

      Ten or twenty years of colder than normal weather would provide a nice reset period. The alarmists would be thoroughly discredited and perhaps new players could arrive on the scene and engage in actual research as opposed to what I think that I see today: study after study whose outcome was knowable when the funding was provided. As long as the objective of the funding agencies is to find more evidence to confirm existing belief, and as long as legitimate papers continue to be sabotaged by those with an agenda, there isn’t much chance that anyone who watched all this happen can be ‘educated’ .

    • Michael Larkin


      Nice post. Maybe you’re right and things aren’t FUBAR. I won’t complain if I’m proved wrong about that. I suppose in the wider sense, we may in the end learn a great deal from what is happening in the blogosphere, and it could, overall, prove to be beneficial. But I’m just not sure that the AGW debate itself can be moved forward by belated attempts to indulge in educational remediation.

      • I guess I was really talking about a “wider sense” in my post. As to whether the AGW debate can be moved forward by this, I think it largely depends on timescales. (sort of like one of the aspects of the AGW debate!).

        I’m not expecting that the ‘blogospheric education’ phenomenon is in any sense a quick fix – but a fix, in the end, I’m hopeful it will be. I guess that’s fine with me as I don’t think we need a headlong rush to decisions at present; others won’t share my view on this. All I can say is that, thanks to the resources of the blogosphere, I do at least have a considered view.

        I think this whole area is fascinating and whole lot more germane to the AGW debate than I thought at first. Please keep posting Michael, your thoughts are coalescing into something that could be significant!

  17. “Does Al still believe in 20 feet sea level rises… or even 2 metre ones. …”

    If all of Greenland or all of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet were to melt, yes.

    • If…. anything

      The Met Office (Hadley/Tyndall/CRU)say 2m is NOT going to happen, it is wrong….

      So the message if Greenland were to melt )implying anytime soon), following this annoucement this is alarmist.

      • I don’t see explaining to the public that melting large blocks of land-based ice will result in significant sea level rise as being unduly alarmist. The public really had very little awareness of that fact. Or that, with respect to sea level rise, there is a difference between sea ice melting and land-based ice melting. The public has to decide on a scenario that casts the die. Implying processes end in 2100 could be construed as frightfully non-alarmist.

        As I understand it, science has no way of predicting, given business as usual, when Greenland will melt. In earth’s history, it took 1,000s of years, but scientists now, assuming business as usual, are speculating mere centuries.

        Vermeer and Rahmstorf have a prediction across all scenarios for 2100 of 81 cm to 179 cm, with 114 cm being the most likely. Another scientific paper found 2 meters is theoretically possible.

    • Best evidence indicates that both the Greenland and the West Antarctic Ice Sheets are going the way of the Carolina Parakeet.

      Not this century though, like that is any consolation.

      Recent core drilling beneath the Ross Ice Shelf indicate that that shelf disintegrates on a regular basis when global temperatures are a bit higher then they are now. Layers of gravel and diatoms indicating open water was present in cycles.

      People will believe what they want to believe rather than do the hard work necessary to come to an educated position on a very broad subject.

      You need a nice set of critical thinking skills not to fall for the “persistent trendless red noise” gobblydegook coming from parts of the blogosphere.

      People out there are really trying to fool you.

      Best beware.

      • In what alternative universe is the W. Antarctic and Greenland going extinct?
        Certainly not in the one this conversation is taking place in.

      • The connection is that the last time CO2 levels were this high, 20 million years ago, it was before Antarctica and Greenland had their ice sheets. This is a CO2-temperature equilibrium argument.

      • I guess 20 million years ago neither Greenland or Antarctica were in the same position on the planet.

        Even at only 2 cm per year (best current estimate of the rate of drift of the Antarctic plate) you can move a very long way in 20 million years.

        You assume that the effects of being at the Equator not the South Pole is overshadowed by CO2 changes. I think this is unlikely to be true.

      • So you think continental drift caused Antarctica to freeze. Interesting and new theory as far as I know. More likely a natural long-term cooling trend that was also measured elsewhere.

      • Greenland is going to rise up and rule the roost. Maybe I’ll buy some submerged land:

      • Latimer Alder

        I do not think that ‘Continental Drift caused Antarctica to freeze’ is the whole story.

        But I’m reasonably convinced that in general it will be a lot colder at the Poles than at the Equator. Angle of incidence of the Sun..Simple enough Radiative Physics for even a non D. Phil like me to understand

        Continents move a long way in 20 million years. To blame their current climate solely on a variation of 100 ppm in one gas, and ignore the changes that may have occurred by such movements.

        Go look at a bit of coal. You will see that it was formed by tropical plants, even if the seams are now buried at somewhere a long way away from the Tropics. Continents move, and their climate’s change as a result.

      • Latimer Alder

        Humble apologies for the greengrocer’s apostrophe above. It is a contagious and virulent disease :-(

      • You devil-you!

      • Thousand’s of lash’s with wet noodle’s ‘n’ stuff!

      • Bob, it is the AGW sceptics who are the ones using critical thinking to question what they are told, & it is the group which includes “The Team”, the IPCC, & the NGO’s who are trying to fool us.

      • I assume that your comments re the WAIS originate from Steig09. I suggest that you go to Climate Audit and read the discussion of O’Donnell et al which possibly rebutes Steig09.

      • Mine do not stem from that paper.

      • A good rebuttal. But no rebuting occurred.

    • With 6°C immediate and persistent increase, it will take 2-3,000 years. And flying boars, sows, and piglets will be commonplace.

  18. What many do not consider about education and ideas is the role that ideology plays. Not wanting to play with semantics, a basic definition of ideology (see Wikipedia) would suggest that:
    ideology is a coherent system of ideas, relying upon a few basic assumptions about reality that may or may not have any factual basis, but are subjective choices that serve as the seed around which further thought grows. According to this perspective, ideologies are neither right nor wrong, but only a relativistic intellectual strategy for categorizing the world. The pluses and minuses of ideology range from the vigor and fervor of true believers to ideological infallibility. Excessive need for certitude lurks at fundamentalist levels in politics and religions.
    From my perspective, I have long maintained that ideology functions as a filter for our ideas and thinking: it filters what absorb, how we receive information and ideas, constructs and concepts, the data we accept, that which we reject. At the same time, ideology is a filter through which our own communication takes place.
    Thus, logically, we can consider the extent to which people are aware of their own ideology and the role it plays relative to their education and intellectual development. I would posit that the more more we are conscious of our own ideology the more open-minded we are — but that too is a projection of my own ideological perspective, because I value open-mindedness I associate increased consciousness and awareness as virtues and conflate them with a positive ideological trait, open-mindedness.
    Certainly, if I want to organize a radical activist group, my ideas about open-mindedness may not be so positive and I would value certitude much more highly.
    We should not presume that all educators view education the way we as individual educators do: it is not correct to presume all scientists seek the “truth” or that “objectivity” is a value in education above all others. These are value constructs that reflect the ideology of those proposing them.
    Many intellectuals support the proposition that all knowledge is contingent. What we think is absolute and certain is only as absolute and certain as the knowledge we have. Every so often an Einstein pops up and changes that presumptive knowledge. At this juncture we are straying into both philosophy and meta-physics, and I am about as far down those respective limbs as I am comfortable…
    So, what does this have to do with climate, education and indoctrination? Everything. People may agree on the ideas: education is good, indoctrination as bad, but then in practice, in pronouncements, in communicative practice commit an act that is for them “educational” which for others from a different ideological perspective is to them “indoctrination”.
    Add in the capacity for political entities to be explicitly Orwellian in their use and misuse of language and we get the situation we have today.

    Perhaps the best we can achieve is open dialogue with tolerance and an absence of arrogance, personalization and political agendas. Sometimes we get two of the three: rarely all three!

    • AnyColourYouLike

      L Graham Smith

      I very much like your post and agree with most of it. I would maybe say the term “ideology” has perhaps too much political resonance for me personally, and contains a hint that the factors that govern choices are always (or mostly) conscious (probably not your intention), whereas I would submit that if psychology has any merit at all, unconscious and even “irrational“ factors influence our beliefs daily (David Wojik‘s posts notwithstanding).

      I would use a more neutral term like “self-identity” – but essentially the same idea. Forgive me if I do not follow your more solipsistic path of wondering whether this choice is an arbitrary artefact of my own internal reality construct; not because there may not be some truth in it, but that it may lead of necessity to several years of meditation, which I don’t have time for at this point in my career. ;-)

      • AnyColourYouLike

        Following on from that, I would see “internal narrative”, in the sense that it is being used here, as being based mainly on this self-identity. This would seem to be especially true of scientific laymen. Laymen NEED to rely on others for knowledge, or seek out a long and laborious path of self-education. As someone stated above, for adults to do that usually requires a compelling sense of relevance. I think we see in the blogosphere that large numbers of people no longer feel they can simply rely on their “proxies”, as Michael Larkin calls them, for this information. They are attempting to self-educate, and I can confirm personally that it is a sometimes laborious process. This motivation might be attributed to Climategate, to hunches that something is wrong, weary experience of doom-mongering stories from the past, or an understandable desire not to be tax-burdened without first investigating exactly why! These are self-identity or “internal narrative” issues. Put crudely – BS detectors have gone off in a lot of people.

        However, even the greatest scientific genius cannot know everything about every subject, or even every sub-field of the scientific discipline in which he or she may be a specialist. Even scientists have to follow their gut from time to time (arguably some of the greatest discoveries of science have emerged this way). Scientists too have an internal narrative, a self-identity which may well be aided or hindered by a conscious or unconscious set of heuristics that have served them well in the past, or, conversely a groupthink, “bubble“ mentality that makes it hard to see outside their own sense of certainty, and can create an “us scientists – them morons“ mentality. Unfortunately, from my subjective reading of the situation, far too much of the latter seems to exist amongst climate scientists. Whether this is simply an “ego” thing, or some complex tension of self-identity that is at once invested in “world-saving”, but is maybe morally compromised by the need to keep generating grant income, I don’t know. I also don’t know to what extent such attitudes are conscious or unconscious, but to me, they’re there.

        Sorry, I went off on one there. Hope some of this makes sense or is at least relevant. It’s late. :-)

      • appreciate the comments: it was indeed an expansion of Judith’s “internal narrative” that I was intending.
        Ideology is often taken synonymously with “political ideology” but from reading of philosophy this is not correct nor are other concepts (ethic, philosophy, belief, ontology, epistemology) accurate terms either, and, thus, ideology it is.
        Perhaps this is not accidental as it is around some central constructs (politics, faith and gender relations) that our ideology is most obviously manifest.
        Chrichton was the first to posit that environmentalism was a religion.
        For many of this suasion, climate policy has exhibited many of the certainty and infallibility weaknesses suggested in my post.
        For many, environmentalism is certainly considered the predominant alternative political ideology — with environmentalism assuming a moral imperative for politics in the absence of any prevailing “real” issues — this theme is very well explained over at Climate Resistance.

        In addition, a lot of commentators conflate economics and politics. Indeed, with socialism, they are one in the same but in a free market democracy, the free market capitalism describes the economic system that operates within the purview of a democratic political system. People’s ideology can prevent them from seeing important distinctions prevalent within alternative perspectives.

        I mention these concepts and constructs because most academic scientists I have met are not aware of the nuances in social sciences: subtleties about which they complain bitterly when skeptics and the great unwashed exhibit them around “their” science.

        I also think this lack of awareness of ideology is the root cause of the arrogance observed in most academics, including many in the climate field.
        Einstein once said: ‘The more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know.’
        That does not reflect the prevailing approach to climate science. If it did there would be no discussion of indoctrination in any discussion of education.
        It is the ideology of environmentalism, and its continued reliance on alarmism (see Breakthrough), that drives this approach both within the science of climate, the IPCC process and the conduct of the individual science activists.

      • Without wishing to open up another ‘us vs them’ thread, is there any evidence that the key scientific minds involved in the debate are driven by environmental ideology?

      • Participation in the IPCC for one thing.

      • I was going to respond by saying it is a purely personal obeservation based on 30 years experince in the field but, voila!, there is a study and an article for everything it seems:
        not necessarily “driven” by ideology so much as presumptive and accepting of a narrative that is advanced and matches rather than challenges their prevailing ideology or internal narative.

      • Michael Larkin


        No need to apologise. I enjoyed your post and think you and I view internal narratives in a similar way.

    • randomengineer

      From my perspective, I have long maintained that ideology functions as a filter for our ideas and thinking: it filters what absorb, how we receive information and ideas, constructs and concepts, the data we accept, that which we reject.

      Interesting stuff. I’m not arguing here, just adding a different view:

      From my POV it seems obvious that you had to absorb first before you were able to form an ideology. Ideology is just the shorthand version, the “executive summary” of what we’ve learned and what weighting we learned to apply.

      Mileage varies with individuals; Meyers Briggs tests have a notation for some of this. Some people create their internal “truth” via external stimuli and others (more rare) have a built-in internal “truth” that they use to make sense of the outside world. I would suspect that some extrapolation here would help spell out at least some ideological formation.

      Don’t know if you’ve heard of these tests (in some companies the HR weenies love them) but I suspect you’d find a lot of fodder to dwell upon.

      Don’t mind me. Carry on.

    • Michael Larkin


      “ideology is a coherent system of ideas, relying upon a few basic assumptions about reality that may or may not have any factual basis, but are subjective choices that serve as the seed around which further thought grows. According to this perspective, ideologies are neither right nor wrong, but only a relativistic intellectual strategy for categorizing the world. The pluses and minuses of ideology range from the vigor and fervor of true believers to ideological infallibility. Excessive need for certitude lurks at fundamentalist levels in politics and religions.”

      Your concept of ideology doesn’t seem to be very far away from the idea of internal narrative. Except, perhaps, that ideology tends to be explicitly stated. Internal narratives may be, to all practical intents and purposes, invisible to those who follow them. They may have to be winkled out through introspection or talking things through with a more detached observer.

      Additionally, I’d say, internal narratives may be much more individual and personal. Maybe sometimes an explicit ideology is found attractive because it allows more private narratives to surface and find some legitimation.

      At any rate, you’ve made an interesting post and I’ll let it marinate a bit longer.

      • Michael:
        I like the idea of internal narrative and I think we are speaking about the same thing, just using different terminology but also the locus of awareness might reflect that internal vs. explicitly stated difference. Much of my work has been seeking to make ideology more explicit as I would argue the difference between bias and advocacy is the extent to which ideology is internalized and unstated (bias) and the explicit and externalized (advocacy).
        The problem I have faced when talking with scientists about their ideology is twofold: (1) the instant confusion with “political” persuasion and (2) their denial that they have any overt ideology — they see themselves as objective, truth seekers — not realizing that they are predisposed to favor some explanations over others.
        Thus, for example, when you ask what is the problem with rising CO2 absent of any relation to increased warming, it is not a question they can conceive: the presumptive relationship is ideological but not seen as such.

        As the discussion to your initial post has revealed here, the problem with using the term “internal narrative” has a similar sense of (1) lack of familiarity with the concept of narrative and (2) an unwillingness to recognize this might apply to “objective” “truth-seeking” scientists.

        Lastly, I do observe almost daily the extent to which the academic system encourages (may even require) a degree of self-assertion by professors that fosters systemic arrogance. We are asked to stand in front of groups and “profess” — surround people with a coterie of graduate students and pay them to pontificate and the lure of arrogance is easily understood.
        My point here is not to castigate nor condemn, but to paint a picture of how systemic forces can drive individual behavior when coupled with the complimentary internal narrative and/or ideology — a situation revealed by the Climategate emails. (In answer to the earlier question of how did this happen?)
        Question: why have more academics not spoken in shock at the bad conduct and bullying tactics of expertise politics revealed by Climategate? Why has the prevalent response on campus been to ignore and proceed as business as usual?
        Suggestion: because Climategate reveals business as usual in academia — the climate guys just got audited and exposed.

      • “internal narratives may be much more individual and personal”
        agreed: and if we map individual’s personal narratives I am going to suggest clusters occur and we can categorize those clusters a number of different ways as “ideologies”.
        My own prefernce is the “stasis” and “dynamist” categroization developed by Postrel in her book The Future and Its Enemies.

  19. The result is that the situation is now FUBAR. Frankly, on reflection, I don’t think it can be mended with specific reference to the disseminating of educational materials about the nuts and bolts of the actual science. Too many people have bought into too many narratives.

    Michael’s solution to the FUBAR is to have a meta-discussion about all the narratives and I think that’s valuable — I look forward to it — although so far the discussion here has mostly focused on the question of what is a narrative.

    However, I question the FUBAR. I think we are seeing the usual messiness that occurs when any serious issue collides with democracy.

    It seems to me that much of unhappiness from the climate change side is that they don’t want climate change handled democratically. They want the scientists to reach their consensus and propose solutions, then the government legislates those solutions, and then the citizens pay their taxes and cooperate. Neat, tidy.

    That’s how the CFCs and Ozone Hole issue worked. But for many reasons that’s not how it’s going to work with climate change. Maybe it could have but by now it’s not. That ship has sailed and it ain’t coming back, though it seems that climate scientists and advocates aren’t willing to accept that political reality.

    I suggest they do. Everyone knows the drawbacks of democracy. Citizens are spread out all over the place — some are ignorant, some are fools, some are flat crazy, and everyone has their biases and agenda. But even though citizens mostly don’t have degrees in history, economics, science, or that odd discipline known as political science, somehow it balances out and good enough decisions get made.

    Education vs Indoctrination. The difference is teaching people so that they can reach their own conclusions versus teaching them so that they reach your conclusions.

    We live in a democracy and a sophisticated one actually . Most citizens have no idea what radiative forcing is but they can sure tell when they are being talked down to and indoctrinated. Climate change advocates are hurting their own side IMO when they keep trying to control the debate.

  20. Judith,

    I hope that what follows is not off topic. As I have said before, I am a question-asker, not an alternative-theory-monger. Two questions that seem central to me have been mentioned occasionally on all these threads, but the answers have not been crisp. So I would like to pose them, and ask for answers, especially from the highly competent scientists here.

    Where I live, if the need were to consider future climate possibilities, I think we would all be searching for future rainfall patterns, because they affect farming and grazing, which are the basis for our political economy. We have excellent rainfall records, which extend into well the 19th century. They show a strong pattern of long drier periods followed by unusually heavy rainfall. The cycles seem to have a fifty-year period, or thereabouts. We would, I think, be looking to see what caused this periodicity, and thus be able to prepare for droughts and floods more capably than we now do.

    But we wouldn’t be looking at temperature, and we wouldn’t be imagining that what was affecting us had a global origin — at least that wouldn’t be the first thing to occur to us.

    So my questions are:

    (1) Why has temperature, indeed anomalies in temperature, been seen as central to projections of future climate ?

    (2) And why, given that the two hemispheres have weather and wind patterns that are unique to each (if that’s not too strong a term), are we searching for a global explanation for future climate projections?

    I would be most grateful for good answers. If this should be posted somewhere else, please exercise your authority and act for me!

  21. About a month ago A CBS News helicopter shot some footage of an unusual trail in the sky off the coast of Los Angles at sunset. Folks immediately suspected that it was a missile launch. A ballistic missile launch that covered hundreds of miles and went thousands of feet in altitude. The theories abounded. A Chinese nuclear sub. Terrorists. Mexican drug lords. Russia, North Korea.

    Once someone associated this event with a theory, like China flexing it’s muscle while Obama was in Indonesia, their tolerance for an alternate explanation decreased by an order of magnitude. Folks that did not read any specific meaning or theory into the event were much more open to the overwhelming evidence that this was a commercial aircraft contrail, seen at an angle and under lighting, that made it look similar to a missile launch.

    Further, once they had gone on record supporting a particular view, like a Chinese sub launch, and the longer that they continued that support, the more aggressively they would attack other explanations and the more likely they were to commit logical fallacies like an appeal to authority or ad hominum attacks.

    I see a direct analogy of the LA missile launch to AGW. Folks that don’t subscribe to any particular social or political policy attached to global warming are by an order of magnitude more likely to be open to different interpretations of the effects and significance of AGW. But those who do believe that AGW has significant social implications, for example that we will have to eat less meat and more vegetables, are far less likely to have an open view of the variables and uncertanties.

    When some person or group goes on record supporting AGW along with their pet theories of reform, they become absolutely hardened against any further debate or dialogue. They commit the same logical fallacies like appeals to authority and ad hominum attacks as the missile theorists did. So the problem of education versus indoctrination boils down to whether someone attaches their personal political or social beliefs to the science. If they do it always has a negative impact on the science. When politics influences science, science is harmed.

  22. For several months now Jerry Pournelle has been musing aloud in his blog over his question of how does one accurately measure the temperature of large areas to the tenths of a degree we see in climate science papers. See here for his latest.

    What I would really like to see is a good undergraduate level exposition on how global average annual temperatures are conducted: data sources, regions, what weights are given to what observations, what kind of “adjustments” are made and how they are made, what is done when data from a given day, or week, or month is missing — what substitutions are made for missing data — and other such factors. I’d be glad of a good book on “How to measure the temperature of the earth.” It need not be very complex. Just a narrative on why air temperatures are used instead of, say, the interior temperature of a given rock; do they use water temperatures or do they take the temperature of the air above the water; given use of air temperatures, what techniques are used, and what altitudes are chosen and why, and these are averages of what measures? I really don’t know how I would go about getting “the average annual temperature” of Los Angeles to any real accuracy for any given day, much less an average for the year. What about nights? Clear nights are a lot colder than cloudy nights. Do we make any kind of adjustment for cloud cover? Or do we take night temperatures “in the shade”, that is without exposing the instrument to the -270 radiant environment of the night sky? What do we shade it with? Is that a standard structure?

    There may be such discussions, but I haven’t found many. I have seen a number of reports on the air temperature gauges at various airports, and the changing conditions under which they operate, but rarely is that accompanied by any kind of narrative on how to compensate for changing conditions so that data can be compared from year to year. Yet, with billions, yea trillions, at stake, surely it is worth discussing how we know that 2010 was the hottest year forever?

    I’d like to see books on climate science issues such as Pournelle requests myself, but apparently they don’t exist.

    • I think we will see some work on this topic in the near future.
      Pounelle is no slouch on tech issues. He raises a valid point.

      • Pournelle is good. Here’s a bit more from him about an exchange he had with a climate change advocate over his temperature questions.

        At first the advocate, Mark S., tried to bowl Pournelle over with the thousands and thousands of temperatures taken all over the earth and at different altitudes. But this did not satisfy Pournelle’s concern with the tenth of a degree accuracy that one sees in climate change graphs. No matter how many times temperatures are measured, it doesn’t yield that degree of accuracy if one doesn’t know the how and the what of the measurements.

        In reply Mark S. requested, nay demanded, that Pournelle to read the technical portion of IPCC 4 and then became abusive.

        To be sure there are unpleasant skeptics, but this kind of nasty bluster from some advocates is pretty typical too, and goes all the way up to folks like Gavin Schmidt. They don’t seem to understand the harm it does to their claims to the rational high ground.

  23. David Wolff 1236

    Concerning propaganda, indoctrination, and education:

    As has been discussed, an important way to distinguish propaganda and indoctrination from education, is to identify the purpose. Is my goal to teach a child how to think for themselves? That sounds like education to me. Is my goal to manipulate others to get them to do what I want them to do? That sounds like indoctrination to me.

    For years, Al Gore has been developing a rationale for massively expanding government power. For years, He and the supporters of human caused warming have been saying we are at a tipping point. Unless immediate action is taken, the world’s sea levels will dramatically rise, leading to massive flooding and catastrophe. Storms and droughts will become more severe. Species will go extinct. The survival of life on earth is at stake. Irreversible, runaway positive feedbacks will superheat our atmosphere, threatening all life with destruction.

    What are the limits of their ambition? The government control and regulation of the supply and demand of all forms of energy? The reduction of carbon output to pre 1900s levels? The submission of all the world’s people to their decisions and ideas?

    What form will the remedies take and will they cause more harm than good? For example, creating alternative fuels is a great idea. Shifting world corn supplies away from providing food to the world’s poor to providing fuel for the world’s rich, not so great.

  24. This comment at Bishop Hill is very interesting in light of the topic of this thread:
    “I just listened to a BBC R4 programme called “The Empire of Climate”. On it, Professor Mike Hume of UEA said: “Too much of the public debate about Climate Change has been rather sterile arguments about decimal points on trends of warming or the precise magnitude of future projections. And those are very sterile arguments it seems to me, so I think it’s very important that we continue this exercise of reframing Climate Change in a much more explicit cultural and ethical and even spiritual sense.”

    I think he is saying that in Climatology the laws of physics are secondary; the science’s main purpose is to change people’s ideas. Is this paraphrasing fair?

    The verb “to reframe” is popular amongst academic Warmistas. I think that is is defined as: “To exploit arcane and esoteric knowledge in pursuit of a political objective.”

    Dec 7, 2010 at 8:24 PM | Brent Hargreaves “

    • AnyColourYouLike

      “Sterile arguments” in Mike Hume’s context appears to mean those arguments which nobody used to question, but which are now rapidly unravelling.

      What he means by, “reframing Climate Change in a much more explicit cultural and ethical and even spiritual sense.” is anybody’s guess, but sounds like another goalpost moving exercise.

  25. From the opening post:

    “Take away the foundations of what human beings need for reality to be, and you take away their very essence; and that’s very frightening for anyone – for me, for you, simply anyone.” (J Curry)

    Yes indeed. My preference (perhaps my only actual strength) is for analyses of patterns rather than the more verbose and inexact post-modern viewpoints. My long experience here relating to your sentence above is that deep, perhaps primordial fears, are almost never articulated. For example, resistance to the concept of evolution (yes, this is a very sharp example) is really based on the fear of randomness in life. Evolution as a process is mercilessly opportunistic – most people genuinely fear that, so they much prefer to believe in a grand plan, or at least some benevolence with even a flawed plan. They find comfort in this. You can easily perceive this pattern, even in people who profess to understand the concept of evolution – epithets such as “Darwinism”, or “Intelligent Design” litter our public consciousness (although these terms come from the Left and Right successively, both represent reaction to the same fear)

    So, if one is presented with two absolutely competing fears – climate catastrophe vs economic ruin – the responses will struggle very hard to be rational. My own view is that these two fears are both exaggerated because there are rational responses available to both … these responses struggle mightily to be heard through such fear (a rookery in full throat)

    My answer has always been to replace hyperbolic adjectives with simple but realistic numbers. Climate scientists (most, anyway) attempt this but make no effort publically to counteract the “Climate Armageddon” rhetoric of the Deep Greens, then complain publically that the adverse reaction to this rhetoric is “anti-science”. I genuinely fail to understand what else they expected

  26. There has been extensive writing on the site about whether or not GHG’s impact the earth’s climate, and I believe most here acknowledge there is an impact. Are we any closer to a concensus regarding what percentage human released GHG’s are contributing to arming vs. other causes?

    How close is a climate model that accurately “forecasts” conditions 5 and 10 years into the future?

    • Excellent question.

      Prepare to hear a lot of handwaving guff about how 5-10 years is too short a timescale…would be weather not climate, is not a relevant question, you wouldn’t understand without a PhD in radiative physics, you are a denier sent by Big Oil. BUT also that the models are extremely clever and highly accurate over 100 years or more.

      Then ask for experimental evidence and prepare to be excluded from all debates….heresy is unwelcome. Faith is what you need.

      • lol, but sadly I agree. I also agree that 5 to 10 years is not really long enough, but it would build confidence.

    • Would it be sufficient to forecast that the next decadal mean will be 0.15 to 0.2 C warmer than the last one, or is that too obvious?

      • You probably don’t need anything more than a bit of graph paper, a ruler and the temperature readings from Heathrow Airport over the last thirty years to suggest something like that. Or probably a bit less. Or even no increase at all if its like the last ten years.

        Whether you could persuade us all that Thermageddon is just around the corner with that level of technology is debatable. As an industry insider I know that any dodgy data has to be seen to come out of A Computer to give total crap a superficial sheen of verisimilitude.

      • I looked. Its an unannotated unreferenced graph of something. Probably got something to do with James Hansen. If he wasn’t the guy in Star Trek(?)

        What do you think it is trying to tell me?

      • Exactly what you asked for – model predictions (in this case from 1988) against observed temps.

        You might not like what it says, but there you go.

      • Latimer Alder

        Well I suggest that next time you reference a graph, you make sure that it has a title and a citation. Yours didn’t. We were taught this at age 12 in basic science. Since when are they not needed any more?

      • Michael,
        I would have thought you would be the one who didn’t like what it is telling you, which is that Hansen’s predictions are rubbish. Actual temperatures (somewhere below Hansen’s inflated GISS curve), are well below scenario C, which was for reduced co2 levels. And miles below scenario A which was for business as usual, which is what we’ve had.

      • As someone was saying elsewhere in this thread (or Pt II, can’t remember) we want to know if the models “are out by a million miles”.

        The answer t0 that question (in this example) is a clear ‘no’.

        This was an exemplary piece of pioneering science – initial attempts that get a lot of basics correct, but can be much improved…..and subsequently are. Science learns from its mistakes. In this case, Hansen went with too high a climate sensitivity.

      • Latimer Alder

        That was me.

        Perhaps you’d like to explain in more detail why you think that this graph is such a triumph.Superficially it shows temperatures going up ,..and indeed the recorded observations not much better than a 50/50 bet. But I think my graph paper and ruler exercise would have produced something similar.

        But I suggest also that you look very carefully at the pea under the thimble…Hansen is after all an advocate/climatologist…you should not expect the whole truth to be voluntarily divulged. Obfuscation is the name of the game.

        Consider carefully the annotation of the x axis. (1960 – 2020). Then consider when this prediction was made (1988??). The first half of this graph – where there is a better correlation between Hansen’s scenarios and observation were no more than backcasting. And it doesn’t even make a very good job of that. Only the right hand half or the graph is composed of actual forecasts and we can see that there are big anomalies from any of his scenarios in the observations.

        But f you glance casually at the entirety of it you are left with a superficial impression that its not bad. Which I am sure is exactly what was intended. A technique that was subsequently adopted by Mann et al and debunked by Steve McIntyre.

        So, not even a good try in my view. Certainly no cigar, and definitely not worthy of your gushing praise as ‘an exemplary piece of pioneering science’. If I could have done as well with a ruler and squared paper, I don’t believe it was much more than a very expensive waste of time.

        If oter studies have built on thsi with better success, I am surprised that you haven’t bothered to draw our attention to their success. That you need to go back 22 years to find something even superficially half credible tells me a great deal of the state of real evidence in climatology. The cupboard is bare.

      • Sadly I can’t entertain bad faith from the get-go , but that’s your perogative.

        A good part of its’ success is in its’ failure. We can see where Hansen went wrong and what that implies – this is a line of evidence that suggests that a climate sensitivity of 4 is too high. Good – we’ve learned something. Plug in the ‘skeptics’ CS of 1 (or less!!) and the prediction drops out of the bottom of the observed temp range.

        And why go back to this example? Surely it’s obvious?? The further back we go the more chance for the prediction to diverge from reality and so display that “it’s out by a million miles”. It’s not – another important lesson.

        Another reason to go back so far – it’s an early model prediction, so one can assume it to be the most flawed. Still did OK.

        So, he got it wrong, but very nice work James Hansen.

        That’s science.

      • Latimer Alder

        Sorry Michael. Only in climatology can you expect to make a statement like

        ‘A good part of its’ success is in its’ failure’ with a straight face and expect to be taken seriously

        The play that the critics pan as dreadful on its opening is rarely the hidden triumph so beloved of romantic novelists. We Brits love heroic sporting failure – we have a long track record of doing it – but even our heroes remain exactly what they are described as: failures.

        And your argument that this was a gallant try that led to better things would hold more water if you could actually point to some evidence of those better things ever having occurred. Seems like nobody has produced anything better in the subsequent 22 years of effort resource and loads of money. Because if they had the results would be as well known and as well publicised as The Hockey Stick was back in the day when Joe Public believed in what climatologists told them.

        Until I started wondering exactly why they scientists could so confidently say ‘The Science is Settled’ and did a bit of research myself, I guess I had the same wide-eyed admiration for their efforts. But it has primarily been the almost total lack of credible evidence for any of their claims that has lifted the scales from my eyes.

        ‘Bad faith from the get-go’ may be an exaggeration, but a very cynical approach to their unfounded assertions is certainly a sentiment I can agree with.

      • It’s true in all science- you run an experiment, get different results than expected. Usually means you’re learning something.

        That’s what’s good. And in the case of Hansen, we learnt something very specific and very useful.

        As for the models – sadly, due to the constraints of reality, much more recent models can’t give a 20+ yrs test result.

      • Latimer Alder


        We do not know everything!

        The Science is Not Settled!

        We have no experimental results confirming our models!

        Thanks for that. An enormous amount of AGW theory just fell by the wayside. Is there anything worthwhile left?

      • Latimer Alder

        And btw, I don’t disagree with your remarks baout how science progresses and what this may or may not have told us. But conformation of AGW theory it most certainly ain’t.

      • It’s really strange how we keep hearing that the science does not recognise uncertainty, but when you point out that science does indeed continually deal with the uncertainty of constantly incomplete knowledge, the lack of certainty becomes the flaw!

        And what is this “enormous amount of AGW theory” you wave your hand towards?

      • At some point, we may need to regress even further on this blog to “what is science?” post. And I’m not talking about Faynmen, I’m talking about the 3 postulates, the process of discovery, the scientific method, what is considered scientific fact, etc. Because if the prevailing thought amongst skeptics,(and I’ll use Lat as an example, but he is one of many), on this blog is that “failure” does not help science,

        Sorry Michael. Only in climatology can you expect to make a statement like
        ‘A good part of its’ success is in its’ failure’ with a straight face and expect to be taken seriously

        or that uncertainty means we know nothing,

        We do not know everything!
        The Science is Not Settled!
        We have no experimental results confirming our models!
        Thanks for that. An enormous amount of AGW theory just fell by the wayside. Is there anything worthwhile left?

        then we aren’t going get far in this engagement.

      • Latimer Alder


        I am delighted that we have finally come to the conclusion that I sort of expected we would … which is that there are huge uncertainties in climate science. I do not criticise it for that being the case, I don take relish in it, but nor am I surprised.

        I started out on my own little quest to understand a little more than Joe Sixpack precisely because I found it very surprising that I heard so often th e party lines of ‘The Science is Settled’, ‘There is a Consensus’, ‘Only Deniers and Big Oil Shills refuse to believe CAGW theory’, ‘We don’t need observations any more because our models are perfect’ And I was getting very annoyed at being banned from fora or insulted and demeaned by those who thought that they knew everything because I had the effrontery to doubt their certainties. And kept asking for real evidence for their theories.

        So I’m delighted that we have arrived at where we are. Recognising uncertainties, devising experiments to work on them and continually reviewing the strength and evidence for our theories is the way I was taught to do science thirty five years ago. It is good to see your universal acclaim of those old-fashioned values.

        So I hope to hear a lot less of ‘The Science is Settled’ and a lot more about what is really known and what is not known. And hard evidence..with experiments and observationsn and hypotheses and theories, not just correlations and statistical skulduggery. Maybe one day climate science will be as respected a discipline as maths physics or chemistry. But there’s a heck of a way to go.

      • There are huge uncertainties in all science – that ‘s what I’ve been saying the whole time.

        Gypo. has it 100% right. What is science is somethimg that needs to be explored for a lot of people here.The faux-sceptics seem to be tripping up on this all the time.

        LA – what planet are you on? Climate science is mostly maths and physics. And obs?? – why do you think there has been a whole new global surface measurement system put in place and new satellites?? Do these produce something other than observations?

      • Latimer Alder


        ‘Climate science is mostly maths and physics’. I can agree that at some points of ‘climate science’ maths and physics are involved. But only around the edges of the whole AGW theory edifice.

        Well up to a point. The bit where you get to constructing some form of theory about how a ‘greenhouse effect’ works is primarily physics. I’ll agree with that, and you can go and do some experiments to show that you understand the physics in a test tube pretty well. IR spectroscopy has been known and used as an experimental technique for over a century. I even did a bit myself back in my Phys Chem days.
        Fine…no problem with that. Lets call that bit ‘old-fashioned science’.

        And that is the last bit of the theory where there is any reliable experimental proof at all. And where the models come in.

        All the rest – the presumptions of Co2 being the sole cause of recent warming, the consequent belief in high climate sensitivity, the idea of ‘tipping points’ and all that malarkey are all based on the assumption that the basic mathematical models are not only right in the sense that they work correctly, but complete in the sense that they correctly take into account ALL of the possible factors that can change the climate.

        But these models have never been tested by comparison with observations and been shown to work. Even Hansen’s – your best example – doesn’t do very well backcasting let alone forecasting.

        I fully accept that there is a lot of maths involved in modelling and some very clever people are needed to do it. If you read my bio on denizens you will see that I have a bit of experience of writing similar models, which is why I am concentrating on this area. Until you have got a sound model that actually agrees with the real world time and time and time again – and makes predictions that can be verified, all you are doing is exploring the properties of the models, not of the climate. It is a fallacy to pretend otherwise.

        And by observations, I meant experiments designed to prove or disprove a theory. In modelling terms this means to make definite predictions about a series of measurable variables at some not too far point in the future. If the model gets these right – a tick in the box. If not, we have proved definitively that the model is at least ‘incomplete’ and any other predictions it makes cannot be relied upon. It also gives the modeller a better idea of where to concentrate their efforts to improve.

        If you know a better way to advance science than the theory–>prediction—>experiment–>new theory cycle that evolved over the last 800 years, please let me know. Because climate science seems to have missed out bigtime on the basic prediction/experiment bit and leapt straight into a full blown AGW theory (with or without catastrophe depending on your love of Mother Gaia).

        To my mind that is not science, it is wishful thinking.

        As ever, easy to show me I’m wrong and all these bases are well covered. Show me the literature and results that demonstrate that the climate models are right and can consistently make reliable predictions about the climate/weather.

      • I can’t really follow your arguments. They seem to go round in circles.

        Back to the models. There was no basic predictions, just “full blown AGW theory”????

        Full blown nonsense.

        Remember Arrhenius. His climate model dates back to 1896 (important to remember that ‘models’ doesn’t equal ‘computers’ – seems to be a staple error amongst the ‘skeptics’). A fairly simple model predicting increasing temps from increasing co2.

        Empirical data says Arrhenius’ model was correct. You’d think that a prediction made over 50 yrs out and getting it right would be a line of evidence with some weight.

        Apparently not.

        Back to Hansen – backcasting power is pretty good. Didn’t do too bad a job at forcasting 20 yrs out. But he went with too high a CS. Re-run it with the value that now sits in the middle of the accepted range (ie starting with a 3) ansd Hansens scenario B sits bang on the observed temps.

        And it’s not theory>experiment>new theory, but theory>experiment>adjust.

        Which is what is happening – over a period of 120 yrs .

      • Latimer Alder

        Pleas show me a plot of Hansen’s work that does such a fine job as you claim. That is what I have been asking you ( and before you Derick64) for, for the last week and a bit. Because this is a real breakthrough! If Hansen’s model is as good as you say, then the problem was well on the way to being cracked 28 years ago.

        But I wonder why it has been felt necessary to need another 29 (I read there are about 30 models being actively worked on)

        I’d also appreciate an example (use a concrete one of you like) where you think my argument is circular.

        Discussing whether an ‘adjustment’ to a model is different from a ‘new’ theory is only semantics and I don’t propose to get into such a futile discussion. We will have to agree to disagree about the way we describe it.

      • Latimer Alder

        And just to be extra picky, I’d prefer that the plot you show me of the accuracy of Hansen’s work didn’t use data that he or his institute had a hand in collecting and/or ‘adjusting’. So no GISSTEMP please.

        I know that you are a more trusting soul than I am., but I have read HRM in detail and the sorry story of the NZ data, and I have developed a very nasty suspicious mentality. And given Dr Hansen’s ‘colourful’ personality and history, I think these precautions are very wise in this case. As would be a copy of his publicly released code from 1998 so that we can check that it is unchanged from then.


      • “We can see where Hansen went wrong and what that implies – this is a line of evidence that suggests that a climate sensitivity of 4 is too high. Good – we’ve learned something. Plug in the ‘skeptics’ CS of 1 (or less!!) and the prediction drops out of the bottom of the observed temp range.”

        For me this begs the question: How well would the hindcast fit the observed with the change to a climate sensitivity of 1? My guess is that the hindcast would be way out of line. In which case, one has to throw out the entire model, n’est pas?

      • Not at all. They would just drop some of the spurious aerosol cooling, add in a dash of oceanic cycles, et voila, meet the new model!

      • I actually said that Hansen got it wrong – but only just, which made it a very good attempt.

        No comment on Arrhenius’ model proven correct through observation, as you demanded?

      • I’ve never had a problem with accepting Arrhenius’s 1906 model. Arrhenius was a great scientist and a leader of my own long ago specialty of Physical Chemistry. A bit kooky in his views when he got outside the science though – surprised that you haven’t marked him down as an ‘Evil Eugenicist’ and so to ignore his views on any other matters. But I guess his greenhouse effect suits you so in this case his other views can be ignored.

        Arrhenius said in 1906 that if you double CO2 you get an overall warming of about 2.0C – including feedbacks because of water vapour.

        This has been known and largely unchallenged for over 100 years. I’m cool with it. First read it about 40 years ago and have no reason to suspect that he’s not there or thereabouts.

        So what’s all the fuss about? Why are people getting their collective knickers twisted and running around predicting doom and disaster? The Sky is Falling?

        A gentle rise in temperature of 2C over a hundred years or so isn’t going to make any huge differences..and many of the small changes it will bring will be entirely beneficial.

        A bit of sea-level rise is entirely natural – we have been living and adapting to that over hundreds of years. A few people live on very low lying islands and may eventually have to move. In the grand scheme of things this is a small price to pay. The total population of the Maldives is 300,000…of Tuvalu it is 12,000…..these are not big numbers of people. About the same as the total of the City of Coventry. And the rise will be gentle and predictable. People will not be suddenly overwhelmed. An rise of an inch every decade is not a catastrophe,

        A longer growing season and more fertile plant life will increase our ability to feed people.

        These are two predicted consequences pretty firmly rooted in basic physics and biology…with good evidence to suggest that they are right. And they can be measured year by year, decade by decade to match against our predictions. And if they are wrong we will ge early warning that we need to look again.

        All the doom predictions that I have sen are based on wild hand-waving speculation about what may happen, but with no actual evidence at all. Or woolly thinkers see an unusual effect and blame it on ‘climate change’ as the ‘bogeyman du jour’, without really looking at the ‘problem’ in detail.

        And if I see another picture of a f…g polar bear looking winsome I shall scream. They should have chosen the less photogenic walrus as the poster child and all this malarkey would never have happened.

        There are more polar bears now (c 25K) than there were 50 years ago (10K). Somehow they have managed to survive the last 50 years and increased their population despite global warming. Perhaps they too have found some beneficial effects of it.

        So, tick in the box for Arrhenius 1906 – see what happens when you get a proper scientist (chemist) on the case….proper science..proper result!

        And note just one other little thing about Sventybaby. He had the integrity and cojones to admit that the could have been wrong. His first stab at greenhouse was in 1896 and he got to 5-6C including feedbacks. But he thought about it and revised his opinion ten years later. This was not a ‘sign of weakness’, but of strength.

        Today’s climate scientists would do well to ponder deeply on his example. A course now being pioneered so well by our host at this blog.

      • Michael- I am not trying to prove Hansen or you right or wrong, but simply to better understand probable future conditions as a basis for supporting policy implementation. It seems if we are going to support any particular policy, we have to have facts/data to support our conclusions.

        It appears that we do not yet have a consensus on what percentage of warming is due to human released CO2, (although there has been discussion here on the topic). There also does not appear to be a model that has accurately demonstrated it can predict future climate conditions. Future CO2 levels can be pretty accurately predicted 5 to 10 years into the future, but it does not appear temperature can. Shouldn’t policy implementation follow reasonably accurate forecasting?

      • Perhaps Hansens model was an “exemplary piece of pioneering science”….but has Hansen admitted yet how wrong he was?

        Should he now apologise for all the advocacy he undertook, using his influential position at NASA, on the basis of this clearly ‘too sensitive’ model?

        Correct me please if I’m wrong, but I don’t ever remember Hansen ever mentioning to any official body that his model was “pioneering’ and therefore likely to be wrong.

      • Michael,
        In that plot, scenario A was Hansen’s ‘Business as usual’, meaning NO reduction in the rate of CO2 increase . Scenario B was ‘constant’ CO2 emissions going forward, and scenario C was some reduction in CO2 emissions (I don’t recall how much).

        The fact that the actual temperatures are well below scenario A indicates that CO2 will not be as catastrophic as the AGW projections show. In fact, the actual temperatures are a bit below scenario C.

        What should this be telling us about the role of CO2 in climate temperature. Clearly that it is not THE driver of temperature.

      • From memory, Scenario A doubled CO2 by 2030 – exponential growth. Hansen said Scenario B was most likely, which doubled CO2 by 2060.

      • “We define three trace gas scenarios to provide an indication of how the predicted climate trend depends upon trace gas growth rates. Scenario A assumes that growth rates of trace gas emissions typical of the 1970s and 1980s will continue indefinately; the assumed annual growth averages about 1.5% of current emissions, so the net greenhouse forcing increases exponentially. Scenario B has decreasing trace gas growth rates, such that the annual increase of greenhouse climate forcing remains approximately constant at the present level.”

        I had to type this out myself. Any errors are mine and I am prone to making typing errors.

      • Scenario A, since it is exponential, eventually must be on the high side of reality …

        Scenario B is perhaps the most plausible of the three cases.

      • “Scenario A, since it is exponential, eventually must be on the high side of reality …”

        And why must it eventually be on the high side of reality?

  27. When I think about AGW, I ask– Does science really understand what percentage humans are having vs. other causes, and can it reliably predict the effects of that impact.

  28. While this request may be somewhat OT, I think that it should fit within “Education” part of the title. The threads on Climate Model Verification, Confidence in Radiative Transfer Models, Physics of GHGs, etc have been educational.

    I do not believe that stating that climate science relies heavily on statistics and statistical methods is controversial. The statistical methods used in Steig09 have been challenged by O’Donnell et al 10. MM05, the Wegman report, McShane and Wyner 10 have raised serious questions about some of the statistical methodologies used in climate science. Please consider a discussion thread on this subject. It should result in a wide ranging conversation.

  29. Number 5 is important to me – since I’m working and traveling constantly, finding time to investigate is exceedingly difficult. My boss probably wouldn’t appreciate me reading these blogs at work.

  30. The people who need educating are climate scientists, with their manifest ignorance of basis mathematical and statistical concepts. When properly educated, their beliefs will decompose, and rational discourse with them will again become possible.
    And when climate change scientists lift their game, they will cease to be CC believers keen to educate/indoctrinate the rest of us. None of them can do or read multivariate regression analysis (the proof is in their zillion publications none of which use this technique to disentangle natural and non-natural influences on temperature change). Once that technique is applied, and it never was in AR4, the influence of CO2 on temperature disappears.
    It is also true that no climate scientists, and certainly none of those responsible for AR4 WG1, knows how to calculate the respective LN growth rates of CO2 emissions and changes in the atmospheric concentration of CO2, aka [CO2]. Here are the facts you will NEVER see in any work by the IPCC’s Wigley, Trenberth and all too many.
    What is missing from all statements on growth rates of CO2 emissions (by the IEA et al. and the IPCC) is any statistical analysis of the uptakes of those large gross increases in CO2 emissions (other than the misleading and error strewn section in AR4 WG1 Ch.7:516). These provide a large positive social externality by fuelling the concomitant increases in world food production over the period since 1960 when the growth in CO2 emissions began to rise.
    Thus although gross emissions have grown by over 3% pa since 2000, the growth of the atmospheric concentration of CO2 has been only 0.29% p.a. (1959 to 2009) and still only 0.29% p.a. between October 1958 and October 2010 (these growth rates are absent from WG1 Ch.7). The growth rates of [CO2] from October 1990 to now and from October 2000 to now are 0.2961 and 0.2966 respectively, not a very terrifying increase when one has to go to the 4th decimal point to find it, but to acknowledge this would not have got one an air fare to Cancun.
    These are hardly runaway growth rates, and fall well (by a factor of 3) below the IPCC projections of 1% p.a. for this century. The fortunate truth is that higher growth of emissions is matched almost exactly by higher growth of uptakes of [CO2] emissions, because of the benevolent effect of the rising partial pressure of [CO2] on biospheric uptakes thereof (never mentioned by AR4).
    You will of course NEVER see these LN growth rates of [CO2] in any IPCC report or in any other work by climate scientists. Charitably one supposes this is mainly because of their incompetence in basic math and statistics rather than any malevolence or snouts in the troughs of research grants and tickets to Cancun.

    • Latimer Alder

      Since much (all??) of climatology is really just statistics applied to weather data, shouldn’t we be looking to expert statisticians to apply their minds to the problem. Rather than letting a lot of people with soft science qualifications but little mathematical or experimental ability rule the roost?

  31. Even ‘objctivity’ is ‘subjective’ (internal narrative). The problem with climatology + human involvement is that it is too complex.

    There are multiple narratives wherever one stands or however it’s parceled out.

    • I agree there are always going to be multiple narratives and the whole “climatology + human involvement” equation – and corresponding lack of objectivity – has been an unavoidable fact since Descartes.

      However, I don’t see this as a particular problem because this has ever been the nature of human endeavour. Moments of relative clarity do emerge from time to time in this seemingly chaotic process: for instance, I think most participants – at least on this blog – would now accept the basic ‘greenhouse’ theory as a reasonable premise from which to proceed. Gravity – once a complete mystery – was mentioned earlier in this thread, a property of we have a far greater (but still nowhere near complete) understanding since Einstein pulled space and time together.

      So, although the climate debate is extremely complex and convoluted in the manner you suggest, I wouldn’t lose all hope for a gradual “lifting of the veil”, to quote Michael Larkin from an earlier thread.

      • However, I don’t see this as a particular problem because this has ever been the nature of human endeavour.

        It’s time to get over this explicit impediment. My patience is lost.

        A whole aspect to nature cannot be touched by the objective perspective. There is reality beyond autism.

  32. Alexander Harvey

    For me, indoctrination arises when something is taught to which the learner fails to mount a timely challenge.

    In that sense, avoiding indoctrination would require the teacher not to teach material beyond the learner’s scope of challenge and for the pupil not to lazily accept the lesson.

    The question of whether there should be the burden of duty on both parties to meet their respective requirements is debatable. As is the question of whether some level of indoctrination be an inevitable consequence of education?

    Is the teacher free to desist from, and the pupil free to resist, indoctrination? At some level the process rests on personal freedom. A teacher may be obliged to teach certain things at certain times, and at some point the pupil’s ability to mount a challenge may be overwhelmed. That would I think be the stage beyond indoctrination, known as brainwashing.

    The truth of the lesson is not decisive for my definiton of indoctrination.


  33. Alexander Harvey

    If AGW theory is being indoctrinated; being taught to people who lack the facilily of challenging it, I must wonder why.

    Is it being taught to people so young that it is beyond their scope? If so perhaps the portent of its consequencies is beyond their scope. What is the imperative for such teaching?

    When I was young, the biggest apparent threat was global annihilation from nuclear warfare but none of, game theory, nuclear physics, geopolitics, was taught to those of tender years. The instillation of fear was not in the curiculum. I would worry if fear be instilled in those so young that their options are but stress and resort to hope in prescribed solutions.

    There is a point were such practices must be percieved as institutionalised terrorism. I assert that the installation of belief through fear be brainwashing. Is such really going on?


    • Sure, fear mongering is the worst form of brainwashing.

      It is often used as a political tool, invoking imaginary hobgoblins (see Mencken), whether it be to start a war or impose a carbon tax.


  34. Gullibility and ignorance meet up in Cancun:

    save the world from DHMO!

  35. You really don’t have to go all the way to Cancun for gullibility and ignorance. There is more than plenty of old fashioned ignorance and gullibility right here at home in the United States, especially when it comes to understanding things that are a bit on the technical side.

    There is a real paradox. We were able to put a man (actually many more than one) on the moon, we have invented all kinds of technical gadgets ranging from computers to cell phones, and we have a great deal of understanding about the world around us. The public is quite happy to use all of these technical gadgets and inventions, but people are woefully ignorant as to how these gadgets are made, or why they work as they do. At the same time there is also a widespread belief in creationism, astrology, and other forms of mythology and folklore.

    The same can also be said about the current state of climate science. Great strides have been made in the modeling and understanding of how the climate system operates, how global climate has changed over the course of many ice ages, and how the current climate system is changing in response to increasing GHG forcing due to human industrial activity. Yet, the general public is largely ignorant and uninformed about most of these developments. Worse still, the public seems to be far more readily persuaded by conspiracy theories proclaiming global warming to be a hoax, and by other misinformation regarding climate change, as opposed to scientific arguments explaining what is happening with global climate.

    There is a lot of talk on this blog about dialog and education . But in the blog commentary exchanges, I sense incredible resistance of people to actually wanting to learn anything different from their already held opinions. These are very predictable opinions expressed by the vast majority of bloggers with scarcely any apparent evolution in their thinking. Perhaps education is a very slow process – after all, I did not learn everything that I know about climate and radiative transfer just in the past several weeks.

    It is easy to blame the education system for the current state of affairs. On the other hand, it should be kept in perspective that the vast majority of scientists who ever lived are still in the prime of their research careers working on countless different topics of scientific interest. Nevertheless, it is disappointing that a large fraction of the public is more readily persuaded by deliberate misinformation and propaganda than by rational scientific argument. I am not convinced that all this can be simply explained as being due to the poor communication skills of scientists. I think that the education system is indeed to blame, at least for the major part of inadequate public understanding and appreciation of technical issues, and the central role that science has to offer in reaching understanding of the issues at hand.

    Good and effective education really has to happen in the formative years of K-6. That is when appreciation of creative thinking with a scientific approach to view everyday problems needs to be ingrained and established – well before the unsound elements and doctrinaire practices get a chance to subvert what would otherwise develop into an objective outlook on life.

    • Nevertheless, it is disappointing that a large fraction of the public is more readily persuaded by deliberate misinformation and propaganda than by rational scientific argument.

      What DELIBERATE misinformation are you referring to? Please tell me that you’re not trying to evoke the “evil big oil” argument.

      I think that the education system is indeed to blame, at least for the major part of inadequate public understanding [snip]

      It’s very un-PC to just come out and claim people are stupid, but “they’re ignorant” is a widespread belief in your community.

      Let’s put the ignorance argument to the test. Tell me, how many electromagnetism skeptics have you run across?

      (Trick question.) None.

      Average people may not be electronics experts but working widgets like cell phones have a tendency to make the explanation believable. This tells us that education is doing its job reasonably well. The ability of the average IQ individual to accept scientific premise is enhanced when there’s proof of concept in some form. There are *some* people who doubt evolution due to this. But electromagnetism? Aeronautics? No.

      It’s funny how it is that the US is the world’s sole superpower and holder of most of the world’s worthwhile patents. Not a bad showing for a country full of ignorant dolts, eh?

      So in sum your argument is that most people are vapid fools being led down a garden path by deliberate misinformation merchants and are too ignorant to know it’s msinformation and too stupid to question it.

      In other news, client scientists in Cancun today expressed shock that the public in general thinks of them as arrogant and condescending.

  36. “The same can also be said about the current state of climate science. Great strides have been made in the modeling and understanding of how the climate system operates, how global climate has changed over the course of many ice ages, and how the current climate system is changing in response to increasing GHG forcing due to human industrial activity.”

    A corollary to Yogi Berra’s axiom about bragging: if you have not done it, then it is.

  37. The same can also be said about the current state of climate science. Great strides have been made in the modeling and understanding of how the climate system operates, how global climate has changed over the course of many ice ages, and how the current climate system is changing in response to increasing GHG forcing due to human industrial activity.

    Say What!

    Climate models and climate theory has failed for fifteen years.

    Where are the great strides?