Lisbon Workshop on Reconciliation. Part XI: Convinced or Unconvinced?

by Judith Curry

Josh’s Valentine cartoon has the caption “Share the Love, Man” with a valentine aimed at Lisbon. Almost three weeks after the Lisbon Workshop on Reconciliation, is anything new evident from the participants that is of relevance to reconciliation?

Workshop participant Steve McIntyre suggests a Two Way Street, but does not seem to be sharing the love with this comment: “the Team boycotted the Lisbon reconciliation workshop in order to perpetuate its fatwa against critics.”

The Steig-O’Donnell  conflagration continues to be volatile, with little hope for reconciliation.

Workshop participant Fred Pearce seems to enjoy the drama of the dispute.  In his review of the play The Heretic at the Royal Court (which is about the climate debate.) he says:

The Heretic never quite gets what heresy involves. There are no sweaty moments of revelation; no internal anguish; no journey of discovery. A shame, as there are great real-life models out there. Last month I shared a conference table with Judy Curry, a US climate scientist. She was labelled a “heretic” in Scientific American for criticising colleagues over the East Anglian row and trying to find common ground with sceptics. Her story is better than Diane’s – a riveting drama of big egos, corrupted institutions, divided loyalties, conflicted motives, personal anguish, and, yes, real debate about science and saving the planet. I can see Juliet Stevenson playing Judy. It would be more exciting and more real – but also more ambiguous – than this nicely written but ultimately boorish and confected conspiracy tale.

Workshop particpant Nick Stokes has started a conversation at his blog about which words to use in describing skeptics.

Nick Stokes’ thread

Nick is trying to address a challenge that has stymied me, among others.  I tackled this issue on an early thread called “Doubt” where I proposed getting rid of the labels.  A nice idea, but labels are just too useful in discourse on the subject to avoid.

Nick discusses the pros and cons of “skeptic”, suggests “contra.”    Among the terms suggested in thread are heretic, dismisser, so-called skeptics, dissidents-conformists, critics and challengers, doubter and believer, climate concerned.

Ron Broberg presents a complete taxonomy:  Denier, Lukewarmer, Consensus, Alarmist/Catastrophist.

DeepClimate proposes a continuum of sorts:

So it comes down to “reasonable” and “unreasonable” critics of the consensus, I suppose. And there may be more of a continuum int the crucial lukewarmer range. Still it should be relatively easy to place scientists on that continuum with Curry and von Storch towards the consensus side of lukewarmer and Lindzen and Spencer closer to the denier end. It’s more difficult to classify the non-scientists such as McIntyre and McKitrick.

John Mashey provides a comprehensive taxonomy.  John Mashey also provides a knowledge scale.

Some interesting ideas here.

Convinced – Unconvinced

Yesterday I received an email, out of the blue, from a bonafide expert on conflict analysis and resolution who wants to discuss the climate conflict with me.  Wow, I really look forward to that conservation (and will try to get a guest post for Climate Etc.)   In the email, she used the words “convinced” and “unconvinced.”  I thought: Bingo!  Could these be the words we have been searching for?  Lets try this out and see where it goes.

Convinced – unconvinced  allows for a spectrum, and also the opportunity distinguish what a person is convinced or unconvinced about and the epistemic level of their conclusion (that includes both the amount and quality of effort in drawing their conclusions.  I agree with Nick Stokes that the reference for being convinced or not should be the IPCC, parsing this into the Physical Basis, Impacts, and Mitigation/Stabilization Policy.  So an individual could be convinced about the physical basis, but unconvinced that this change would be dangerous or that CO2 stabilization is needed.  Clearly separating out what a person is convinced-unconvinced about is a big part of the problem in any sort of sensible classification.

So, can I convince anyone else to start using this taxonomy?  And further developing it?  I look forward to your thoughts on this.

102 responses to “Lisbon Workshop on Reconciliation. Part XI: Convinced or Unconvinced?

  1. Workshop participant Steve Goddard just published
    Is 2010 The Hottest Year Ever?
    via the SPPI which includes misleading claims about GISS and then concludes

    “The 2010 record temperature claim is not scientifically supportable for many reasons – rather it is a global warming marketing bullet. 2011 is starting out as a very cold year in the US and across much of the rest of the planet – particularly Asia. Chances are 2011 will be one of the coolest years in recent memory. It will be interesting to see what claims will be made by Hansen this year

    Dr. Hansen functions in the roles of global warming head coach, cheerleader, referee and scorekeeper. Temperature measurements need to be made by neutral third parties in the global warming debate.

    Given that one of the aims of the conference was to resolve the “conflict” surrounding temperature data, I’d say it was a failure.

    “So, can I convince anyone else to start using this taxonomy? And further developing it? I look forward to your thoughts on this.”

    I think it would be more normal for one to say they accept or reject a scientific theory.

    • I think that, WRT global warming, it would be more appropriate to say that they accept ro reject a scientific hypothesis, if someone ever gets around to stating the notions about global warming as a scientific hypothesis.

  2. “I am unconvinced” is a useful phrase I’ve heard a lot. It is unambiguous, truthful and non-threatening.

    o “I am unconvinced that you can develop and ship that product on schedule.”
    o “I am unconvinced that your product is better for me than is your competitor’s product.”
    o “I am unconvinced that we can continue to make profits by sourcing and selling sub-prime mortgages.”

    It doesn’t argue that one party is right and the other is wrong or end discussion. Rather, one party still has some work to do and leaves the way open for them to do so.

  3. Definitely in agreement that the Convinced/Unconvinced continuum provides for a range of designations, which is far more representative of reality than some of the more boolean taxonomies. The terms also have the advantage of being neutral, which may not cause civility to break out, but should at least provide one less reason to take offense.

    So an individual could be convinced about the physical basis, but unconvinced that this change would be dangerous or that CO2 stabilization is needed.

    Actually, someone could agree with both the basis and the potential for risks, but still question the details and/or the haste of the response.

  4. Judith
    I can’t help feeling that these labels are unhelpful and largely irrelevant. As you point out, you can be convinced or unconvinced about either the science or the policy or both. The same applies to other terms such as denier, skeptic, alarmist, proponent etc. These terms are often political in origin, they attempt to pidgeon-hole different views and they don’t illuminate the policy or scientific arguments. In terms of reconciliation, therefore, they are really a side issue. Names will never help to reconcile the different views on the science or politics. That said, you might be able to quantify the spectrum of opinion through, for example, polling, and your efforts to quantify the scientific uncertainty are extremely helpful. I am therefore……unconvinced by your proposal for new terms!

  5. People have gone mad with too much data in too short of time. The huge amount of recent data is being extrapolated way into the future. You cannot do that. Look at the ice core data for the past 800 thoousand years and look at the ice core data for the past 10 thousand years. We are well inside the bounds of temperature that we have had for the past 10 thousand years. During this stable ten thousand years, CO2 went up while temperature went up and down. We have a small percent of Arctic ice thawed and it snowed like mad. You cannot melt all the Arctic Ice without getting massive Arctic Ocean Effect Snow that will again cool the Earth. The temperature for the past 10 thousand years is stable in a narrow range while CO2 did rise. Look at 10 thousand years. Forget about extrapolating 130 or 200 years of data. It is a blip in time and cannot be extrapolated.

  6. Please define exactly what the proposal is that you are attempting to “convince” others to accept.

    Is the proposal- “are you convinced that a warmer future is terrible for humanity and we must eliminate CO2 emissions now, regardless of the cost in order to prevent future disasters?”

    Without clearly defining the goal you are attempting to achieve there will be continual obtuse discussions.

  7. We’re wasting our time trying to put two simple labels on complex opinions about a multifaceted issue. One can be convinced about global warming, unconvinced about AGW, convinced about GHGs, unconvinced about positive or negative forcing of clouds, etc. These labels are meaningless unless you define exactly what narrow issue is being discussed.

    There is a wide spectrum between the absolutes of “believers” and “deniers.” Most of us stand somewhere in between. And those of us with open, questioning minds sometimes change position as we learn more. As soon as you try to paste a label on us, you’ll find it doesn’t quite stick.

    “Skeptics” works better than most labels, because it implies questioning, but leaves room for discussion. And “believers” works because it implies unquestioning acceptance of received wisdom. But personally, I’d prefer to focus on the science, rather than the labels.

  8. Well, Lisbon was a political effort to move the Overton window towards outright denial of any significant future climate change and you are certainly doing your part by entertaining straight out of the box lunacy about atmospheric physics and the iron sun. You have been reading the comments here, yes?

    Was, for example, Joe Romm, invited. Hmm, Steve McIntyre was there, and Goddard, and you. How about Richard Alley, if Joe is too hot for you??

    Richard Alley is quoted in EOS (Nov 2010) as saying, in response to the US House Hearing on Climate Change:
    You have now had a discussion or a debate here between people who are giving you the blue one and people giving you the green one. This is certainly not both sides. If you want both sides, we would have to have somebody in here screaming a conniption fit on the red end, because you are hearing a very optimistic side

    The dainty Ms Muffin act is wearing a bit thin Judy.

    • I’m unconvinced.

    • Eli—What are you convinced of

    • what is a Ms Muffin act? and how does Mr Muffin behave? Sorry, I don’t understand bunny speak. But I object to “dainty” tho, nothing dainty about me or what I do.

    • Dearest Eli, eccentrics are an endearing part of bloglife, including you.

    • And I thought Rabett was a somebody. Great ianash-impersonation, Rabett! This guy has really lost it and really blown it. We are going through some very weird times, it seems. Jeez!

    • you are certainly doing your part by entertaining straight out of the box lunacy about atmospheric physics and the iron sun

      Perhaps Eli could show us that either lunacy (I’m assuming the atmospheric physics one refers to the Sky Dragon pieces) is well regarded here. It seems that where either of those receives much attention, it is negative on balance. The first Sky Dragon piece elicited a multi-headed defense of the physics of radiative transfer by both the convinced and the unconvinced. It seems a lot more damage was done to the lunacy by not trying to censor it.

    • Eli,
      It’s an interesting mix of minimising and enabling…

    • Lame Eli,
      I prefer Judith’s muffin to some overgrown hare any day.

    • Eli, Huh?

      The main purpose of the event was to get people to get together to
      ‘talk about talking’

      I think it’s clear that the various sides don’t even know how to talk to each other. What the organizers tried to do was provide some training in methods of communicating. We really just “practiced” a different form
      of communication. For grins I did a role play of people who are the ‘red’ folks in the debate.

      I basically left the room, because it talking about climate change is just a delaying tactic. we need to act and act now.

      Needless to say, when you take a position that the debate is over, when you take the position that doubt = delay, when you take the position that its almost too late to do anything about it.
      you dont get invited to talk. talk would just annoy you.

      That’s the funny irony. the debate about the debate, delays a debate that will have to happen. And we think delay is dangerous. Which is why folks like me and judith and hans are willing to sit down with steve goddard (whom i disagree with) and find some common ground. its ether that or walk out of the room. and then complain that nobody welcomed you.

  9. Where does “the dainty Ms. Muffin” fit on the continuum?

    Quite the sexist comment, BTW, Josh.

    Judy, my prediction is that you will quickly throw in the towel on this whole reconciliation nonsense. The only bigger loonies in this debate than the greenhouse deniers and the coal-train CAGWers are the PNS reconcilers.

  10. There’s a spectrum of opinion, which goes a bit along the scale of overplaying uncertainty – mainstream scientific view – overplaying certainty.

    On a scientific question (e.g. what are the causes of current climate change), it makes sense to me to put the mainstream scientific view in the middle; After all science is a tried and trusted (until recently) means to search for the most plausible explanation. On matters of opinion/politics (e.g. what is the best way to address climate change), this is of course very different.

    Some have tried to recast the mainstream scientific view as “alarmist”. I think that’s a mistake. This re-casting is made easier by the relatively large presence that the first group (overplaying uncertainty and/or consequences of mitigation) has in comparison with the third group (overplaying certainty and/or consequences of climate change).

    Based on the names I recognize, in Lisbon only the former category was well represented, and perhaps some who are edging between the first and middle category. It definitely wasn’t a representative sample from those engaged in the public climate change debate. Which thus defeats the purpose of reconciliation a bit I guess. I expanded on my take on Lisbon at my blog:

    I don’t like the terms convinced/unconvinced very much. Part of my dislike probably has to do with the recent discussion about what “settled science” means to different people, against the background of its use a rhetorical weapon. Being “convinced” can easily be recast as unscientific, the same way that “the science is settled” has. It carries too much baggage, while also being too vague (convinced of what?).

    Other suggestions:
    contrarian – mainstream – alarmist
    dismissive – concerned – overconcerned

    Bart V

    • I’m going to disagree, to a degree, on the “convinced” v “unconvinced” wording as it applies to the “settled” meme. To me, this would help release the baggage that accompanies “settled”. It also allows us to apply “un/convinced” to policy ideas. IE, are you ‘convinced’ enough of the risk to “item1” to do “policyA”. As I’ve tried to discuss before, there is little point in discussing policy without discussing values and ethics. This is one of the areas that Judith has blogged about successfully from skeptic positions, but it hasn’t worked out much because the opposite positions have had little exposure here, and they usually met with same type of stereotypes as you would find at the other skeptic sites. There has been considerable attempts, here and there, to present uncertainty, overplay v underplay, as the reason people come to the conclusions that they do, and that more uncertainty means people should believe that “no regrets” policies are optimal. This is not correct. People evaluate what is at risk, and make evaluations based on how much they value what is at risk. Within the two spectra, there are those who value constant growth and cheap energy and low taxes and low regulations versus those who value environment, generational responsibility, climate risk. and at the crux of both groups, how much they are willing to gamble. Uncertainty does not mean ‘do nothing’ or ‘do little’. In fact, it is quite usually the opposite.

      And Bart, the use of the word “mainstream” is crucial but that will get little play here.

      • Grypo,

        Very well said, and you may well be right that “convinced” would actually be a good word for the reason of releasing that baggage.

        What you say about risk and uncertainty touches the heart of the disagreements.

    • Bart V: I assume you realize that your scale “overplaying uncertainty – mainstream scientific view – overplaying certainty” presupposes who is correct. For shame! A more neutral scale would be “thinks uncertainty is large — thinks uncertainty is small — thinks uncertainty is insignificant” where the uncertainty in question is with regard to dangerous warming. Dangerous warming is the only issue here. Everything else discussed here is related to that issue. This is not a scientific debate conducted for its own intellectual sake.

      • David,

        You’re talking about a scale of how “dangerous” something is. That is a value judgment; not science. Within that realm, a scale of how dangerous do you think this will be would make sense.

        I’m talking about a scientific question. Within that realm, a scale as I suggested is perfectly reasonable.

  11. I agree with RobB that more one-word political labels are unhelpful and/or irrelevant.

    What the unwashed masses would find helpful and relevant is connected people like Judith Curry to address the actual issues with the people who contribute to the problem.

    But she continues to talk the wrong words, in the wrong direction to the wrong people. Deliberately, of course.


    • Andrew– I agree that the convinced vs. unconvinced is meaningless until you define it more specifically. I don’t understand what you mean by “addressing the issue with people who contribute to the problem”.

      What is the problem and who are the people?

      • “What is the problem and who are the people?”

        The Problem = People who claim to believe in AGW want to impose (in various ways) on the people who don’t believe in AGW.

        The People = People who claim to believe in AGW.

        Judith Curry should be talking to the leaders and the members of this tribe to help them understand that they are causing the problem and try to convince them to stop being a problem.

        She’s not doing that.


  12. John Costigane


    A sexist attack by the Team is just par for the course. Groupthink seems to be a male trait, making you the best person for the task.

    New ideas are worthwhile, though the labels have become almost laughable. When Big-Oil or Right-Wing Propagandists are cited as the main source of scepticism, can anyone take the AGW crowd seriously?

    A better alternative, where both sides can play a positive role, is to look to a new version of climatology. If agreement is reached, a real consensus, however temporary, would exist.

    • “A sexist attack by the Team is just par for the course. Groupthink seems to be a male trait, making you the best person for the task.”

      I dread to imagine what you think sexism is and more importantly what it’s not.

      • John Costigane

        The put-down on Judith had all the subtlety of a male chauvinist perspective, and was uncalled for. Judith has been a game changer, welcomed by sceptics.

      • ….and hated by the alarmists because she adds legitimacy.

      • Eli is simply pointing out the nature of La Curry in the debate. Her role is quite intriguing – denial of denial is always a tricky one to pull off – but she has added some wonderful twists to the normal profile.

  13. Alexander Harvey

    To me, it seems a bit one dimensional.

    I think you have to be able to include the nuances amongst those who broadly endorse the climate science but still maintain generally libertarian agendas or simply more radical approaches.

    I might term these people the counter-environmentalists, fully engaged but unorthodox.

    Amongst these would be, almost anyone at or speaks at The Long Now Foundation, similar for the Rocky Mountain Institute, the Death of Environmentalism grouping, Adam Werbach formally from the Sierra Club, plus Michael Shellenberger, Ted Nordhaus, etc..

    Strong on environmental credentials, but generally freedom loving, libertarian types.

    As an aside, most of the environmentalists that I have actually participated with have been practical conservationists and they tended to be strong on personal freedom.

    All of the above would I think be at the totally convinced extreme but might not be on every green’s Christmas card list.

  14. I am very happy with the word denier. No problem at all. It doesn’t say anything about those who are called deniers, but it does say a lot about those who use the word. The term denier, used in a discussion, is stupid, and moreover it is or a fallacy, or plain scoundrel.

    There are only two possible meanings.

    – One may be trying to compare those who discuss with him to holocaust deniers. And by this, he tries to silence them. That’s scoundrel.

    – One may be saying they are denying something obvious. That’s a fallacy because it is only after the discussion you may know whether it is obvious or not. In this case, they should be using ignorant, at their own risk.

    And in both cases it’s very stupid because in any discussion both sides are denying something.

    That’s why I am very happy with alarmists using the d word. So, I vote they keep using denier. It won’t be good for “reconciliation”, but you can’t have it all.

  15. Very interesting discussion which came up at the AMS Annual Meeting. I put up a post about this over at the Capital Weather Gang blog at

  16. Convinced – unconvinced allows for a spectrum, and also the opportunity distinguish what a person is convinced or unconvinced about and the epistemic level of their conclusion (that includes both the amount and quality of effort in drawing their conclusions. [my emphasis]

    Exactly, eg. the bunny is unconvincing, the chat bot is unconvincing. I didn’t just say, “I’m unconvinced.” I opened the door to reasonable discussion by pointing out why the argument is unconvincing (which indicates how I could be convinced). I think the results indicate that bunnies and chat bots can’t be forced through open doors though ; – )

  17. How about skeptic and frothing at the mouth alarmist. No.

    How about denying flat earther and mainstream. Not that good either.

    I don’t see what’s wrong with skeptic and mainstream but I suppose convinced and unconvinced is ok too.

    • Skeptic and mainstream sounds reasonable to me. “Unconvinced” is ok to describe some skeptics but there are people who are “convinced” on either side.

      • What we have are disagreements about scientific facts. All scientists are skeptics when they are working scientifically. Terms like “denier”, “warmer”, etc. are political terms.

        Many of the more adamant types all around the circle seem to have mislaid their scientific skepticism in favor of politics.

      • No, the problem is this blog has a hard core of people who do not accept the most basic physics and poison any attempt at discussion.

        As John Houghton put it, the problem is that the sky is not falling, it is rising because of hot air. (Houghton actually published something pretty close to that when Jack Barrett got some crazy into Spectrochemica Acta, Eli only exaggerates a bit, and it is a fair explanation of a good part of an increasing greenhouse effect)

        So riddle Eli this, how is he going to discuss what the effect of 2x CO2 or a 2 or 4K global temperature rise will be when the clowns are putting in the iron sun, or embroidering like crazy spiders fancy tales about molecular collision to entrance ms. muffet. You can have an intelligent discussion on the first topic, on the second it is talking to the crazy and all you can do is try to help the lurkers.

        And what is the Rabett to think when someone sets up a funny farm in the name of reconciliation. If anything goes folks, everything goes.

      • What?? wait wait wait… back up a bit… you’re telling me the sun ISN’T made out of iron?!?! what the Deuce…..

      • No, the problem for you (et al) is this blog has a hard core of people who do not accept anything from anyone without hard proof. Appeals to the laws of physics carry no weight, have no force, when the claims are not proveable. Where is the proof? You get no cigar without proof. The only ones who seem to be “in denial” are those who claim to have “proof” but produce far less than the judges require.

        PS: We are also your judges, and you are most definitely in contempt of this court.

      • How can one proof any even slightly advanced result of physics to a person without the required education to understand that and without willingness to accept anything he does not fully understand?

        There are certainly some hard core people who do not accept any proof for the above reason.

      • proof -> prove on the 1st line

      • How condescending is that?
        Look, Mate, I don’t come to your workplace and tell you how to sweep the floor ;-)

      • Oh, I’ve come across plenty of people who do not accept the most basic physics and poison any attempt at discussion. But in my field, where I do happen toknow a thing or two. These people are the so-called ‘experts’, who will swear blind that you’re wrong, even after you’ve pointed out to them a hundred times that you can’t change a parameter in isolation unless the other parameters are completely independent of it. It’s like arguing that you can change the voltage across a resistance whilst holding the current constant. You cannot do it. It goes against the laws of physics. But the experts know better. We just ignore them and carry on with our work.

      • Eli—your comment is a load od baloney. Yes there are people like Oliver who seem to need their medication checked, but there is certainly not a significant number of people reading this site that “ignore the physics.”

        People like you seem to just want other to accept want you BELIEVE regarding the impact of the basic physics, and even you never seem to be willing to defend your policy positions.

      • philc

        I agree. I don’t strongly object to using the word “skeptics” as a catch-all term to describe those who don’t accept AGW (to the extent that such a thing is neccessary), but it’s a label rather than a meaningful description – not all “skeptics” are genuinely skeptical and pro-AGW scientists are certainly not “unskeptical” themselves.

        I think most arguments about AGW in the blogosphere are essentially political, even when they are couched in scientific terms.

    • Deluded/Dubious?

  18. I second plazaeme, call me a denier.

    It has become a truism that he who defines the debate – wins. Which is why people seem to get so exorcised about labels for themselves and those with whom they disagree. But whatever truth there was in this concept before, it seems much less relevant now.

    I am all for trying to change the tone of the debate. It would be nice, but it is hardly important, let alone essential. In point of fact, voters (the ones who will actually decide the main policy issues) are hearing all sides. The CAGW side is over represented in the mainstream media, while the skeptics views are aired on Fox News, talk radio and numerous now well known blogs (like this one, WattsUpWithThat and Climate Audit, etc.). Political debate has always been raucous and rude. In the past it was usually worse than it is now.

    So call me a denier: I deny that mankind currently has the ability to determine the average global temperature (land, sea and upper atmosphere combined) within a tenth of a degree; I deny that we can determine the average temperature of the Earth a 100 years ago (or 1000 years ago) within tenths of a degree from a limited number of proxies when we can’t accurately do so today with over a thousand modern weather stations combined with satellites; I deny that we can predict the future average temperature of the Earth 100 years from now with any certainty when we can’t explain a warming period from just 60 years ago; I deny that we can use statistics to determine the actual temperature within a tenth of a degree of locations a thousand miles from the small handful of thermometers in the Antarctic. It doesn’t take a degree in radiative physics to know hubris when you see it.

    I know the slimy connotation intended by the CAGW activists who first started using the term “denier” to describe skeptics, but who cares? All the time and energy spent debating labels has done little to change the tone of the debate, nor does it appear likely that anything will. What’s important is that all sides are aired, and unless the left succeeds in stifling the internet, talk radio, and Fox, that is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

    • Fox News? There is no such thing.

    • GaryM,
      On that basis, call me a denier.
      I also deny that current weather events, are any more extreme or frequent than they have been in the historical record.
      I deny that those who claim otherwise are doing so based on factual evidence.

      • Me, too.

        And then there are those who exploit it for all it’s worth, fiscally and politically.

    • Actually, the skeptical view is apparent everywhere there are online comments.

  19. Dr Curry
    I am an admirer of your efforts and patience, while being a lurker rather than commentator. However, here goes;

    The differences of opinion on the science should be for the scientists and should be “academic” in both senses of the word. The crunch comes in the way the science is reflected in policies, and it is here that the problem has arisen as – to be blunt – scientists through their activist arms have gone into policy areas that they only partly understand. Our politicians (at least in the US and UK) are to blame as they have immaturely bought into supposed certainties instead of factoring uncertainty into policy making.

    This is about uncertainty – as you have rightly commented on many occasions. How does a government or corporation make decisions that best factor in uncertainty, and how do they allow themselves the flexibility to adapt to a change in the data and therefore in the risks and uncertainties? They should not do this by taking any hypothesis about the future, however probable, as “certain”. Alarmist predictions have not proved true, and I cannot comment as to whether they over egged the communications pudding or just got the models wrong. Therefore the risk parameters have changed – temperatures are at the lower end of the CO2 predictions while CO2 is at the higher end. Therefore it is rational to adapt policies – which is what any countries – especially developing countries – are doing.

    Other policy objectives are at least as important as the CO2 debate – increasing prosperity in developing countries through adequate affordable energy, ensuring security of supply in developed countries – both help the environment – the Malthusian tendency has always proved wrong even though I once believed it . How can North America and Europe do this under current environmental regulations and proposed but uncertain changes to those regulations? Security of supply in North America from now until 2030 is at risk because of policy failures driven by the quest for certainty rather than the management of uncertainty. The UK may already be past its critical point on security of supply for the same reason.

    I get frustrated by the tittle tattle of arguments on the blogs, but welcome the existence of a debate that does not happen in North America or Europe in the political domain. And keep pushing the uncertainty issue, please, as this is the best route to any miiddle ground

  20. Hmmm, “Convinced” sounds like a more authoritative position, it conveys a subliminal message that the “convinced” has more knowledge and will need to convince the “unconvinced” who is in need of convincing/teaching in order to achieve the same level of authoritative understanding. Example, “look, let me show (convince) you what I know.”

  21. I agree the question of what someone is convinced / unconvinced about is central; there are several things which I’m unconvinced about. I won’t enumerate them, since it would be a shopping list, but some basics are I’m unconvinced that proxies for “average global temperature” are up to the task of accurately reflecting the “average global temperature”, and I certainly am unconvinced that peer review is adequate for showin quality of work

  22. I’m unconvinced of the following formula, which is the fundations of AGW and climate modelling:


    I am convinced that CHAOS and INFINITY are two sides of the same coin. The average of infinity is infinity, and the average of chaos is chaos.


  23. freudian slip, fundations.

  24. Dr. Jay Cadbury

    @Eli Rabbet
    Okay, we get it. You think the planet is going to blow up and the answer is to charge 10 bucks a gallon for gasoline. Eli, you and the grand dragons, along with the imperial wizards must lead by example. If you’re going to sit there and continue taking advantage of fossil fuels then nobody is going to care. I will toast you Mr. Rabbet when the EPA is blocked.

    • No. Try again, but Eli will point out that gasoline costs about $6 a gallon (US) in Germany, and they are having a lot better time of it than folk in the US.

      OTOH, if you want to know what the Rabett thinks we are headed for, there is a twofer. First, we are wiping out important ecological services at a rapid rate (if the European bees go it is going to get interesting really fast, topsoil is floating down a lot of rivers and the freshwater debt grows rapidly), second climate change driven by atmospheric carbon contamination will seriously bite within this century, maybe starting in 10-20 years, but effects are starting to appear even now. The real bad stuff will come in about 100-150 but the problem is that there are serious procrastination penalties.

      Eli finds it especially amusing that those who are screaming the loudest that others have to live within their means object to having to pay the real costs of fossil fuels.

      Still, you asked. The most immediate climate change threat, IEHO, is nuclear war if it gets really bad in nuclear capable nations and they start looking for water and food wherever they can find it. Think India and Pakistan who already don’t like each other very much.

      • Just curious in what sense Europeans “are having a lot better time of it than folk in the US?” Is it their higher structural unemployment? The fiscal soundness of the PIIGS? The impending implosion of the Euro?

        Europeans have been paying double what the US has for gasoline for decades. The politicians certainly have had a ball spending all those tax receipts, but it is hard to see any benefit to the people.

      • Yeah, i’m pretty sure Europe pays more for it’s petrol (gas) than the US. Filled my car up here in blighty today and it cost me £74 sterling. Which is roughly $119.3 US.

      • Let me answer you as a citizen of Germany.
        The main difference is, that we drive different cars. Two years ago I bought a Ford Fiesta econetic, a full 40 litres (I love the metric system) allows me to drive 850km, which costs roughly 55 Euros.
        I do not think, I pay more per 100 km than you.
        Sure, the taxes on fuels and energy are high, but an important part of these taxes go into the social system, which makes working costs cheaper with the effect of a falling umemployment rate in Germany.
        The short version:
        We drive other cars, which need less fuels. We need less oil. In summary, each citizen pays the same as before eco taxes, but the money goes into our social systems and not into gulf states.
        Rather clever, isn’t it?

      • 10-20 years? Funny, my human ecology professors were predicting similar eco disasters back in the early 90’s, turns out they were wrong about everything. I’m sure they are still preaching (not teaching) the same thing today. They learned their craft back in the 70’s, but unfortunatly they never looked back to check the predictions, they just kept looking forward to the next eco disaster which will be here in the next 10-20 years if we don’t take drastic liberal political action today.

        If you want to learn all you need to know about the eco fatalists, you don’t need to read the peer reviewed literature, you need to study children’s stories. Start with Chicken Little, then the Emporer’s New Clothes. But what happens when a real disaster is looming and it is time to warn everyone, then read The Boy Who Cried Wolf

        Or was it The Boy Who Cried Bees? Whatever…

      • Dennis, ever read a scientific paper on climate change?

      • Right, except that it’s “Emperor’s”, not “Emporer’s”. The latter is prob’ly some dude running an Emporium.

  25. In reading the post and comments, I cannot but feel that a big problem is that we are talking in generalities and failing to get down to the specifics. I think that the convinced – unconvinced spectrum can be useful, but only when we discuss the specific issues.

    For example, I am convinced that CO2 has a minor ‘greenhouse’ effect that may contribute to warming.

    I am convinced that there has been some warming since the ice age. I am also convinced that there has been meddling with the temperature record in an effort to overstate the actual warming. Changes in the population of temperature stations over time, lack of proper dealing with delta UHI effects, and unexplained “adjustments” that always change things to show more warming.

    I am convinced that man is having significant impacts on local and regional climate, primarily through land-use issues as demonstrated by Roger Pielke Sr. I am convinced that many are confusing observed local and regional effects with what they call AGW. I am convinced that it is likely that land-use factors overwhelm actual CO2 concerns, and I am convinced that we are wasting resources on the wrong issue by focussing on CO2 rather than dealing with the real land-use issues we should be addressing.

    I am convinced that if we ignore feedbacks, a doubling of CO2 is likely to increase global temperatures by perhaps 1 deg C. However, I am also convinced that properly understood, the various feedbacks are largely negative and counteract the CO2 greenhouse effect. In fact, I am not convinced that the CO2 cycle will even allow a doubling of CO2 levels.

    I am far from convinced that CO2 is a problem we should be concerned about and I am not convinced that we know enough about the issues to be imposing massive costs on the broad population.

    I am convinced that there are many in government and academia who benefit from the global warming scare and who have a vested interest in perpetuating it.

    No doubt I have missed many issues, but it seems to me that until and unless we get down to discussing the specifics, and particularly the uncertainties that clearly exist in relation to each major issue, we will get nowhere.

  26. How about ‘obsessed’ and ‘not obsessed’?

    Most of us who are skeptical would far rather that money and public attention were spent on other things; probably most of us don’t think of climate science as the be-all-and-end-all, any more than we do of medicine or particle physics.

    Every generation has to think of itself as facing new, unique and scary problems. Every generation is pretty much wrong. Including this one.

    You would think that people who study climate & especially paleoclimate for a living would have some sense of scale and proportion.


    • “Every generation has to think of itself as facing new, unique and scary problems. Every generation is pretty much wrong. Including this one.”

      Well that just makes me feel so much better. How dandy, all the science is wrong.

      • No, just the AGW bits. Because Climate Science is a jury-rigged mish-mash of incompetent borrowings from about 20 disciplines, and its practitioners are far, far out of their depth.

  27. I like it, Judy. I think I like it alot. :-)

    Maybe ‘convinced scientist and ‘unconvinced scientist’ (or researcher) — or ‘convinced by the scientific findings’ and ‘unconvinced by the scientific findings’ might be even better – to ensure focus on the science, as opposed to disinformation, and help motivate media and public opinion to be better informed.

    National Academy of Sciences was using convinced/unconvinced last year:

    I also like the idea of your new direction (using more of a conflict framework), maybe trying to integrate more learning from psychology and group dynamics. The issue requires it, for sure; but also, I think the design of your blog might lend itself to applying these insights. You have a human lab. :-)

    • I think Martha has made some very good points. And while it is a little unsettling to consider in Martha’s terms, this blog does have the climate blogosphere’s most interesting, diverse, and colorful group of “guinea-pigs”. A potential “human lab”, indeed!

  28. Just to note a couple of potential problems-
    1)convinced / unconvinced implies a problem (these people aren’t convinced) and directs a solution (convince them).
    2)The “convinced” seem to have anchored their beliefs, as have some of the “unconvinced”. This naturally leads to positional approaches on both sides, making a political resolution more difficult. The science will sort itself out eventually, so the apparent disagreement will largely work itself out. I’ll just note that public belief in UFOs, etc can run close to 30%, so there are limits to how “settled” any public beliefs will be.

  29. “Convinced” vs “unconvinced” has rather too much of an Andereggian (PNAS) echo to my ear!

    From where I’m sitting, the often overlooked elephant in the debating room is the perceived role of human generated CO2. Therefore, if we must have labels …

    It might be worth considering a continuum which takes into account [CO2] Abolitionists and Preservationists.

    But speaking of the role of CO2 and perceptions thereof … forgive me for again drawing attention to a brief survey I’m conducting (which might have been missed when I mentioned it in “Principle of Reasoning Part III”):

    Calling all scientists – an invitation to speak for yourself!

    • To remind people, Anderegg et al (PNAS, 2010) was the paper that classified scientists into CE and UE (convinced and unconvinced by the evidence). This was one of Steve Schneider’s last papers. The paper was immediately slammed by Roger Pielke, Jr. for producing a “black list” of UE scientists, and by Roger Pielke, Sr., who leads the list, and this reverberated around the blogosphere for a month or two. If the paper had not turned so political, these labels would have been fair, for sure. Of course it was not really a “black list” either, just an attempt at classification that was somehow viewed as victimization because it showed that the UE class were distinctly less qualified in climate science on average than the CE class.

      • it showed that the UE class were distinctly less qualified in climate science on average than the CE class.

        Notwithstanding the fact that Anderegg et al failed to define “evidence”, my recollection of this “study” is that their analysis (flawed as it was) examined the number of papers supposedly published in “peer reviewed” journals by those whom they judged to be UE or CE (classifications which had been made on the basis of petitions/open letters those so classified might have signed) . As noted elsewhere, “peer review” is certainly no guarantee of quality – nor of accuracy in a published paper.

        Consequently (blacklist or no blacklist), my takeaway from this “study” is that the authors were contending that in assessing the “credibility” and “expertise” – of those whose voices should be heard on the matter of climate change/global warming – quantity trumps (unexamined) quality.

  30. Convinced/Unconvinced/Convinced

  31. harold is right. convinced/unconvinced is an empty dichotomy.

    • I thinking along the lines of “bunny-muffins/everyone else.” I think that’s a topped-up dichotomy if ever there was one.

  32. Somewhere long ago on Lucia’s I tried to promote convinced/unconvinced

    not much traction

    I think “unconvinced” bothers some people because it implies ‘convinceable’

    • I’d imagine that if someone were so unconvinced (or convinced, for that matter) that no amount of evidence could ever persuade them to change their mind that they would be used to being bothered.

  33. I’m going with zombies and wombats – the brain dead and the muddle headed. Describes the human condition perfectly – two hairy tribes with God on their side (or Darwin if you’re an atheist – although it hardly seems a fair fight).

    There is much that can and should be done. This morning in my car on the way to work – there was a discussion on the new ‘evergreen revolution’. Doing better with soil, water and vegetation such that everyday a billion people do not go hungry. Can we combine that with global carbon reduction? Yes simply through educating and empowering women, through improving child and maternal health, through environmental and agricultural sustainability in the sense of Our Common Future and through efficient and fair markets and economic development. These things should all be familiar as the Millennium Development Goals.

    I’m all for not flogging dead horses and this it seems is mostly what we have been doing. Why not take the easy gains and claim the moral advantage? Why not meet out MDG commitments and take it to the next level? Why not put $100M/year into carbon reduction technologies and projects? And I would suggest it be done by tender rather than letting fools pick their favourite folly. The money is little enough and if more is needed – well so be it. Clever and adroit technologists that we are – the universe is not beyond out grasp. But let’s see out governments take baby steps – and steps with multiple benefits for the poorest – before imposing their grand and crumbling visions on the world. Instead of failure let’s have success.

    We desperately need a new and inclusive narrative for the next stage in human cultural evolution. If we can achieve that in the next few years then any problem is trivial.

  34. I like the Chief’s posts, too, because he can write simply and accessibly about important things, so I learn. (And I think he is generally right, too.)

    But back to names. Several years ago, when I first started reading and writing in this domain, I was called a ‘denier’, and took exception to the Nazi-smear built into the modern usage of that word. And I’ve searched for labels that don’t carry emotional baggage. But, as others have suggested, that’s no easy task. For some time now, following David Henderson, I’ve tried referring to ‘supporters’ of the AGW orthodoxy (or IPCC position), and ‘dissenters’ from it. But, as the discussion at this website makes very clear, there are shades and shades of support and dissent. I think that there are six more or less distinguishable positions in the AGW debate, with some religious outriders, and I list them each with a short explanation.

    Supporters of the AGW orthodoxy

    1 Strongest The IPCC has raised the alarm. We must do something now, and that something is to get global agreement to curtail greenhouse gas emissions. The science is clear, and now is the time to act. This is fact the orthodox or IPCC position. (I started calling people here ‘Alarmists’ but now think it carries the notion of Matilda crying ‘Fire’ too often, which they would object to.)

    2 Partial Support Adding more and more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere must increase the world’s temperature. But we don’t know really how much extra warming there is likely to be, and the net effects of extra warming might not be wholly negative ones. We should not act precipitately.

    3 Lukewarm support Adding more carbon dioxide may increase the temperature, but there are other factors at work too, and the effect may well be pretty small, and over-ridden by natural factors. We need to know much more before we do anything.


    4 Agnostic dissenters The orthodox arguments rely heavily on models and conjectures. AGW is plausible and possible, but we need real evidence before we do anything. In particular, we need to be able to distinguish AGW from natural variability.

    5 Sceptical dissenters Many sceptics are well informed about one or other aspect of the central AGW proposition, and can show difficulties with it; they argue that the failure of the orthodox to satisfy them in these domains means that the whole AGW proposition is void.

    6 Opponents AGW theory is a scam, a sign that the Marxists have taken over the green movement, an attempt by some to construct world government, a conspiracy, a sign of lazy journalists, the effort of bankrupt governments to stay in power, etc. There is nothing to it.

    The religious

    Both sides have what I would call religious outriders, whose intervention in the debate seems to come from a religious or spiritual basis. There are many versions of both, and what follows is certainly simplistic.

    7 Gaians The earth itself and everything in it contains a life-force, of which humans are only a part. It is morally wrong for human beings to attack that which gives them life and meaning. Gaians are supporters of the orthodoxy, and there are a few of them in Australia, but not many in the UK, at least on the evidence. A more familiar viewpoint says that God has given us the earth to serve as stewards rather than as owners. And try Revelations 11:18 for what happens to destroyers of the earth.

    8 Fundamentalists Taking their cue from Genesis, fundamentalists believe that the earth was constructed for humans to ‘subdue’ and ‘have dominion over every living thing’. In any case, God would not allow his own construction (the earth) to be despoiled. Fundamentalists are dissenters. This is a common position in the USA, but rare in Australia, at least in my experience

    It needs to be said that Strong Supporters and Opponents can come to see all other positions as equally hostile to their own. It is common for a Strong Supporter to react to a simple question with a remark like ‘Hah! The usual tactic of a denier — ask a question that has been answered a hundred times!’ Opponents have appropriately scornful responses too. None of that helps understanding. Perhaps I should add that dozens of new articles appear each month in the academic literature that could be relevant to AGW, and some of these are pounced on as showing that X was right all along or that Y’s view is confuted. Those with experience in all this will know that, ten years later, few of these articles will have any bearing on anything.

    Judy, I’m not sure that this helps much, but it may be a start.

  35. Reflecting on this matter further, I think the key thing is to avoid labelling people. Denier, skeptic, alarmist etc attempt to describe the person and don’t really capture the underlying beliefs terribly well. People react badly to labels and therefore the standard of debate suffers (perhaps this is the intention sometimes?) On the other hand, terms like ‘convinced’ or ‘unconvinced’ logically have to be followed by the words ‘about’ or ‘by’ which immeditely focusses discussion on the issue at hand rather than on the type of people engaged in the debate. So yes, it has some merit.

  36. I don’t like the implication in ‘unconvinced’ that this is a state requiring adjustment. I do like the Chief’s comments above concerning positive piecemeal action for the environment.

  37. Being convinced or unconvinced regards personal beliefs, and the strength of those beliefs. It is a significant factor in public debate. But it is completely alien to science. Specific scientific theories may not convince you (quantum physics did not convince Einstein for many years) but this is totally irrelevant to the validity of a particular theory or proposition.
    Except if you are a postmodernist ‘philosophe’ thinking that scientific ‘quality’ in a theory is a matter of agreement on a common (and arbitrary) ‘discourse’, or a matter of societal ‘relevance’, and still worse, that the ‘truth’ of a theory is irrelevant, as some Lisbon attendees seem to believe.

  38. Convincing:
    Clear scientific arguments underpinned by accessible data and method descriptions, which comprehensively include all the important factors and error bands.

    Arrogance and assumption of authority.
    Attacks on people instead of their ideas.
    Output from mutually peer reviewing scientists based on inaccessible data and methodology and/or previous unsatisfactory papers.
    Failure to address uncertainty openly.
    Unjustifiable claims of certainty.

    • But again the real issue comes down to the specifics. What is it that you are either convinced of or unconvienced. The whole discussion is meaningless without clearly defining the point being discussed

      • Well, I think we should deal with some of the generalities above before we bother arguing over specifics.

        Because I’m interested in anomalous experimental results and put them up on my blog for discussion, I get branded as a ‘crank’ by those who dislike the general thrust of my climate research. They frequently make false appeals to authority in their denunciations, while failing to notice that their champions arguments are no better supported than mine due to real uncertainty levels.

        This poisons the atmosphere in which rational debate is struggling to take place. That’s what the Lisbon experiment tried to overcome, with mixed successes/failures.

  39. I’m convinced conflict resolution experts are recommended by the facts.

    I’m unconvinced they always succeed.

    I’m convinced there’s some sincere goodwill among people on this issue.

    I’m unconvinced Lisbon portrayed the best goodwill that could have been mustered.

    I’m convinced the free market mechanism and appropriate pricing for CO2 emissions is a morally right action.

    I’m unconvinced of the need for further study before some right actions.

    I’m convinced people should decide for themselves.

  40. Randy Olson has an interesting post
    “On the stupidity of hating climate deniers”

  41. It occurred to me a quite while ago that saying I was convinced/unconvinced by the data was the appropriate formulation for discussion. It’s neutral, yet personal, and directs the debate to the data and it’s interpretation without being accusatory or implying motives. It works for scientific, political, and religious topics equally well.

    As for “reconcilliation” my experience is that mediation never works when one party wants to win above all else — even if the reasons for wanting to win are irrational to most people. Behavior always devolves to the lowest common denominator, unless an unassailable authority steps in to stop the squabbling.

  42. I have been a satisfied user of convinced-unconvinced since a while actually.

    The default object of conviction being AGW, meaning most (not just any or some) of the global, recent half-century warming being from the raised CO2.