Lisbon Workshop on Reconciliation. Part XII: Ravetz’s lecture

by Judith Curry

Over at WUWT, Jerome Ravetz has a guest post, which includes the text of his lecture at the public event in Lisbon, which is entitled “Nonviolence in science?”.  I’ve excerpted what I regard as the more interesting points to serve as the focus for discusion.

Debate, sometimes fierce and impassioned, is the lifeblood of science. The advances of science do not occur smoothly and by consensus. There are always at least two sides to the interpretation of new theories and results. Social researchers have found that each scientific side explains its own attitudes in methodological terms, and explains the attitudes of the opposition in sociological terms. Roughly speaking, “I” am being a scientist, and “They” are being – something else. All this is quite natural and inevitable, and it has been that way from the beginning.

The process does not work perfectly. There is no ‘hidden hand’ that guides scientists quickly and correctly to the right answer. There can be injustices and losses; great innovators can languish in obscurity for a lifetime, because their theories were too discordant with the prevailing paradigm or ‘tacit knowledge’. However, to the best of our knowledge, the correct understanding does eventually emerge, thanks to the normal processes of debate and to the plurality of locations and voices in any field of science.

This debate has not just been about the science of climate change It also concerns policy, for reducing the emissions of Carbon Dioxide worldwide. This requires a very large, complex and expensive project. It extends into lifestyles and values, as the transition out of a carbon-based economy will require a change in our ideas of comfort, convenience and the good life. There are urgent issues of equity, both between rich and poor peoples now, and also between ourselves and our descendants. All these profound issues depend for their resolution on an adequate basis in science. Some say, if we are not really sure that bad things are happening, why bother imposing these drastic and costly changes on the world’s people? But others reply, by what right can we use scientific uncertainty as an excuse for failing to protect ourselves and our descendants from irreversible catastrophe?Both of those positions accept that there is a real debate about the strength of the science, and effectively argue about the proper burden of proof, or degree of precaution that is justified. But there are plenty of voices on the extremes. For quite some time, the official scientific establishments, particularly in the Anglophone world, claimed that ‘the science is settled’, and ‘the debate is over’. At the opposite extreme are those, including some quite reputable scientists, who argue that nothing whatever has been proved about the long-term changes in climate that might be resulting from the current increase in the concentration of Carbon Dioxide. Between these extremes, the explanations of opposing views are not merely sociological. They become political and moral. Each side accuses the other of being corrupt. The ‘skeptics’ or ‘deniers’ are dismissed as either working for outside interests, industrial or ideological, or being grossly incompetent as scientists. In short, as being either prostitutes or cranks. In their turn, the ‘alarmists’ or ‘warmistas’ are accused of feathering their own nests as grant-gaining entrepreneurial scientists, playing along with their own dishonest ideological politicians. In their protestations of scientific objectivity, they are accused of the corruptions of hypocrisy.

And in the course of that debate we have discovered a serious flaw in the prevailing philosophy of science: there is no explanation of honest error. Students of science never see a failed experiment or a mistaken theory; for them it is success and truth all the way. Only those who have done truly innovative research discover how intimately are success and failure, truth and error, connected. And so when a scientist finds him- or herself convinced of the truth of a particular theory, they have no framework for treating their erring opponent with respect. “I” am right, “you” are wrong, and by persisting in your error you demonstrate that your failings are moral as well as intellectual. In the ordinary course of scientific debate such attitudes are kept under control, but in the total, complex climate science debate they come to dominate.

Those of an older generation remember a time when the prestige of science was unquestioned. Science would save the world, and scientists would do the saving. It is all different now, and the mutual denunciations of the scientists in the Climategate debate have not helped. One of the most important influences that drove me to a personal involvement in this debate was a report by our distinguished colleague Judith Curry, of a conversation with a student. This student was dismayed by the Climategate story that had just broken, and wondered whether this was the sort of career that she wanted to take up. We all know what happens to institutions when they fail to attract the brightest and the best young people. Slowly, perhaps, but surely, they atrophy and wither.

You see the connection. If ‘science’ comes to be seen by young people as the sort of institution where Climategate happens, and where scientists insult and condemn each other, its future is not bright. Of course, this negative reaction would happen only at the margins; but it is at the margins where we will find the really wonderful young people that we need. I cannot prescribe, indeed I can scarcely imagine, how the spirit of non-violence that has inspired the political world can be imported effectively into science. But I would argue that it is an attempt that is well worth making, even for the future of science itself.

65 responses to “Lisbon Workshop on Reconciliation. Part XII: Ravetz’s lecture

  1. Dr Curry,
    I am so pleased you have this blog and are workingso hard ( and successfully!) to promote a reasoned debate in an environment of poisened diatribes. Bless you, your house and your tribe.

    Tom Bakewell

    • I agree, Tom.

      Professor Curry may be the only hope for saving OUR government science from the self-destruction that former President Eisenhower predicted in his farewell address on 17 January 1961.

      Thank you, thank you, Professor Curry!

  2. Thanks Judith.

  3. I also want reconciliation, but that cannot happen as long as the National Academy of Sciences and the government research agrencies it controls (DOE, NASA, NOAA, EPA, etc.) continue to promote misinformation on:

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

    1. “Earth’s heat source – the Sun”, Energy & Environment 20 (2009) 131-144
    2. “Neutron Repulsion”, The APEIRON Journal, in press (2011) 19 pages

    Dr. Ralph Cicerone, the NAS President, and the government research agencies he controls need not agree with my interpretetion of the data, but reconciliation is impossible as long as they continue to ignore the data that has accumulated unaddressed since 1975.

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

    • Stop it already!
      I am basically a lurker, but very interested in climate and policy. Every topic you inject your pet Sun theory into the discussion, where it is irrelevant. I have no clue as to the merits of your theory, but your persistance to include it everywhere makes you appear deranged, even though you probably are a nice and intelligent guy.
      I am probably in the majority who skip your musings whenever I see your (or Joe LaLonde’s) name. If you want people to read your ideas, then please keep it relevant. I am not so nice as Dr. Curry, I would have you banned a long time ago for trolling.

      • by now you should learn to just scroll by Oliver.
        what Oliver doesnt get is that by being so predictable most of us just ignore him. Now you stood out by actually responding to him. I’d suggest avoiding that. Just scroll by

      • It’s called “thread bombing”, repeating the same stuff overandoverandover on any sites remotely related to the obsession. It has gotten him banned widely from popular sites. This is one of the last venues that hasn’t done so.
        (Are you listening, Joe?)

    • Stop it already!

      If you think Earth’s climate is independent of the Sun, then you are probably beyond hope.

  4. This is an interesting article. I remember an explaination I was given many years ago, when I was working on a BS in Physics. The course we were taking was titled Dynamical Models, but the text book was”Mechanics” by Symon. It was explained that a few years previously, the course would have shared the name of the text. The change was to amplify the point that what we were studying were models of reality, not reality itself. I have noticed over the years that those who create various computer models seem to have missed this point. Many times I have seen finite element structural models, 6-DOF flight simulations and aero seperation models all provide very bad results, when they are extended outside their validated range. It seems that those who create these models begin to believe the model itself has it’s own reality. Even worse when the model is run by a ‘computer jock’ who doesn’t understand the underlying science.

    Climate science seems to be even worse, since many of the modelers have personal or political viewpoints that suggest a particular result.

    • I worked at NASA JSC for 44 years. One high level manager has said, more than once. When your give an Engineer a computer, you ruin him. He believes the output from his computer and he ceases to think. I believe this can be extended to Climate Scientists. They started with flawed theory. They put false carbon feedback terms in their models to make them match historic temperature. They tweaked the coefficients until they got a match and then they say that proves the models are right. That is not any kind of proof.

      • The sad thing is, there’s probably a near infinite number of possible models which will do a fair job of matching historic temperature, with a greater or lesser degree of tweaking.
        Just like a * b = c will give the same value of c for a near infinite number of combinations of a and b, and that’s an extremely simple example.
        So what makes them think that their model is right?

      • “They put false carbon feedback terms in their models to make them match historic temperature. They tweaked the coefficients until they got a match and then they say that proves the models are right. That is not any kind of proof.”

        sorry, this is not how it is done. There are real issues with the models. The ones you imagine are not among them.

    • Even worse when the model is run by a ‘computer jock’ who doesn’t understand the underlying science.

      Actually, going by some of Steve Easterbrook’s writings, the scientists are also the coders (because the requirements aren’t solid enough to hand them over to a developer). In my experience, having the subject matter expert concentrate on the subject matter and the coder stick to the coding works best. Communicating the requirements tends to clarify them for both the coder and the SME.

      • Yes, the entirety of “Climate Science” is a DIY kluge. Competent statisticians, modelers, programmers, system designers, etc. are rigourously excluded from the game.

      • Actually this is untrue. It really depends upon the Lab. Also some guys working in the area are capable in many fields.. physics, stats, and software engineering. Hmm here is a random example

      • Steven,
        It is possible this guy is doing interesting work. But if he believes his modeling is predictive in any way, then he needs a better education. He should start by reading Orrin Pilkey’s paper and his book Useless Arithmetic.

      • Steve Milesworthy

        Picking out one phrase from the Jeffrey Anderson link:

        “While GCMs have distinct limitations, they can also have some powerful capabilities.”

        I suspect that Orrin Pilkey would side with Anderson and might question whether you are using him as a “fig leaf”.

      • Actually, that’s really not the case…it’s more of an issue those involved are trying to use the models as both experimental systems and production systems at the same time.

        Also, tarring an entire discipline that way is overreaching. I can think of several examples that don’t fit that mold, of which the BEST team is the latest example.

  5. Judith,

    Technological advances do not need to tell scientists that they are coming and in doing so, this has generated scientists not reviewing these new advances to the theories currently being used.
    If science has not incorporated these new advances, then you have the problem that is currently created where the couch potato scientist is actually more knowledgeable than the current scientists teaching old theories.

    Compressing gases and storing energy is one. Centrifugal force can be understood but that interferes with the current theories and laws.
    This is why current scientists are falling behind due to strictly following traditional science teachings of individual areas of study.

  6. “urgent issues of equity, both between rich and poor peoples now, and also between ourselves and our descendants”

    Matters of politics, surely, and not of science.

    What is this issue doing in a [so-called] scientific discussion?

  7. “I cannot prescribe, indeed I can scarcely imagine, how the spirit of non-violence that has inspired the political world can be imported effectively into science.”

    A spirit of non-violence in the political world? On what planet has that happened? The climate science debate has become so acrimonious precisely because it has become at its core political. CAGW advocates do not just want to have their papers published, get kudos from the IPCC, and win prestigious awards. They want society to be drastically changed in ways that just happen to mirror their progressive political leanings.

    This is not an academic, Oxford style debate. This is a debate with huge policy costs, and risks, on both sides of the argument. Not to rain on the kumbaya parade, but there is nothing “non-violent” about the political climate in the West.

    Madison, Wisconsin has been inundated by outside activists because the newly elected conservatives had the audacity to try to implement the policies they were elected on. For all the vitriol directed at Dr. Curry, I wonder how she would like to experience the tactics being used against Governor Walker and conservative Wisconsin state legislators. Publish your home address on the internet, antagonists paying to bus in activists to picket your home and place of business, marchers carrying signs comparing you to Hitler?

    The political debate about climate is just part of the over all struggle now between progressivism and conservatism. From climate, to socialized medicine, to education, to union rules, the U.S. is on the verge of a dramatic shift of power away from progressives. As I have said on other threads here, it is going to get a lot nastier before it gets any better.

  8. A core group of climate scientists controlled the foundational data from which other climate scientists worked. Now that foundational data, temperature reconstructions, whether skewed intentionally or not, has been called into question; hence, the BEST project out of UC Berkeley/Lawrence Livermore Labs to establish another source of foundational data. The circumstances that lead to a need for such a re-investigation of core foundational data is akin to a breaking of trust, essentially infidelity in a relationship. The aftermath is: incredulity, hurt, self-recriminations “how could I be so stupid not to see?” are all part of the outcome and not to be easily overcome, if at all. Rather, “moving on” frequently means more work for ones-self, but in retrospect enhancing more degrees of freedom in which to move. One is able to pursuit alternative paradigms without the baggage of adherence to some previous doctrine. So, I don’t see the Quaker reconciliation methodology as particularly applicable, not that it is all that bad an idea, “live and let live”, just it doesn’t put money into the lab, to do the science, to satisfy my department chairperson, my university, nor particularly congruous with my own personality, which by the way is more likely than not to be a bit cranky.

  9. The scientific transition from Old Geology to plate tectonics took, after Henry Hess’s groundbreaking work, less than 10 years. AGW hasn’t enjoyed the same transition. In fact, it resembles completely the debate about tobacco and cancer.

    The difference can be accounted for without any paradigm revolution or re-examination of the foundations of Science. The difference is that nobody had a financial stake in plate eugeosynclines and their ilk. The difference is money, and it’s humbugging to think otherwise.

    • Jeffery:
      So what were Alfred Wegener and Arthur Holmes? Chopped liver? :)

      At the risk of being accused of humbuggery, I think the difference between AGW theory now and plate tectonics at the time of Hess is that Hess had excellent measurement data to back him up plus a really good null hypothesis. AGW theory is not there yet.

  10. Had the IPCC engendered a fraction of the heart Dr. Ravetz crafted in this presentation, it would not be in its current and sad state because the mistakes would have never been tolerated.

    The simple fact remains, the IPCC failed by its own design. Nothing will ever change the facts.

    The other interesting aspect of Dr. Ravetz’s presentation is the realization its an unnecessary plea. Scientists and Science are highly respected. Simply discard the AR4 group and the UNFCCC/IPCC and we have a non-issue and the basis to move forward.

    • There’s another very interesting aspect to this “high-brow” conversation. Let’s assume for a moment, every soul on the planet shares a concern over these issues. Let’s also assume every government will allow each and ever soul to fully understand the facts and cast a vote.

      All those in favor of incomplete Science, unnecessary taxation, and poorly designed solutions — please raise your hands.

      Can we please move on now and learn from all their mistakes?

  11. Back in 2003, author and scientist Michael Crichton gave a talk at CalTech about the politicization of science. You can find it on the web. After much discussion about science-as-politics, from Nuclear Winter to Climate Doom, he says this:

    “I believe that as we come to the end of this litany, some of you may be saying, well what is the big deal, really. So we made a few mistakes. So a few scientists have overstated their cases and have egg on their faces. So what.

    Well, I’ll tell you.

    In recent years, much has been said about the post modernist claims about science to the effect that science is just another form of raw power, tricked out in special claims for truth-seeking and objectivity that really have no basis in fact. Science, we are told, is no better than any other undertaking. These ideas anger many scientists, and they anger me. But recent events have made me wonder if they are correct. …

    Is this what science has become? I hope not. But it is what it will become, unless there is a concerted effort by leading scientists to aggressively separate science from policy. The late Philip Handler, former president of the National Academy of Sciences, said that ‘Scientists best serve public policy by living within the ethics of science, not those of politics. If the scientific community will not unfrock the charlatans, the public will not discern the difference-science and the nation will suffer.’ Personally, I don’t worry about the nation. But I do worry about science. “

  12. “And in the course of that debate we have discovered a serious flaw in the prevailing philosophy of science: there is no explanation of honest error. ”

    Perhaps, but that isn’t the really serious flaw that has been discovered. The really, really serious flaw in climate science is the rejection of the process by which science is supposed to be “self-correcting.” The lack of transparency and the refusal to share data make it impossible for anyone to check anyone else’s work. Without replication, etc., there isn’t a chance for correction. But the problem isn’t so much that scientists have made it impossible for others to check their work. The problem is that no other scientists seem to have any interest in doing any checking! That, I would submit is the REAL problem.

    Non-scientists have led the charge in demonstrating how really horrible the science is which underpins the consensus. The jaw-dropping lack of quality control in the databases, the failure of thermometers to meet basic standards, the gross statistical mis-steps in papers, the instances of fraudulent data, the software issues, the integrity issues with peer review, and the dishonesty in communication by scientist/advocates have all been exposed primarily by non-scientists.

    If scientists want to rescue the reputation of science, scientists better get started on making a determined effort to engage with the self-correcting aspect of science. Science will be a lot better off when scientists start catching all the mistakes that their fellow professionals have been making, instead of simply accepting garbage at face value.

    • Funding tends to be for extending what is known or exploring new areas. Having research grants for statisticians, metrology experts, etc go through prior work and establishing a firm foundation would be useful, just as the Berkley database will be useful (assuming the focus is on data integrity and completeness)

  13. Yesterdaz, I wrote a comment over at klimazwiebel ( with Lisbon and non-violent strategies in mind. Here it is:
    Let’s give it a try and see the conflicts from a Freudian perspective. Of course, it is deeply humiliating that we neither can predict nor control climate. Even worse, we are completely dependent on it. We are not the bosses in our very own climate house!
    So what to do? As a sublimation to this humiliation we engage in ritualistic power plays; ‘big men’ pretend to have powerful models which are of course more powerful than those from the other climate tribe. Both parties develop strong opinions about climate, and the followers have to share these beliefs, or else they get excommunicated.
    You cannot argue with the climate, but you can insult the scientist from the neighboring department. That’s called sublimation.
    I am not anti- science, not at all. But I really think it is necessary to get those feelings under control which are so virulent in parts of the climate science community. Envy, superstition, depression, narcissism, conspiracy, and many other strong emotions are freely floating and disturbing the exchange of knowledge. This is indeed a big problem, because climate science has an important role to play.
    I suggest to practice some trust and generosity; indeed, we breathe the same air and share the same atmosphere. Climate is not about ‘versus’; quite the contrary.

    • Hi Werner,
      Interesting Freudian analysis. Lets continue with it a bit further.

      Because some people want to be able to control climate, they ignore or underestimate the big climate factors which can’t be controlled, and blame the factor that they might be able to control if they can get governments to reduce dependence on fossil fuel.

      When mother nature stops cooperating with this fantasy, they have gone too far down the road of promoting false certainty and they find other people to blame for the failure of the theory.

      They project the problem onto sceptics who they say are delaying the adoption of the policy they have advocated. As the time before the climate starts to cool again as it does every 60 years runs short, the rhetoric becomes increasingly loud, because nobody likes to be proved wrong.

      The sceptics continue to demand access to the data and methodology and intermediate code used by the AGW proponents in their studies. They continue to point out the uncertainty in the science and the non-replicability of the claims made by AGW proponents. They continue to point out that scientists who prevented publication of opposing science and approved their own work in the IPCC process are still in their positions, and so trust cannot be restored.

      Climate science will not be ready to play an important role until uncertainty is acknowledged and reduced through realistic assessment, and the scientists who subverted the scientific method are removed from positions of influence.

      Policy makers are moving on to look at policies which makes society more resilient to climate change, whichever way the climate changes. They don’t need to provide big funding to climatologists to do this.

      The American House of Congress votes to defund the IPCC and the EPA.

      I am sorry to see this happen, because the research which has needed to be done for 20 years will now not be funded. I can only do my best with the small resources I have. A computer, some data, and a team of fine minds who contribute to my blog.

      It seems the mainstream scientists are too tired to look at alternative hypotheses. The renaissance of climate science will arise from the green shoots on the internet.

  14. In the introduction to his ‘Non-violence’ lecture Dr Ravetz refers to some earlier posts, also on WUWT, as follows: “…our very own fire-eating champion Willis. He was responding to Judith Curry’s posting, where she explained how she had got to where she was then. Of course he loathed her for complicity in the great Warmista fraud, and he despised her for attempting to apologise for her actions rather than crawling to WUWT in full contrition.”

    I haven’t been able to track down the original exchange. Did it actually occur as stated by Ravetz ? I hope he is not making things up.

    • I think he refers to this exchange:

      Ravetz’s take on this is a bit strange. Willis and I have a long blogospheric history, going back to my first posts at climateaudit in 2006 on hurricanes. our exchanges have been cordial. This particular essay of Willis got him some MSM attention, and for awhile he seemed to be playing up the attacks on me. But that has settled down. Ravetz seems to like the Curry as heretic narrative.

  15. Dr. Curry,
    I am convinced that where the discourse goes off the rails is when scientists quit talking about science and begin talking about policy. Jim Hansen talking about trains carrying coal as “death trains” is not helpful. Show me a scientist who has NEVER talked about policy and I can show you a scientist that may play a role in getting science back to a normal state.

    I think Ravetz is correct that climate science is in a post-normal state right now. But civility alone is not going to redeem climate science. It will only recover when enough scientists focus on the science and ignore those talking about policy.

    For example, when I say unions destroy the economy, some people will think I’m talking about politics. Not true. That is a statement about history and economics. And it is irrefutable. When I say because unions destroy the economy, we need to limit their power – that becomes a political statement.

    The problem right now is the IPCC is making claims about the science which have not been shown. Then they take these unproven statements and make policy statements on them. We need a better assessment of the current state of climate science than the IPCC is providing. The editorial apparatus has been seized by alarmists driven by an agenda. Until we can get a thoroughgoing assessment which is seen as more reliable than the IPCC, we can never get back to normal science.

    • Steve Milesworthy

      I’ve flicked through my copy of the IPCC WG1 assessment report and don’t see policy statements. Rather I see scientific summaries linked to scientific references.

      The German economy is highly unionised. Consider yourself refuted.

    • I’m just curious. If a scientist discovers that a process is going to kill us all, should he wait until the next issue of Nature is out to let us know?

      What an odd idea — that scientists should be mute about policy.

      More than odd. It’s pernicious.

      • Jeffrey,

        The scientist should first show us how he came to his conclusion before any talk of policy. That’s his role as the scientist.


      • Before someone is a scientist they’re human. Sometimes events permit the leisurely approach, and sometimes they don’t. A scientist seeing a bridge out ahead has the same moral charge to let the rest of us know as the rest of us.

        Absolutely, we need to see the results. Reasoning. Data. Everything. It’s curious that this seems to be an issue regarding climate science which is one of the more open sciences. Forget the M&M boys and their war with Mann for a moment. There are thousands of climate scientists. If Mann kept his data and code in a lock box that still would say spit about climate science as a whole.

        But it’s a curious demand that this issue about policy only seems to effect climate scientists. Can you imagine an economic’s policy that didn’t include the yammering of economists? (Hecky-toot, economists stick their noses into everything. You’d be amazed.) Or are economists excused from the ban on discussing policy because they’re not “real” scientists? and have we just let that cat out of the bag?

      • “A scientist seeing a bridge out ahead has the same moral charge to let the rest of us know as the rest of us.”


        A real scientist would say “this is how I know there is a bridge out ahead…look there”

        A salesman would say “there might be a bridge out ahead, trust me”


      • What a vague open-ended insinuation.

        For example, have you ever picked up an IPCC report in its entirety? Everything you could ever want to know about climate warming is included.

        The idea that climate science doesn’t show chapter and verse is prima facie false. The denialist industry counts on a gullible public to believe such patent nonsense.

        Are you a denialist or a PointFiver?

      • “The idea that climate science doesn’t show chapter and verse is prima facie false.”


        I disagree. I think in general, people who believe in Global Warming don’t even know what information climate science has presented. They just get propaganda from the media. I think climate science bears the responsibility for this.


  16. Ravetz posits, “Debate, sometimes fierce and impassioned, is the lifeblood of science.” I deny this completely. Repeatable experiments and observations are the lifeblood of science. The climate science war is a direct consequence of debate, frequently PR, coming to play a dominant role in what should be a dispassionate discussion. There was a golden moment when science should have shrugged its collective shoulders, and said that it did not yet have all the answers. But shoulder shrugging doesn’t get you on TV, or put you on international committees, or lionize you in a thousand ways, and science, when all is said, is done by people. And so,here we are. The way out of the fix we are in, is for science to complete it’s work. The heated conversations are going to disappear in the face of indisputable fact.

    • “Repeatable experiments and observations are the lifeblood of science.”

      Well, that’s the crux, isn’t it. We’ve only got the one Earth. Can’t do repeated experiments on it, can we? Do you suppose the carbon-wights will let us have it back anytime soon?

  17. Arguing for non-violence in the climate science debate is like arguing for banning sails in the Indy 500.

    The problem is really simple, there are some people who do not accept the AGW hypothesis for what seem to them good evidential grounds, there are others who do. So they argue. So some of them use illegitimate debating tactics, accuse each others motives, get excited. So? Is this at all unusual?

    The whole crazed idea that there should be some kind of personal or touchy feely reconciliation is just nuts. Get on and worry about climate sensitivity. That is the issue, not whether people like each other.

    • Is there really “the AGW hypothesis”?

      We have climate science, which is based on physics and a large amount of knowledge on atmosphere and its processes learned in meteorology and other data gathering activities. Based on this knowledge it is concluded that increased CO2 causes a rise in temperature. I do not see any “AGW hypothesis” in that. It is a conclusion based on scientific knowledge, which includes theories of physics, but is not limited to that.

      We have a basic fact based on solid scientific understanding, but not a quantitatively precise one, only the fact that the effect exists at some level. Then we can ask, how significant that is? We can ask, is there a significant risk of even catastrophic consequences? These are important questions and the research may finally show that the risk is small or that the risk is very serious, but I do not see, where is “the AGW hypothesis”.

      • Pekka– but don’t you agree that the Imapct Assessment written in the IPCC’s AR 4 WG2 is not based much on the physics. The 2007 assessment, which defines what the IPCC believes are the future problems associated with higher levels of COs; is not based upon the hard physics, but on modelling and estimations that have a high probability of being significantly wrong

      • Rob,
        I fail to see the connection between what I wrote and the WG2 report.

        The tasks of working groups WG2 and WG3 are not clear enough and also inconsistent. They cannot base their work on a coherent science basis as WG1 can. The literature that they use is only in part scientific and here I do not question, whether it is good or bad science, but I would say that much of it is not science at all. Most of it is still research in a wider sense of the word, but not really science. Large part has not been published through scientific channels and many of the peer reviewed journals where the other part has been published accept manuscripts more easily than e.g. in physical sciences.

        One essential problem is that few issues have been studied by several independent groups, which is the only real way of improving the reliability of the results science and which separates science from other forms of gathering information.

        All these issues are in much better state for the central parts of WG1, which does not remove all problems, but makes a big difference.

      • Somebody should tell the folks at RealClimate.

        “The main points that most would agree on as “the consensus” are:

        1. The earth is getting warmer (0.6 +/- 0.2 oC in the past century; 0.1 0.17 oC/decade over the last 30 years (see update)) [ch 2]
        2. People are causing this [ch 12] (see update)
        3. If GHG emissions continue, the warming will continue and indeed accelerate [ch 9]
        4. (This will be a problem and we ought to do something about it)”

      • What I wanted to say is that speaking about “The AGW Hypothesis” is misleading, because there is no natural definition for that. Putting numbers on its size makes a hypothesis, but it should have a more specific name. Otherwise people can never know, what the other is speaking about.

      • I think this is why sceptics, trying to be fair to AGW proponents, differentiate between AGW, and CAGW.

        The problem is, the proponents seem to vacillate about what they mean by AGW themselves. Although numbers are not put on it often, there is the AR4 SPM lurking behind them, which none of them disavow.

      • In general I think that the word “hypothesis” is used in these discussions all too much.

        Most of the research questions are not questions of existence, but questions of quantity. Such questions are not answered by disproving null hypotheses, but their answers are numbers with some error ranges (for a specified level of significance). It is totally misleading to describe them as testing the hypothesis that the value is within the stated range, although the statistical methods used may be described in those terms as well.

      • Pekka, just because those engaged in the research don’t question the existence of a significant enhanced greenhouse effect doesn’t mean that it is a question that can’t or shouldn’t be asked.

        I understand and agree that it is likely there is a nonzero effect of adding 120 parts per million of co2 to the atmosphere, but where is the empirical measurement that demonstrates its magnitude? Until the proposition is tested against observation, it remains hypothesis.

      • Tallbloke,

        Making studies about the size of the effect is answering also questions about specific hypotheses, but they are doing it in the way science can answer them most efficiently. I.e. the research is not answering only one such question, but many different questions at the same time and with the same effort.

        Claiming that the basic existence of AGH (i.e. that it is positive accepting very small values) is uncertain is dishonest. Most skeptics do not claim so, but that is the only question, which is not a quantitative question. Maybe even it should be classified quantitative and only the question: Does CO2 influence atmosphere could be taken non-quantitative.

        There are of course all kind of claims like:

        – AGW will cause great damage and letting it raise the temperature by more than 2C creates a risk of major catastrophes.

        – Mitigating AGW is economically far superior to letting it deepen.

        These are just two claims, and I would use the word “claim”. They are not scientific hypotheses, each of which corresponds to one well defined null hypothesis, whose proof would disprove that claim. Even less are they scientific statements that could be proven in their present form. They are claims and questions, whose significance can be studied and which can be linked to some more specific indicators.

        To me the wide use of the word “hypothesis” is almost completely a choice of the skeptical side, which cannot discuss effectively the climate science itself. It is used to move the discussion to a place more favorable to them. They do it not worrying that it means also that they move the discussion to a wrong place, to questions that are not correct questions on uncertainties and their relevance to decision making. It is a way of getting rid of the science that gives results that they do not like. They do not realize or choose for tactical reasons to forget that the right place to contest the relevance of science is on the other edge.

        I must repeat that I see major problems in conclusions drawn from the climate science by “alarmists”. They make equally strong errors when they use science to justify conclusions that the science is totally incapable of answering. They are mostly right about the climate science itself, but wrong when the tell, what is the relevance of this knowledge.

        The unwillingness of many scientists to discuss openly and in clear terms the uncertainties is part of this error. That is the place where they are dishonest. That is their reaction that can be compared with the skeptics overemphasis of hypothesis testing. That is their way of trying to step over those parts of the decision chain where they have no special expertise. They want to imply that knowing more about climate science means that they no the answers to much wider questions.

        It appears that the real questions are too difficult for both sides. Therefore both project the real problems to climate science itself thinking that there they may win the battle and not caring that is a false battle.

  18. The AGW hypothesis states that:

    “Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic GHG concentrations.[7] It is likely that there has been significant anthropogenic warming over the past 50 years averaged over each continent (except Antarctica)”


    • That’s not “the” AGW hypothesis. There are many. There are, in fact, several on the page you linked to.

      (Just displaying your world-famous reading skills, eh? After the Gavin Schmidt letter paraphrase debacle, I’m pleased that you haven’t decided to keep your skills under the old bushel basket.)

      • It’s a direct quote.

        maybe I can satisfy you by rephrasing

        The AGW hypothesis states *amongst other things* that:

        So come on Jeffrey, tell us something else the AGW hypothesis states.

        Pick your favourite.

      • Yes. It’s a direct quote. It just isn’t THE AGW hypothesis.

        You’re new at this whole oblique insinuation thing, aren’t you? Maybe you can back out. I just watched Edward Arnold in The Devil and Daniel Webster. Never too late, laddie. Until it is. Don’t forget that last part.

      • “You’re new at this whole oblique insinuation thing, aren’t you? ”

        I’m not new at needing a directly comprehensible hypothesis in order to be able to apply the scientific method to test it.

        So the proponents of AGW should either provide one, or stay the hell out of New Hampshire.

      • Tallbloke,
        That is your tactical move to weaken the value of valid science. That is not a objectively valid attitude.

  19. Ravetz states,“When facts are uncertain, when values are in conflict, when stakes are high, when decisions seem urgent, the FIRST casualty is “normal” science. “
    I would say the first obligation of policy makers, those with integrity to truth, should be to PROTECT and defend “NORMAL” science, and not let it be a casualty.

    It is science, done correctly, that determines if decisions are “URGENT” and to rush prematurely to policy is to CREATE conflict, especially when that POLICY is what places “values in conflict“, demanding trillions in revenue and world wide social restructure, centralizing power away from the individual, and even democracy, (when have the CAGW proponents ever said “lets vote on this”, and threatens the liberty of billions.) To use the precautionay principle as a reason for dramatic action and short circuting the scientific method is most unwise. The potential threat can only be rationaly used to accelerate funding for the science.

  20. OK, then, we don’t know what the AGW hypothesis is, maybe there are half a dozen of them. The first thing to do is to get it stated whatever it is. Then we can have a debate about it.

    My point stands, this is about arguing over hypotheses, it is not about getting all touchy feely about whether we like each other.

    And as for non-violence, we have not been violent, any more than the cars in the Indy have been using sails.

    The idea that it is about personal relations and ways of arguing is ludicrous, as ludicrous as the idea that there is such a thing as post normal science. There is just the normal process of argument about what is going on, and we need to stop worrying about how its being conducted, which is no different from usual, and just get on with it.

    These things are knock down drag out affairs, the priority is to get them over as quickly as possible.

  21. I am grateful to Dr. Ravetz for referring to his Quaker background. It illuminates his use of the words “violence” and “non-violence”. I had assumed the common usage (physical violence), and was puzzled. The Quaker interpretation of Mt 5:21-22 is both reasonable and honorable. I also appreciate EternalOptimist’s distinguishing them (WUTW, February 21, 2011 at 1:29 pm).

    This is a copy of a post at WUWT:

  22. As much as I appreciate the viewpoints presented by Dr. Ravetz, I have a few reservations. Among them:

    Dr. Ravetz appeals to the Precautionary Principle, using other words: “by what right can we use scientific uncertainty as an excuse for failing to protect ourselves and our descendants from irreversible catastrophe?” Cass Sunstein, who authored a book on the Precautionary Principle, did not agree that it should be used for climate change. Sunstein also co-authored books / papers on global warming and social justice, and climate change and discounting the future.
    Sunstein, Cass R. 2008. Throwing precaution to the wind: Why the ‘safe’ choice can be dangerous. Opinion. – The Boston Globe. July 13.
    Sunstein, Cass R. 2005. Laws of Fear: Beyond the Precautionary Principle. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press
    Sunstein, Cass R., and Eric A. Posner. 2008. Global Warming and Social Justice. Regulation (Spring).
    Sunstein, Cass R., and David Weisbach. 2008. Climate Change and Discounting the Future: A Guide for the Perplexed. Working Paper. Reg-Markets Center, AEI Center for Regulatory and Market Studies, August.

    High Stakes” was a prominent condition for employing Post Normal Science. It is not mentioned here. The possibility of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming is a high stakes issue, but the possibly needless destruction of the economies of western civilization by bureaucrats regulating carbon dioxide is also a high stakes issue.

    “Nothing could be more convincing than that combination (Svante Arrhenius and Mauna Loa), except to those who do not wish to be convinced.” I suspect that Dr. Ravetz wishes that he had not written that, given its implication and the context of his lecture.

    “There are urgent issues of equity, both between rich and poor peoples now, and also between ourselves and our descendants.” I do not believe that the issue of equity can be solved by shipping boatloads of money to Mugabe and his ilk. There is a proven solution: recognize that Natural Law (“Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”) is above legislation and the executive, then “…proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants”, and finally to …”secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, … ordain and establish this Constitution….”

    This is a copy of a post at WUWT:

  23. Ravetz states,“When facts are uncertain, when values are in conflict, when stakes are high, when decisions seem urgent, the FIRST casualty is “normal” science. “

    “stakes are high, decisions seem urgent”
    Decisions ALWAYS seem urgent, provided they are what you believe is needed. If the decision seems to fall the other way them it needs more re-evaluation and deeper study, and postponement until there is better understanding (or it is reversed).

    The main dfinition of post-normal science, offered by Ravitz is nonsense. There is science, and there is propaganda and a-priori beliefs – which are non-science.

    There is no such thing as “post-normal science”.
    Science is never the sole guide to decisions, alas, beliefs and whims are more common guides to decisions. And that is normal, not “post-normal”.