by Judith Curry
Some quotes from Von Storch in this interview:
On the loss of credibility, climate science itself is to blame. The science has stirred up scientifically unfounded expectations, says von Storch. The demand that the public has to rapidly accept instructions on how to act in order to save the planet has blurred the boundaries between policy and science. As a result, science has not become something that has to do with “curiosity”, but rather gives the impression that it’s all about pushing a pre-conceived value-based agenda: “As scientists we have become political tools who are to deliver sought arguments to get citizens to do the right thing.”
The problem is not ‘that the public is is too stupid, or uneducated’, but that science has failed to deliver answers to legitimate public questions. Instead they have said, “believe us – we are scientists’. There are many questions among individuals and they have only gotten a ‘stroppy reply,’ Storch finds.”
I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with Von Storch on three different occasions over the last 6 months: at the Fall AGU meeting when we made presentations in the same session, at the Lisbon Workshop on Reconciliation, and two weeks ago when he visited Georgia Tech. While I have heard him characterize himself as a “warmist,” he is genuinely interested in skepticism and postnormal science.
Analysis of skeptics at Die Klimazweibel
Von Storch is one of the principals of the blog Die Klimazweibel. Of direct relevance to the topic of this post is the Skeptics Survey Analysis conducted by Rob Maris, and reported by Von Storch here. The survey was conducted on the internet, and approximately 500 self-proclaimed skeptics responded. From the post:
It must be emphasized that this is not a representative survey; to begin with, we have no generally accepted definition of what a “skeptic” constitutes. Instead we have simply asked in the introduction “Do you consider yourself a skeptic?”, and invited for responses only if this question was positively answered. However, we consider our survey useful, as it provides a number of hypotheses about this unknown population of “skeptics”, and it is hoped that social scientists may have a starting point to seriously engage in research about this socio-political phenomenon.
If you haven’t read this previously, it is well worth reading. A few excerpts from the survey results:
Q1: The (roughly) reason for being a skeptic.
The answers to this question show that 2/3 are skeptic because they find that knowledge about the earth’s climate system would be insufficient for legitimating mitigation measures. Only 12% respond that what present knowledge claims is mainly wrong. Climate scientists (11 respondents declare themselves as belonging to this category) were more rigorous than other respondents: 36% tick “mainly wrong”.
Q.3: Initial opinion upon first contact with climatic issues?
There is a clear warmist (38%)/”neutral” tendency. There are some differences when the statistics are filtered according to education background, cultural region or referrer – but not truly significant for the purpose of this survey.
Q.5 How did attendants get to skepticism?
As was expected, internet resources was the most ticked choice in this multiple-options question (63%). The hockey stick discussion also represents a major factor. Both of these are clearly less a factor for skeptical climate scientists (internet 27%); for these scientific publications are an important factor (up to 69%). Interestingly, laymen are most impressed by Al Gore’s “Inconvenient truth” – as a key driver for becoming a skeptic.
Dennis Bray has a follow on post that discusses the confusing definitions and classifications of skeptics.
David Wojick’s comment
So is providing answers to skeptics a simple matter? On the quote of the week thread, David Wojick writes:
However, John Cook’s skepticalscience.com provides an interesting perspective on the complexity and breadth of the debate, one that is no doubt unintended.
Last I looked he listed over 100 skeptical arguments. He frames them in an unsophisticated way, suggesting that skeptics are ignorant, but still they are there. Then he provides a sophisticated pro-AW rebuttal to each one, hoping no doubt to settle the issue. Looking closely one finds that most rebuttals actually contain several distinct arguments, let’s say 300 to 400 arguments in all.
What scientifically informed skeptics know is that there are sophisticated rebuttals to each of these pro-AGW arguments, again probably several to each, making perhaps 1000 distinct scientific arguments. And this is just the tip of the argument iceberg. This is a good measure of how unsettled the science actually is.
JC comments: I completely agree with Von Storch’s statements, and he and his colleagues are to be commended for actually trying to understand climate skepticism and skeptics. I also agree that attempts to placate skeptics such as at skepticalscience.com aren’t terribly effective. There are many complex, unsettled issues that require much more research. People with questions often do not even get a “stroppy reply;” they are merely dismissed as “deniers.” IMO, actual dialogue with skeptics (enabled by the blogosphere) is one of the best ways to increase understanding.