A science-policy research agenda

by Judith Curry

The need for policy makers to understand science and for scientists to understand policy processes is widely recognised. However, the science-policy relationship is sometimes difficult and occasionally dysfunctional; it is also increasingly visible, because it must deal with contentious issues, or itself becomes a matter of public controversy, or both. We suggest that identifying key unanswered questions on the relationship between science and policy will catalyse and focus research in this field. 

A new paper has been published by PLoS-one entitled A Collaboratively-Derived Science-Policy Research Agenda, by William Sutherland and  51 co-authors. (h/t Bill Hooke).

Here is the meat of the paper:  40 questions, binned into six categories:

I. Understanding the role of scientific evidence in policymaking

  1. How do different political cultures and institutions affect the acquisition and treatment of scientific evidence in policy formulation, implementation and evaluation?
  2. How do scientists and policy makers recognise and convey the limitations of scientific advice?
  3. At what stages during the development of policy does scientific evidence have the greatest impact on the decisions made?
  4. Under what conditions does scientific evidence legitimise political decisions?
  5. What roles have science and other forms of expertise played in international governance regimes, such as the World Trade Organisation?
  6. Are there conditions under which scientific evidence may help resolve value-laden conflict and if so, what are those conditions?
  7. What factors affect the utility and legitimacy of formal decision support, assessment and evaluation tools, and their adoption (or otherwise) by policy makers?
  8. What influences the form and application of monitoring and evaluation practices in the development of policy informed by science?

II.  Framing questions, sourcing evidence and advice, shaping research

  1. How do policy makers decide which questions they should ask their expert advisors and when in the policy cycle they should be asked?
  2. What are the most effective mechanisms for identifying the evidence required to inform policy-making on new and emerging problems?
  3. How, and with what consequences, have the sources of scientific evidence and advice used by policy makers changed over recent decades?
  4. In what ways do different political cultures shape the frameworks through which evidence and advice are sourced?
  5. In what circumstances are policy problems likely to require the inclusion of experts with conflicting views?
  6. When is it considered appropriate to consult experts with conflicting views, and what mechanisms can ensure that this takes place?
  7. What factors influence whether different disciplines are included effectively when defining and addressing complex policy problems?
  8. What are the mechanisms by which budgetary pressures and societal constraints on policy-making influence the prioritisation and funding of research?
  9. What is the effectiveness of different techniques for anticipating future policy issues requiring science input?

III. Advisory systems and networks

  1. How are national science advisory systems constructed and to what extent do different systems result in different outcomes?
  2. How and why does the role of scientific advice in policy-making differ among local, regional, national and international levels of governance?
  3. Which commissioning and operational arrangements lead to the most effective use of science in policy-making?
  4. Policy makers typically use networks of experts, formal and informal. How does the structure and composition of such networks influence the outcomes of decision making?
  5. How do different ways of using and organising in-house scientific expertise affect the quality and use of scientific evidence and advice in policy-making?
  6. What are the consequences of different approaches to institutionalising, professionalising and building capacity in the exchange of knowledge between science and policy?
  7. How can the effectiveness of knowledge-brokering [5] be assessed?

IV. Policy making under conditions of uncertainty and disagreement

  1. How is agreement reached on what counts as sufficient evidence to inform particular policy decisions?
  2. How is scientific evidence incorporated into representations of, and decision-making about, so-called “wicked” problems, which lack clear definition and cannot be solved definitively?
  3. Can distinctions be made in scientific advice between facts and values; to the extent that this is possible, how effective are policy makers in distinguishing them and what factors influence their effectiveness?
  4. How can risks, and the associated uncertainties, complexities, ambiguities and ignorance, be effectively characterised and communicated?
  5. How do policy makers understand and respond to scientific uncertainties and expert disagreements?
  6. Do different approaches to building consensus, or illuminating lack of consensus, result in different consequences for policy and, if so, why?

V. Democratic governance of scientific advice

  1. What factors (for example, openness, accountability, credibility) influence the degree to which the public accept as trustworthy an expert providing advice?
  2. What governance processes and enabling conditions are needed to ensure that policymaking is scientifically credible, while addressing a perceived societal preference for policy processes that are more democratic than technocratic?
  3. How might the attitudes and values of diverse publics relating to science and technology, and their governance, be incorporated effectively into debates about the use of evidence in policy-making?
  4. What has been the influence of scrutinising institutions, such as those of legislative bodies (e.g. Parliament, Congress, National Assembly or Bundestag) on the roles of science in policy-making?
  5. What are the implications for their effectiveness of opening up expert advisory processes to different forms of transparency?
  6. What are the implications for science-policy relations, and for the democratisation of science, of novel methods of engagement and dissemination (such as citizen science, and new media technologies, including social media)?

VI.  How do scientists and policy makers understand expert advisory processes?

  1. What factors shape the ways in which scientific advisors and policy makers make sense of their own and each other’s roles in the policy process?
  2. How and why have the conceptual models of science-policy relations held by policy makers, scientists and other stakeholders changed over time, and with what consequences?
  3. How is guidance on the handling and communication of risk, uncertainty and ambiguity interpreted by policy makers, and what impact do their views have on the uptake and implementation of recommendations?
  4. What impact has research on the relationship between science and policy actually had on science policy?

JC comment:   This is one of the most profound things I’ve seen on the science-policy interface.   With regards to the dysfunction at the climate science-policy interface, it seems that these questions aren’t even asked.  The assumption by the climate establishment was discussed in this previous post, where there seems to be the assumption

A + B = C

  • A:  scientific and disciplinary knowledge
  • B:  impacts of A, communication of A and impacts, and translation A for policy makers
  • C:  policy

The categories that I find here of greatest interest and relevance to the climate science-policy interface are

  • Policy making under conditions of uncertainty and disagreement
  • Democratic governance of scientific advice
Much food for thought here.

139 responses to “A science-policy research agenda

  1. Roddy Campbell

    Judith, this is a really interesting EU publication on case studies of the Precautionary Principle in action over 100 years, really good on policy/science interface reality and examples, with lessons.


    • I urge these influential authors of both reports to contemplate the fifty-four year (54 yr = 2009-1945) history of damage to science and society in the events that culminated in Climategate::

      Fear and the instinct of survival
      persuaded world leaders to hide the
      energy that vaporized Hiroshima
      in 1945: They thus became rulers
      rather than servants of the public.
      The 2009 product: Climategate !


      • In his autobiography, “Home Is Where the Wind Blows,” Sir Fred Hoyle documents the abrupt, and seemingly inexplicable U-Turn in astronomy, astrophysics, solar physics immediately after “nuclear fires” ended the Second World War:

        [Referring to Hoyle’s meeting with Sir Arthur Eddington one spring day in 1940]: “We both believed that the Sun was made mostly of iron, two parts iron to one part of hydrogen, more or less. The spectrum of sunlight, chock-a-block with lines of iron, had made this belief seem natural to astronomers for more than fifty years.” . . . (page 153)

        “The high-iron solution continued to reign supreme in the interim (at any rate, in the astronomical circles to which I was privy) until after the Second World War, when I was able to show, to my surprise, that the high-hydrogen, low iron solution was to be preferred for the interiors as well as for the atmospheres.” (page 153-154)

        “My paper on the matter confounded a doctrine of (Raymond) Lyttleton, who used to say there are three stages in the acceptance by the world of a new idea.

        1. The idea is nonsense.

        2. Somebody thought of it before you did.

        3. We believed it all the time.

        This matter of the high-hydrogen solution was the only occasion, in my experience, when the first and second of these stages were missing. (page 154)

        Fear and the instinct of survival
        convinced New World rulers to skip
        Steps 1 and 2, lest astronomers
        discover the Sun’s neutron core
        is like Hiroshima’s nuclear fire !


      • March 22 CERN Colloquium: Low Energy Nuclear Transmutations
        Confirms 1989 Fleischer and Pons: “Cold Fusion” aka “LENT”

        Slides from two talks given at a recent CERN Colloquoum illustrate the sad state of nuclear science after sixty-six years (66 yrs) of data manipulation by frightened, clueless world leaders.

        1. The following quotes from the third slide (#3) in the overview of “Low Energy Nuclear Transmutations” by Professor Yogendra Srivastava at the 20120322 CERN Colloquium


        Should be inscribed on the walls of every office in the US Department of Energy, the US Congress, the US Environmental Protection Agency, the US Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Co-Chair of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), the US National Academy of Sciences, and the US Department of Defense – especially DARPA

        Hence, the renewed clarion call for hot fusion -supposedly
        occurring in the core of the stars, for T around 17 Million K

        • I say supposedly: for the lack of success achieved so far

        -after 60 years and over 200 billion dollars-
        might make you wonder that perhaps a realization of hot
        fusion on Earth is even more ephemeral than the one at
        300 degrees.

        • While strident criticism of low temperature fusion is legion
        among most physicists, the silence generated by the same
        physicists regarding hot fusion is positively deafening.

        • Europe is spending over a billion Euros on hot fusion this year

        • An optimistic estimate for production of usable energy via
        hot fusion is the year 2025.

        • In the US, the prognosis is for the year 2050.

        2. Slides from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries presented at the same 20120322 CERN Colloquium on the nuclear transformations confirmed by chemical analysis of Y. Iwamura, M Sakano, T Itoh et al on deuterium-permeated palladium [aka “cold fusion”]


        a.) Sr changed into Mo (element #38 into element #42)
        b.) Cs changed into Pr (element #55 into element #59)
        c.) Ba changed into Sm (element #56 into element #62)
        d.) W changed into Os (element #74 into element #76)
        e.) W changed into Pt (element #74 into element #78)

        The above chemical analysis remind me of the types of analysis that Dr. Kazuo Kuroda probably performed on nuclear ashes of Hiroshima when he was sent there to determine the nature of the weapon used on 6 Aug 1945.

        That is one reason for my interest in figuring out what Kuroda found in Hiroshima ashes in Aug 1945 and why leaders of the US NAS tried to block publication of his reports on self-sustaining nuclear fission at the 1956 AGU meeting in Washington, DC

        See: http://www.springerlink.com/content/n556224311414604/

        Those nuclear transformations should be posted in the offices and studied by the US DOE Secretary of Energy (Stephen Chu), US EPA Administrator (Lisa Jackson), Director of the US White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (John Holdren), President of the US NAS (Ralph Cicerone), and US DARPA director (Regina Dugan), . . . even if she escapes to Google and leaves us in darkness.


        Additional information posted on http://www.omatumr.com/ http://omanuel.wordpress.com/about
        and http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=164758567

    • Reading that you would think that every application of the precautionary principle was justified. It only examines things we didn’t act on that we should have. True analysis also has to examine things we were justified in not acting on in spite of lobbying (cell phone ‘radiation’, GM foods, vaccines, etc), things we acted on as a precaution that we probably shouldn’t have (Iraq war, shutting down nuke plants, keystone pipeline, one million people in prisons).

      The biggest problem though is it argues the science doesn’t matter – just a suggestion something can be bad is enough to delay or completely shut something down (or start an invasion). Of course like all pseudo science, it is very weak on defining ‘bad’ and levels of proof. Thus it becomes a perfect tool to ignore logic, and force through whatever agenda those with power want.

      • Roddy Campbell

        I think that’s harsh, but I only read a few. Of course it comes from a government body, but is a very useful compendium of the facts of what happened and how in these cases, with useful conclusions of strengths and weaknesses in the system.

        On mad cow, for example, the UK gvt did have to make decisions on what degree to apply the Prec Prin, it’s an analysis of how it did it. There was a huge UK enquiry into it too.

        I can’t agree your second para at all.

      • People never agree the precautionary principle is unscientific until it pushes through a policy they disagree with. I’m not presuming your politics, but all sides do it regularly, shouldn’t be hard to find something. The downsides becomes much more obvious from there imo.

        We have some seemingly insane cattle culls here in Canada due to the precautionary principle too, but the precaution is definitely that we don’t want the cattle industry to suffer from the same insanity that the UK industry suffered. BSE is of course a valid concern, but I do notice the UK population didn’t take the dramatic plunge many predicted.

      • Roddy Campbell

        Yes, that’s what makes it fun, sort of, the different interests. It seems clear on BSE/mad cow that the UK gvt were for a very long time solely interested in protecting agricultural interests, I think from memory of reading through that report the Chief medical Officer wasn’t even told what the Min of Ag were doing about it for 18 months – which is at the very least quite odd, given that people in gvt have jobs and responsibilities, and the Min of Ag should represent farmers and their trade, and the Dep of Health the consumer/health interest and they should duke it out and arrive at some kind of vaguely rational response based on politics economics and medicine and psychology..

        The report argued for much greater transparency as a side-benefit was that it reassured the public that there was no cover-up, I liked that bit.

        Another example – the bits of animal that could no longer be recycled into feed just happened to be the cheapest to extract, it was a decision taken on economic grounds – nothing wrong with that, it’s part of the mix.

        The political system is supposed to prevent idiotic applications of the PP, so it’s an important question.

      • Dealing with diseases is a good place to start because there is more to analyze, because accountability of policy is so much higher, because actual lives are at stake nearby both in space and time.

      • Roddy Campbell

        Agree. More tractable, more accountability. Swine flu, bird flu, BSE etc.

        Also radiation (Fukushima) – it was interesting how robust the UK gvt advice to British nationals in Japan was, they said there is NO need for any precautions at all. No havering.

        I think the WHO should have the word ‘pandemic’ removed from their Microsoft Word dictionary.

  2. Roddy, thanks for this link

  3. Roddy Campbell

    No worries. For example, on mad-cow disease in UK, the one I knew best, many of the buckets you list came up – transparency of advice, clear briefing, conflicts of interest (food production and food consumer protection were same department), uncertainty. And I though the focus on examples involving uncertainty and the Prec Prin makes it especially relevant here to put flesh on the six bucket headings.

  4. There is no obvious connection between the IPCC claiming that recent warming is caused by humans (A) and the profusion of useless wind turbines and solar subsidies (C).

    The equation might more accurately read:

    (A + B1)B2 = C

    A: scientific and disciplinary knowledge
    B1: impacts of A, communication of A and impacts, and translation A for policy makers
    B2: Lobby groups filtering the scientific knowledge and new views of policymakers in a way which gives the preferred outcome to the lobbyists.
    C: policy

    • A narrative summary might be that where money, policy, and creative powerful unscrupulous people intersect, a lot of profiteering will occur.

  5. The Medium is the Message–i.e., that global warming is a serious problem, tra-la. That is the ‘Agenda’ here!

    For example, do you see this kind of focus on… say… the problem of too much mercury in tuna–e.g., we must transistion Western tuna eaters from Atlantic bluefin tuna to line-caught smaller-sized albacore from the North Pacific or millions may suffer and die?

  6. To effect societal change using the science-policy interface, one might envision a three legged stool. One leg requires public acceptance and support. The second leg requires governmental regulatory support in terms of public policy. The third leg is financial, does it make financial sense.

    The problem of uncertainty communication is in the public acceptance domaine. The public ultimately must weigh the risks and to do that, they have to know what those risks are; i.e., transparency, full disclosure.

    Government’s role is basically translating public sentiment into workable laws and regulations through the sausage making with competing agendas. Inclusion of competing participants is the key to developing workable solutions: something for everyone, not all one perspective.

    Financially, public policy becomes a cost/benefit equation. The cost assessment has to be transparent and informed.

    Do you see where I am going with this? In every aspect of creating a three legged stool to effect a climate policy, climate science has failed:

    The public was regarded as not sufficiently capable to understand climate science, so the public information aspect was dismissed as “all too complicated” and was not done blaming it on a failure in American Education, etc.

    Government was lobbied by activists claiming the sacredness of their science and the consensus of their thinkers. GreenPeace does not represent the views of 98% of the American people. For carefully crafted legislation requires carefully selecting competing voices even though these competing voices do not represent a majority. They are selected precisely because they are a minority. Then you seat everyone around a round table so that nobody has a dominant status position and let the sausage making begin.

    To get a buy-in by the public, you have to be honest about what the public is going to have to pay out. The public then is able to determine for themselves their own cost/benefit relationship. The more the long process and hence costs are broken down into manageable steps, the more likely the cost/benefit determination gets translated into action. Decarbonizing the world at 100 trillion dollars is not going to happen. Transitioning to natural gas and nuclear from coal and oil can and will happen because it makes economic sense for the majority of people.

    Lastly, one has to be nimble on your feet. One has to be paying attention. Black Swan events do occur. Shale gas and oil is a Black Swan, a game changer. The public understands fracking and horizontal drilling. The government can develop guidelines for environmental protection. And the cost/benefit relationship makes financial sense.

    We have time to make the transitions. Time to invest in the research. The sun will still be there when we figure out how to capture, store, and transmit its energy.

  7. Aside from the questions never asked we should think of the questions never answered. At least if this were a serious conversation;


    We have to pretend we don’t know their politics all the while in these discussions?

  8. I’m surprised you call a list of 40 questions with no answers “profound”. Someone should pick a group of the 5-10 most successful and least successful science-policy interactions (perhaps by surveying a knowledgeable group) and see what success and failure have in common. (Perhaps this has been done.)

    • I agree with you Frank. The interaction of scientists and policy makers scares the hell out of me. But I suspect it may just be an expression of some paranoia of mine. And I’m not even particularly conservative.

      Much much better than trying to invent a structured armature on which to array the interaction is to do as you say, look at how it’s gone in the past. It certainly wouldn’t hurt to use the list as a guide to investigating the past. Did they do this? Did they do that? How well did the policy makers understand the issue? Were the scientists honest with regard to the scope and precision of their knowledge? Did they expose their doubts and concerns? Did the policymakers share their own problems? I bet not on this last one. Certainly if the science is going to be bent by politics and sometimes it isn’t obvious to non-politicians, it would be good for the scientists to know. It would be the sort of thing where the politician says, I couldn’t subscribe to anything like what you suggest, but maybe these other things.

      Did the policy makers ask the right questions? This would have to be asked with sympathy for the then state of understanding of the issue. If they didn’t, why not? What might have happened if they had?

      There have been some wonderful successes of science inspired policy, radar, nuclear energy, aspects of disease control, fluorides in the water, on and on.

      Maybe we don’t need to know how the ones that worked were made to happen, but we sure as hell need to know in detail how the ones that went wrong came to pass. I would include especially policy developed on the basis of bad science, solutions to problems which weren’t real, and policy innovations addressed to real problems which missed the point, or didn’t work.

      We need to really understand the screw-ups. It would be very interesting to compile a list of the screw-ups and see if it was even possible to get agreement on which policy ventures belong on the list.

      As an aside, during my career in engineering construction, I came to ask prospective design engineers what the biggest mistake they’d made since being in the business, what had happened, and what was done about it. Eventually, I wouldn’t hire anyone who didn’t have a story on the tip of his tongue. Some of the stories were really good. Makes me sweat just to think of them.

      I see the compiling of lists like the one at the head of this post as nice, but missing the point. Without good history of mess-ups, there’s no way to appraise the hazards of each of the facets of this interaction.

      It’s just more of the organizational fantasy that if we have a good agenda, the meeting will produce good results.

      • j ferg;
        Still playing pick-up cards, eh? Excellent list of your own, there! RU familiar with Mencken’s “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”?

        Getting at the most accurate and cost-effective analyses and options is, by his account, only the background to concocting monsters out of moles, and deputizing companies of safari-hunters with the latest gear and biggest bore elephant guns to hunt them down.

        Cynicism trumps paranoia? ;)

      • Brian,
        thanks for the thoughts. I was trying to be polite. I’m a big fan of the sort of stories that can be summarized something like this:
        “Here’s more or less what we thought. This is what we told them. they asked about this and this. We told them this and that. They agreed to do this and that. Then they did this other thing. Here’s what actually happened and this is the long term effect and the probable cost.”

        Maybe this sort of thing isn’t useful for climate science because there is no discipline-specific track record, but there is other experience with instituting mitigating measures on the basis of some approximation of the best information and opinion available.

        I don’t know whether you’ve been at any discoveries (sessions taking depositions) where a possible resolution of the thing of concern could lead to great expense to someone. I have. Very frequently the right question could be financially devastating. We were told NEVER to expand an answer, offer anything other than the briefest honest, answer to the question asked and hope that they wouldn’t ask the right ones. And frequently they didn’t.

        It may be that this experience is what makes me nervous about policy makers, mostly lawyers, I think, relying on their advisors to come up with the right questions. Then they are asking questions of people in Judith’s line of work, some of whom seem to have real agendas which may or may not be supported by their science, or anyone else’s.

        I doubt if the science community would be much influenced by more information regarding the hazards of misdirection of policy makers, but I’m sure the policymakers would.

        As long as the thing is limited to lists of best practice in scientist-policymaker interaction, nothing worthwhile is likely to happen.

        It takes the warning of a major screw-up due to roughness in the interaction, one that anyone can understand and which has/had demonstrable adverse effects.

        The DDT fiasco comes to mind, but maybe a lot of people don’t buy that it was one. The mad cow madness might be another, but I’m so little informed that I have no idea whether the actions taken were reasonable given the choices which might have been available, the ones they knew about and maybe the ones which were plausible but never presented to the policymakers.

        How has this been screwed up in the past?

        This is how to get at the problem. Anything else is nonsense.

      • j ferg,

        I like your thinking on this. Another succinct way of putting things is, we want to know about both type I and type II policy errors–and their relative costs.

        You might like to read the Ostrom paper I linked above, mainly because she is as interested in failures of commons governance as successes, precisely because the failures are quite informative too.

      • The DDT fiasco had nothing to do with the theoretical concepts you mention – it was straight politics flying in the face of science. Rather like the current climate science debacle, a ‘green’ political agenda ran roughshod over the evidence, resulting in millions of people dying from malaria:


        That is why I get so irritated about self-serving papers like the one in the head post. It made not a skerrick of difference what the scientific evidence was – the decision makers jumped on a popular hobby horse, which their allies in the scientific world slapped on the rump, and they were away. If scientists en masse had been taken away from their work to learn about policy processes, it would just have been a waste of their time.

        In the DDT example, scientists who supported the ban crossed over into politics at the expense of science – and that’s the bottom line in this discussion.

  9. “A: scientific and disciplinary knowledge”

    In Climate Science, there is no “A”.


  10. I. Understanding the role of scientific evidence in policymaking

    “What “evidence” do we need to support the policy”?

    1.How do policy makers decide which questions they should ask their expert advisors and when in the policy cycle they should be asked?

    “See I above!

  11. The WUWT post below is difficult to follow: heavy reading. However, considering the scope of the attempt and the need to refer to support, that should be expected. Remember that the post is intentionally a work-in-progress and a request for ideas.

    Just The Facts. “Potential Climatic Variables Page.” Scientific. Watts Up With That?, February 19, 2012. http://wattsupwiththat.com/reference-pages/potential-climatic-variables/

    “This list of Potential Climatic Variables was built with the help of a multitude of WUWT reader comments, beginning on this thread on January, 15th 2011, and growing on January 22nd, 2011, February 10th, 2011, February 28th, 2011, June 30th, 2011 and January 21st, 2012. Your help in continuing to build this list would be most appreciated. Please take a look through the list below and note in comments if you have any additions, suggestions or corrections.”

    Looking through the post by Just The Facts (above), I am reminded of a process flow diagram. In systems architecture, there are two primary subjects: Process (perhaps a hierarchy) and Data (flows). As you get into detail, each Process may have multiple flows in, and multiple flows out. By analogy, the climate problem has States/Actions of something; the flows in are Impacts on the climate State and the flows out are Impacts on one or more other States. Obviously, Impacts may be lagged or distributed over time.

    • A good link which I have bookmarked. I like the wiki style of this work in progress and the absence of irrelevant commentry. The grouping of the main topics also appear to be a useful attempt at synthesis.

      While there seems scope for more work to be done with the huge mass of data available from paleoclimate, anecodotal and raw observation sources, I would encourage more climate historical studies such as that of Tony Brown.

  12. “When is it considered appropriate to consult experts with conflicting views,”
    Good Gawd, when is it NOT? If you avoid this, you have de facto decided the issue in advance.

    Science policy sausage-making. What % of the ingredients is seriously putrid careerism?

  13. Dr. Curry,

    Given your interest in these policy matters and ‘wicked problems,’ I’ll recommend Elinor Ostrom one more time. She is a political scientist by training, but split the Econ Nobel with Oliver Williamson a few years ago. Her special area of interest has always been the provision of public goods and the management of common pool resources. She has a long and distinguished career of observing the actual governance practices of user groups and/or governments, comparing their features and outcomes, and trying to draw general conclusions as to what works well and what does not.

    I think starting with her Nobel lecture (as reworked for the American Economic Review) is a great place to start, because it contains extensive review and bibliography on the (massive) field studies that have been done on urban water and police, forests, rivers, fisheries and irrigation systems:

    Ostrom, Elinor. 2010. Beyond markets and states: Polycentric governance of complex economic systems. AER 100 (June 2010):1–33.

    Happily, it is posted on the web here:


    Ostrom also has a World Bank paper that specifically addresses climate change, from the perspective of her own long empirical work on governance of common pool resources. It is:

    Ostrom, Elinor. 2009. A polycentric approach for coping with climate change. World Bank Policy Research Working Paper No. 5095.

    It can be downloaded from various sites, using this portal:


  14. IV. Policy making under conditions of uncertainty and disagreement

    7. For those outside the West–i.e., those who liken Western Climatology to the ancient science of astrology and think of Western Climatologists as tea leaf readers–what can we do to keep them from laughing their asses off when we freeze our butts off?

  15. Hank Zentgraf

    Judith, I hope we don’t get into the “weeds” with this approach and forget what the forest looks like. Let’s be honest and have the climate scientists tell the policy makers that it is premature to develop policies until we have a full understanding of the major aspects of climate both natural and human caused. Admit that climate science is still a very young science, our models cannot be validated, and we have no skill to make regional climate projections. Until this information is disclosed by the climate science community, we will continue to get bogged down.

    • Daniel Suggs

      And the general public will continue to equate climate scientists with witch doctors and chicken little.

      To quote CERN Research Director Sergio Bertolucci concerning the neutrino experiments:
      “Whatever the result, the OPERA experiment has behaved with perfect scientific integrity in opening their measurement to broad scrutiny, and inviting independent measurements. This is how science works.”
      And if it can’t be falsified, it is religious dogma, or AGW.

    • And, let us start passing some ethics laws and demanding some accountability and giving prison sentences scientists for knowing deception and fraud and let us get rid of this ridiculous notion of tenure where these fearmongering schoolteachers are insulated from the consequences of their acts of malfeasance..

  16. I think the first step is to figure out how to separate legitimate science from politicized insanity trying to hijack the name of science. I suppose a variety of tests might be considered. I would offer a simple one — have a candidate for the label ‘scientist’ read every op-ed, letter to the editor, and book written by Michael Mann and every interview he’s done. If the candidate loses his lunch in disgust, he passes.

  17. Freeman Dyson on climate models

    • Thanks, vukcevic. Freeman Dyson may be old enough to remember how astronomy, astrophysics, climatology, cosmology, nuclear, particle, and solar physics operated before Hiroshima was evaporated by the Atomic Bomb on 6 Aug 1945.

      If not, read Fred Hoyle’s autobiography, “Home Is Where the Wind Blows” and see how these fields were changed into the lock-step consensus sciences that yielded damning evidence of government deceit in a CSPAN news tape on 7 Jan 1998:

      And Climategate emails and documents in Nov 2009:


      Fear and the Instinct for Survival persuaded world leaders to hide factual information about the powerful source of energy that consumes and creates chemical elements, energy stored as rest mass at the centers of heavy atoms like uranium, ordinary stars like the Sun, and the centers of galaxies like the MIlky Way.

      More details are here: http://omanuel.wordpress.com/about/

  18. Weather forecast models use greenhouse effect.
    Dr Roy Spencer has written:

    “Regarding those weather forecast models, without a proper handling of the greenhouse effect, they would utterly fail in about 24 hours or so, with unrealistic surface cooling and a marked change in weather systems away from reality.

    Do the critics of greenhouse theory ignore tomorrow’s weather forecast because weather forecast models depend critically upon greenhouse effect calculations? I doubt it.”


    • HEP, your link was cut-off, and this is the fixed link.

      Sure enough, Spencer believes in the GHG theory. What he can’t take is all these pseudoscientist crackpots, such as the dragon-slayers, who inhabit the fringes of climate science, making him look bad by association.

  19. Vukcevic;
    Part 2 of that Dyson video is hard to find, but here it is:

  20. 51 co-authors? Willis Eschenbach has an equation for that, and it’s not flattering. I have to say this pompous piece of nonsense supports his hypothesis.

    Let’s start with the first sentence:

    “The need for policy makers to understand science and for scientists to understand policy processes is widely recognised.”

    In other words, nothing more to discuss here, move along. What nonsense.

    There is absolutely no need for a physicist to understand policy processes, nor is there any need for a policymaker to understand physics. The cobbler should stick to his or her last, since neither of them in my example is likely to ever become highly competent in the other’s field – and why should they? A moment’s thought should illustrate that it is impossible and undesirable for policymakers to have more than a passing knowledge of all the specialised fields they have to make decisions about – whether it be science, economics, urban planning, information technology or whatever. The reason knowing too much becomes a disadvantage is because of the high risk of becoming captured or drowning in detail and losing the big picture.

    The job of the specialist is to provide the best advice they can based on what they know, including stating what they don’t know. But the policymaker, making the policy sausage, has a bunch of other ingredients to add to the mix as well – that is their skill. It includes judging which advice, from which specialist(s), to give the most weight to, and what weight to give to the other ingredients. It is cooking, not chemistry. It is a skill acquired through learning from others and experience and also requires innate judgement.

    Policymakers (whether appointed or elected) have been doing this since there were policymakers, and the basics have not changed. They seek advice from experts, and make a call. Conflating the two roles is largely responsible for the mess that climate science is in.

    The fact that government does not work perfectly is not new, and will not change (not that we should stop trying). But, putting the generals in charge is not the way to run a war, and putting the scientists in charge is not the way to run a peace – in a democracy, anyway. Policymakers should grasp the basics of what they are being advised about, while scientists should present advice in a straightforward (i.e.,including uncertainties) form. Straying beyond those boundaries just makes for mutually assured misunderstanding and incompetence.

    • David Wojick

      Yes, these are interesting scientific questions but not useful ones, because they address everything that happens. Except that advocacy, which is the basic policy making process, seems not to be mentioned. The implication seems to be that policy making should somehow be more scientific, perhaps by putting more scientists in charge. Not likely.

      As for their seeming affection for advisory panels, consider the IPCC. The world’s largest panel has created the biggest policy mess. That is an important message.

      • Latest effort to get all of climate science into the Post-Normal Policy Consensus Corral:

        …It is … important to ensure that scientists become directly engaged in efforts to draw up and implement solutions at all levels of society.

        This means, for example, that the scientific community needs to reorganise itself so it can interact more directly and effectively with policymakers, rather than lecturing them from a distance.

        One way that this can be achieved is by ensuring that research priorities are determined by the problems that society needs solving, rather than issues researchers find intellectually stimulating. …

      • Thanks, David, for mentioning advocacy. As I said in my response upthread regarding the DDT fiasco (which cost countless millions of lives), when scientists become advocates the possibility of bad outcomes is magnified. Misguided attempts to enmesh them in the policymaking process beyond providing impartial advice from a safe distance are inherently dangerous, IMHO.

  21. Re: “How do different political cultures and institutions affect the acquisition and treatment of scientific evidence in policy formulation, implementation and evaluation?”

    One of the enduring political/scientific dichotomies is the fossil vs environmental camps which strongly polarize scientific/policy discussions.

    Thus the massive concern over global warming appears related to anti fossil fuel pro nature environmentalism while the pro fossil relate to jobs economy etc. The IPCC models project strongly rising Co2 from fossil consumption – yet there is little analysis given – while skeptics looking at the evidence do not see the resources of light oil available for that.

    See the following review of the very near term challenges on availability of liquid fuel to sustain transportation and the economies.

    Oil Risks in the Early 21st Century, at TheOilDrum.com

    This is a guest post by Dean Fantazzini, Moscow School of Economics, Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia; Mikael Höök, Uppsala University, Global Energy Systems, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Uppsala, Sweden; and André Angelantoni, Post-Peak Living, San Francisco, CA. This paper has been previously published in Energy Policy, Volume 39, Issue 12, December 2011, Pages 7865-7873.
    The Deepwater Horizon incident demonstrated that most of the oil left is deep offshore or in other locations difficult to reach. Moreover, to obtain the oil remaining in currently producing reservoirs requires additional equipment and technology that comes at a higher price in both capital and energy. In this regard, the physical limitations on producing ever-increasing quantities of oil are highlighted, as well as the possibility of the peak of production occurring this decade. The economics of oil supply and demand are also briefly discussed, showing why the available supply is basically fixed in the short to medium term. Also, an alarm bell for economic recessions is raised when energy takes a disproportionate amount of total consumer expenditures. In this context, risk mitigation practices in government and business are called for. As for the former, early education of the citizenry about the risk of economic contraction is a prudent policy to minimize potential future social discord. As for the latter, all business operations should be examined with the aim of building in resilience and preparing for a scenario in which capital and energy are much more expensive than in the business-as-usual one.

    Note especially Figs.
    New Capacity vs Depletion and
    4% Decline vs Mitigation from Hirsch. (Note IEA 2011 reports ~7%/year depletion)

    Where is the comparative discussion of the comparative uncertainties of global warming from CO2 vs depletion rates of Transport fuel and new supply?

  22. I note that nvCJD linkage to BSE is held as an example of success.
    May I point a few things out.

    Firstly, here are the Actual figures. Note that referrals are linear with diagnoses.


    Iatrogenic means caused by medicine; we harvested pituitaries from cadavers with CJD, then injected it into children. About 70 then got CJD.

    If we remove the Iatrogenic cases, caused by criminal negligence. We have Sporadic, Familial, GSS (Gerstmann Straussler Scheinker disease) and finally we have vCJD.

    Now if you plot %Sporadic vs Familial, GSS and nvCJD. you get a nice plot.

    When ever a disease is under the spotlight, you find more of it. People started looking for CJD in the 90’s. They looked for a link to BSE. They have changed the way operation are done in the UK, adding about 30 billion to the cost of operations (disposable instruments).

    The only thing not explained is why Sporadic cases have increased 3 fold in 20 years.
    Some people suspect that nvCJD is just a sub-set of bog-standard Sporadic.
    Play with the numbers and tell me what you think.

    referals Year Sporadic Iatrogenic Familial GSS vCJD
    53 1990 28 5 0 0 –
    75 1991 32 1 3 0 –
    96 1992 45 2 5 1 –
    79 1993 36 4 5 2 –
    119 1994 54 1 5 3 –
    87 1995 35 4 2 3 3
    133 1996 40 4 2 4 10
    163 1997 60 6 4 2 10
    155 1998 64 3 3 2 18
    170 1999 62 6 2 0 15
    178 2000 50 1 2 1 28
    179 2001 58 4 4 2 20
    163 2002 72 0 4 1 17
    162 2003 79 5 4 2 18
    114 2004 50 2 4 2 9
    124 2005 67 4 8 5 5
    112 2006 69 1 6 3 5
    119 2007 64 2 9 1 5
    150 2008 88 5 2 3 2
    153 2009 79 2 3 5 3
    149 2010 84 3 6 1 3
    151 2011 82 3 9 2 5

    • Doc,

      Cool data. Do they have any good ideas about categorization errors (of the various diagnoses)? I do not know the standard language for the Docs, but say Hi means “Diagnosis i is correct” and Dj means “Diagnosis j was made.” Is there any good knowledge about the probabilities P(Di|Hj) for the categories i and j that existed prior to the ‘discovery’ of the nvCJD category?

    • Another question (or idea). Is there some second disease family outside the ‘cjd family’ that (1) has a much higher base rate in the population, and (2) a fairly wide variance in symptoms–wide enough so that cases in the tails of the second family distributions could be misdiagnosed as belonging to the ‘cjd family?” If so, the heighten attention about one member of the cjd family could have shifted cognitive detection boundaries between the two families generally, resulting in the strong upward trend in the sum of sporadic and nvcjd. It looks like sporadic always had the highest base rate in the cjd family so it would have attracted the lion’s share of the new classifications associated with the shifted category boundary.

  23. A story by Douglas Adams mentioned a committee of useless people put on a prehistoric earth whose task it was to design a wheel. When asked why they hadn’t yet invented the wheel, one of them replied “All right, Mr. Wiseguy. . .you’re so clever, you tell us what color it should be”
    I don’t know why that came to mind here.

  24. CAGW is an embarrassing scientific consensus. A quotation from Tolstoy comes to mind

    ” I know that most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth, if it be such as would obliged them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives.”

    Sometimes the best policy is to do nothing.

    • Edim,

      “Government is an association of men who do violence to the rest of us.”

      Leo Tolstoy

      • In China today…


        the ‘red terror’, is now called good business.

      • Tom,

        I can tell you that China has “Good cop, bad cop” figured out to the nth degree. The credit excess and abuse in China is beyond the imaginations of the global financial consensus (willfully of course) and this is exactly how it’s going to play out. When the bubble breaks phony “corruption outrage” will make U.S. liberals, OWS protesters blush and capitalism (total word destruction as used in China or here for that matter) will be asked to take the fall. Those escaping debt and preserving corruption benefits will play along.

      • Tom, thanks for the post. I laughed aloud at “[F]raming… torture… extorting… retribution… ‘Even by Chinese Communist Party standards, this is unacceptable,’ said [so-and-so]…”

  25. Judith;
    Are you aware of the Planet Under Pressure (PUP) meeting in London in the “run-up to Rio”?

    But demonstrating the scale and urgency of the problem is not sufficient. It is equally important to ensure that scientists become directly engaged in efforts to draw up and implement solutions at all levels of society.

    This means, for example, that the scientific community needs to reorganise itself so it can interact more directly and effectively with policymakers, rather than lecturing them from a distance.

    One way that this can be achieved is by ensuring that research priorities are determined by the problems that society needs solving, rather than issues researchers find intellectually stimulating. Increasing the amount of interdisciplinary work required to solve the kinds of complex problems at hand is another option.

    Ah, yes, all that lovely reorganization of scientists to properly serve the needs of society! With appropriate Commissars in charge, natch.

  26. All the claims that this topic article is “profound” or remotely important are laid bare by what is really going on;


  27. Scientist should not be involved in policy.

    • Political fanatics should not be involved in science.

    • I like the Warmer stance that declares it’s OK for Climate Scientists to be political, but it’s not OK for Skeptics to be political.

      This is the world they live in.


  28. Scary stuff is the announcement by the EPA that new power plants will regulate CO2 emissions such that new coal fired plants will not be possible. Now I really do not much care about a particular form of energy production, but did the administration consider what this new regulation would cost vs. how much it would actually lower worldwide CO2 emissions?

    • Rob,

      What benefit is there to reducing co2? It’s a fools errand and panders to political juck science. CO2 is a needed trace gas, there is no evidence of it impacting the climate at all.

      • I tend to disagree that it will have no impact on the climate. I do tend to also disagree that the rate of warming attributed to CO2 is overstated by the IPCC.

        My point in complaining about the actions of the Obama administration (who I actually voted for, but won’t next time) is that the EPA implemented new regulations without considering the cost/benefits. The long term cost of a power plant (as I understand it) is largely dependent on the cost to get fuel to the particulat plant. In certain parts of the US the long term cost of a coal fired plant is substantially lower than a gas fired plant. It seem IMO to be bad policy to implement a new rule that does not take this into consideration. If the reduction in CO2 emissions between the two facilities would not have a measureable impact on the climate, but is much more expensive; it seems like a poor chioce of policy.

      • My 2nd sentence should have been–I do tend to also disagree with the rate of warming attributed to CO2 by the IPCC and believe it has been overstated.

      • Some correction! You saved me a hot- headed reply.

      • David Wojick

        Rob, this is only a proposal, not a final rule. There will be a cost benefit analysis, as part of the Regulatory Impact Analysis. Unfortunately RIAs are not subject to judicial review (litigation for truth), the way Environmental Impact Analyses are, so EPA just makes outrageous claims and gets away with it. Lack of judicial review of RIAs is a huge hole in the regulatory system.

      • The EPA conducting a cost benefit analysis to determine the propriety of this first stage in its seizing control of the energy economy is like Penn State doing an investigation of Michael Mann. There is zero chance of any change in the “proposed” regulation – the “investigators” and the investigated work for the same boss, and share the same agenda.

    • David Wojick

      EPA claims the US is already shifting to gas fired generation, so no new coal plants were going to be built anyway, so the cost of the regulation basically is zero. It is one of the strangest regulatory cost arguments I have seen in 40 years of regulatory analysis.

  29. Norm Kalmanovitch

    5.In what circumstances are policy problems likely to require the inclusion of experts with conflicting views?
    When two experts disagree there is a 100% chance that one of them is wrong and likely a 50% chance that both are wrong.
    Science is based on evidence and when all evidence shows that the world has been cooling since 2002 in spite of increasing CO2 emissions as it did from 1942 to 1975 during which time there was a five fold increase in CO2 emissions; anyone claiming that CO2 emissions are the prime driver for potentially catastrophic global warming are clearly not experts and should not be listened to by anyone.

    • Norm, as someone whose career has involved assessing sometimes conflicting advice from experts in the public policy field, I respectfully submit that it is much more nuanced than that.

      To take your example, a rational policy response to climate forecasting would involve the classic three options:

      (i) pull out all the stops – catastrophe looms;
      (ii) take some tentative steps, on a cost/benefit basis; and
      (iii) do nothing.

      Given that governments are constantly bombarded with alarmist propaganda from all kinds of interest groups, (ii) and (iii) are the most common choices. There simply are not enough resources to satisfy all the (often contradictory) demands, plus many ‘problems’ mostly exist in the minds of their promoters as proper subjects for governments to get involved in. The great thing about (iii) is that at least you will not be making things worse, which interventions frequently do.

      As discussed in a previous thread, intractable policy problems are not a matter of right and wrong, they are inherently political problems. Thus, the bitter arguments about funding healthcare in the US have valid points on both sides. In the end, the outcome will be a political decision, irrespective of who puts up what carefully researched data.

      • David Wojick

        Indeed, for as much as we dislike it, politics is the decision process of democracy. There is probably no more rational alternative.

      • Who dislikes politics? Not me.

        The people who revile politics the most are the ones who currently have power, that is why they want the politics to stop. It’s like a football team leading after the third quarter asking the referee to stop the game and declare them the winners.

        I think millions of voters are conned every year by progressives who promise them a no-cost utopia, if only they will give up a little more freedom. “Vote for me, and I’ll send you a nice government check every month.” But it would never occur to me to suggest that the progressives be denied access to the voters through politics, unlike the “net neutrality” left.

        All this wailing and gnashing of teeth about how terrible it is that policy and science get commingled boggles my mind. Of course they are commingled. Of course people on both sides of a policy debate, including scientists, frame their arguments to increase their chances of winning the debate.

        The old saw that democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others, is nonsense. The wide open, raucous debate that has been the norm since the founding of the United States, is the primary reason we are the richest, most powerful, most generous country in the history of civilization. It’s not a happy accident, there is a direct cause and effect relationship.

        Science and policy will always “interface.” (Is that a verb now?) Just as they always have. We don’t need to micro manage the process, the old norms – integrity and humility in particular – are all we need for the process to improve. Not some 40 question, multi-layered decision tree.

        The true intent of the paper can be gleaned from the final sentence in the intro posted above:

        “We suggest that identifying key unanswered questions on the relationship between science and policy will catalyse and focus research in this field.”

        “Catalyse” translates into increasing funding for research, and “focus” simply means more centralized control of the research process. (Is that even possible?)

        There is nothing new in the climate debate.

  30. Weird science program called ‘Global Weirding’, invented in the West Texas but promoted among others Mike Lockwood. It’s all down to UV apparently melting the Arctic Ice and freezing river Thames during Maunder Minimum. It’s a new chapter of the climate ‘Science Weirding’.

  31. Vuk,

    It’s related to the movement of mass we see in the polar fronts. Sometimes storms spin off the polar vortices into lower latitudes – sometimes they don’t.

    The difference is to do with air density – and therefore sea level pressure -related to warming and cooling of ozone in the stratosphere at the poles. This is actually quite interesting.

    • Hi Chief Hydrologist
      What happen to the hydrology, you gone off to the stratosphere?
      My post was a bit of selective interpretation, I doubt that what Dr. Lockwood was saying is entirely correct, but what his graphics were showing was, and it is what I call the North Atlantic Precursor or NAP for short, shown here in time rather than the BBC’s graphics time and space domain :
      See also: http://eoimages.gsfc.nasa.gov/images/imagerecords/36000/36972/npole_gmao_200901-02.mov
      Section: Stratosphere Influences Winter Weather

      • Hi Vuk,

        ENSO has a 2 to 7 year period – and might be explained with some faith by Rossby waves propagating across the Pacific. The PDO has a period of 20 to 30 years and can in no way be adequately explained by internal mechanisms. The 2 are part of a Pacific system – that varies on decadal, centennial and millennial timescales. See this for instance –

        – the patterns of ocean upwelling in the eastern Pacific changes over time with feedbacks into global climate and hydrology. Australia and Indonesia are due for flooding for decades and the US is in for drought and more cold winters. It is both the cool PDO plus more frequent and intense La Niña – and the polar influence. Both of which are linked through ocean currents along the western coasts of South and North America.

        Here is a thermally enhanced picture from December 2010 – with the cool PDO and La Niña in full swing. You can see the typical pattern of cool Pacific decadal mode in the huge blue V.

        In the upwelling mode in the north and south east Pacific – cold and nutrient rich water rises and spreads eastward across the Pacific. The cold water brought to the surface directly cools the atmosphere through heat exchange. Low level marine stratocumulus clouds form over the cold water reflecting sunlight and cooling the world further. Pacific trade winds pick up and rain bearing cloud is blown onto Australia and Indonesia especially – but it increase rain in China and Africa and the Indian monsoon. The upwelling nutrients fuel huge increases in phytoplankton populations which suck in huge amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

        These patterns are obvious in both biology and hydrology. From my perspective – it was the 20 to 30 year periods of drought dominated and flood dominated regimes across Australia identified first in the 1980’s. So I was looking for a driver of these regimes – a control variable in a complex dynamical system. The Hale cycle fits the bill –
        – but how does it connect to the physical world of wind and wave? The answer it seems is in sea level pressure at the poles. Relatively low pressure at the south pole and higher pressure in sub polar regions mean means that the polar vortex is constrained to higher latitudes. More cold water flows through Drakes Passage. Warms water accumulates in a layer off the coast of Peru and upwelling is suppressed. When conditions change – more storms spin off into lower latitudes and more cold water flows in the Peruvian Current to the region of the Humboldt Current where it is joined by upwelling, cold and nutrient rich water. Here is a very Australian animation.

        Lockwood et al and Lean before that suggested a mechanism in the warming of ozone in the stratosphere by UV – but the link remains tenuous. We are looking at pressure changes at the surface – could it be as simple as the density of the air column changing as ozone warms and cools. Less solar UV and the air column is a denser column and SLP at the poles increases – and vice versa.

        I always seek to remind people that this is not science. This is something much more important and fun – it is natural philosophy. It seeks to make sense of the bigger picture. Hence I get from summer rainfall in Australia to ozone in the polar vortices.

        Robert I Ellsion
        Chief Hydrologist

      • Hi Chief
        North and subtropical Pacific act in concert, while the North Atlantic is a solo player.

  32. This blog is on a real downward spiral in terms of topic selections while very real climate related stories are buried;


    The EPA story is important as well. It just that leads to topics that Dr. Curry wants to maintain a “no comment” policy on which is chronically embarrassing.

    • “This blog is on a real downward spiral…”

      Indeed. Has been for quite a bit. Same thing happened over at The Blackboard. Not quite as fun for Warmers to keep up the pretense that they are serious.


      • I do blame many of the imagined “skeptics” here who grovel to the host 24/7 when the most obvious obfuscations and distractions are employed. Dr. Curry is a warmer and consensus member regardless of all the nuances presented. It’s one of the first things that sends the discussions down the rabbit hole.

      • John Carpenter

        I don’t agree with your assessment of JC. I think she has been pretty clear about her positions on the science… she has also been clear she will not publicize her political positions. Your surprisingly acting a lot like Joshua wrt to expecting something from JC your not gong to get. Joshua never was satisified… now where’s Joshua? Do you think you will ever get a satisfactory answer from JC about taking political positions? I thought I read up above commentors saying climate scientists should stay out of policymaking and the politics of the climate debate. Should she or shouldn’t she, doesn’t matter… she’s going to do as she wants. I guess be ready to be disappointed.

      • John,

        We have already been disappointed, and I imagine we shall remain so. But I for one intend to grind this out until the bitter end. Dr Curry can continue this farce if she wants to. Just more reason for me to bitch and moan, which I can do pretty much indefinately. ;)


      • Really, the point I’ve made (correctly) goes way beyond Dr. Curry’s personal political views. When we can get beyong the weasel words of “advocates” and discuss the very specific general politics involved in the mainstream climate leadership there could be some progress.

        This blog is largely disinformation and a whitewash.

      • David Wojick

        Good point, John. Cwon and Joshua are identical in that rather than participating in the debate they obsessively criticize it, wanting the world to be different and blaming everyone that it is not.

      • John Carpenter

        andrew, I am not too disappointed with what JC has done to bring the climate conversation around to view points that got no attention a few years back. Some posters here think she goes too far… that she gives to much space to alternative views… others, like you perhaps, think she doesn’t go far enough. It’s not about how you or anyone else does or doesn’t agree with the message… it’s about thinking critically for yourself and looking at all sides and angles of the debate to be well informed. If you are zoned into only what you think is important, you may be missing important ideas worthy of consideration. This is what she brings to the table. I like how she is trying to move the conversation and look at the science and policy introspectively.

      • John Carpenter

        cwon14, I like many things about Michelle Malkin, but she is pretty far to the right, much further than I am. The issue your link covers, not written by MM, is important and interesting and one I too would keep an eye on. But I honestly think it starts down the slippery path of conspiracy thinking. I really see no connection with that topic and JC offering up climate disinformation or whitewashing topics to unsuspecting readers. Again, that is starting down conspiratorial type thinking on your part. If you want to gain insight into competing viewpoints, you have to be willing to stand in your competitions shoes and look at it from their vantage. That exercise will strengthen your position because you will find areas where there is agreement between the two. Finding the common ground and arguing your point from there engages your opponent rather than alienate them. It all depends on whether you are looking for real solutions or just arguing for argument sake.

      • John Carpenter

        David, good way of putting it.

      • John Carpenter

        I agree with you that our host has expressed her stand on AGW quite clearly.

        It boils down to:

        AGW: YES
        CAGW (as promoted by IPCC): NO

        For evidence, check her testimony before the congressional committee led by Rep. Baird:

        Here she states:

        Anthropogenic climate change is a theory whose basic mechanism is well understood, but whose magnitude is highly uncertain.

        A point that was underscored by the Curry & Webster “Uncertainty Monster” paper:

        Later in the testimony she stated:

        The threat from global climate change does not seem to be an existential one on the time scale of the 21st century even in its most alarming incarnation.


        It seems more important that robust policy responses be formulated rather than to respond urgently with policies that may fail to address the problem and whose unintended consequences have not been adequately explored.

        These statements seem to sum up her overall position, as I have seen no evidence on this site to the contrary.


      • John Carpenter

        Max, thanks for the citations, they indeed sum up her scientific position pretty well.

    • No, Dr. Curry has mostly focused on direct science issues. cwon14, coming across angry, which many of us do too often, does not strengthen our position.
      Yes, Obama and his ‘czars’ and flunkies are busy bees trying to make their AGW vision a reality in tax code and administrative law as fast as they can. They know at some level the jig is up. But- so far- none of the damage they have done has spread very far or hurt very much.
      But I am sorry you confuse respect and decent manners towards our hostess as groveling. I sincerely wish you would think this through a bit more.

      • Hunter,

        You are another one who should repent and convert. You see Dr. Curry’s smoke and mirrors but you pander.

  33. This is quite interesting. It was passed to me by a friend. It is a pamphlet about the market response to Colony Collapse Disorder, the bee disease that was much in the news awhile back:


    From the dust jacket:

    “Colony Collapse Disorder, a mysterious phenomenon affecting honey bees…is a real problem that not long ago produced headlines such as ‘Bee Colony Collapses Could Threaten U.S. Food Supply’ (Associated Press, May 3, 2007)…The problem still exists but gets little news because, once again, the sky did not fall. People in the beekeeping industry reacted to the problem so swiftly that pollination continued and the food supply was saved.”

  34. Cwon 14 27/3 6.18

    Cwon14, if that is your real name, don’t see much grovelling here. Everything’s open to debate, no censoring, conflicting papers urled.
    Heck, Cwon, look at you, you git to say whatever you like. Judith provides an open forum and that’s what good ol’ d e m o c r a c y is about.

    What’s the alternative which most of us here are trying to combat?
    It’s the ‘thou shalt not’ closed society, that’s what, exemplified in Stalin’s Soviet Union where Lysenkoism was the enforced scientific consensus.
    Sure Cwon, go in hard, but no one here can tell anyone else we hafta toe their line.

    Wearin’ my ” AGW is a Death Star. CO2 is Cool. ” t shirt today. Got my repostes ready. Hope no one gives me a black eye. :-)

    • Beth,

      Look at where the board has drifted to even in recent weeks while critical climate topics that can’t be discussed here because of PC protocal anyway have been popping up front and center.

      You can rub two sticks together Beth, don’t you want a better conversation that the host would address obvious questions directly rather than seek every distraction tactic possible to avoid stating an obvious and simple reply? You should be supporting my point Beth not shooting the messenger. We don’t need a climate “Yoda(s)” who can take the most simple of observations and manufacture anything into “mess and super wicked” problems to avoid owning up to many points I and others have focused on over time.

      Maybe you could wear your tee-shirt to this job interview?;


      big oil funding?

  35. “Everything’s open to debate, no censoring, conflicting papers urled”

    Beth Cooper,

    It not like this is difficult or some kind of achivement. You don’t have to do anything other than turn comments on.


    • There is all kinds of meaning to the term “censoring” Andrew. This board has a group think all of it’s own and the moderator pushes the buttons all the time. Many of the “skeptics” here are house broken sheep.

      There is plenty of political correctness observed here and orchestrated on the hosts preference. Debate is cut-off all the time, obvious facts and topics are taboo. The blog has a culture and these are the patterns.

  36. A bit OT folks, but this is too delicious not to share. OK completely OT.

    How to be an academic failure: an introduction for beginners
    by Carl Elliott


    • I seemed to have seen that, done that a while ago. Do you have anything new I can try?

      • Sorry, I seem to be fresh out of fresh. But if you want to fail at something else, I might be able to dig up some advice. :)

  37. Cwon14,
    I’m sure alert to the attacks globally by totalitarian idealogues like the ones you mentioned. My own history studies at university, questionning an established consensus view and reading beyond the ‘starred’ texts, were an eye opener. My extended reading showed me the idealoges had been around since Plato, (before,) but he articulated their angst.

    Can’t agree with you re this FORUM itself. Comments on recent threads,
    expose pseudo science’s fallacies:
    expose energy arguments based on co2 alarmism instead of efficiency.,
    expose food security fear campaigns with the same motivations.
    expose sea surface temps and ris assertions based onco2 alarmism.

    Knowledge is preferable to ignorance. Open forums are good, bad andrew and cwon 14. Gotta go, I have an appointment with destiny. )

    • Beth, the host balks at critical questions. All the time. Silence on her leading peers political motives which are afterall OBVIOUS. It stifles all the claims of debate and dissent.

      Spagetti charts and abstract philosophy are outdated on the climate debate. It requires open honesty that is lacking here.

      • cwon14

        Exactly what sort of critical questions are you referring to?

        Our host has expressed serious doubts about the SST record, seems somewhat uncertain about sea level rise, acknowledges past periods of climate change, has got involved in examining the historic land temperature record.

        I think that in our host you are seeing someone whose previous certainty has been questioned and she is having increasing doubts about the uncertainty surrounding climate science, but she is certainly no sceptic in the sense that many on this forum are.

        Judith is pretty open minded though and it is up to us to provide evidence to expose the thin pillars that AGW rests on. I try to do that with historical articles and others put forward other arguments.

      • Tonyb and our board Praetorian guards of Dr. Curry;

        I think I’ve been misrepresented as usual as I’m saying there is no use to any or all discussions. My point is there is a politically correct self-limitation that is obvious about what Dr. Curry will say and how she says it. It isn’t a direct demand that she discuss her politics (although I don’t fully accept they be totally hidden given the topic which is very political by nature) but she helps mitigate the most basic flaw of the AGW movement which is that is political by design and from inception.

        If one mentions that say Michael Mann/Team/Establishment are “advocates” but refuses to define the very obvious political spectrum involved (she does this all the time) the search for the truth of AGW belief motivation is obfuscated (which is why she appears to support the practice). So she will discuss acts but not motivation even when they are obvious and will argue she maintains that policy out of bias.

        AGW can’t be discussed honestly without acknowledgement of the very specific green politics and culture that drives it. Dr. Curry whitewashes this all the time. Painfully so, topic by topic.

      • cwon14 said;

        ‘AGW can’t be discussed honestly without acknowledgement of the very specific green politics and culture that drives it. Dr. Curry whitewashes this all the time. Painfully so, topic by topic.’

        I do agree that there are many strands to AGW of which green politics is a big one.

        I remember that the first time I came across Judith is when I criticised a paper of hers about SSTs in the Southern Ocean. We have far too little information to draw any meaningful conclusions on that part of the world other than that the SSTs for that region are even worse than anywhere else.

        Parially as a result of that I wrote an article on SSTs that Judith carred and in large part agreed with me that raw SST data is not very scientific. Greg has done a follow up on this and without putting words in her mouth I beleve that Judith is more ‘sceptical’ about SST’s than she once was.

        It is sometimes diffcult to draw her on politics but she is more open on the science but needs a convincing case put to her.

        So I certainly would not consider myswelf a member of the Praetorian guard and have critcised when appriopriate (I thought part of the BEST report was rather poor especially on the earlier temperatures and UHI)

        Why not write a cogent and relevant political article expressing your obvious frustrations on AGW and submit it to Judith?


      • David Wojick

        Discussing other people’s motives just leads to an insult contest. This is exactly what Joshua did. I prefer to discuss the technical arguments, with all sides represented, not each other’s motives. Science, not psychology.

  38. Yer right Cwon I can’t spell. Tsk! “rise”

  39. Sure, sure let the ‘science-policy research agenda’ address this amazing and alarming anomaly:

    “There has indeed been some warming, perhaps about 0.8 degrees Celsius, since the end of the so-called Little Ice Age in the early 1800s. Some of that warming has probably come from increased amounts of CO2, but the timing of the warming—much of it before CO2 levels had increased appreciably—suggests that a substantial fraction of the warming is from natural causes that have nothing to do with mankind.” ~Wm Happer, WSJ, 27-Mar-2012

  40. Wm Happer is a poet: do we really serve humanit best by “funding even more computer centers to predict global warming.” Hell Nyet!

    • A friend told me that he once had a conversation with Milton Friedman where Moore’s Law came up. “And in all that time, the cost of human thought has stayed the same,” Uncle Milty mused. Then he smiled and said “Just think about the substitution effects!”

      • What could be more costly and morally destitute than a well-funded (by government) anti-energy academe without a will to uplift others? But, that’s what we’ve got.

  41. Judith,

    Current scientists are suffering from the “forever and ever syndrome”. This is where their single calculation in this timeline is suppose to span the past and the future with absolutely no changes.
    Laws and theories remain stagnant to our current timeline which is very different from 4.5 billion years ago.

  42. Just think, of all the time AGW scientists must have wasted on their homework…


    even more important is what do the parents know, now?

  43. David Wojick | March 28, 2012 at 8:04 am | “Discussing other people’s motives just leads to an insult contest. This is exactly what Joshua did. I prefer to discuss the technical arguments, with all sides represented, not each other’s motives. Science, not psychology.”

    David, you are choosing the fantasy world that Dr. Curry is underwriting for you. Exactly my point.

    • cwon14 has this right. The technical arguments have all been made. Those are just entertainment it this point. The important issues are somewhere else.


      • Thank you Andrew. The topical indifference of late should persuade people to voice their dissent. Then again there is a market for everything including has-been technical diatribes and esoteric and inconclusive political philosophy as a way of maintaining this status quo debate culture. Back to the Hessler character from the B movie “Battle of the Bulge”; “The best possible outcome, the war will go on. Your sons will become soldiers and you will be proud of them”. Skeptics here have no chance of winning and Dr. Curry is a closed book only slightly out of the orthodox AGW consensus culture. Like a teenager smoking a cigarette in the bathroom stall of the Church of AGW as a sign of rebellion.

  44. “Why not write a cogent and relevant political article expressing your obvious frustrations on AGW and submit it to Judith?”



    Tony, if someone can’t address a simple and direct question for example is the Team left or right wing in political culture? Why would you think my or others dissent would be addressed?

    Dr. Curry is an academic. She is only going to go so far in upsetting her peers by crossing politically correct boundaries. It bothers me, it should bother you also. It’s essential to getting to AGW truth which is more important.

    I certainly don’t think Dr. Curry is the worst actor in the field, that isn’t the point. Why should our expectations be held this low? You claim not to be a member of the Praetorian guard here but my point is 100% correct and many skeptics here suffer from the same obtuse symdrome of thinking a data set is going to settle the emotional needs of AGW advocates. Which is nonsense on the face of it.

    • The team is neither left nor right wing (false dichotomy mostly). They’re corrupt and that’s the problem. Their political culture is corruption and hypocrisy. And incompetence too.

      • Edim,

        Beyond naive. NY Times middle of the road for you as well???

      • I think your take is naive. I don’t read NY Times, but I know it’s considered liberal (left wing?). For me, they’re just another mainstream/establishment corrupted media. Maybe they have some good sides, I don’t know. I think journalism in general is in bad shape and unable to report without biases. Very indoctrinated.

      • AGW science is even more “indoctrinated” and it isn’t “right-wing” so that narrows it down for everyone.

        No false “dichotomy” involved here;


        Do you really think the members of the “cause” think they are “corrupt”??? They may well be but there is a whole other world of thought Dr. Curry just can’t face and neither can you it seems. Time to talk about that world of “causes” and get to the heart of AGW belief values.

      • What do you want me to face? Greenpeace is corrupt, yes and so is any other big establishment, partly because of the distractions by irrelevances and false dichotomies. The “cause” establishments are even more prone to corruption (religion, environment, nation…), simply because it’s so easy to suppress any dissidence.

    • cwon14

      Surely most people don’t respond to direct questions, especially when they are highly loaded? Drawing someone into a conversation is likely to reveal more of their thinking than merely asking a direct quesion. Why not try it by putting your thoughts in order and writing an article?

      If at the end of that you haven’t learnt anything new of our host or of the contributors to this blog then perhaps you can start to draw the conclusions you already seem to have drawn.

      With regads to your belief that a data set isnt going to settle the emotional needs you must bear in mind that there are many flavours of AGW advocates. Very many of those in power, whether in politics or the MSM, buy into the top level story and it is them that many of us are trying to influence. For example Mp’s in the UK collectively voted blindly for the cimate change Act. You get them alone and talk of bogus sea level rises, SSTs created from buckets thrown over the side of a ship and a host of other AGW matters and they are certainly interested and astonished.

      No one said it was a quick job but several years ago someone like Judith would never have hosted a blog like this so there has been progress albeit that matters are slow and not always fought on a battlground of our choosing.


      • tony,

        You are happy with marginal concessions of Dr. Curry and I’m not. Skeptics are far less uniform in their motivations and politics being on obvious issue. Not much in the way of direct finance to motivate unity either. Sort of why AGW advanced this far this quickly.

      • cwon14

        yes, Sceptics have a real patchwork quilt of beliefs who won’t group round one banner. That diversity is our strength, but also our greatest weakness as serious AGW advocates seem to have a much better focus and are more single minded. .Having people like Dr Curry somewhere in the middle ground is significant in itsellf, much better than having her firmly in the opposite camp.


    • Responsibility; AGW scientist, what is your policy?

  45. “syndrome” of course

  46. Stephen Pruett

    David Wojick is exactly right. Cwon, you don’t know Dr. Curry’s or anyone else’s motives. They are not obvious or self-evident. In fact, most of us don’t even carefully examine our own motives, because we are a little afraid of what an honest self examination might reveal. Having been accused once or twice of motivations that I knew were untrue, I know it can be extremely frustrating. It was simply a reflection of the accuser’s reality distortion field (no disrespect to the late lamented Steve Jobs), but I was the one on the defensive. Unless someone has specifically declared their motivation, it stinks to claim that you know it, or to assent to such claims by others. So, this is me not assenting.

    • Stephen,

      We have more than a pretty good idea the academic enclave of Envirornmental studies (including climate science) political center of gravity.

      This isn’t to say that many skeptics aren’t left of center either but we know exactly where Hansen, Mann and Jones are on the spectrum in different ways. We know where many of the advocates stand as well; Greenpeace, IPCC, WWF, United Nations proper. I know the Dr. Curry is an Obama contributor, associated to the University of Colorado (pretty much a left-wing haven if ever there was one) but it really isn’t about her personal views at all. I’m just bothered when obvious political narratives and associations are ignored and stonewalled by technical actors who certainly know more in private then they disclose or admit. It’s Dr. Curry’s credibility that is weakened her not the messengers.

  47. Under the Precautionary Principle, there is no justification for a “Climate Policy” other than to understand climate without bias. In particular, the Precautionary Principle can no longer justify government policy actions limiting carbon emissions.

    The European Union, the U.K., the UN and the IPCC accept and employ the Precautionary Principle for governance. The U.S. administration and its EPA have done the same. The IPCC and UNFCCC have guided their efforts by the philosophy of Post Normal Science.

    The Precautionary Principle (PP) and Post Normal Science (PNS) are intertwined. Post Normal Science justifies abnormal methods; the Precautionary Principle justifies implementing policy based upon the results of abnormal methods. The result leads to a dilemma.

    The linked Forum post (below) outlines the nature of this dilemma, including some of the main concepts of Precautionary Principle and Post Normal Science. It has selected source references. (The paper is 6 pages long. It had to be posted elsewhere, since the content would overwhelm this blog.)

    Summary: Cass Sunstein (now Regulatory Czar) wrote: “Precautions, in other words, themselves create risks – and hence the principle bans what it simultaneously requires” (Sunstein, 2008). The current situation is a case in point.
    · Multiple current observations suggest we could be entering a cold spell capable of reversing warming and introducing a cold period. Some suggest that period could last 30-50 years. We may find we zigged when we should have zagged.
    · Under the Precautionary Principle (PP) and Post Normal Science (PNS), “Global Warming” policy action is contradicted by precursors and observations of steady or cooling trends. Historically, cooling adversely affects both environment and the human population. PNS and the PP principles would have governments act to prevent global warming> and global cooling simultaneously. However, EPA carbon regulations will cripple the U.S. economy and its citizens, reducing our means to adapt to either.
    · Applying PNS and PP criteria, the correct (“no regrets”) policies are to abandon regulatory mandates for fossil fuel reductions and encourage unbiased, more comprehensive climate research. Citizens, on the other hand, are at liberty to choose adaptive actions such as more efficient automobiles, insulation, sealing and heating and cooling systems when and if they find it desirable.

    What follows in the linked PDF does not require that either cooling or warming scenarios be “scientifically proven”. Indeed, each scenario requires opposite policy actions under the Precautionary Principle and Post Normal Science.

    Topic: Precaution, Post Normal Science & Possible Cooling
    (You may have to log on as a Forum “member”, but membership is free and immediate.)