Refocusing the debate about advocacy

by Judith Curry

The notion that a scientist is either an advocate or does nothing at all to shape policy is a false dichotomy that has muddied the debate about science and advocacy. – Scott and Rachlow

Pursuant to the recent threads  Activate (?) your science and Too much advocacy?, Jean Goodwin  sent me the following article:

Scott, J Michael, & Rachlow, Janet L. (2011). Refocusing the debate about advocacy. Conservation Biology, 25(1), 1-3. doi: 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2010.01629.x

The paper is unfortunately behind paywall, so here are the key excerpts:

The long-standing debate about whether conservation professionals should practice advocacy has been complicated, in part, because defining advocacy is challenging and controversial. 

Although most people have a gestalt understanding of the concept, advocacy has been defined with many nuances. Advocacy is most simply defined as “the act or process of advocating or supporting a cause or proposal.” Lackey (2007) similarly defined policy advocacy as “active, covert, or inadvertent support of a particular policy or class of policies.”

Despite challenges in defining advocacy, leaders of professional scientific societies in the natural resource disciplines exhibit relative agreement about actions that constitute advocacy. We invited officers and board members who had served since 1985 in the SCB, Wildlife Society, and American Fisheries Society to participate in an on-line survey about advocacy. We received 64 responses out of 129 invitations from leaders of all three societies.

There was relative agreement that advocacy was associated with promoting a particular policy and that selective sharing of research results is advocacy. For example, sharing results of research only with groups or organizations with a common view on an issue was considered by most to represent advocacy, but sharing results with all interested parties was not perceived as advocacy.

Clearly, not all actions scientists might take related to policy fall under the umbrella of policy advocacy. In fact, there is a wide range of ways to engage in the policy process without advocacy. For example, scientists can work with decision makers to identify policy-relevant questions, conduct rigorous research in a transparent environment. They can publish results in refereed journals  that clearly stipulate implications of the work for natural resources under different policy or management scenarios. Additionally, there are many ways scientists can more actively deliver their information and its implications to the full spectrum of interested parties, including the media, the public, nongovernmental organizations, and industry, for their use in testifying before legislators or other decision makers. All these activities increase the ability of science professionals and professional societies to inform and shape policy and promote the use of science in policy development. Such actions also increase an organization’s chance to be perceived by all participants as a resource for the best available science.

Our greatest strength as scientists and members of professional scientific societies is the quality of our research and its relevance to society. That is our unique contribution to informing policy decisions that influence natural resources. Scientists can leverage this strength when their information is used by others who are also participating in the discourse, but are doing so with a policy preference (e.g., nongovernmental organizations, advocacy groups, concerned citizens). Thus, our challenge is to deliver the results of our work and its policy implications to all interested parties and decision makers. When scientists stipulate a policy preference, particularly at the beginning of a process, they are aligning with a subset of the public and might be seen as having an agenda rather than being providers of the best available science.

By stating implications of research as if-then statements, scientists can make the policy implications of their work crystal clear. For example, the following statement makes policy implications explicit: If the goal is to maintain ecosystem function, then policy x or y will not accomplish this goal; however, policy z will do so with 95% probability. To be clear, scientists are best qualified to interpret implications of their research under different policies, but doing so is not advocacy if they evaluate policy rather than stipulate it (Fig. 1). This fine distinction is worth making.

 JC comment:  I find the definition and criteria presented here to be vastly preferable to the fuzzy ‘everyone is an advocate because they have values’ argument.  There are some concrete guidelines presented here that make it easy for a scientist to assess whether or not they are behaving as an advocate.  So, the question becomes whether this is the appropriate definition and criteria, particularly in context of the climate debate?

It is interesting to apply the criteria presented her to numerous scientists involved in the public debate.  Who would you categorize as an advocate?

225 responses to “Refocusing the debate about advocacy

  1. The scientific method should be embraced.

    • Robert I Ellison

      Conservation biology – like environmental science – was never intended to be a narrow discipline based science. It is a bit like engineering based on science constrained to act in the real world of economics, social values, realpolitic and partial knowledge. The key is combining skills and knowledge in a synergistic framework to achieve specific objectives. In essence optimal environmental, economic and social outcomes. Putting a pipeline in the right place for instance – serving development, avoiding ecological and water quality impacts, being culturally sensitive, identifying and protecting areas with cultural, scientific or historical importance, etc. The knowledge and skills are not necessarily academic but could include farming, local or indigenous knowledge. This is not advocacy but what environmental science is designed to do.

      The problem of climate change seems more a lack of overt advocacy. Scary stories with little fundamental scientific justification but with implicit support for a social agenda that includes such things as the suspension of democracy, ‘economic degrowth’ and restrictions on free speech. There are mad ideas such as reducing emissions targets to zero, measuring globally all emissions, opening a bidding war for emissions rights and reassigning revenues to citizens. An immense bureaucracy to smash a nut. Rife for rorting, profiteering and corruption. Reminds me of the Chinese factories making CFC’s to send across the road for destruction.

      There seems no obvious way past the impasse until one or other side of the climate wars is comprehensively defeated. Hence the vehemence of the warming/no warming debate. I would opt for immediate and effective action in other ways but there is no fire in this idea while the tax/no tax debate deprives other approaches of oxygen. Too much black and white thinking in a colour world. Too many entrenched postitions and too little of the art of the possible.

      • That was actually a half-decent comment, Chief, except for the nonsense in the second paragraph, that is.

      • Robert I Ellison

        I obviously can’t lose the tag. We seem obviously on different sides in the culture wars – Joshua. But what I said in the second paragraph can be easily confirmed online. Perhaps a fundamental difference is limits to growth as opposed to making economic growth the critical objective for humanity in this century. Now if we can both reduce emissions and achieve maximum growth – and we can – I am all for it. If forced to make a choice between economic growth and climate change – I choose growth.

        Does it depend what climate warriors claim that climate science is saying falling in a heap? Perhaps so – but that could take another generation. What does science say?

        ‘Using a new measure of coupling strength, this update shows that these climate modes have recently synchronized, with synchronization peaking in the year 2001/02. This synchronization has been followed by an increase in coupling. This suggests that the climate system may well have shifted again, with a consequent break in the global mean temperature trend from the post 1976/77 warming to a new period (indeterminate length) of roughly constant global mean temperature.’ Swanson and Tsonis 2009 ‘Has the climate recently shifted’. We shall certainly see.

      • Now if we can both reduce emissions and achieve maximum growth – and we can – I am all for it. If forced to make a choice between economic growth and climate change – I choose growth.

        I agree. I suspect 99’9% of the world’s population would too if they understood what benefits it brings.

        The other 0.1% is comprised of the ‘Greenies, ‘Progressives’, socialists, ideological Left, inner city elites in a few rich countries.

      • Peter Lang,

        I sometimes wonder if those who do advocate maximum growth have any idea of what this means mathematically?

        For instance if we have 4% growth between now and the end of the century, how much bigger will be the world economy then?
        a) 4 times
        b) 30 times
        c) 65 times
        d) 98 times

      • tempterrain | September 12, 2012 at 6:54 am | Peter Lang,

        I sometimes wonder if those who do advocate maximum growth have any idea of what this means mathematically?

        For instance if we have 4% growth between now and the end of the century, how much bigger will be the world economy then?
        a) 4 times
        b) 30 times
        c) 65 times
        d) 98 times

        30 times. What’s wrong with that? – if I thought I would still be around in 2100 I would prefer 98.

      • if I thought I would still be around in 2100 I would prefer 98.

        A factor of 98 means just over 5% growth pa.

        I would have thought even the most ardent climate sceptic/denier can’t agree that its safe to allow CO2 emissions to increase in anywhere near these numbers.

        The argument that we must not restrict CO2 emissions because we need economic growth should be reversed. Instead we need to restrict CO2 emissions to allow economic growth to occur safely.

      • In reply to tempterrain | September 12, 2012 at 9:14 am | citing me as saying “if I thought I would still be around in 2100 I would prefer 98” (times higher income in 2100 than now).

        Temp responded: “A factor of 98 means just over 5% growth pa. I would have thought even the most ardent climate sceptic/denier can’t agree that its safe to allow CO2 emissions to increase in anywhere near these numbers.”

        Temp, you show ignorance of the facts that although emissions have been growing since 2000 at around 3% p.a., the atmospheric concentration of CO2, which is what matters for climate change according to the IPCC, if not the Meinshausens of Potsdam and their fellow travellers in Australia (Raupach & Steffen), see my Note above, has been growing at just under 0.3% p.a. between 1959 and 2011.

        Worse, you refuse to admit the strong correlations between growth of CO2 emissions and of CO2 in the atmosphere with all kinds of plant production, which in turn sustain all animal life in its ever growing numbers. What’s your problem?

      • I wish all the “regulars” here who make insulting content-free posts like this one would take a voluntary time-out for awhile. I find Judith’s posts often fascinating, but I find the comments threads on this blog just about unreadable due to all the content-free insults batted back and forth by regulars. I tune out ALL of the regulars from any side of the debate who engage in such mindless bashing of opponents.

      • my post was for “Joshua” and anyone else, of whatever position, who is given to content-free sneers which never edify or inform….

      • Skiphil,

        …but I find the comments threads on this blog just about unreadable due to all the content-free insults batted back and forth by regulars.

        Why you would feel it necessary to write a post complaining about comments that you tune out is beside me. But be that as it may….

        Feel free to point out where I insulted someone. Then check back and re-read posts that I imagine might not bother you – such as those from Chief and Peter in this very sub-thread. Then we’ll talk

        But your comment directed towards me to complain about people who personalize the discussion in the comments is, certainly, duly noted.

        Oh. Wait. You won’t read what I just wrote – because you tune me out, now don’t you? I suppose that might leave you with quite a dilemma. Do you respond now or not?

      • Joshua, you just provided evidence for Skiphil’s point :)

      • Robert I Ellison

        The simple mathematics of exponential growth is obvious. Growth is however not uniform across the world. It is 2 or 3 percent in developed economies and as much as 10 percent at times elsewhere. But arguing that exponential economic growth is not to conclude that economic growth shuld be deliberately curtailed now. Not going to happen.

        We all know the parable of grain on the chess board. In the real world – grain never accumulates but is swept clear of the chessboard daily to feed hungry mouths. Maximum exponential growth is possible for the technological monkee and is essential to provide full and rich lives for billions of people this century.

      • mindless bashing of opponents. ??

        Just on a point of information there: Sometimes it does take quite a bit of thought :-)

      • Joshua, I comment because I would like to be able to enjoy a higher quality of discussion in the comment threads here, from all views represented. I don’t bother to read enough of the comment threads to know who insulted whom first or when. When I say “tune out” I mean (often) I leave the thread and site at that point because I have no time to waste reading another round of bickering. I only returned now to see if you or others indicated some learning or intellectual improvement today. I don’t know what Chief or Peter may say below because I won’t bother to continue reading this thread – I really don’t care about such juvenalia. I don’t actually know what position(s) many of the regulars take because I don’t read through many of the comment threads here, simply because there is too much bickering, from whatever persuasion.

      • That is a good comment, Chief, espcially the second paragraph. That paragraph is worth repeating. It describes the crux of the issue:

        The problem of climate change seems more a lack of overt advocacy. Scary stories with little fundamental scientific justification but with implicit support for a social agenda that includes such things as the suspension of democracy, ‘economic degrowth’ and restrictions on free speech. There are mad ideas such as reducing emissions targets to zero, measuring globally all emissions, opening a bidding war for emissions rights and reassigning revenues to citizens. An immense bureaucracy to smash a nut. Rife for rorting, profiteering and corruption. Reminds me of the Chinese factories making CFC’s to send across the road for destruction.

      • Everything is different. The building of Hoover Dam was not a cash for lunkers government project. Patrick Moore, founder and past president of Greenpeace understands that cutting down trees is great: it means humans like them and will plant more of them. It’s just impossible to imagine logic from enviro-whackpots and Moore came to understand that.

      • Looks like Peter Lang worships GDP, or at least thinks it’s more important than any other economic or social indicator. I think GDP per capita is more important. The problem is neither of these measures tell us about the health of the environment. A country could pollute like crazy to raise it’s GDP per capita, but why would that be a good idea?

      • Robert I Ellison

        We are interested in economic growth especially for developing regions. Success is predicated on wider democratic reforms, the reduction in corruption, free markets, education and health services, safe water and sanitation and the just rule of law. I would add conservation and restoration of ecosystems and farmlands. Much of this is similar to the Millenium Development Goals which I would thoroughly endorse – including raising aid in developed nations to 0.7% of GDP. In Australia – this is about $7 billion dollars. We waste much more than that on any number of things – including climate change for little gain – but apply only half of that amount to aid. Pathetic really. GDP growth is essential to achieve anything meaningful at all and it is an error to focus on GDP as anything other than a means to an end.

  2. “sharing results of research only with groups or organizations with a common view on an issue was considered by most to represent advocacy, but sharing results with all interested parties was not perceived as advocacy”

    Ironic for a paper behind a paywall ; ).

  3. Judith,

    OK so no we have “refocus” do we?

    You quote Scott and Rachlow, approvingly, as pointing out the “false dichotomy” of “a scientist is either an advocate or does nothing at all to shape policy”,

    but then you give us one of your own with: ” I find the definition and criteria presented here to be vastly preferable to the fuzzy ‘everyone is an advocate because they have values’ argument. ”

    As usual you seem to want to over-complicate the argument. The issue is quite straightforward and it is about the extent of a scientist’s wider responsibility to the society in which he, or she, lives. We can’t intelligently have a bipolar view on this, and cicumstances would vary from one issue to another, but generally speaking, most would tend to the view that when scientists were funded by the taxpayer they would have a responsibility to keep everyone informed.

    It’s much easier to set guidelines on this if we move aside from the climate issue. Say government funded scientists found a link between a certain drug and the incidence of certain birth defects when the drug was used by pregnant women? I don’t know about you, but I’d expect the tax funded scientist to advocate loud and clear. Sure, the drug company may not like it, they may even accuse the scientists of “alarmism” and dispute the findings. They tend to behave like that, and get all political, when their profits are threatened.

    • “In fact, a recent article states that one farmer in India commits suicide every 12 hours.” (supra) Could it be… Global warming?

    • Temp, thinking that your drug scientist should become an advocate is the basic problem. We have a system for turning research findings into policies, and it does not involve scientist advocacy. In the USA the FDA does this for drugs.

      Keep in mind that the scientist may be wrong. The finding may be controversial, contradicted by others, inconclusive, etc. We do not need advocacy, just the results of the research. In the climate case there are no clear results.

    • “We have a system for turning research findings into policies, and it does not involve scientist advocacy. In the USA the FDA does this for drugs.”

      But what if the FDA didn’t exist? In the case of climate, there is no similar system.

  4. By stating implications of research as if-then statements, scientists can make the policy implications of their work crystal clear. For example

    “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers found a link between droughts and suicides among men ages 30 to 49 living in rural areas in Australia. After evaluating 40 years of drought and suicide data for the state of New South Wales, droughts were linked to a 15 percent increase in suicide risk among these men. This link was also found in men under 30, though no link was found among women.”

    [See, Monday, Aug 27, 2012 08:09 AM PDT – Five strange, terrifying consequences of global warming – How is drought tied to increased suicide rates and cows’ new candy diet? By Alyssa Figueroa, Alternet]

  5. I don’t have an issue with scientists recommending a policy approach based on research. I have a problem with any scientist using an unrealistic probability or neglecting to mention newer research that might impact theirs when recommending a policy approach.

    The Forester ocean heat uptake thread a while back is a good example. The results based on data ending in 1995 indicated one thing. Since then, there is newer data and there was even newer data available at the time of the paper not included, that should have a major impact on the results of that paper. Trenberth noted in the last Earth Energy Budget that the satellite data had a larger range of uncertainty than what was needed to determine the amount of imbalance, substituted a modeled value of the imbalance of 0.9 +/- 0.18Wm-2 which anyone with the slightest background in instrumentation would know is BS.

    So like I said earlier, the science needs to be objective and unbiased, the scientists can be what ever they like. Just once the advocate hat goes on, they are in another role with different rules. Which is something scientists should consider. Advocates are a dime a dozen. Good scientists aren’t.

    • Once one steps over the threshold into a Buddhist shrine, one is greeted with lotus positioned Gods & Goddesses steeped in the acrid smells of burning incense & paper mixed with the pungent smells of fruits and human body odor.

      Climate scientists who themselves step over the threshold of advocacy are enveloped in the rituals and trappings of climate catastrophe, absorbing their own peculiar perfume, and then radiating the reek of their religion. You can smell them coming a mile away.

      As opposed to the BS detection test, these gathered few, don’t meet the smell test.

  6. Part of the problem in getting a handle on this not-all-that-complicated issue is that some people have a negative reaction to the term ‘advocacy’ and have difficulty in seperating the work of a scientist from the person.

    Let’s not feed the stereotype of scientists as automatons in white coats.

  7. I find the definition and criteria presented here to be vastly preferable to the fuzzy ‘everyone is an advocate because they have values’ argument.

    Who made that argument, Judith? And what’s up with the single quotation marks? Are you quoting someone? If not, why are you using single quotation marks?

    I thought that people were arguing something more along the lines of the following:

    Although most people have a gestalt understanding of the concept, advocacy has been defined with many nuances. Advocacy is most simply defined as “the act or process of advocating or supporting a cause or proposal.” Lackey (2007) similarly defined policy advocacy as “active, covert, or inadvertent support of a particular policy or class of policies.”

    In contrast to your definition of advocacy as ‘when someone expresses opinions I don’t agree with.’

    Did I get the single quote marks right?

    • ah dude, you’ve essentially made that argument over and over again.
      at least that is how 97% of people perceive your argument.

  8. Reality check — California is the only state among the ‘nations’ that comprise the top ten economies in the world. It ranks ninth. That is down from eighth. It used to be fifth. And the u6 unemployment rate (i.e., the real not the ’official’ unemployment statistic) is currently at 22%. Why the decline in the economy and the rise in unemployment: global warming or Leftist politics, government workers’ unions and the hubris of liberal Utopianism?

  9. Additionally, there are many ways scientists can more actively deliver their information and its implications to the full spectrum of interested parties, including the media, the public, nongovernmental organizations, and industry, for their use in testifying before legislators or other decision makers. All these activities increase the ability of science professionals and professional societies to inform and shape policy and promote the use of science in policy development. Such actions also increase an organization’s chance to be perceived by all participants as a resource for the best available science.

    I’m not sure I agree with this. What I see happening is the politically and ideologically motivated scientists pushing their ideological agenda. They are interested in getting into position where they can influence the policy statements by their society. They push for their society to make policy statements, such as on AGW.

    • Peter,

      The trouble with this line of argument is that, no matter what they say, you won’t trust the scientists, except you might if they happened to be saying what you wanted to hear, because you don’t trust their politics.

      So they could well be right and you’d have no way of knowing that.

      • Robert I Ellison

        Who you goin’ to believe –

        There is every expectation that the cake has been unconsciously of consciously over-egged. Not perhaps as conspiracy but certainly as group think. The dire prognostications lead inevitably to ever more dire solutions.

      • Chief

        The Oregon State model study using paleo data is nice. So 2xCO2 CS is 2C instead of 3C (or more).

        But is this paleo based stuff really much better than reading tea leaves?

        To make a climate model replicate what we think happened tens of thousands of years ago, based on questionable proxy data, and then conclude that the sensitivity to one single forcing agent (CO2) is X rather than Y (all other things being equal), seems to be an exercise in futility. Worse yet, you can “prove” anything you really want to.

        My bet goes with real-time physical observations, for example from ERBE or CERES satellites, as have been used by Lindzen + Choi (2009, 2011) and Spencer and Braswell (2007).

        These studies tell us that 2xCO2 CS is probably somewhat less than 1C (rather than 2C, as concluded from the OSU study).

        You appear to be a “hands on” kind of scientist. Do these paleo studies really tell us much of anything when it comes to 2xCO2 climate sensitivity in today’s climate? What happens if they overlook some as yet unknown natural forcing mechanism?


      • Robert Ellison,

        These guys could be right. They are saying:

        ” The closest match, with a much lower degree of uncertainty than most other studies, suggests climate sensitivity is about 2.4 degrees.”


        “Schmittner said continued unabated fossil fuel use could lead to similar warming of the sea surface as reconstruction shows happened between the Last Glacial Maximum and today. Hence, drastic changes over land can be expected………However, our study implies that we still have time to prevent that from happening, if we make a concerted effort to change course soon.”

        I’m surprised you are referencing this paper. Max has made it clear he thinks this is still not good enough. It’s not what he wants to hear.

      • Even if you ignore the potential data problems, there is still no reason to believe climate sensitivity is a constant so all a paleo study can do is tell you what the climate sensitivity was, averaged over an extended period of time. It can’t tell you what the climate sensitivity is now.

      • Robert I Ellison, The oceans were only about 2 degrees cooler than today during the last glacial maximum? Imagine that?

      • The oceans were only about 2 degrees cooler than today during the last glacial maximum? Imagine that?

        If this is true it shows what a large difference a couple of degrees of sea temperature makes. The polar ice cap covered places as far south as what are now the British Isles and New York City.

        Instead of it being two degrees cooler, suppose it was two degrees warmer?

        Incidentally the change in land temperature was probably much greater.

      • Temp, “Instead of it being two degrees cooler, suppose it was two degrees warmer?” Damn physics gets in the way of that happening. See, for every degree of warming there is about 5% increase in evaporation. Ray Pierrehumbert has that little bit of trivial in his book that few have sitting on their coffee table. I hear it is excellent, BTW.

        Since the oceans are at a higher average temperature than the land surface, a degree of warming is approximately 5Wm-2. A 5% increase in evaporation is about 5Wm-2. When the rate of warming causes a rate of evaporation greater than some “average” the excess energy is dissipated from the liquid ocean system. That would be snow and ice deposited on land or in areas without liquid ocean. That is a basic example of a non-equilibrium thermodynamic system. That makes the “average” a variable which is controlled by the freezing points of water. The approximate 2 degree range happens to be limited by -1.9C, the freezing point of salt water at ~35g/kg and 0C the freezing point of fresh water.

        I thought you had read my climate clown posts?

      • Temp, This is a work in progress, but it is the basic concept.

        That is not your father’s thermodynamic though. Being able to consistently use effective radiant energy values in moist enthalpy system requires something called Relativistic Heat Conduction or you can separate the model into two system components,separated by a moisture boundary layer. That is a cheat, but it seems to work rather well. Problem is, people, i.e. PhDs in thermodynamics, don’t think that way.

      • Cap’n, you are talking word salad on a par with smush herself, Ms Palin.
        Nice job with the FUD.

      • Webster, word salad is in the eye of the beholder. Connecting the dots between basic radiant physics and RHC is not your typical water cooler type of conversation.

        “Meteorologists and climatologists have largely ignored self-organized criticality (SOC), a leading candidate for a unified theory of complexity. Theories of complexity, such as SOC, have been underrepresented in the atmospheric sciences because of their “soft science” character. Atmospheric sciences have historically developed from centuries of advancement in the hard sciences, such as physics, mathematics and chemistry, etc. It would have been unlikely to see a quick transition from the classical reductionist and reproducible science approach towards an abstract, holistic and probabilistic complex science (Dessai and Walters,2000).”

        See, I am a reductionist at heart and I believe that there is room for some reductionism in climate science. The problem is that in a disipative non-equilibrium system, maximum entropy in one frame of reference would be maximum work in another. You have systems within systems requiring the use of thermodynamic boundary layers to isolate individual sub-systems.

        The climate model approach is to assume that condensation sensible energy regain is equal to evaporation sensible energy loss. Since the time constant of the regain can be centuries or more different than the loss, that leads to significant error. That is initial condition or baseline dependence which you are cluelessly ignoring. Since the water system has a heat of fusion limit -1.9C to 0C and an energy conservation limit Ein=Eout with totally different time scales the result is an upper limit below the Planck response limit. simples.

        Perhaps you should study a bit of non-equilibrium thermo sometime so you can understand what you are dealing with.

      • Robert I Ellison

        Then again – look at the science that says climate is massively non-linear.

        Climate is certainly not warming for a decade or three more. Beyond that? Could we get drops of up to 10 degrees C in months to a decade in places? It has happened before.

        ‘Thinking is centered around slow changes to our climate and how they will affect humans and the habitability of our planet. Yet this thinking is flawed: It ignores the well-established fact that Earth’s climate has changed rapidly in the past and could change rapidly in the future. The issue centers around the paradox that global warming could instigate a new Little Ice Age in the northern hemisphere.

        Evidence for abrupt climate change is readily apparent in ice cores taken from Greenland and Antarctica. One sees clear indications of long-term changes discussed above, with CO² and proxy temperature changes associated with the last ice age and its transition into our present interglacial period of warmth. But, in addition, there is a strong chaotic variation of properties with a quasi-period of around 1500 years. We say chaotic because these millennial shifts look like anything but regular oscillations. Rather, they look like rapid, decade-long transitions between cold and warm climates followed by long interludes in one of the two states.

        The best known example of these events is the Younger Dryas cooling of about 12,000 years ago, named for arctic wildflower remains identified in northern European sediments. This event began and ended within a decade and for its 1000 year duration the North Atlantic region was about 5°C colder.’ WHOI

        There is the science that says that all warming in the satellite era was in SW from cloud change.

        Looking at science to confirm bias is irrational. But it doesn’t change rational policy settings.

      • Robert I Ellison

        ‘While we cannot necessarily dismiss the value of (1) and related interpretation out of hand, the global response, as will become apparent in section 9, is the accumulated result of complex regional responses that
        appear to be controlled by more local-scale processes that vary in space and time. If we are to assume gross time–space averages to represent the effects of these processes, then the assumptions inherent to (1) certainly
        require a much more careful level of justification than has been given. At this time it is unclear as to the specific value of a global-mean sensitivity  as a measure of feedback other than providing a compact and convenient measure of model-to-model differences to a fixed climate forcing (e.g., Fig. 1).’ Cloud Feedbacks in the Climate System: A Critical Review, Stephens, Journal of Climate (2005)

        (1) is the simple assumption of a globally constant sensitivity. Complexity and uncertainty rules.

        We know the background rate of recent warming was at most about 0.1 degrees C. So – no problem for at least a hundred years?

      • Robert I Ellison

        that should be …0.1 degrees C/decade..

      • “Climate is certainly not warming for a decade or three more. ”

        Certainly? Can I just remind you that this is Judith Curry’s blog. That word isn’t allowed.

        Anyway I thought you guys were of the opinion that as ‘they’ can’t get the weather right for the next day how can they know what will happen in 20 or 30 years time?

      • ” climate is massively non-linear.”

        We often hear a lot of comment along these lines. What is this supposed to mean? There is the well known logarithmic relationship between CO2 concentrations and temperature rise. That’s non-linear.

        Or there is an inverse square law when calculating the solar flux incident on the planets. That’s non-linear too.

        I suspect that is not what is generally meant. I would say the implication is that the climate is way too complicated for anyone to even to begin to understand it. The suggestion is that as we don’t know everything we therefore know nothing. Except that it won’t warm in the next 30 years of course.

        But maybe we just need a decent calculator which does have some of these non-linear functions included , or even a bigger computer.

      • tempterrain

        It’s not so much about what “I want to hear” or what the statement ”climate is massively non-linear” means to you or to me.

        I think you would agree that it would be utterly foolish to think we know everything there is to know about why our climate does what it does.

        Our hostess is right: “uncertainty” is great regarding natural versus anthropogenic attribution of past temperature changes.

        The Chief is right when he says (as I understand it) abrupt changes in climate can occur at any time for reasons we do not yet fully understand.

        IPCC’s charter has forced it to concentrate on AGW, driven primarily by CO2 emissions, pretty much to the exclusion of all other factors, especially natural forcing factors (where it even concedes that it’s “level of scientific understanding is low”).

        This is a fatal flaw IMO.

        IPCC then compounds this fatal flaw with the “no-no” everyone in the weather or climate business knows should be avoided: long-range predictions (called projections) of how climate will change over time as a result of one single factor: AGW.

        This is based on the myth that reliable long-term “climate” predictions are easier to make than shorter term “weather” predictions.

        This all leads to failed forecasts and “my prediction was correct except for…” rationalizations after the fact.


      • Robert I Ellison

        We are certainly in a cool planetary phase – and these are multidecadal.

        Massively non-linear goes to abrupt climate shifts. On occasion 10’s of degrees in places in as little as a decade. The maths you speak of are not massively nonlinear. A small change will result in a predictable small change in the other side of the equation – approximately linear in all sufficiently small regions of the solution. In climate a small change can cause extreme flucuations and a climate shift. A dragon-king and a phase change. It is the nature of dynamical complexity in climate that you fail to understand. Which is a problem because until you do we live in different worlds. A dynamical climate at all timescales is a reality – denying it is not going to expand your knowledge of climate.

      • ” “Climate is certainly not warming for a decade or three more. ”

        Certainly? Can I just remind you that this is Judith Curry’s blog. That word isn’t allowed

        Temp, that sounds like the word certainly as spoken by Curly of the 3 Stooges.

        SOYTENLY !!!!

        Ha Ha, whoop whoop.

      • Temp, “” climate is massively non-linear.”

        We often hear a lot of comment along these lines. What is this supposed to mean? There is the well known logarithmic relationship between CO2 concentrations and temperature rise. That’s non-linear.”

        It’s curvy, which is sexy doncha know. The CO2 forcing is pretty well established. Basic physics, add CO2 more heat is retained in the atmosphere, that means heat will be radiated at a higher colder altitude by CO2. Water vapor has different limits, it is not uniformly distributed over the surface or in the atmosphere.

        Because of the non-uniform distribution, different regions respond differently to perturbations. The northern extent in that graph had nearly three times the response to the 1998 el nino perturbation because the thermal mass of land is much less than the thermal mass of ocean. The energy of the el nino accumulated in the tropical ocean was transferred more slowly to the northern extent than to the southern extent. Once the energy reached the northern extent, it had a greater impact on temperature, partially because of the lower northern extent land mass thermal capacity, but also because average elevation of the northern extent is greater than the southern extent and the tropics, so the less dense atmosphere would have a greater change in temperature per unit energy added.

        The reason the UAH satellite data varies from the surface temperature data is because it measures temperature at a more uniform altitude therefore a more uniform density.

        Density is one of the major issues in the climate science debate. Just consider how dense Webster can be :)

      • Non-linear deviations will not change the direction of the response to a forcing function. This is all FUD on your part. What a pair of jerk-off bass-holes you are, Captains Clueless.

      • Chief Chucklehead said:

        “We are certainly in a cool planetary phase – and these are multidecadal. “

        Why SOYTENLY !!!!

        Captain stooge is like having Larry, Moe, and Curly all rolled up in one. Cluelessness, mock anger, and wide-eyed naivete just about covers it.

      • Webster, non-linear fluctuations would tend amplify the uncertainty of the magnitude of the trend.

        By selecting a more stable region for the base line of calculations you could reduce uncertainty. That’s the goal, right?

  10. It appears that Dr. Curry is backing Greenpeace’s position:

  11. Pingback: Advocacy | Living on the Real World

  12. Great post, Judith. The contributions from Scott and Rachlow are welcome, and thanks to you for giving us an early glimpse. As it happened, this subject fed into to something similar I’d been working on earlier today. I did some modifications to play off your contribution here. You can find the post at
    continuing best wishes.

  13. Here’s a good one from the article;

    “…[scientists] doing nothing to help shape….. policy is irresponsible”

    Remember that.

    • I think its safe to say that we can all distinguish between a
      planetary scientist who says:
      A) if c02 doubles temperatures will go up by 2-6C
      B) we need a carbon tax to prevent a 2-6C warming.

      One is helping to shape policy and inform it with the best that science knows. the other is trading on his science expertise to make a specific
      policy recommendation that may or may not be the only way to handle the problem.

      If you cannot see this difference then rational discussion with you is as pointless as arguing with a sky dragon about c02

      • A) – is not what was being discussed as ‘shaping policy’in the article.

        I suggest you read the whole thing it before making more ill-informed comments.

      • My argument is with your comment. not the article.

      • Which bit? ‘remember’ or ‘that’??

      • Given that the range of a 2C to 6C temperature rise, I would suggest that a decent scientist would also be more precise and state over what timeframe and what margin of error they attach to their estimate. Climate scientists would be more accepted if they were able to provide reliable estimates of changes that would occur over the next 5 to 10 years. Investments in models should (imo) be made to improve in that area.

  14. The Greens.

    When a group of people claim to be guided by science, but have committed themselves to advocacy and claim to be the custodians of the environmental movement above all else, then we have trouble. They develop political muscle by asking people to trust them. They know we are all environmentalists but claim to have superior knowledge and so are better qualified to represent us. That is how they corner the market, as it were. They are an increasingly dangerous mob and have achieved political power by coalition with parties who would like to have a left wing bias. In Australia they have made it possible for a declining Labor party to rule. For example, in Germany they are forcing the closure of nuclear power stations for their ideological reasons, at a time when the EU can only survive with a prosperous Germany.

  15. “To be clear, scientists are best qualified to interpret implications of their research under different policies”

    Whoa there! How did we make that leap of judgment? I know many of the Climate Science group would like to think that is true, at least from their published opinions. Unfortunately, being a good researcher does not automatically make one good at predicting the future. This is especially true when the prediction extends beyond the researcher’s specific field of study. A prediction of that beyond the researcher’s span of research actually qualifies as simply a guess like any other.

    So, you might say that researcher could study beyond his/her field to understand its implications. How then does that differ from another “amateur” studying the same material? Nothing, of course, except perhaps a lack of humility on the part of some.

  16. “By stating implications of research as if-then statements, scientists can make the policy implications of their work crystal clear. For example, the following statement makes policy implications explicit: If the goal is to maintain ecosystem function, then policy x or y will not accomplish this goal; however, policy z will do so with 95% probability. To be clear, scientists are best qualified to interpret implications of their research under different policies, but doing so is not advocacy if they evaluate policy rather than stipulate it (Fig. 1). This fine distinction is worth making.”

    “If the goal is to maintain ecosystem function,” then z is best. OK, but why wouldn’t the goal be to maintain ecosystem function.

    Something is troublesome about this. The scientist might as well be a machine. Worse, a scientist could be evil and do this.

  17. CERs drop below €2

    Who honestly believes an international ETS can ever work in the real world?

    Who believes an international trading scheme could ever be free of politics, international argy bargee, corruption and fraud?

    In trading yesterday United Nations Certified Emission Reduction unit (CERs) prices dropped below €2, reaching a new low. This follows on the issuance of the billionth officially approved CER last week.

    This comes as an independent UN panel appointed to review the operation of the Clean Development Mechanism released areport proposing the establishment of a fund to buy and cancel CER carbon credits in order to address the huge glut that had driven prices steadily downward.

    • Pete,

      You ask “Who honestly believes an international ETS can ever work in the real world?”

      Its not a question of belief. We have the evidence that the one for SO2 works well.

      If it works for SO2 it can work for CO2. I’d say what you really mean is that you don’t want it to work.

      • David Springer

        The Acid Rain Program is not international.

      • Peter

        I am not sure you are comparing like for like. The SO2 agrement targets primarily coal fired power stations which are relatively small in number and easy to identify.

        Co2 comes from millions of different sources from cars, to farming, shipping to power and many other categories in nbetween. Identifying and controlling all of those, especially when you are dealing with countries determined to grow-such as China and India- is a herculanean task and surelynot comparable to the example you gave


      • tony b

        Back to “Wild West” analogies for demonstrating why TT’s premise is flawed that “If it works for SO2 it can work for CO2” .

        In those days, it was known that the cure for having a bullet in your side or other (non-fatal) location, consisted of a
        – a sharp knife (for the surgical removal procedure),
        – a bottle of whiskey (for partial anesthesia and sterilization)
        – and another bullet (for the patient to bite during the procedure).

        But if a patient came in covered with hundreds of freckles and asking for their removal, the good ol’ doc would certainly not conclude:

        “if it works for a bullet, it can work for freckles, too”

        Why is TT’s statement flawed?

        – SO2 is a poisonous gas. It kills plants. It does not occur in any great quantity in nature. It can be removed quite easily.

        – CO2 is not poisonous. It is an essential “food” for plants, without which they could not exist. It occurs naturally as a trace gas in the atmosphere. It cannot be removed easily, if at all.

        If TT is unable to grasp the essential differences between the two gases, he should go back and brush up on his chemistry and botany.


      • Tonyb,

        CO2 comes from millions of different sources from cars, to farming, shipping to power and many other categories in between. Identifying and controlling all of those, especially when you are dealing with countries determined to grow-such as China and India- is a herculanean task and surely not comparable to the example you gave

        Yes. You have pointed out several important differences:

        – CO2 ETS must include all sources of CO2-eq emissions or it wont work
        – CO2 ETS must be international and include all countries or it wont work
        – CO2 ETS must apply to all CO2-eq emissions in all countries or it won’t work
        – CO2 ETS must be implemented in unison in all countries, or the cost for the participants will be so high that it will not be politically sustainable (the cost premium for the participants is estimate to be 250% if only 50% of emissions are traded)
        – CO2 ETS raises the cost of energy and this is does not benefit anyone, but especially it does not benefit the poorest countries
        – As the EU ETS has clearly demonstrated, it will be impossible to avoid political interference, corruption and fraud.
        – As the EU’s attempt to tax incoming passenger flights from countries that do not have a CO2 price equivalent to the EU’s CO2 price (as judged by the EU) shows, there sill always be international disputes.

        It should be clear from the above an global CO2 ETS has next to no chance of ever getting off the ground.

        Anyway, there is no need for it. Even if we agree we need to cut CO2 emissions, there is a far better way. The far better way is to remove the impediments that have prevented us from having low-cost, low emissions electricity generation.

        If we had not blocked the development of low cost nuclear power for the past 50 years, global CO2 emissions would be 10% to 20% lower now than they are, and we’d be on a fast trajectory to replace coal with low cost nuclear power by 2050. This would cut CO2 emissions from energy by 50% by 2050. However, it will be much tougher now, thanks to those who have opposed nuclear for 50 years and those who still do.

      • Manacker,

        It’s amazing how difficult it is to get these CAGW alarmits to understand the most basic concepts. I am amazed at how hard you and TonyB are trying to make simple analogies for them to understand, but still they don’t get it.

        The Irish would say they have “no cop on”.

      • Peter Lang and Tony B,

        The general thrust of your arguments is that CO2 emissions control isn’t needed so it won’t work.

        I would say that CO2 emissions control is needed and it must be made to work .
        I don’t know if anyone is arguing the case that CO2 emissions control is needed but there is no chance of them working anyway.

        If so, I hope it is either me, or you two who are correct. If this other person is correct, it means we are all well and truly stuffed.

      • Should be : “no chance of it working anyway.”

  18. When the Science is solid, advocacy based on it is justified, but when it is less than solid, as is arguably the case with climate science, advocacy thereof often results in making the Science even less solid.
    A case in point is the increasingly wide acceptance of the false hypothesis advanced in the Potsdam Institute’s advocacy role in its many contributions to what can strictly be described only as the propaganda in Nature’s issue of 30th April 2009. Previously all official climate science as embodied in the IPCC’s AR4, WG1 (Solomon et al. 2007) was based on the hypothesis that the main determinant of AGW (with better than 90% certainty) is the human-induced atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide (currently at somewhat over 390 parts per million of CO2, or 450 when other so-called greenhouse gases like CH4 are included).
    But Potsdam’s and Nature’s Meinshausens et al now claim that actually what chiefly determines temperature change is the cumulative aggregate of all human emissions of GHG since 1750. That implies instead of CO2 at 390 ppm of the atmosphere (CO2 expressed as a mole fraction in dry air, micromol/mol, abbreviated as ppm,
    we have to take into account the cumulative emissions of 346.78 billion metric tonnes of carbon (i.e. 346.78 GtC or 1,272 GtCO2). Those cumulative emissions equate to no less than 163.33 BILLION CO2 ppm of the atmosphere! In other words the Meinshausens (M and N) et al would have us believe that today’s atmosphere is in effect super-saturated with CO2, to the exclusion of all other gases like N2 and O2. Of course the difference between the observed current concentration of CO2 at only 392 ppm (2011) and the Potsdam 163.33 bppm is accounted for by storage of CO2 in the world’s oceans and biosphere not to mention the carbon embodied in the below-surface bones of the dead. All releases of CO2 therefrom are already brought to account in the current atmospheric concentration of CO2, which results from the annual NET addition of only c.2 ppm due to both emissions from all sources and uptakes thereof (temporary or permanent) by the global sinks.

    The distinguishing feature of the Potsdam advocacy group is that by using gross cumulative rather than annual net emissions data, and especially by its claim that the climate is still being influenced by emissions as long ago as 1750, it seeks to alarm us, its constituency. In Nature’s issue of 30 April 2009 (Vol 458|30 April 2009| doi:10.1038/nature08019) it found an invaluable ally, with no fewer than 7 other papers building on the Potsdam advocacy, including its own editorialising on the papers by the Meinshausens et al. (of which one ostensibly had Myles Allen as its lead author).

    But to give credit where it is due, the Potsdam theory of climate change being the result of cumulative GROSS emissions of CO2 since 1750 has been swallowed in its entirety inter alia by the Australian climate science community, including the Australian Academy of Science, in its the Science of Climate Change (2010: its Fig.5.1 cites Meinshausen et al. 2009), the Government’s Climate Commissioner’s Will Steffen’s The Critical Decade (2011) and its flagship research organization, CSIRO.

    Steffen claims “Although the targets-and-timetables approach (e.g. an agreed percentage reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020) remains the most common approach to defining trajectories for climate mitigation, the budget, or cumulative emissions, approach is rapidly becoming the favoured approach in analyses in the scientific community. It offers a much simpler, easier-to-understand, transparent and powerful framework to estimate what level of emission reductions is required to meet the 2 °C guardrail” (2011:52).

    CSIRO’s Mike Raupach follows up that admission of advocacy leading the science with his own assertion (Tellus (2011), 63B, 145–164). “We are concerned here not with the equilibrium response to steady forcing, but with the transient temperature response T(t) to a forcing trajectory involving a finite cumulative emission of CO2….”

    Now given that the cumulative total of CO2 emissions since has been equivalent to 163.33 BILLION ppm of the total atmosphere while the recorded increase in temperature since 1750 has been at most 1 K or oC, Raupach overcomes the discrepancy by the simple expedient of relating the cumulative gross increases in emissions not to temperature but to the RATIO between cumulative gross emissions and temperature since 1750. As the latter is in effect invariant, while cumulative emissions have grown at 0.45% p.a. since 1750, Raupach derives what he believes is a virtually perfect correlation such that he puts it “Warming is nearly proportional to cumulative CO2 emissions since 1750”, by the simple expedient of plotting the cumulative increase in emissions not against temperature but against the RATIO of cumulative emissions to temperature. Any primary school math student 50-60 years ago would have spotted that with a virtually constant denominator, and a rapidly rising numerator, a plot of the ratio would closely follow that of the numerator, as it does for Raupach (2012).

    Such is the level to which the most eminent climate scientists and their sponsors have sunk! But so successful is the advocacy of the Potsdam school and its close adherents in Australia, that their total distortion of the science may well find its way into AR5 WG1, as all those advocates are involved with it as they were with AR4.

  19. David Springer

    Science is the dispassionate description of something. Advocacy is the passionate selling of something. Mixing the two is like putting the fox in charge of the henhouse. Not a good idea.

    • Massive amount of psychological projection. And you know it, because you are so dang smart.

      • blueice2hotsea

        WHT –

        You and Springer and both dang smart. Why not adjust his comment a little and improve on it, if possible?

        I am not smart enough to do that myself as my tested IQs is only a couple of points higher than his, and what’s more, I am pretty sure I would flunk a re-test.


      • “Why not adjust his comment a little and improve on it, if possible?”

        OK, I said that Springer is expressing massive amounts of projection when he says: “Science is the dispassionate description of something. Advocacy is the passionate selling of something. Mixing the two is like putting the fox in charge of the henhouse. Not a good idea.”

        Springer is the one that is practicing advocacy by making scientific generalizations and taking wild shots at every turn, all with the intent to create massive amounts of FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt).

        FUD is the product he is selling because that is the advocate’s best weapon when it comes to marginalizing something as important as climate science. In particular, FUD is the anti-science strategy favored by all the right-wing blowhards.

        How is that for improving the comment?

      • blueice2hotsea


        FUD is the anti-science strategy favored by all the right-wing blowhards.

        How is that for improving the comment?

        Well, you have made it more succinct. I like this better:

        FUD is the anti-science strategy favored by all blowhards.


      • blueice2hotsea

        even better:

        FUD is the anti-science strategy.

        There. That’s the ticket.

      • The elements of framing and projection were clearly articulated by George Lakoff, see “Don’t think of an elephant”,

        If you want to remove the right-wing references, go right ahead. Find me the “conservative” author that explains these techniques. You can’t because they are part of a political movement, and projection and framing are considered (barely concealed) trade-secrets used to steer political thought among the masses.

      • WHT and bi2hs

        Like your “FUD”.

        Reminds me of good ol’ Elmer Fud of “loony tunes” days

        But how about this one for the “warmers” (incl. IPCC)?

        Cargo cult science
        Overconfidence in GCMs
        Catastrophic projections
        Keep data/codes secret
        Unfalsifiable hypotheses
        Political agenda

        You like?


      • Webster, BTW since I have been playing with a theory of the ice ages, not this trifling global warming mania, the southern circumpolar current seems to be the key. What would happen if for some reason Antarctic sea ice extent increased by 25%? Wouldn’t that reduce the rate of heat loss significantly? So instead of the thermohaline being impacted by fresh water in the Arctic, it could be more efficiently modulated by sea ice expansion in the Antarctic.

        Looking at Southern Hemisphere reconstructions, the 1810 to 1820 event appears to be almost unprecedented.

        With the limited instrumental data for the southern oceans, there appears to be a hint of an approach to a more stable temperature. That shift, if it is indeed a shift, could tend to reduce the global rate of warming. Damnedest thing.

        Using the BEST Oceania Tmin as a rough proxy of past SST, the warming from 1855 appears to be consistent with recovery from the 1810 to 1820 event.

        If you were basing your “master” diffusion calculations on a rate of warming without considering that recovery, you might tend to over estimate the rate of ocean heat uptake due to anthropogenic forcing. That could be embarrassing.

      • Here ya go Webster,

        That is the Neukum et al southern south America temperature reconstruction with the GISS LOTI 44-64S instrumental temperatures. Both with centered 5 year smoothing using the 1979 to 1990 satellite era baseline. Fairly decent fit doncha know. tonyb might fine that the 1400AD start of the little ice age interesting and it looks like even the southern hemisphere appears to have had a warmer period in the middle ages.

        Silliest thing about non-linear systems, initial conditions are kind of important. Just becasue they are non-linear doesn’t make them unsolvable, just sometimes it pays to spend more time on setting up the problem instead of jumping in headlong with a bunch of assumptions.

    • Well stated, David Springer.


  20. Correction – and apology! The correct comparable figure for cumulative emissions since 1750 in terms of ppm is 163,334, still over 400 times more than today’s c.392 ppm (I had applied the Canadell-Raupach ratio for converting GtC to ppm of 2.123 to the whole number for tonnes carbon).

  21. David Springer, September 12, 3.38, :-) :-) :-)
    Mixing dispassionate science investigation and passionate selling jest ain’ a good mix. Fox in charge of henhouse plays havoc with critical methodology.

  22. I would be a bit more receptive to this article were it not that conservation biology is one of the most biased branches of science, being (by self-selection) inhabited by people with a strong predisposition to favour conservation over development.

    I just had a look at the website for the journal called Conservation Biology. The journal is paywalled, but its summary of recent citations is available, and well, well, what do we find? (copied and pasted)

    Top 5 articles accessed from 2008:

    Biofuels and Biodiversity: Principles for Creating Better Policies for Biofuel Production
    Martha J. Groom, Elizabeth M. Gray and Particia A. Townsend

    Five Potential Consequences of Climate Change for Invasive Species
    Jessica J. Hellmann, James E. Byers, Britta G. Bierwagen and Jeffrey S. Dukes

    The How-Much-Is-Enough Myth
    George F. Wilhere

    Assessing the Effects of Climate Change on Aquatic Invasive Species
    Frank J. Rahel and Julian D. Olden

    Using Carbon Investment to Grow the Biodiversity Bank
    Sarah A. Bekessy and Brendan A. Wintle
    The rhetoric in the article does not match the reality, unfortunately. Conservation biology is a weapon used by green groups and anti development lobbyists of all stripes, often with a staggering disregard for scientific rigour. For example, a project here in Australia was stopped because an ‘endangered’ (don’t get me started on that word) bird was seen in the area, once, five years ago.

    Fine words, as they say in Yorkshire, butter no parsnips.

  23. Peraps talkin’ from exper ience, wer yer Max? )

  24. Following from Bill’s article, and Ms. Curry’s posts, maybe we should return to the original example, for further reflection.

    In the statement(s) cited, Hansen, did not state a specific policy position. Instead, he states a general position that strongly suggests his focus on the conservation of the planet and perhaps as a corollary, protection of society. What would we like him to propose, as opposed to conservation and protection, as his general position? And does anyone really feel they can reasonably argue that such frank and open comments in the public domain, ‘covert’?

    What’s more, exactly how do Hansen’s comments silence or ignore the diversity of viewpoints, in promoting conservation and protection priorities?; and in what ways does he pretend he is stating anything other than those priorities as he sees them.

    Lesson #1: The richer meaning(s) of ‘advocacy’ and ‘democracy’ and ‘participation’ in society, are well known outside of ClimateEtc. Please consider reading reading more, outside the classroom.

    Lesson #2: Scientists who take a general position on an issue constitute every scientist who is not brain dead.

    (I stand somewhat with David W. on this, based on his previous comments. We rarely agree on anything, but certainly he’s right: who cares that someone has MR, or has a general position on something, if it’s arrived at competently? Do we not prefer this to fatuous opinionating, in the public domain? ? And does anyone really expect people to have no position on the things they think about? )

    Lesson #3: Credibility is increased, not decreased, when scientists express themselves, take on speaking opportunities, speaking responsibilities, and inclusiveness. The competence demonstrated with consistency by a scientist, will further add to credibility in any democratic process.

    • Martha,

      In the statement(s) cited, Hansen, did not state a specific policy position.

      How can you make such a statement? Hansen has frequently made statements about deadly coal and even chained himself to the gate at coal fired power stations. He is a catastrophist, extremist, and alarmist.

      • So there is another lesson here. If the scientific community does not promptly and aggressively tend to its own weeding in a high stakes issue, various advocates certainly will–and you might not like the results. You might say he defined his opponents unencumbered.

      • “How can you make such a statement? ”

        Hello Peter,
        In the related post which I am discussing, the cited Hansen statements were: that if Canada proceeds with the Tar Sands he thinks it will be “game over” (for American efforts to reduce emissions); and “we’re toast if we don’t get on a very different path”. I said these particular cited statements are general positions, not specific policy positions, because that is what they are.

        The reality and post-positivist ethical obligation (as I see it) that scientists take general positions, was what I was (still) discussing.

        However, now that you are talking about e.g. his coal protests, or if you want to talk about his discussion of the option of ‘carbon fees’… that is more specific and I can see that you might say it goes beyond the ethical obligation to communicate a general position on issue(s). However, I have no problem with this, either, because — all things considered — I prefer to hear from scientists in the political process rather than leaving it to ‘experts’ in political process i.e. handlers.

        That is just my preference, as a citizen.

  25. Advocate good science. Stop advocating incompetent science. There is no global-warming greenhouse effect. There have been no competent climate scientists for over 20 years, and avoiding that basic fact with false debates over “advocacy” is just another sign of that general incompetence. That is the too-harsh truth that climate scientists, and advocates, refuse to admit.

    • I love a good crank.

    • Another day, another spot under another bus.

      • Not enough room in the clown car, evidently.

      • WHT

        Naw. It’s already filled up with the likes of “fanny”, Joshua, lolwot and others.

        No seats available.


      • Last count is over 30 clowns and puppets. Max is one of those that will never make the grade because he actually knows the weak spots and argues those effectively.

        He makes a few mistakes here and there, but I have finally recognized those as honest errors. Like Fan, he is a class clown, but no climate clown.

        Really, name one that comments here on the consensus side, and I will go to bat for them. The ones you named, no way, all sensible commenters.

    • no competent climate scientists? Pardon us if we don’t take anything you ever write too seriously. Advocating that you are right and the world is wrong, is not exactly a confidence builder. Ironic, don’t you think

    • Crank? No I think Max would describe Harry as a rational skeptic !

      • tempterrain

        I “think” people are not too interested in what you “think” I “think”.


  26. “Angels and ministers of grace defend us” (Hamlet) Another thread on advocacy! Climate Etc. is rapidly becoming irrelevant to the issue of CAGW. On WUWT, there are routine postings on the latest empirical data on the subject. And, as I have tried to maintain, it is empirical data that will decide whether CAGW is the most important subject there is, or just another hoax. Such little empirical data as we have, strongly suggests the latter. But please, Judith, enough of this airy, fairy stuff.

    • Again, please list the empirical data. And since there is so little of it, don’t leave any of it out.

      • JCH, you write “Again, please list the empirical data. ”

        I have. It is all the global temperature records that there are since it became possible to produce reasonable global temperatures; i.e. since around 1850, with some futher relevant data from previous years. This is all the empirical data we have on global temperatures. And what it shows, so far as I can see, is that there has been no change in trend in the temperature/time graphs since CAGW was supposed to have been occurrring.

      • Mark B (number 2)

        A few weeks ago, I looked at data and a report on the temp. data at Armagh Observatory (Butler et al)
        This is regarded as one of the best kept set of data that there is and the location is ideal, being on an island close to the sea, away from large cities etc.
        All procedures, sources of possibly errors etc are dealt with in detail in the report and there are photos of the observatory and weather boxes/screens are included.
        This is from the conclusion:
        “In spite of the current warmer conditions, annual mean
        temperatures still remain within the range seen in the previous two centuries.”
        I plotted graphs using their data and this seemed a reasonable conclusion.

        But NASA published their own report using Butler’s data (and there is a thanks to him in the report), but there is no mention of Butler’s report until we get into the references.
        In this paper, the authors took into account (I think) of sunspot cycles, 7 year cycles, the NOA and then manipulated the data, taking these into account. This is from the conclusion:

        “In conclusion, this study has shown that solar/geomagnetc cycle forcing is embedded n the annual
        mean temperatures at Armagh Observatory, Northern Ireland. Removal of ths effect, however, does not
        fully explain, especially, the rapid rise in temperatures now being experienced, thus possibly beng a strong
        indication that humanknd is contributing to climate change.”

        This shows how, even with the same set of temperature data, different conclusions can be reached.

        …and also how you can construct a hockey stick out of a graph that is going nowhere, if you impose enough cycles on it.

    • “Angels and ministers of grace defend us” (Hamlet) Another thread on advocacy!

      Well at least it’s not on uncertainty :-)

      I was thinking that surely Judith can’t possibly think up yet another angle on uncertainty, but I’ve just realised she’s not done advocacy and uncertainty together yet.

      So we could have the ‘uncertainty of advocacy’ , or maybe the ‘advocacy of uncertainty’. What do you reckon?

      • @tempterrain

        I reckon that when Judith writes something it is always worth reading, even if I disagree with it. But when you wander off into homespun psychoanalysis and supposed telepathy, it never is.

  27. Jim Cripwell,

    I feel your pain, but it might be time for the Serenity Prayer re: Climate Etc content. So it’s just entertainment. I guess we’ll have to live with it. ;)


    • Bad Andrew, you write “I guess we’ll have to live with it.”

      Unfortunately, I agree with you. But we have already lost a lot of really good commenters, such as Fred Moolton. What I fear is that the trickle of good people no longer commenting on Climate Etc. will become a flood. That would be tragic.

  28. What makes a scientist special?

    Why is a scientist advocate different from a medical advocate or a lawyer advocate or an actor advocate as an activist?

    Surely, US presidents are activists. For the past century, haven’t all US Presidents with the notable exception of the worst president in US history been lawyers? Did their activism cheapen their professional credibility?

    Does the active stance of your medical doctor affect your service with them or their credible professionalism? If so, there’s recourse for you to take through their professional bodies and in the law.

    Do you really think there’s a single progressive in the world who finds a Clint Eastwood movie less entertaining, or a Charlton Heston movie, or a John Voigt movie, because of their right wing politics? Do you even care what political position Kristen Stewart or Robert Pattinson take on issues? If you do, I suggest you may have bigger issues than the nature of scientific activism.

    I’d say what makes scientists special is that they aren’t.

    Als sie die Kommunisten holten,
    habe ich geschwiegen;
    ich war ja kein Kommunist.

    Als sie die Sozialdemokraten einsperrten,
    habe ich geschwiegen;
    ich war ja kein Sozialdemokrat.

    Als sie die Gewerkschafter holten,
    habe ich nicht protestiert;
    ich war ja kein Gewerkschafter.

    Als sie die Juden holten,
    habe ich geschwiegen;
    ich war ja kein Jude.

    Als sie mich holten,
    gab es keinen mehr, der protestierte.

    • Bart R. you write “What makes a scientist special?”

      Nothing. The problem, as I haved pointed out before, is not whether one is an advocate or anything else. It is predending to be something else, while actually being an advocate. This applies to doctors, lawyers, professional engineers, and, yes, scientists. Do yoiu want your doctor to diagnose an illness, and then prescribe a drug, not because of it’s effectiveness, but because he/she has a financial interest in the drug company that produces it?

      Being an advocate is an honorablke profession. What is morally wrong is the pretend to be something else, such as a scientist, while actually being an advocate.

  29. When scientists fergit the science and become the advocates, ‘Macbeth’s’ central metaphor comes ter mind:
    ‘Fair is foul and foul is fair
    Hover through the fog and filthy air.’

  30. Radical political environmentalism has now spawned Advocacy Science, as embodied by Lewandowsky and Sunstein and others, trying to claim objective evidence for the crank-ness of their political opposition. And so many in the Climate Science inner circles see no problems with this self-serving BS.

  31. Why is a scientist advocate different from … inappropriate comparisons, I’d say, Bart. Fer starters, a lawyer is meant ter be an advocate, he’s paid to argue the case for or against in an adversarial legal system. A scientist is meant ter be a scientist, a scientist is supposed to bend over backwards to search out possible flaws in his or her theory (Feynmann) and never close the door on uncertainty. An actor is not an activist either, he enacts and explores a role in a drama. Orson Welles wasn’t personally advocating murder or mayhem when he played Macbeth, yer know, Bart.

    • Beth, a scientist is still a person. They have just the same odds of being wrong as any other person, just when they are wrong it is much more spectacular :)

      • Actually I think mistakes in science are so unspectacular most of their mistakes are not even noticed. Even by the scientist who made it. Perhaps especially by the scientist who made it.

        Engineers, when they make a mistake, that makes the news. Blood and treasure is lost. Heads roll. And pilots and military commanders and leaders of all stripes. Now they make spectacular mistakes. But scientists, not so much.

      • Remember the thread title. A scientist’s mistake is unremarkable, but a scientivist?

    • Beth Cooper | September 12, 2012 at 10:56 am |

      As you’re not from America or even from a nation very familiar with a presidential democracy, I understand the concept that the President of the USA isn’t the Lawyer In Chief may be, err.. foreign to you.

      A lawtivist, a medictivist, a plumbtivist, a carpentivist, a scientivist.. in the US form of democracy they’re all created equal. A scientist should not leave democracy only to those who don’t know what Science has discovered. That’d be the opposite of an informed electorate, and the enemy of a true democracy. It’d be the Tea Party. I’m not sure what the Australian equivalent of the Tea Party might be, so again not really a meaningful comment for foreigners.

      Though I think it’d be something like what Australians call New Zealanders. The ones that get sheared for their wool.

      So while any scientist is supposed to work tirelessly to find and correct their own (and others’) errors, they’re equally imbued with the duty to find and correct mistaken reports of their findings. Which would be why activism is so necessary, as I’m sure you’ll find if you drill down to original sources from any Australian or American newspaper headline to the scientific study it is supposed to accurately portray to the public.

      Also, Orson Welles is a really poor choice of a non-activist, non-advocate, show business tradesman. He after all set out and enunciated the position that a free press is necessary for an informed electorate, a pillar of democracy. If you think your Rupert Murdoch so different from a tawdry version of Hearst, you’d be mistaken.

  32. Say, what about fishermen, captdallas?

  33. :-) I like a bit of hubris now and then.

  34. The alarmists claimed, “accelerated warming” ( ) when there was none (

    We’ve learned from experience that the truth will come out. Other experimenters will repeat your experiment and find out whether you were wrong or right. Nature’s phenomena will agree or they’ll disagree with your theory. And, although you may gain some temporary fame and excitement, you will not gain a good reputation as a scientist if you haven’t tried to be very careful in this kind of work. And it’s this type of integrity, this kind of care not to fool yourself, that is missing to a large extent in much of the research in cargo cult science.

    Richard Feynman

  35. “Creating an ideology pegged to carbon dioxide is a dangerous nonsense…The present alarm on climate change is an instrument of social control, a pretext for major businesses and political battle. It became an ideology, which is concerning.” – Environmental Scientist Professor Delgado Domingos of Portugal, the founder of the Numerical Weather Forecast group, has more than 150 published articles.

  36. A good friend told me the President of UK’s Royal Society is now concerned about loss of trust in government science.

    I replied that he should have been concerned three years ago when deceit was documented in global temperature data:

    Now nobody know where the deceit ends and honest science begins.

    On The Eleventh Anniversary of the 9-11-2001 Tragedy

    Events leading to Climategate in Nov 2009 may explain today’s

    a.) Deep mistrust of governments

    b.) Impending economic collapse

    c.) Worldwide religious violence
    _ _ _

    From United Nation 24 Oct 1945 to Climategate Nov 2009

    Leaders with no compass took control on 19451024
    Climategate exposed the Ship of Fools on 200911

    Preaching basic conflict between science and religion
    Converting consensus sciences into dogmatic religion

    Living in the “sphere of influence” of our Sun’s pulsar core
    Is like living on an electron orbiting an atom’s nuclear core

    Earth, Venus, Mercury, Sun are electrons 3, 2, 1 and nucleus
    The Sun – like an atom’s nuclear core – exerts total control
    Niels Bohr reported in 1915; Nobel Prize received in 1922

    This Reality, Truth, God (RTG) can be realized by
    Humble measurements, meditation, observation

    Reality, Truth, God (RTG) are totally obscured by
    Selfishness, arrogance or false illusion of control

    We are humbly connected to RTG (Reality, Truth, God), or
    We are arrogantly connected to false illusions of control !

  37. “I am particularly concerned that the rigor of science seems to have been sacrificed on an altar of fundraising. I am doing a detailed assessment of the IPCC reports and the Summaries for Policy Makers, identifying the way in which the Summaries have distorted the science. I have found examples of a Summary saying precisely the opposite of what the scientists said.” ~Dr. Philip Lloyd (UN IPCC author, Nuclear Physicist and Chemical Engineer)

    • Thanks, Wagathon. What is the date of Dr. Lloyd’s comment?

      The three-year global climate scandal has made or impossible for anyone to know if or when government deceit ends and honest science begins.

      • Lloyd wrote to EPW (U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee) on January 18, 2008.

      • Thanks, Wagathon. That was almost two years before Climategate.

        Six months later, on 26 June 2008 I confronted the President of the US National Academy of Sciences and members of Space Science Board, personally, in public, and in writing with these direct questions (which were all ignored):

        Question for the Space Science Board

        Can the Space Science Board help NASA move away from the untruths that are wrecking our economy?

        A. Earth is bathed in a steady flow of heat from Hydrogen-fusion in the Hydrogen-filled Sun.

        B. Solar neutrinos from Hydrogen-fusion melt (oscillate) away before reaching detectors.

        C. Earth’s climate is immune from cycles of solar activity (sunspots, flares, eruptions).

        D. Therefore CO2 from our economic engines caused global warming.

        Oliver K. Manuel
        Emeritus Professor and Former
        NASA PI for Apollo Lunar Studies


        1. P. D. Jose: 1965, “Sun’s motion and sunspots”, Astronomy Journal 70, 193-200.

        2. R. W. Fairbridge and J. H. Shirley: 1987, “Prolonged minima and the 179 year cycle of the solar inertial motion,” Solar Physics 110, 191-220.

        3. Theodor Landscheidt: 1999, “Extrema in sunspot cycle linked to Sun’s motion”, Solar Physics 189, 413-424.

        4. O. Manuel et al: 2005, “Isotopes tell origin and operation of the Sun”

  38. Reposted with corrected formatting

    Jim Cripwell has stated the difference between science and advocacy in his words.

    Beth Cooper did it even more eloquently, explaining why a scientist (unlike a lawyer or an actor) is bound to the scientific method and is “supposed to bend over backwards to search out possible flaws in his or her theory (Feynmann) and never close the door on uncertainty”.

    The classic Feynman description of the scientific method

    In general, we look for a new law by the following process: First we guess it; then we compute the consequences of the guess to see what would be implied if this law that we guessed is right; then we compare the result of the computation to nature, with experiment or experience, compare it directly with observation, to see if it works. If it disagrees with experiment, it is wrong. In that simple statement is the key to science. It does not make any difference how beautiful your guess is, it does not make any difference how smart you are, who made the guess, or what his name is — if it disagrees with experiment, it is wrong.

    The hypothesis must agree with observations – or it is wrong.

    So we have the hypothesis that increases in atmospheric CO2 will lead to significant global warming due to the known greenhouse effect.

    We calculate based on our hypothesis on CO2/temperature response and expected CO2 increase over the first decades of the new century that this increase will result in global warming of 0.2°C per decade.

    So much for the hypothesis.

    Now for the comparison with nature.

    CO2 emissions continued at the rate estimated, as did the increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration.

    But the observed global temperature did not rise as predicted by the hypothesis (using climate model projections). In fact, there was no global warming at all.

    So how many climate scientists have acknowledged this apparent gap between the theory and the observations?

    How many have conceded that these observations raise serious doubts regarding the validity of the hypothetical CO2/temperature response postulated by the theory?

    How many have scrambled to look for other explanations and rationalizations, in order to keep the theory alive?

    How many have attempted to “massage the data” in order to make the physical observations match the hypothesis?

    How many have resorted to statements like, “if the Royal Society (or NAS) say the theory is right, it must be correct even if there is this ‘hiccup’ in the observed data”?

    And how many have agreed that the hypothesis of a highly CO2 sensitive climate is not confirmed by the physical observations, therefore it is wrong and needs to be reworked?

    That’s where we get to the differentiation between “science” and “advocacy” IMO.


    • Your argument is as stale as a moldy muffin. The linked chart makes toast out of it.

      • Max_OK you write “Your argument is as stale as a moldy muffin. The linked chart makes toast out of it”

        You are right; sort of. However, your chart does not PROVE that the observed rise of global temperatures was CAUSED by the rise in CO2 concentration. Correlation does not prove causation. So the linked chart does not “make toast of it”,.

        I dont like to disagree with Max, but I find his statement “But the observed global temperature did not rise as predicted by the hypothesis (using climate model projections). In fact, there was no global warming at all.” to be a little off the mark. There obviously has been global warming since records became available about 150 years ago. The question is, how much of this warming been caused by the additional CO2 in the atmosphere? What Max is stating, not very well, is that there has been no warming in the last 15 years or so. But this does not prove that CAGW is wrong.

        The indication that CAGW is wrong, (and it is not, and cannot be proof), is a negative observation. Over all the empirical data that we have on global temperatures, no-one can find a change in trend that has been caused by the additional CO2 in the atmosphere. It is this complete absence of any change in trend, or to put it the other way, no sign of any CO2 signal, that gives a very strong indication that the total climate sensitiviy of CO2 is indistinguishable from zero.

        That is the argument Max is trying to make.

      • Well, he should stop fooling around here, and do a simple experiment at home, like the one in the linked video which shows how increases in CO2 increase temperature. Anyone can find this out for themselves, using a few dollars worth of equipment on their kitchen table.

        BTW, in case you were wondering, I’m not the guy in the video.

      • Max_Ok, you write “shows how increases in CO2 increase temperature.”

        I agree 100%. But that is not the issue. What we need to know is how MUCH do global temperatures rise as a result of adding more CO2 to the atmosphere. Your reference does not address this question. If, and it is mighty big if, but if a CO2 signal can be proved to be present, then you must have been able to prove that a certain increase in temperature has been caused by a certain increase in CO2 concentration. If you can do this, then it is axiomatic and trivial to calculate the total climate sensitivity of CO2.

        When you produce a measured, empirical, value for the total climate sensitivity of CO2, I will listen to you. Not before.

      • Jim Cripwell said on September 12, 2012 at 2:53 pm |

        When you produce a measured, empirical, value for the total climate sensitivity of CO2, I will listen to you. Not before.

        Oh yeah ! Well, sunshine, when you can do the same for changes in TSI, I will listen to you.

      • Mark B (number 2)

        Max, I watched the video. However, I don’t think it is representative of the current levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. Do you know of any experiments which involve adding just a few 100 ppm of CO2 to an atmosphere?

      • No. I vaguely remember there was some kind of field experiment with CO2 on trees, but I doubt that’s what you want.

      • Max_OK

        No. The “linked chat” doesn’t “make toast” out of anything.(I can show you a similar chart showing an excellent correlation between the sale of McDonald’s “Big Macs” and “globally and annually averaged land and sea surface temperature”).

        Feynman simply states that if “nature” (physical observations or reproducible experimentation) does not agree with the hypothesis, then the hypothesis is wrong.

        Projections made by IPCC using the hypothetical climate sensitivity indicated that it would warm by 0.2 degC per decade over the first decades of this century, based on projected increase of CO2 concentrations.

        The CO2 concentrations rose as projected, but the temperature did not increase since 2001 (or 1998).

        A “scientist” (according to Feynman) would bend over backwards to challenge his hypothesis, and if the observed data (“nature”) did not agree with his hypothesis (“high CO2 climate sensitivity”) he would question (or even rethink or reject) his hypothesis.

        An “advocate”, however, would do exactly as you are doing: look for rationalizations to defend his hypothesis (the time period is too short, unexplained natural variability has caused a “speed bump” in warming, Chinese aerosol emissions are masking the warming, blah-blah…)

        That’s the difference between a “scientist” and an “advocate”, in a nutshell.

        Max (not from OK)

      • Not only does it make toast of your argument, it blows your toasted argument out of the water, and reduces it to soggy croutons.

      • Max_OK

        Nice words about “soggy croutons” do not change observed facts, Max from OK.

        The simple lab experiment, which you cited, showed that

        ”Increasing CO2 concentrations in a gas mixture will cause the mixture to retain more heat, all other things being equal”

        No doubt. This is the well-known greenhouse effect. It is suggested that this effect will slow down the outgoing radiation of LW energy from our planet, thereby leading to an overall warming.

        But, as Jim Cripwell has pointed out to you, this does not provide support for the premise of a 2xCO2 climate sensitivity of 3°C, as the IPCC models assume (or estimate).

        Clouds reflect an order of magnitude more incoming SW energy back into space than all GHGs plus clouds absorb as LW energy.

        CERES satellite observations (Spencer + Braswell 2007) show us that the net overall feedback from clouds with warming is strongly negative. In discussing the recent “unexplained lack of warming” Kevin Trenberth has suggested in an interview that clouds may “act as a natural thermostat” with the missing energy “being radiated out to space”.

        Yet IPCC models all assume (or estimate) that the net overall feedback from clouds is strongly positive, conceding, however, that “cloud feedbacks remain the largest source of uncertainty”.

        The net impact on climate sensitivity of replacing the strongly positive cloud feedback from the climate models with the strongly negative feedback from the S+B observations would be to reduce overall climate sensitivity from around 3°C to around 1°C.

        Will IPCC now, in its upcoming AR5 report, take note of the S+B study (which was published after IPCC’s AR4 report)?

        Or will it continue to include a strongly positive net cloud feedback in its climate sensitivity estimate?

        Let’s see what IPCC does. My bet is that it will ignore the physical observations of S+B and stick with its model-based strongly positive net cloud feedback and resulting high climate sensitivity.

        Back to our discussion.

        What should IPCC do if it were acting as a “scientist”?

        What should IPCC do if it were acting as an “advocate”?

        Let’s see which path IPCC chooses.


      • Max (not from OK)

        I don’t know what the IPCC will say about the work of Spencer and Braswell, but I hope it mentions the scandal they got involved in over their paper at Remote Sensing, which caused the Editor-in-Chief to resign.

  39. Global warming, as a political vehicle, keeps Europeans in the driver’s seat and developing nations walking barefoot. ~Dr. Takeda Kunihiko

  40. Some reactions:
    1. Scientists have been involved in advocacy for a long time but in the role of advisors to policy makers. The advice they give reflects the positions that they advocate, but the shaping of positions into laws and public policy is the role of policy makers, not scientists.
    2. Making public policy on a science-related matter is not just about the science: it involves arbitration between competing concerns some of which are beyond the expertise of the scientists.
    3. Of course scientists should be allowed to advocate policies—that is their right as citizens, just as it is the right of garbage collectors, Walmart cashiers, and people living on the street.
    4. It is an illusion to believe that the policy opinions of scientists should occupy a middle tier of importance, above that of “common” citizens and below that of legislators. It also is an illusion that the citizens of a democratic country want to be governed by scientists either directly or indirectly.
    5. If scientists fail to understand this they will end up with the worst of both worlds: no more powerful than anyone else as policy advocates, and untrusted as advisors.

    • No scientist should be accorded any credibility whatsoever when they refuse to admit simple facts and no government funds should be given to any University who employs them as tenured professors. Otherwise, where’s the accountability.

      Atmospheric CO2 is mainly from natural sources. Compared to the CO2 that is already there the human contribution is <1%.

      Current atmospheric temperatures and CO2 content are no higher than they have been at various times during the past million years. The so-called Climate Optimum 1000 to 1300 A.D. was 1-3 degrees C warmer than now… Water vapor (H2O) is the primary greenhouse gas, contributing roughly 80 % of the greenhouse effect. Without the warming effect of the greenhouse gases, the Earth would be roughly 10 degrees cooler, and probably uninhabitable by humans. It has been estimated that the warming effect of CO2 is roughly one thousandth that of water vapor. ~Dr. Paul Berenson

  41. A fan of *MORE* discourse

    Scott & Rachlow argue:  “The following statement makes policy implications explicit: If the goal is to maintain ecosystem function, then policy x or y will not accomplish this goal; however, policy z will do so with 95% probability.”

    Judith Curry affirms:  “There are some concrete guidelines presented here that make it easy for a scientist to assess whether or not they are behaving as an advocate.”

    Assessment is a terrific idea Judith Curry!   :)   :)   :)

    Let’s just do it!   :)   :)   :)


    Comparitive assessment of advocacy in two recent articles
    by James Hansen et al and Anthony Watts et al

    Method  Two recent, high-profile articles by James Hansen and Anthony Watts were searched for the word “if” used in a conditional sense. Purely rhetorical usages of “if” (example: “bad if not worse”) were not regarded as expressing a conditional assessment.

    Summary of Results  Anthony Watts and colleagues write as advocates; James Hansen and colleagues write as scientists.


    Data — Hansen The article by Hansen et al Scientific Case for Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change to Protect Young People and Nature was found to contain numerous conditional usages of “if” including:

    • If emission reductions begin this year the required rate of decline is 6%/year to restore Earth’s energy balance, and thus approximately stabilize climate, by the end of this century.

    • If emissions reductions had begun in 2005, the required rate was 3%/year.

    • If reductions are delayed until 2020, the required reductions are 15%/year.

    • If the sun were the dominant forcing, the planet would have a negative energy balance in 2005-2010, when solar irradiance was at its lowest level in the period of accurate data, i.e., since the 1970s

    • Earth’s energy imbalance is the single most vital number characterizing the state of Earth’s climate [because] it defines how much we must reduce greenhouse gases to restore energy balance and stabilize climate, if other forcings remain unchanged.

    • If Earth’s energy imbalance is 0.75 W/m, CO2 must be reduced to about 345 ppm to restore energy balance

    If it is decided in the future that CO2 must be sucked from the air and removed from the carbon cycle (e.g., by making carbonate bricks or storing the CO2 in underground reservoirs), the effect of the atmospheric CO2 reduction will decline as the negative CO2 increment becomes spread among the carbon reservoirs.

    • How fast atmospheric CO2 declines if fossil fuel emissions are instantly terminated (Fig. 3B) is instructive.

    • What we have shown in this paper is that time is rapidly running out. The era of doubts, delays and denial, of ineffectual half-measures, must end. The period of consequences is beginning. If we fail to stand up now and demand a change of course, the blame will fall on us, the current generation of adults.

    Note  For reasons of space, multiple additional examples of non-advocacy “if” usages by Hansen and colleagues are not cited.


    Data — Watts The article by Anthony Watts et al An area and distance weighted analysis of the impacts of station exposure on the U.S. Historical Climatology Network temperatures and temperature trends was found to contain only two conditional usage of “if”:

    • Even if stations are initially placed at pristine locations, i.e. “well-sited”, the station environment can change, altering the characteristics of surface temperature measurements over time.

    • Siting differences directly affect temperature trends if the poor siting compromises trend measurements or if changes in siting have led to artificial discontinuities.

    Note  Neither of two usages of “if” by Watts’ et al are associated to science/advocacy disambiguation.


    Conclusion  Purely on the textual evidence, as objectively assessed by the standards of Scott & Rachlow … Anthony Watts and colleagues presently write as advocates, while James Hansen and colleagues presently write as scientists.   :)   :grin:   :lol:   :!:

    • Fan

      Your method and conclusion are based on a false supposition.

      Both Hansen and Watts are strong advocates for their positions.

      One (Hansen) claims to be a “scientist”. In fact, he is being paid by US taxpayers to be a “scientist”. But his words (“irreversible tipping points”, “coal death trains”) reveal that he is an advocate. His actions of civil disobedience even show he is an activist.

      That’s the difference.

      And it’s a big one.


      • A fan of *MORE* discourse

        Manacker, with respect, please note that the above assessment is purely textual and purely objective, and moreover can be verified by any Climate Etc reader. The assessment therefore is impersonal.

        Your assessment is the opposite: it is purely personal, and therefore is no part of science.

        Indeed, your assessment prominently displays the “motivism”, and “personalization of criticism” that is are among Trish Roberts-Miller’s defining characteristics of demagoguery.

        Regardless of James Hansen the person, his recent scientific writings do an excellent job of respecting the advocacy-related norms that Scott & Rachlow recommend and that Dr. Curry endorses. Good!   :)   :grin:   :lol:

        Anthony Watts’ recent writings, not so much eh?   ;)   ;)   ;)


        Conclusion  Personal attacks on James Hansen amount to demagogic advocacy of climate-change denialism.   :!:   :!:   :!:

      • “It is scandalous that so many climate scientists who fully knew that Al Gore had no basis for his irresponsible claims stood mute. Meanwhile, that alarmism has generated billions of dollars more to finance a rapidly growing climate science industry with budgets that have risen by a factor of 40 since the early 1990s. I consider this failure to speak up just as unethical as the behavior of those who put out the false catastrophic claims.” Burt Rutan

      • A fan of *MORE* discourse

        Wagathon, your comment conveys precisely zero information regarding to the crucial assertion “James Hansen’s climate-change worldview is correct scientifically, economically, and morally.”

        Isn’t that the right of it, Wagathon?   :?:   :?:   :?:

      • Nothing could be more absurd than your conclusion and the substance of your hotlink. What you believe turns the precautionary principle on its head.

        “The precautionary principle says we should not accept the risks of certain economic disruption in attempt to control the world’s climate on the basis of assumptions that have no supporting evidence and merely because they’ve been described using computer games.” ~Richard Courtney

        As for economics and economic disruptions, you also appear to be very willing to be guided by superstition. That’s not prudence, it’s ignorance-based ‘voodoo science.’

        “Climate change is a serious problem. All governments need to address it. In the Bronze Age Joseph (with the Technicolour Dreamcoat) told Pharaoh that climate has always changed everywhere: it always will. He told Pharaoh to prepare for bad times when in good times, and all sensible governments have adopted that policy throughout the millennia since.” ~Richard Courtney

        Translation: These interglacial warm periods are the Good Times! the global cool periods are the BAD times, get it?

        As for Hansen’s morality the fact that he was concerned about the coming ice age before attaching himself to global warming fearmongering does not suggest to me a highly principled character. How about you?


    Earth is in the final stages of a typical 10,000 year plus interglacial when both atmospheric temperature and CO2 content tend to increase long term from natural causes, as they have after every ice age. The next major stage is the start of a new ice age which hopefully is more than a thousand years in the future. ~Dr. Paul Berenson

  43. “There are some concrete guidelines presented here that make it easy for a scientist to assess whether or not they are behaving as an advocate.”

    I initially found this statement disturbing, but evolved sort of as follws:

    Why would a scientist, or anyone for that matter, want or need to make such a self-assessment? Would we ‘call penalties’ on ourselves ? Not likely.

    And why are guidelines needed? On one hand are we smart enough to be an advocates while on the other hand not smart enough to know what advocacy is? I don’t think so.

    Isn’t the primary focus how do we interpret the actions of another individual? Yes, but perhaps a concern over things conflict of interests in the scientist-advocate lead to times when introspection is needed. And weighing liabilities would probably be second nature to an administrative scientist, e.g., department head, division head, etc. Caution is required and sensitivities developed. Maybe that is unconsciously behind the wording above.

    But why then, is there no mention, in the discussion, of conflicts of interest and other liabilities? Indeed, the discussion above is not shy about the strengths brought to the table by the scientist, but do not take-up possible liabilities.[There is some weak flicker in the BS detector, but I have to admit it is kept on a the highest sensitivity level, and is susceptible to background noise.]

    Of course, self-determination of a state of advocacy and a cost-benefit of advocacy are different things. That’s OK, the paper seems halfway there. Besides, if you are going to ask yourself “Am I acting as an advocate?”, wouldn’t you want to go for the whole enchilada and also ask “What is the upside and what is the downside?”

    • It’s really very simple. Behavioral psychology informs us.

      It’s not what scientists say it’s what they do that matters. As soon as we learn that they continue support a lie we need no longer care about anything they have to say.

      There is no reliable evidence to support that the 20th century was the warmest in the last 1000 years. Previous claims based on the ‘Mann hockey-stick curve’ are by now totally discredited. ~Dr. Peter Stilbs

  44. …my good friend James Lovelock who once said that within the next 50 years or so the few remaining humans will be huddled up in high latitudes to escape the heat of the lower latitudes… has recently said the alarmists were wrong, and has moved to a new coastal home, unafraid of rising seas. ~Burt Rutan

  45. It’s important that scientists inform the public and the decision makers on their findings when they are highly relevant. In a sense that may be advocacy but there’s nothing wrong with that as long as the scientists are fully honest on their message and on the limits of their knowledge. What I objected in the previous thread is applying two different sets of criteria for what is appropriate and in particular for what is honest enough.

  46. What everyone seems to be dancing around is that schoolteachers have a selfish personal interest in promoting global warming alarmism. No one believes they’re serious about changing anything.

    We’re talking about another sin tax. It’s a tobacco tax on oil, coat, gas, whatever… it’s money to the government from business for permission to do business.

    It’s nothing more that federally sanctioned liberal fascism that we talking about. So, it’s not just a politicl issue. It’s a moral issue becasue schoolteachers are lying about the underlying motives that keeps the hoax alive.

  47. Climate Hucksterism (e.g., the ‘Tobacco-Model’ of Taxation)

    It is getting harder to find a credible person who can even pretend Leftists have anything of value to offer society–at least not anything anyone voluntarily wishes to buy. We have a huge percentage of wealth being transferred from the productive.

    The productive are the earners, the makers and the candlestick burners. The blood, sweat, toil and sacrifice of the productive is going to this evergreen army of Western bureaucrats whose justification for existence is that they used attorneys, courts, juries and the politics of fear and envy to gain a choke hold over sectors of the economy. One after the other on top of others the Left has driven up tax revenues on everything from alcohol, tobacco, gaming and fuel to transcations in goods and servies of nearly every kind, from hotel bills to utility payments like telephone and electric bills. Call it the ‘tobacco-model;’ and, it’s not one wit different from the British tax on tea.

    And, of course Leftists want to continue duplicating this tobacco-model across the economy. The Left is now trying to save all of us from death by catastrophe by going after all of the evils that businesses are pushing on us Westerners that are too stupid to think for ourselves. There is even a tax on the amount that businesses pay to their employees–i.e., if you are an employer you must pay the government a fee to hire someone.

    The Left believes Westerners need to be protected from predatory home loans, evil insurance companies and deadly products–e.g., everything from second hand smoke and cell phones to fatty burgers and CO2. If you translate all of this into reality from its native English (which has become the liars language of the Left), the belief that secular, socialist Western governments that increase tax revenues at the expense of consumers, are actually providing value to society, has become the new manifesto of liberal utopianism.

  48. The ‘advocacy’ of scientists should be the promotion of strict application of the scientific method in a transparent, overt attempt to discover how the world around us works.

    The dangers of advocacy are well-known and apply even when a scientist is merely advocating his own hypothesis/theory about something–>his advocacy threatens to warp his view to confirm his desired result. This is so well-known by the man in the street that when he sees/hears a scientist beating the drum for some idea, the man in the street automatically assumes that the scientists has biased himself, and discounts (marks down the value of) the opinion expressed.

    These simply facts are what makes advocacy an ETHICAL issue for scientists. If they allow themselves to stray into advocacy in place of science, they damage their own ability to do their job — and lessen the value of their work product, even if it is solid and unbiased.

    This is similar to why medical doctors consider it unwise and/or unethical to involve themselves in the treatment of family members with serious conditions — they know that to do so with their minds biased by their relationship may result in sub-standard care or mistreatment.

  49. > Roger Pielke has accused us being “used” by advocacy groups.

    — Judith Curry

    • What relevance does this blog comment snippet from 7 years ago (ancient history) have to the current discussion?

      • Which discussion?

      • In my mind, we (all here) were discussing Dr. Curry’s post above entitled “Refocusing the debate about advocacy”.

      • Kip Hansen,

        Fair enough. Please tell me then how your comment that starts with:

        > The ‘advocacy’ of scientists should be the promotion of strict application of the scientific method in a transparent, overt attempt to discover how the world around us works.

        discusses Dr. Curry’s post. As far as I can see, your comment only talks about scientific advocacy in general, without taking any hints from Dr. Curry’s post. Simply put, you simply coatracked an whole op-ed void of anything useful for the discussion you’re supposed to be discussing.

        But I’m willing to be convinced that your op-ed has something to do with the topic introduced by Dr. Curry. Just tell me how. If you do, I might tell you how my comment snippet from 7 years ago (ancient history (?)) is related to Dr. Curry’s post.

        Here’s a hint: read the whole comment from that ancient history, as it brings an whole new perspective to what Dr. Curry is discussing.

      • Willard,

        I fear you are only engaging in troll-behavior … hiding under the bridge and leaping out to harass those using it … if that’s what amuses you, enjoy yourself!

      • Kip Hansen,

        Your ad hominem is duly noted.

        Thank you for your kind words,


  50. KH +1
    Say here’s an item fer yer Irony scenario files, folks, .. gettin a bit crowded in there isn’t it ?
    At Climate Audit12/09/12, Lewandosky in an email criticizes another study fer it’s lack of integrity and he adds this insight into his own bias:

    ‘All that said the results are not particulary distressing from our perspective and he correctly identifies that there is a large segment of the science community who think that the IPCC understated the problem.’

    So Lewandosky’s wanting a particular outcome … not an impartial investigation, yer might say.

  51. Bart, yer examples haven’t changed my perspective, ‘Quelle surprise!’ and I don’t think my reply will change yours, : ) Never the less …

    The argument hinges on conflict of interest and professional integrity, I guess. In a democracy, as you say Bart, everyone has a right ter free speech, to, I mean ‘ter’ advocate, and ter vote. About advocacy, there are some professions, law, politics where advocacy is what yer do, so long as there’s no conflict of interest involved, I don’t see that actors playing roles in various dramas will be affected by their citizen advocacy. Writers of drama may also be advocates, tho’ this can narrow their drama to polemic and great drama is never this. About science, seems ter me that scientists put at risk their professional integrity of keeping an open door on enquiry when they take on the role of advocate.
    (Say, call me Beth why doncha, Bart? ‘Beth Cooper’ is so adversarial, lol.)

    • Beth | September 12, 2012 at 10:56 pm |

      Far be it from me to be adversarial! :D

      Everything I encounter changes my perspective. After all, I can never unread what I’ve read any more than I can unstep a footfall, and so all forward movement is progress by that measure in perspective.

      Is a poem less beautiful for a poet being ugly? Then Milton’s poems are trash.

      Is a verse less moving for the failings of its voice? Then Amy Winehouse’s body of work is a mortuary.

      A scientist more puts their professional integrity at risk, among the many perils a working scientist faces in this imperfect world of sponsored research and corporate research and government overlords imposing their principles on scientists (did you know that in Canada, government scientists are forbidden from speaking to the press except with a politically appointed government minder’s prior assent?), when they remain silent about the interpretation of their work by the media who get it wrong. A scientist is obliged to clarify and correct spin and error in reporting to the public. The instant the scientist obeys the duty obliging them to correct the error they are an activist and advocate.

      So I find the notion that one is always risking one’s professional credibility by advocacy or activism to be overly simplistic. Once this much activism is obligatory upon a scientist, then what degree of activism to correct untruth in the wider world when the scientist knows it to be untrue is too far?

      I argue none. There is no limit on the activism justified by truth in Science, within civil discourse.

      On the other hand, the corporate activism of the Koch’s, subversive and underhanded as it is, I see no difference between that attack on Science and the attacks on Science of groups of past decades like the Animal Liberation Front, except only that harrassment of scientists is better organized now than then, and better funded.

      • Bart R

        When you start musing about the travails a scientist faces in this harsh world, I can hear the violins.

        It’s all true, of course, and the general public does expect scientists to be objective, impartial, open and, above all, meticulously honest in the scientific opinions and conclusions, which they publish – particularly when these can have a major impact on policy and government (i.e. taxpayer-funded) spending.

        A political activist or advocate who is receiving government grants and hides behind the cloak of climate scientist to promote his/her agenda, is deceiving the general public, which is, in turn, paying his/her salary.

        That’s where the “violin music” stops as far as I’m concerned, Bart.


      • manacker | September 14, 2012 at 8:00 am |

        Even the worst dregs of society deserve representation when accused of wrongdoing. Do you do that pro bono, or is it like an appointed position or something?

        Because I think the Koch’s and the ALF’s PETA backers can afford representation, and shouldn’t make themselves a burden on the public purse.

  52. Bart, thx fer comments, I’m on my way ter my nephew’s gig ) so brief response, simplistic as usual…

    Liked yer two opening paragraphs, there’s always something so evocative about footprints…and some of yr points re imperfect world and sponsored research,.

    About remaining silent, such fine lines between correction and justification, one ok the other potentially a path ter the slough of despond. (Milton. )
    Yr poetry comment re Milton, ‘yes’ ter that, the poem’s the thing. or re Beethoven, the sublime music, the out of body created artifact, Van Gough’s ‘Starry Night.

    Re the failure of voice, well that is a weakness in the thing itself and can affect the response. Wendell Berry doesn’t do it fer me) Say, Bart, read Archibald MacLeish, ‘Ars Poetica’ i haven’t got time to send it.

  53. Thx fer poem Peter. Correction on my part, which you as an Australian might laugh at. ‘Van Gogh’ not ‘Gough!’ lol.

    • peterdavies252

      Typos don’t matter and whats more; the painting is certainly worth a look, as it is for all of Van Gogh’s work.

  54. “promote the use of science in policy development”

    That’s (richly assumption-laden) advocacy.

    Naive/romantic notions of science are in (quite hopeless) oversupply in the climate discussion. Meaningful “science” cannot precede careful exploration (which has barely begun). The term “science” is increasingly developing a negative connotation because of the naivety/ignorance &/or deception of those relentlessly pushing it. I advise orders of magnitude more focus on raw exploration.

    In climate science it’s even worse. The “science” (largely computer modeling based on myriad untenable abstract assumptions, shamefully inconsistent with multivariate observational data) is so severely corrupted by ignorance &/or deception that we arguably have a moral imperative to not use it as a backbone for policy. The sensible thing to do is more exploration.

    • There’s something like “motivated jumping to conclusions” which even a lay person can perceive clearly. This is most transparent in the insertion of “money points” affirming AGW in research which does nothing of the kind, or is pretty much irrelevant to the issue.

      Further, taking for granted of a critical stage or step leading to a conclusion, like retention of radiation as heat vs. retransmission, renders much “research” circular or trivial. While these are a form of advocacy, they are also often survival responses to the funding climate. Hey, there’s a new field of study: “The Climatology of Funding” (of climatology).

  55. Skiphill –
    The climarte “debate” is about politics, not science.
    I will continue to criticize those who are using AGW scaremonering as a device to advance their odious political agendas, whether you read what I have to say or not (ostrich).

    • In my opinion, scientists outside climatology were afraid ab initio, to face the truth concerning some key motives underlying the desire among consenting schoolteachers and politicians to spread fears about climate change. One such motivator has been the Left’s obvious self-interest in promoting global warming alarmism as yet another means of taxing all goods and services issuing from the free enterprise sector of the economy.

  56. JC Typo note: “the criteria presented her to” – here

  57. Nothing is more harmful to the quality of thinking than raising the infusion of superstition and ignorance from a drip to a flow. The scientific method has a purpose–i.e., helping to discern truth from superstitious, irrational and fear-based notions, magical thinking, ignorance, blind faith, feckless speculations, the statistics of liars and the scientific explanations of charlatans. Beliefs that have no scientific proof should be rejected.

  58. It’s ulterior advocacy we need to worry about.

    So keep a sharp eye out for the vested interest, and follow the money. Government-funded science advocating more government is the obvious big one.

    • Or, we can just give in a little more and concentratate on those things America stands for that the Left hates the most and then change like they want.

  59. No one seriously believes humanity can do anything to control climate in the future anymore than we can control today’s weather. No one is really interested in policies to address problems perceived looming 100 years out when the Democrats that control the Senate have not produced a budget in three years and the Democrats that run the State of California are driving the world’s ninth largest economy into bankruptcy, today!

  60. Given the degree of power over things that effect all Americans — today — I think we all must surely understand what is meant by burning the candle at both ends. This is a d-i-s-a-s-t-e-r and I don’t mean disastrous climate change because a soccer mom drives a SUV.

  61. Fact is…powerful vested interest demand that our energy future be under strict gov’t control and that will never cease being a demand because the even tempered and rational among us have shown our soft-underbelly by signalling our willingness to participate in reasoned discussions as if there really is two opposing and equally valid opinions concering the limits of the preservation of individual liberty in America.

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  63. Where’s the BS detector?

  64. There are some concrete guidelines presented here that make it easy for a scientist to assess whether or not they are behaving as an advocate. So, the question becomes whether this is the appropriate definition and criteria, particularly in context of the climate debate?

    It’s one step in the right direction. Here’s an even easier definition. As a scientist, chances are you are going to sell your own point of view, biased as it is. You feel you are right and it is your duty to convince everyone else; that is human nature. If the people you are trying to convince are scientists, that is fair practice. If you are trying to convince the general public or politicians or trying to influence policy, then you are an advocate. It’s as simple as that.

    The memo for politicians for when anyone advocates anything to you: don’t make him your trusted adviser. Find another scientist with no bias and good judgement and have him (or her) do an independent evaluation.

    Do you trust all door-to-door salesman and used-car salesmen?

  65. Pingback: Rethinking climate advocacy | Climate Etc.