by Judith Curry
Some reflections on my recent travels, speaking engagements, and workshops.
It seems that the Denizens need a new blog post. I remain behind the great Chinese firewall, pretty much unaware of what is going on the climate world. So for this post I thought I would present some reflections on my recent travels, prior to the China trip.
I was soundly criticized by a number of people for giving a lecture that was invited by the Marshall Institute. Oreskes and Conway in the Merchants of Doubt have demonized the founders of the George Marshall Institute, particularly Nierenberg who had received some funds from Tobacco and who questioned the assessment that second hand smoke was dangerous. I need to investigate the Marshall Institute a bit more, but overall I have to say that I have been favorably impressed.
In the questions following my talk, as summarized by the article Judith Curry: Woman in the Eye of the Political Storm Over Global Warming:
“I mean, lots of people have presented at the Marshall Institute; I think I’ve done it sometime long ago,” MacCracken explained later in an interview, “and so they [the institute] generally do get a range of views.”
“But I think it’d be nice sometimes,” he continued, referring to Curry, “if you were presenting with some other sponsors over time.”
Curry explained in an interview that she would be happy to speak at greener venues, but that she doesn’t get invited. “I’m demonized by green groups,” she said. “I don’t invite myself to give these talks; people call me up and invite me.”
In hindsight, there was really a better response: “Mike in 2007 you invited me to attend a conference. Why has your organization not invited me again?” I even wrote up a chapter Potential Increased Hurricane Activity in a Greenhouse Warmed World, no idea where this was eventually published.
I have the impression that the Marshall Institute invited me to speak not so much because I am critical of climate change consensus, but because of my ideas related to thinking about the climate science/policy interface and decision making under deep uncertainty. I have the impression that Mike McCracken (and other green advocacy groups) do not invite me to speak because I am critical of the climate change consensus.
The bottom line is that the audience covered a broad spectrum. The questions were predominantly from people that were challenging aspects of my analysis and perspective. The fact that this diverse group of people attended and asked me challenging questions speaks well of the Marshall Institute.
Workshop on Ethics of Communicating Scientific Uncertainty
I’ve started a separate blog post on this Workshop, which was extremely interesting. But I want to comment on the perspectives in this group of scientists, journalists and lawyers that were invited. I was one of only a few climate scientists there. The overwhelming perspective of the participants was acceptance of the consensus on climate change – I was a definite outlier. One of the members of the organizing committee strongly recommended that I be included on the invite list specifically because I was skeptical of the consensus. Another person on the organizing committee is well aware of my blog and my writings on uncertainty. Some of the participants railed against the ‘deniers’ and seemed surprise to hear that there was legitimate scientific criticism of the consensus. I hope I was able to raise awareness that there is legitimate criticism of the consensus.
Texas Public Policy Institute
Here are some more details about “At the Crossroads: Energy and Climate Policy Summit” organized by the Texas Public Policy Institute.
You can view video and presentations by clicking here (https://texas-policy.squarespace.com/crossroads-summit/) . You can also watch a short documentary about the summit here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kSugIzPGa5I)
I was invited by Kathleen Hartnett-White to participate in a debate that included myself, Roy Spencer, and a leading Texas scientist that supported the consensus. I immediately agreed; I first met Kathleen Hartnett-White who also testified at the same Senate hearing. I then learned that none of the high profile climate scientists that were asked to participate in this were willing and able to participate. A response to one invite said: “As a rule, Dr. XXX has no interest in taking part in any event that continues to perpetuate the myth that scientists don’t agree that human induced climate change is a real and serious problem. Multiple studies have shown over 97% consensus.” Frightening.
Then I started hearing more about this, turned out this was to be a big conference, with a very pro-fossil fuel perspective. I started to wonder about my decision to participate in this. In the end it turned out to be a very unique professional experience for me. Unlike the George Marshall event, the TPPI event was Conservative/Republican with capital C/R. I was one of perhaps a very few individuals in the room who did not self-identify as a conservative or Republican.
The Conference started with a lunchtime plenary presentation by Matt Ridley via Skype (which was superb). But first, a state Senator offered a prayer.
The ‘debate’ included myself, Roy Spencer, Hal Doiron, with Zong-Liang Yang of Univ of Texas representing team consensus. I give Yang a lot of credit for participating in this, he is a scientist with a prolific research record, but was rather out of his depth in defending the consensus against serious skeptics. In any event, I am glad to have met Dr. Yang for the first time, and I was very impressed with him as a person of integrity.
Some of the other sessions were quite interesting, they were all recorded.
At the dinner, Governor Rick Perry gave the evening plenary talk (but first, another state senator offered a prayer). It was a much better performance than anything I saw when he was a Presidential candidate last time around, and the content of his talk suggests that he plans for another run for President. See media coverage for his talk. But it was all about the virtues of Big Oil and Gas (TX oil and gas industry has now outstripped Russia’s entire production). And, perhaps not incidentally, about the 1.2 million jobs that Texas has added in the last 5 years (about 80% of total jobs added in the U.S.), with Texas economy now bigger than California’s (and bigger than Australia’s and just smaller than Canada’s economy, equivalent to the 12th largest economy in the world).
At dinner, I was invited to sit at the table hosted by a venture capitalist investing in the oil and gas industry, and one of the principal donors for the Conference.
The Texas culture and politics, not to mention economy, is unique in the U.S., and I had never really experienced it in this way. This event was steeped in capital R/C Republican/Conservative (much more so than the Marshall Institute event).
Oberlin: Debate with Pat Michaels
When I was invited by Oberlin to participate in a debate, I didn’t know who I would be debating; I figured I was representing a skeptical position and would be debating someone who was defending the consensus. I was quite surprised to find out that I would be debating Pat Michaels, for two reasons. First, PM and I are not too far apart on the science. Second, this seems like a pretty hefty dose of climate skepticism for a university (which tend to be pretty ‘politically correct’ on this subject).
It turns out that Oberlin has been quite proactive in inviting controversial people to campus, including conservative perspectives. It turns out that Pat Michaels has visited there previously to give a talk. I can’t remember all the conservative people that they have invited, but I do remember Carl Rove. The University President is committed to promoting critical thinking on major public debates. Wow, how refreshing!
The debate went fine, we each had 10 minutes to make opening statements on the science, and then an additional 10 minutes to discuss broader implications. I used my time to discuss the values issues and decision making under deep uncertainties. PM discussed the increasingly perverse incentives in academia and government funded science, see [link] for some of his recent writing on this topic. He definitely makes some valid points.
We had the opportunity to meet some of the Oberlin students, including student reporters (see this article) and some members of the Libertarian/Conservative Club over dinner. Also, there were lively questions/discussion in response to our presentations. There was a very refreshing vibe from the Oberlin students, faculty members and administrators, in terms of supporting open discussion and respect for minority perspectives. I actually did not feel like a ‘minority’ in this environment!
Other than the CE blog comments a few dozen emails that I’ve received, I have no idea of the reactions to my WSJ op-ed (WSJ is blocked in China), although I am aware of considerable discussion on twitter and in the comments at WSJ. I will let you know once I get back to the states whether I am glad I missed twitter and WSJ comments in real time, or not. Probably good for my health and disposition to have missed all that in real time.
I am busy preparing two new talks on Arctic sea ice, which I am presenting in Nanjing, I will make these available on the blog as soon as they are finished (and I receive permission to post from someone whose results I’m using, which were presented at the recent Royal Society Meeting on Sea Ice LINK
I will be preparing a lengthy post regarding my trip to China, although I will wait until I get back to the U.S. owing to difficulties in working on the blog (esp uploading pictures) while in China.
I’m having a very interesting time, but am totally exhausted.
Well it has been interesting getting out in the ‘real world,’ but all this travel has been exhausting. Also, I failed to factor into this busy schedule publication of two papers which required a lot of my attention (and not to mention two op-ed invitations).
Finally, I am relieved to have gotten a strong connection so I can moderate the blog and post something new!