Truth(?) in testimony and convincing policy makers

by Judith Curry

Some reflections, stimulated by yesterday’s Congressional Hearing, on the different strategies of presenting Congressional testimony.

Yesterday’s Hearing provided an ‘interesting’ contrast in approaches to presenting testimony, when comparing my testimony with Michael Mann’s.

What are the purposes of expert testimony?

There is an interesting document entitled A Guide to Expert Testimony for Climate Scientists, funded by the US National Science Foundation.  Most of this is related to court room hearings, but some is relevant for Congressional Hearings.  Excerpts:

<begin quote>

Experts may do one or more of the following:

  • Provide the decision-maker with factual information and background to provide the decision-maker with an adequate context for the decision.
  • Apply expert knowledge to the facts of a case and render an opinion about the facts, such as whether certain conditions actually caused an effect.
  • Explain scientific principles and theories to the decision-maker.
  • Extrapolate from the actual facts or hypothetical facts and rendering an opinion regarding the likelihood of an event or occurrence. Experts may speculate on events or occurrences because of their special knowledge or training.
  • Provide an opinion that contradicts or undermines the opinions or conclusions of an expert who testified for the opposing party.

If you are assigned to cross-examine an expert, you should prepare questions that test and challenge the witness on the following subjects :

  • Lack of thoroughness in investigating the facts or data;
  • Insufficient testing of the facts or data;
  • Lack of validity and reliability in testing of facts or data;
  • Existence of other causes or explanations for conclusions or outcomes;
  • Show differences of opinion among experts

<end quote>

‘Opinion’ or  ‘evidence’ for Hearings?

In my own testimony, I referenced (and even quoted) the IPCC AR5 and the US National Assessment report about a dozen times.  I also provided my (forthcoming) Report on Hurricanes and Climate Change, which includes about 100 references (nearly all are refereed journal publications) plus links to other review articles that provides further references.

Whatever happened to climate scientists using the IPCC and National Assessment Reports in their analyses, either to support their arguments or otherwise refuting specific statements in these Reports?  It seems that only scientists of the non-alarmist persuasion are citing these Reports any more.

Congressional testimony is not the place for scientists to present new, primary research.  Rather, it is an opportunity for scientists to present analyses of relevance to the topic at hand, related to their personal expertise.  This may take the form of an opinion piece (op-ed) or an analysis supported by evidence.

Mann took a different approach from mine.  His testimony reads like an op-ed, and he even cites his op-eds as supporting evidence.  Yes, it is readable, but it is not well documented.

Mann did not provide a bibliography for his testimony or any footnotes; rather he included hyperlinks.  I clicked on each of these, to see what sources he was using.

His links include 3 references to his own journal publications, plus two links to publications by other authors.  One link is provided to a NOAA statement. Several links are made to the StonyBrook University blog, describing unpublished analyses.  This selection was criticized by Andreas Schmittner on twitter:

All of the other links (~20) are to news articles, some of which are op-eds written by Michael Mann himself or articles that interviewed Michael Mann. The list of sources used by Mann in his written testimony:

Climate Central, PBS, Time, Slate, LiveScience, PennLive, The Guardian,  Scientific American, New Observer, Washington Post, NYTimes, ScienceNews, National Geographic, RollingStone, NewsWeek.

I understand the difficulty that policy makers have in wading through peer reviewed journal articles.  This is why Assessment Reports are useful for policy makers (although I am not a fan of the oversimplified, cherry picked conclusions in the Summary for Policymakers).  News articles are much more easily read by policy makers, but many of them are misleading at best.  And it is hard for me to imagine any of these articles being seriously considered as ‘evidence.’

Now several of these news organizations generally do a credible job in reporting on science, although they invariably suffer from single study syndrome in their individual articles.  But such articles are hardly a substitute for published primary journal articles or carefully considered assessments — or better yet, national or international assessment reports.

Although Mann’s testimony extensively referred to hurricanes, there was not a single reference in Mann’s testimony to the IPCC, the U.S. National Assessment Reports or the numerous review articles on hurricanes and climate change that have been written by teams of experts.

Yes, the published literature is sufficiently broad and diverse to support numerous narratives about climate change, and there are many reasons that rational scientists disagree:  insufficient data and disagreements about its quality; relative weighting of different types of evidence; and different logics for linking the evidence.

But when you open this up to include in a dominant way news articles and op-eds, then anything goes.

As summarized in the recent review by Knutson et al. on the issues of hurricanes and global warming (discussed in the Extremes blog post), there is a very substantial range of perspectives among scientists who have primary expertise in the climate dynamics of hurricanes.

Is it appropriate in Congressional testimony to present only your own perspective, without acknowledging other perspectives, disagreement, uncertainty?  Including both myself and Mann in the Hearing provides ‘dueling’ perspectives, but this hardly represents the range or distribution of perspectives in the community. Unlike a court case, there is insufficient time to probe all this.


So, which of the dueling experts is the Congressional Committee to believe?  Well that is almost certainly predisposed by their political party, to the extent that I have to wonder why we were even invited to this Hearing.

In the follow up to yesterdays Hearing, there has been some discussion on twitter related to Mann’s extensive emphasis on his own credentials in both his written and verbal testimony.

His verbal testimony spent almost a  minute listing his own credentials, out of an alotted 5 minutes (the Chair allowed Mann’s testimony to go over the time allotment).  Mann defended this by saying

I’m not interested in playing Mann’s little game re expertise.  But it is a tough argument to convince anyone that he has greater expertise than I on hurricanes.

Apart from someone’s political bias, that leaves the substance of our written testimony as a basis for being convinced by one versus the other.

I continue to have this naive, idealistic view that carefully crafted  and communicated analyses with credible documentation is what policy makers want and need.

So does Mann’s focus on his own credentials and publications  trump my analyses, documentation and references to the US National Climate Assessment, etc.?  At that Hearing and with that Committee, maybe it did.

Truth(?) in testimony

When testifying before Congress, each Witness signs a Truth in Testimony statement.  At yesterday’s Hearing, the witnesses were asked to stand and verbally agree to this (first time I recall doing this in a Congressional Hearing).

What does ‘Truth in Testimony’ actually mean regarding a controversial topic in science?  Yes, there is much disagreement about aspects of climate science, that is not what I am concerned about here.

In yesterday’s Hearing, Mann made a factually incorrect statement in response to a question:

90:13 “I want to correct a number of fallacies that we’ve heard here today when it comes to the connection between climate change and extreme weather events.  First of all, you sometimes hear this myth about there having been a supposed hurricane drought and there’s some sleight-of-hand going there because what’s going on Superstorm Sandy was a strong category 3 and then weakened to a category 2 hurricane off the coast of the US east Coast now it did go as they say extra-tropical it was technically no longer a hurricane when it made landfall but it was spinning off the East Coast for several days as a strong hurricane building up a very large storm surge and as we know it was this storm surge that was so devastating to the Jersey coast into New York City so its extremely misleading when you hear statements like that”

Mann’s statement misled the Committee with his statements about the drought in major hurricanes, Hurricane Sandy, and about my testimony being fallacious.  There was no opportunity for me to speak up in the Hearing.  I was shaking my head no, this was noticed by a Republican member, who asked for an opportunity for me to reply, but the Chair gave me no opportunity to respond.  Below is my response to Mann’s statement about my testimony.

My written testimony included the following statement:

“However, it was rarely mentioned that 2017 broke a drought in U.S. major hurricane landfalls since the end of 2005 — a major hurricane drought that is unprecedented in the historical record.”

This one is simple to fact check.  Go to the NOAA website and count the number of major hurricanes (Cat 3+) between Hurricane Wilma (2005) and Hurricane Harvey (2017).  Zilch.  Here is a graph of the data from the National Hurricane Center that was included in my written testimony:

With regards to Hurricane Sandy as an alleged ‘drought buster.’ Hurricane Sandy (2012) is included in the list of U.S. landfalling hurricanes with an * since technically it wasn’t a hurricane at landfall.  Sandy’s max wind speed at landfall is listed at 65 knots (Cat 1 territory).  As stated in my testimony, the  large storm surge associated with Sandy was caused by her transition to a horizontally large extra-tropical storm, not by her brief resurgence to a Cat 2.

I remember the details of Hurricane Sandy in excruciating detail, since my company CFAN was forecasting hurricanes (our Sandy forecast was exceptionally accurate relative to government provided forecasts).

In any event, even apart from the classification of Sandy as a hurricane or not, the terms ‘landfalling hurricane’ and ‘major hurricane’ (Cat 3+) have very clear and specific meanings, and Hurricane Sandy wasn’t a major hurricane at landfall, and only briefly reached low-end Cat 3 status near Cuba.  See the NHC’s Summary Report on Hurricane Sandy

There is no question that Hurricane Sandy was catastrophic for New Jersey and New York City.  Sandy illustrates how unprepared these cities were for even a Cat 1 hurricane with a significant storm surge.  Sandy is not a good poster child for manmade global warming, but rather supports the arguments made in my testimony about not being prepared for current or historical hurricanes.

JC verdict on Mann’s statement:  Five Pinocchios

Other rhetorically effective but misleading strategies used by Mann’s testimony were to cherry pick a single study and to imply that speculation about a linkage of some storm with global warming is actually a well accepted conclusion.  I will give one example here, that arose in the questioning, which is related to the high-profile issue of whether Category 4/5 hurricanes have been increasing:

“I actually co-authored an article in the journal Nature about 10 years ago where we use geological information from sedimentary deposits left behind by ancient hurricanes so we can actually reconstruct the history of landfalling hurricanes along the U.S. East coast along the Caribbean and so we have this rich archive of information that tells us in fact the increase in intensity that we’re seeing today does appear to be without precedent as far back as we can go.”

The paper that Mann refers to is [here].  Perhaps Mann hasn’t kept up with the literature on paleotempestology, which I summarized here.  Here is a summary paragraph from my Report on Hurricanes and Climate Change:

“Summary. There has not been a timeline or synthesis of the Atlantic hurricane paleotempestology results for the past five thousand years, either regionally or for the entire coastal region. However, it is clear from these analyses that significant variability of landfall probabilities occurs on century to millennial time scales. There appears to have been a broad hyperactive period from 3400 to 1000 years B.P. High activity persisted in the Gulf of Mexico until 1400 AD, with a shift to more frequent severe hurricane strikes from the Bahamas to New England occurring between 1400 and 1675 AD. Since 1760, there was a gradual decline in activity until the 1990’s.”

So, by cherry picking one paper (his own) that examines geologic data at only one location, Mann misled the committee regarding whether or not the intensity of Atlantic hurricanes has been increasing relative to the geological record.

JC verdict: two pinocchios

In Mann’s Congressional testimony two years ago [blog post], he made two statements in the questioning period that contradicted what was in his written testimony and his c.v.; for documentation of this see the links at  WUWT, Warmist Michael Mann tells whopper at Congressional Science hearing.

It was much more difficult for Mann to get away with  factually incorrect statements in a Hearing chaired by the Republicans than in a Hearing chaired by the Democrats.

JC reflections

I have often criticized the Congressional testimonies of other climate scientists as being normative, in the sense of advocating for specific policies related to climate change.

In hindsight, normative testimony seems pretty tame when compared with ‘assertion from authority’ testimony from scientists.  This style of testimony extensively establishes the witness’ expertise, and then makes a series of assertions with little or no documentation.  In short — appealing to their own authority.  This strategy is often accompanied by attempts to tear down the credibility of opposing witnesses.

If such testimony by assertion was presented in a legal trial, it would receive a severe grilling on cross-examination.  In a Congressional Hearing where the witness supports the majority’s perspective, the witness pretty much gets a pass, even by the opposing party. The minority members tend to focus their limited time on questioning  the witnesses invited by their own party.

This Hearing is certainly making me rethink my participation in future Hearings. I very much enjoy the challenge and opportunity of preparing written testimony and communicating my analyses of the issue at hand to policy makers.  However, I am not cut out to be a politician. I have a bad habit of answering any question as accurately and honestly as I can, rather than using my 90 seconds to refute my opponent or to emphasize my own point.

This makes me wonder what the Democrats are really trying to accomplish with these hearings on climate change.  If they are so convinced the science is completely settled, why do they bother with these Hearings?  Do they think they are going to convince the Republicans with a witness such as Michael Mann? The politics surrounding climate change make little sense to me.

Acknowledgements.  I would like to thank Larry Kummer for providing a transcript of the Hearing and for providing comments on earlier drafts of this post.


155 responses to “Truth(?) in testimony and convincing policy makers

  1. Roy W. Spencer

    Excellent post mortem. While John Christy continues to testify since (he says) it allows facts to be entered into the congressional record for historical preservation, like you I feel the process is a largely a waste of time. Politicians live and die by what appears in the press, which makes “journalists” some of the most powerful people in the political process. Maybe that’s why Mann appealed to op-eds as his main source of evidence.

    • double sixsixman

      Mr. Spencer and Christy live in the world of real science where they make a big contribution — there were no useful real time global temperature data before the US of weather satellites.

      I’ve said this since the late 1990s. Recently, an MIT PhD climate science professor said the same thing about the lack of useful temperature data before 1980. Unfortunately, his latest book is only in Japanese, but I got enough information to write a short article about Dr. Mototaka Nakamura:

      I don’t believe a single global average is even close to being sufficient to accurately describe our planet’s climate. But can you imagine how much “hotter” the surface temperatures would have become, if not for the “balance” provided by the monthly UAH satellite temperature data ?

      In the past few years, RSS weather satellite data has joined the “dark side”, in collusion with NASA — they now report with the goal of supporting NASA-GISS.

      This climate change religion reminds me of the movie, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, a great 1950’s movie where people were brainwashed by climate change zealots, I mean alien pods, and only two normal people were left in town — that would be Spencer and Christy — our last hope for climate science sanity.

      Hopefully Ms. Curry will stop wasting her time in “Warshington” where
      the hearings are just for show (so the Dumbocrats can claim they held “bi-partison” hearings).

      There’s no real science in “Warshington” — just Goobermint bureaucrats who happen to have science degrees:

      “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedies.” Groucho Marx

      Richard Greene
      Bingham Farms, Michigan

      • double sixsixman

        And you are a gullible old fool, Mr. Mosher — There is no global coverage for surface temperature compilations.

        Over half the surface grid cells still have no data, or are missing data.

        That’s the kind of “science” you love, Mr. Mosher !

        The missing data are wild guessed by government bureaucrats with science degrees, who prefer to see lots of global warming.

        Lots of global warming gives them job security — they predict lots of global warming and they use infilling and “adjustments” to make sure their global warming predictions look better

        Their infilling “wild guesses” can never be verified.

        Only the UAH satellite data, with very little infilling required, can be used to restrain the rampant infilling and “adjusting” of surface temperature numbers (using the word “data” would not be correct, after all the infilling and adjusting).

        There was almost no Southern Hemisphere temperature data before 1920 (and far too little before 1950):

        Even in 2019, there is still far too much infilling — NASA-GISS even has the nerve to claim record hot temperatures in several continent of Africa grid cells WHERE THERE ARE NO THERMOMETERS REPORTING DATA..

        That’s the kind of “science” you love, Mr. Mosher !

        (chart at link below shows early 2019 land only surface grid cell infilling in gray)

        Richard Greene
        Bingham Farms, Michigan

      • Steven Mosher

        richard. check out the authors

      • Steven Mosher: richard. check out the authors

        Do you have a point, or is that a pure ad hominem?

    • Yes it does allow facts to be recorded for posterity, but as Roy says, it feels like a waste of time. Well, for the people controlling the process, it isn’t a waste of time, it’s a means to an end: Judith wonders ‘why we were even invited to this Hearing”, and the answer is that it gives credibility to the Democrats. That’s because, if anyone challenges their findings or their decisions, they can say that Judith Curry was invited to give her opinions at the hearing. It’s the bureaucrat way of thinking: it’s process that matters, not substance.

      • It is not the Democrats who invite Curry and Christy. Your argument is misplaced.
        I love the bit Judith includes from the NSF guidelines:

        Extrapolate from the actual facts or hypothetical facts…

        Extrapolation of hypothetical facts
        seems a perfect description of the current problem with climatology.

    • “John Christy continues to testify since (he says) it allows facts to be entered into the congressional record for historical preservation”

      It does allow a ‘Told You So’ later.

      And maybe politicians will be more deliberative before looking ridiculous later:

      • Thanks, I did not realise the fat fallacy was known from the outset.

        The corruption of science happened a long time before Climategate, that is why mainstream scientists remained so silent about the scandal in climatology. Those who live in glass (green) houses don’t throw stones.

      • Danley Wolfe

        Turbulent Eddie,,, really great video find. Maybe the finding should have been bull***t causes heart disease and therefore it (and the persons speaking) shouild be permanently outlawed.

    • The Informed Consumer


      Listen mate. I’m a layman. I have 62 years expertise in being a layman. I am, by any any standards, an expert layman, and I have been trying to explain to you, Judith and everyone on WUWT, there is no use trying to counter politics with science.

      There is one simple reason. less than 90% of the planets occupants are scientists and everyone who can vote, has one single vote each.

      Do the science argument and you are appealing to 10% of the votes. Do the political angle and you have a 90% audience because, unlike science, politics does not require a qualification to hold an opinion.

      So, let’s do the maths here.

      You have an audience of 10% or an audience of 90%. Which one would be sensible to target.

      Say the 10% and you are off the game show because you seem to believe that the educated 10% have more right to an opinion than me. And I’ll prove you wrong by asking you to show me their vote. Funny that, it matches mine.

      By all means, do the science, but for goodness sake make sure you tell stories and paint pictures for the uneducated masses!

    • Steven Mosher


      He testified here

      he Cited a “paper” by Watts posted on the internet Page 17.

      That paper was taken down we Zeke Hausfather found a mistake with
      Steve Mcintyre’s work

      In July of 2012 I asked that Anthony and steve release the data.

      They refused and wanted a couple days to re run the analysis with the correct data

      I predicted that the data would never be released

      This July will mark the 7th year that has passed without

      1. Rerunning the analysis with the right datafile ( a 5 minute job)
      2. Releasing the orginal data for the published paper which Christy referred to in his testimony

      Putting things on the record? ya.

      At the same time Climate audit readers found an Error with gergis

      gergis eventually fixed their data error and published

      Still waiting for Watts.

      Will Christy ammend his testimony

  2. jungletrunks

    I suggest future congressional testimony, if hopefully an individual with scientific integrity is present (such as Dr. Curry’s), would benefit from an initial brief caveat emptor preamble from them that directly warns congress to take with a grain of salt any testimony that sways from IPCC AR5 data, where there’s flights of fancy in testimony. And that as testimony is revealed the preamble is further used as a touch point to refer back to. “…as per my preamble, I would like congress to understand what, i.e., what Mann states has not been vetted through the IPCC”. This if for no other reason other than it puts on record what’s accepted science and what’s not, for honest brokers in congress to refer back to; it becomes reference for solid footing. Otherwise CAGW activists will pick the arguments they like and present the unvetted science as fact to the public. To me this is analogous to the media using “unnamed sources” for their reporting; it allows fabricated facts, or innuendo, to take on a life of its own.

    • “for honest brokers in congress to refer back to”

      LOL. Where are you going to find them?
      That’s a very small target to aim for. In mathematical jargon the term is “vanishingly small”.

    • jungletrunks

      “Where are you going to find them?”

      Certainly not anyone from the congressional Left, they’ve all unabashedly gone CAGW till the cows go home.

  3. Dear Judith,
    I had the chance to listen you live on the hearing and I assure you that your honesty win the play. Politics is a ultra marathon in which only runner with resistance and hard training prevails. Mann reactions by the end of the hearing show a “runner” without stamina or clarity to compete. I enjoyed very much your reference to the letters of the fireman … it clearly illustrate the real nature of this game: Real live versus Eco Ideology!!!
    Please keep representing the ordinary citizens of the world … and protecting Nature from the eco-hooligans.

    Thanks from Cascais, Portugal.

  4. Of course I can not speak re: your willingness to participate some time in the future in other Congressional hearings on climate change, I can say for myself, the subsequent discussions on Climate Etc. are informative, and, as a life long learner, valuable.

    As to your query:

    “This makes me wonder what the Democrats are really trying to accomplish with these hearings on climate change.”

    I don’t know the answer other than to reflect my own feelings, ie, what comes across to me as I listen and reflect. In part, the Congressional committee process is theater, a stage show to entertain, usually to a particular audience, constituency, attracting media exposure. An opportunity to expound, illustrate one’s own (Congress person) interest in appeasing a portion of the Party. The Committee process seems to be a better forum than the 5 minutes a Congress person has each morning on the Chamber floor to say whatever they want to say. As theater, on C-Span, the committee process by and large seems dry, although, with some notable exceptions.

    The other thing that comes across to me, the committee process is a testing ground, asking the question: is this topic currently popular? After a month or so run through the media of the Green New Deal, after some gaffes and draw-backs, this Committee is assessing how to play the “climate game” in the up-coming 2020 election. If the American public really sets “climate change” as a relatively low priority, (I have read like 12th), how should the climate change narrative be crafted to appease and retain one portion of the Party without taking time and resources away from issues, such as Nancy Pelosi has stated: “kitchen table” issues. Struggling with a Presidential impeachment wing of the Party, which some politicians see as a loosing strategy. the Party can’t afford to alienate Green members as well. Too thin a margin for unseating an incumbent President.

    If I may, I wish for you to persist in your efforts to inform, correct and balance the climate change narrative. As a teacher, teach.

    • CAGW is 12th on the “crisis” list now, but after:
      1.) A $Trillion annual tax bill PLUS
      2.) A 30% rise in the cost of energy (which affects all prices).
      3.) Seeing little change in US emissions (It would require $3Trillion annually thru 2050…mirroring Germany’s experience) while Global emissions continue a substantial rise.
      4.) Extreme weather does not increase (and Global temperatures will likely decrease before 2050 with the AMO going negative).

      There will be growing resistance and hardly any remaining support.

  5. “This makes me wonder what the Democrats are really trying to accomplish with these hearings on climate change. If they are so convinced the science is completely settled, why do they bother with these Hearings? Do they think they are going to convince the Republicans with a witness such as Michael Mann? The politics surrounding climate change make little sense to me.”

    Maybe it’s not the veracity of the witness but the constant repetition of what is said that matters. If a constant drum beat is generated it becomes more and more difficult to go against this beat.

    Remember that current democratic politics is not totalitarian but post-totalitarian. With this reference to Vaclav Havel, the testimony given is the notice that the shopkeeper is forced to place in his window. You’ll need to read the Power of the Powerless to make sense of this last paragraph …

    _Eppur si muove_

  6. jungletrunks

    “This makes me wonder what the Democrats are really trying to accomplish with these hearings on climate change.”

    The media reviews these hearings; then when they write their; essay, op-ed, or straight [yellow] journalism, they can use such testimony in myriad ways as a source to validate what they write; i.e., “as revealed per congressional testimony … “. It’s easy to see the value of these hearings for activists, it’s not the hearings themselves that congressional activists are interested in, the science really means nothing to them; activists have predetermined policy goals only. How the information is used means everything to them, testimony is a garden, where the media cultivates their sources by dousing them with fertilizer, sometimes called manure.

  7. I wonder why Mann looks only to his global warming alarmist op-eds? Anti-Trump political op-eds and anything else that helps them take over the economy, raise taxes and confiscate wealth to grow the state bureaucracy is the only ‘supporting evidence’ that the Socialist-Democrats want to hear or really care about.

    • Sparky Addison

      Mann looks only at ‘his offspring’, which in the view of the father, are always beautiful and resemble the parent. Hockey stick genetics and long nose appearance are operative.

  8. jimeichstedt

    This is so frustrating because the discussion is not really about the science but the story, the myth that man only exploits and eventually ruins his world, that only by recognizing this can we save ourselves in an act of redemption. That the programs that the activists are promoting are so hurtful and destructive is necessary – we must suffer for the evilness in our nature. No amount of reason, study, thoughtfulness, will overcome the belief in salvation through penance. It’s a beautiful story. Are we all prepared for the sacrifices that will be required?

    • Yes, this is how it is playing out in many Western countries, at least. It’s not about facts, evidence or real science, it’s an identity/cultural topic where assumed virtue displaces careful consideration of the scientific evidence. This is so pronounced that some countries, such as Australia (and Theresa May in the UK), are destroying much of their economy for no gain other than an ill-founded warm inner glow. Meanwhile, China et al get on with growing their economies and influence.

  9. I believe there is a technical term for the approach used by Mann:
    ‘pathological narcissism’

  10. I have participated in and sat through hundreds of legislative hearings. For the most part they are for show, not a learning experience. If they have competent staff, the learning occurs pre and post hearing. Who knows what is on their minds during the testimony.
    I will take the side of the legislators for a second. On any particular day they could attend numerous meetings, hearings and discussions involving a broad array of sometimes complex issues. It was always wise to have a relationship with key legislative staff so as to assess the mindset of the members and to help with an ongoing education effort.
    When involved in a full committee setting, I assumed the members knew next to nothing about my material because I was preceded and followed by others from different program areas. Even in subcommittee it was beneficial to familiarize members with the issues, even if it was for the umpteenth time. One on ones in their office were always beneficial.
    The dichotomy of the approaches at this hearing is emblematic of the entire debate. Detached, logical objectivity using the best of science as a foundation versus hysterical, emotion based testimony appealing to fears of the public.
    Judith’s thinking is spot on. If the shared goal was good public policy her approach would be the most effective. Unfortunately good public policy has become collateral damage.

    • Curious George

      They still have so much to learn from Greta Thunberg. Why bother with experts? Why bother with logic?

    • I participated in many high-level committees, e.g. the Hawke government’s Ministerial Taskforce on Longer Term Economic Growth, where there was a genuine desire to understand how the world worked and what policies were in the broad public interest. But once it gets into the political and public arena, the possibility of rational agreement tends to disappear. This wasn’t always the case – e.g then Opposition leader John Howard supported many of the Hawke government’s reforms – but the quality of public life seems to have deteriorated in recent decades.

  11. “This Hearing is certainly making me rethink my participation in future Hearings.”

    I believe you took exactly the right line. You can’t attempt to play culture at its own game (it has a few million years start on you), so please don’t be more ‘political’. In an environment where cultural narrative and cultural behaviour dominates (and bearing in mind that the very reasoning apparatus of avid adherents is bypassed), even one lone voice still rooted in reality can cause culture a major embarrassment, and let the viewing public see behind the veils. If you stopped doing this, that voice would be gone.

    “This makes me wonder what the Democrats are really trying to accomplish with these hearings on climate change.”

    Cultures are ‘blind’. Adherents are probably not properly planning outcomes as such, they are subject to subconscious behaviours, which plough on regardless of likely productivity (and even damage). They continue to propagate the cultural narrative as a purpose in itself, proselytize as a purpose in itself. If there is a more conscious goal, it is likely only that as the narrative will set policy, it is better to have pre-recorded ‘victories’ regarding those spheres where the ideal will be later be applied.

    “The politics surrounding climate change make little sense to me.”

    There are 3 cultures involved, of which Dem / Libs have made alliance with climate catastrophism. This pulls in Rep / Cons on the opposite side, but *not* because of significant expertise or objectivity on climate change, only due to challenging the ally of their opponent. Hence regarding bulk views neither side (i.e. Dems / Reps) in the US conflict are particularly interested in the truth; they are both pursuing a cultural war and attempting to point score for same. As Kahan puts it, the conflict is not about ‘what they know’, but ‘who they are’. However, it just so happens that this outcome grants an opportunity for objectivity to at least get a seat at the table, because this is convenient for one side even though the sponsors are also pursuing a cultural path.

    In other countries, e.g. the UK, this doesn’t happen, because all the main parties advocate climate catastrophism. Indications are there’s likely just as many skeptics in the UK public as the US public (again, not via any climate domain knowledge, but highly likely via ‘cultural resistance’), but there is no political sponsor who on their behalf would then invite a knowledgeable non-orthodox climate person to the table. Meanwhile, blogs are miniscule islands of higher domain knowledge which in either of these pictures don’t have much impact, but the cultural situation sure influences the blogs. You may think your seat is pointless, but ‘everything is relative’ as they say; it’s still a hell of a lot better than not having one. This week the UK parliament enacted a policy for net zero by 2050, clearly based as discussion reflected, on the assumption of an imminent (decades) global climate catastrophe. There was no serious objection in the commons, there’s been no meaningful investigation of this in prior hearings, the Lords who objected (Ridley, Donaghue) were over-ruled. There is no cost / benefit analysis. Yet mainstream science (per AR5 tech chapters) does not support this assumption of global catastrophe. As you ironically note, the IPCC is currently the best defence against the culture of catastrophism, but there was no representation by scientists who would properly reflect the mainstream, let alone anything sceptical. This is what happens without any seat at the table for objectivity.

    • jungletrunks

      “‘Cultures are ‘blind’. Adherents are probably not properly planning outcomes as such, they are subject to subconscious behaviours”

      I doubt there’s much in the way of subconscious behaviors from the congressional Left in these hearings, they’re almost certainly deliberate in these settings; nor the Left at large who recognize unvetted frontier science that hasn’t gone through the rigors of peer review. If they don’t know outright, likely, then they have probably been briefed as such by the Mann’s of the world; regardless, they don’t care anyway. These people are deliberate in methodology, and are many strong. They know how to exploit information for political gain.

      Partisanship leverages emotion and exploits any near and now narrative where it can. My thought to help counter this exploitation is to attempt to plant a poison pill during such hearings so that less than knowledgable honest brokers have some form of barometer to deal with what is accepted science, from what’s not based on IPCC data; so that the information can be filtered through this lens, and the propaganda excised where recognized from those hearings in subsequent reporting. Aside from this not much else can be done in a hearing other than a scientist maintaining scientific integrity and hoping their integrity is recognized. But proactively attempting to prepare the less than knowledgeable to see the dialogue through the lens of accepted science would be helpful as a tactical approach to protecting it. Perhaps this can be accomplished by utilizing a poison pill in hearings, of sorts, maybe as I describe upthread, or other means that would become part of the record.

      • Jungletrunks:

        “I doubt there’s much in the way of subconscious behaviors from the congressional Left in these hearings…”

        Outside of the climate domain, I don’t really disagree with this. But climate catastrophism is the new cultural kid on the block, young and vigorous, not subject yet to many conventional limitations, evoking more passion etc. Hence where politicians with long established cultural leanings ardently adopt it, which of course in the US is almost all Dems, they also surrender much reason to emotive conviction. Which deal provides the young culture power and influence, for the return of a shot in the arm of new vigour to older politics. For instance, look at how quickly and how high up the Dem echelon and across their party the GND has reached, despite it’s quite radical even in traditional Dem terms. Yet this is perhaps not to the party’s net political advantage, to the point where some Reps are encouraged by the Dems’ ardent adoption, because they’re betting it’ll tank in a crash between the ideology of catastrophism (justifying radical response) and reality, at the ultimate test of an election.

  12. It is amazing that hurricane Sandy is even part of the discussion. Sandy was not a product of climate change. Sandy was a product of multiple weather systems unique interaction. Once the blocking high cut off the exit to the Atlantic, there was no doubt that Sandy was headed to shore. That was days before landfall and the systems interaction provided ample time to grow over a 1,000 mile fetch which would not be stopped.

    The lessons learned from Sandy were about vulnerability directly attributable to historic decision making in NY and NJ, not climate.

    Did we learn anything from this disaster? Did we learn not to develop large tracts of existing swamp/marsh land in NJ into towns and neighborhoods only to have them reclaimed by the sea as it had over thousands of years? Did we learn not to ignore NYC’s ever increasing vulnerability to long term continuing subsidence?

    Question is, do the decision makers in NY and NJ now prepare for the past (Mosher citation), or do they still follow a political agenda as opposed to an adaptation strategy?

    In my eyes, the hearing had two forces in play. One data/science driven and one agenda driven. To grasp the climate straws of Hurricane Sandy exemplifies the desperation of the agenda in general.

    There is great work being done in the hurricane arena via storm reanalysis. Many more historic storms are being reclassified through the process and many more are being identified that were missed.

    It is quite amazing how much data we have at our fingertips today through new technology in hunters, satellites, buoys, and balloons that did not exist even a decade ago in hurricane research. If we didn’t fly a hunter into Patricia (I think an EPac first), it would have never been viewed as strong as it actually was briefly. How many other storms would produce higher statistics if we flew in them constantly for a long time? Just look at the first storm that was classified this year in the Atlantic. Andrea, which may have met the criteria for a couple hours, would not have even been noticed 5 or 10 years ago. Should it have even been classified? Either way, it is now a historical data point in the archives.

    I would wager that most of those committee members are pretty much clueless on the subjects they hold hearings on and can only maintain talking points provided by their staffers in the end. How many members do you think actually read the written testimony? Any?

    Thank you for doing what you do Dr. Curry. No matter how thankless it may seem, many of us appreciate and continuously support your efforts!

  13. Judith
    You have begun to question why you bother with Congressional hearings and whether or to continue to participate in the future. I ask you- What is/was the goal of your participation?

    Imo, your goal should have been to influence Congress and the public to adopt the positions relative to climate change that are similar to where your own position have evolved over the last dozen or so years.

    Your written statements are excellent. Your oral testimony is not widely beneficial in influencing opinions. Your not trying to influence science, but the ignorant and mislead public.

    Who is in a better position to influence Congress and the public of the scientific truth regarding climate change? Mosher made an excellent point about your testimony and the missed opportunity.

    America and the rest of the world are not prepared for the weather of the past or the future. Climate change will continue as will adverse weather. There is only so much money available and it need to be allocated wisely.

  14. Ireneusz Palmowski

    Meanwhile, the sea surface temperature drops in the southern hemisphere and on the equator.

  15. Ireneusz Palmowski

    Due to changes in the stratosphere associated with the solar minimum, the NAO remains negative.

  16. Ireneusz Palmowski

    The current weather in North America is dominated by strong convection.

  17. Bill Fabrizio

    “This Hearing is certainly making me rethink my participation in future Hearings.” Dr Curry, I thought you did extremely well. Fantastic, actually. And as several have said above, politics is a long game. Please, keep at it. You mean a lot, not just to the scientists here, but to the average taxpayer like me. The education you, and the commenters (both pro and against), have given me has been phenomenal.

  18. Reblogged this on Climate Collections.

  19. Judith,

    At this point in time, when most climate scientists that disagree with the consensus become silent, it is critical that respectable climate scientists speak up and provide evidence and example that there is dissent in science. When well respected scientists like Pielke Jr or Lennart Bengtsson abandon the field and join the ranks of those that prefer not to speak up, it is essential that the skeptic ranks are not represented by Tim Ball or Murry Salby. It is important for historic reasons that in the future when the folly of climate alarmism is finally revealed they don’t have the excuse that everybody agreed.

  20. Beta Blocker

    Why has no one in the Senate or in the House of Representatives called Gina McCarthy before a congressional committee to explain why, during her tenure as EPA Administrator between 2013 and 2017, she didn’t apply the Clean Air Act (CAA) nearly as aggressively as the law allows in regulating all of America’s carbon emissions, not just those from coal?

    Furthermore, why has no one in Congress called in the leadership of the NRDC,, the Sierra Club, (etc. etc.) to explain why, during Gina McCarthy’s tenure as EPA Administrator, those organizations chose not to file suit against the EPA under ‘sue and settle’ for the purpose of extending direct regulation of America’s carbon emissions to each and every major source, not just those associated with power generation?

  21. Columbus74 Cocker

    Great work Dr Curry, look forward to reading more of it. 😎

  22. David Wojick

    This is sort of OT but sort of not. Watching the game of climate alarmism in the coming presidential election:

    I agree that Dr. Curry should continue to testify, hers being one of our sanest scientific voices, albeit in an insane world. As Roy Spencer says, the record is important, including for legal reasons. That the alarmists own the House is no reason to stop, quite the contrary.

  23. Judith : In your excellent article you provide a link for “single study syndrome”. It quotes one of John Cook’s evil manglings of science. I think you should find a better link for “single study syndrome”.

  24. Geoff Sherrington


    A strong plea comes from an aged, ailing scientist who has followed global warming progress since about 1990.
    The plea. Please continue with your participation in Congressional hearings for so long as you are invited. What is more, time and resources and your agreement permitting, please try to train several other scientists of note to step in when you feel like you need to hand over some of the task.
    It will be some years before events unfurl enough to see if your several testimonies to date have had nil effect, or has been critically effective, or were in between. This we know. We also know that if you cease, there is no record into the future.
    I, for one, consider your past inputs to have been quite important. Some person, some respected scientist, is needed to contrast hard scientific scholarship (which we need) with self-centered opinion (which is near worthless). I write this, expressing my own self-centered, worthless opinion.
    I have written many scientific pieces, mainly for blogs, that document with original data that many trendy opinions are either false or misleadingly selectively distorted. For example, I have shown that the majority of fellow Australians live in capital cities with long weather records. Official trendy dogma is that, for example, Australian heat waves are becoming longer, hotter and more frequent. I failed to support this hypothesis with a simple analysis of heat waves, variously defined, for our populous capital cities, in the main. However, as usual, it is hard to get such clear messages read by the purveyors of the less rigid science whose mission seems to be to frighten. So, Judith, I can relate to your frustration, if that is the right emotion coming through your words in the top post. Geoff.

    • To me it seems more like playing to the peanut gallery. Mann had the right idea. MSM stories on climate have at least some basis in science – single studies as they may be – raising some perennial talking point or other. About the right level for the US congress – and let’s face it most players here. All of whom have a rigid opinion and are not listening at any rate.

      Global warming is a reality – set against a background of vigorous internal variability. This should shift climate to the warmer end of the scale.

      This is before considering Earth system dynamics – a difficult idea to get across to the the hoi polloi in 5 minutes – but what is the scientific paradigm front runner. Issues – however – go well beyond the scientific domain. Michael Mann as ” Director of the Penn State Earth System Science Center” must have an inkling.

      In the spirit of the post I copy and paste these criteria for addressing the grand challenges facing humanity this century.

      “We have used the following criteria in selecting the grand challenges and associated research priorities.

      1. Scientific importance. Does the question address a cutting-edge research challenge that, if answered, could significantly advance our understanding within the next decade of how to
      achieve global sustainability, in the context of global environmental change?
      2. Global coordination. Is a coordinated international or global approach involving multiple researchers in different regions and often in different disciplines needed to answer the question? If not, then such a question would fall to others (i.e. be outside the remit of this
      framework, despite its importance to a given field).
      3. Relevance to decision makers. Will the answer to the question help to inform actions to
      meet urgent global social and ecological needs, especially promoting sustainability, reducing
      poverty, and assisting the most vulnerable in coping with global environmental change?
      4. Leverage. Does the answer to the question involve a scientific or technical breakthrough, or
      would it create a transferable theory, model, scenario, projection, simulation or narrative that
      would help to address multiple problems or other challenges related to Earth system science for global sustainability?”

      I ponder on cooling from indirect solar effects on the polar annular modes this century – with perhaps a wild beast in Greenland and Antarctic melting and disruption of deep water formation. But I’d suggest solving the grand global challenges regardless.

      • Geoff Sherrington

        You are using conventional analysis for a problem for which it might not be relevant.
        In your stats example, there is no perturbing effect similar to the social effect of a widespread, enforced effort to silence dissent. Your stats example needs to be modified to accommodate a “thumb on the scales” perturbation that distorts the outcome.
        The fight to have the dissenting science heard, let alone recognised when it is valid. is a dirty fight. Personally, I consider Mann,s recent evidence as too dirty, when he resorts to untruths (for lack of a better word) like trying to change a hurricane frequency data base by re-defining terms to suit his story, in real time, in a forum hardly able to correct his distortion, his trick. Geoff

      • Mann – it comes from his testimony – uses some presumed warming – and a Poisson distribution looks like. It’s not worth the pain of pulling some partisan narrative out of your arse.

        But crude and eccentric skeptic blog theories are not dissenting science at all.

      • Ireneusz Palmowski

        Solar effects are important with the trend of falling solar activity. This can be seen in the stronger blocking of circulation in high latitudes. Changes in circulation are already visible, for example in a smaller number of hurricanes in the eastern Atlantic.

      • Even for a throwaway line – I have at least a couple of references in mind. You have random graphs and baseless assertions. .

      • Ireneusz Palmowski

        The trend is long-term. The charts cover a period of several months.

      • Global warming is a reality – set against a background of vigorous internal variability. This should shift climate to the warmer end of the scale.

        That’s not how it works. The change in the latitudinal temperature gradient means the tropics and subtropics barely change, with most of the warming taking place at higher latitudes and particularly at the poles. Except Antarctica is refusing to cooperate, so most of the warming takes place in the northern hemisphere.

        Ignoring how the climate actually changes leads to silly predictions that don’t come to pass. Global warming is already 45 years old. What your figure says that a small change in the average leads to a big change in extremes has not been observed. There is no “a priori” reason to believe that it will happen much more drastically in the next 45 years. Except unvalidated models that rapidly diverge from reality.

      • The graphic depicts an increase in mean with no change in variability.

        This is possible, of course, but there’s at least some reason to believe that variability would decrease with ‘global warming’.

        To wit, Manabe and Wetherald, 1979:

        “The reduction of the merdional temperature gradient appears to reduce not only the eddy kinetic energy, but also the variance of temperature in the model troposphere.”

        Interestingly, the IPCC considered cases of mean and variability changes, but did not depict the case Manabe indicated of increased mean and decreased variability. This condition, labeled ‘x.’ below, leads to more frequent higher temperatures near the mean, but actually a decrease of extremely high temperatures.

      • For some things, the distribution isn’t normal and simply shift. while warming may skew the distribution and increase extremes, it seems that the far tails, where most harm happens, may be thinning at the same time. An example is increasing extreme precipitation while flooding is flat or decreasing.

      • I recall back when WUWT used to be good, people got hyped on quasi-cyclical behavior (particularly PDO) and the fact that warming has been beneficial. I tried to make the point that they were getting ahead of themselves and that if things are cyclical, it can be that warming is generally beneficial but in certain regimes is may be harmful. I’ve wondered if when we are in regimes similar to where in the past there would generally be cooling, the greenhouse effect could fuels bad weather rather increasing temps. Perhaps when the sun is weak, among others, we end up in a regime where the energy becomes weather rather than temp and the greenhouse effect shifts from beneficial to somewhat harmful.

      • Robert I Ellison: And now for something real.

        How droll, for an introduction to 3 simplistic models.

      • Turbulent Eddy: This is possible, of course, but there’s at least some reason to believe that variability would decrease with ‘global warming’.

        One statistical approach is quantile regression in which the quantiles (1% point, 5% point, … median, … 95th percentile and 99th percentile) are regressed versus time, not merely the mean and variance.

        Evolution of mean, variance and extremes in 21st century temperatures
        Sophie C. Lewisa,c,⁎, Andrew D. Kingb,c
        a Fenner School of Environment and Society, The Australian National University, Canberra, ACT, Australia
        b School of Earth Sciences, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria, Australia
        c ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science, Australia
        A R T I C L E I N F O
        Climate models
        A B S T R A C T
        Warming of the climate system can result in very large corresponding changes in the occurrence of climate extremes. Temperature extremes may occur due to a shift in the whole distribution, where there is an increase in the entire temperature probability distribution, or to changes in the shape of the distribution, such as an increase in variability causing a widening of the distribution. Understanding the precise characteristics of changes in temperature distributions in response to background warming is an important aspect of fully understanding changes in heat extremes and their associated impacts on human and ecosystem health. This study investigates projected 21st century changes in the characteristics of mean, maximum and minimum temperature on daily- and annual- timescales for various regions (Australia, Asia, Europe and North America) using data from seven models participating in the Coupled Model Intercomparison Phase 5 (CMIP5). Using the RCP8.5 experiment we show that an increase in mean temperature throughout the 21st century is a consistent feature of all models for each region. Changes in the variance of simulated temperatures are equivocal, with the sign and magnitude of variance changes in the 21st century varying in different models and regions. A quantile regression analysis demonstrates differences in upper and lower quantile slopes, relative to the mean, including a consistent skew in daily temperatures towards hot extremes. These potentially complex characteristics of temperature changes should not be overlooked, as temperature extremes are potentially more sensitive to changes in the variance and higher order moments than in the mean. Furthermore, a wider range of extreme temperature behaviour may have important consequences for various stakeholders, due to impacts on public health, agriculture and ecological systems.

        Weather and Climate Extremes 15 (2017) 1–10

        It includes comparisons of the results of analyzing measured temperatures and model outputs; separately for Australia, Asia, Europe, and North America.

        As always, one study does not decide the issue, but it does illustrate another way of analyzing the data, and for making a range of model/data comparisons in the future..

      • Both the Mann and Ghil graphs are conceptually correct. The Mann graph in terms of shifting the distribution to the right. The Ghil schematic shows a change in mean and variance following a climate shift.

        The trajectory of climate evolution is unknowable – speculate as you may. But at this point and in this context such speculation is just a distraction from the grand challenges of humanity in the 21st century.

      • Robert I Ellison: Both the Mann and Ghil graphs are conceptually correct. The Mann graph in terms of shifting the distribution to the right. The Ghil schematic shows a change in mean and variance following a climate shift.

        “Conceptually correct”?

        Are they accurate portrayals of any empirically verified/measured changes in climate?

    • I totally agree with what Geoff Sherrington said.

      Judith – When you participate in a Congressional or any other hearing, ostensibly you are talking to the hearing committee. But it’s only a small part of the story: you are also talking to third parties – ie, other scientists, the general public and the historical record.

      It would be intensely frustrating to know that no-one in front of you at the hearing is truly listening. But the third parties ARE listening, and over time that can make a massive difference. If you don’t turn up at hearings, then everyone loses because everyone gets only the other side of the argument. So please don’t give up. Please keep participating at every available opportunity, and be aware of who you are really talking to. In time it will pay off.

  25. It’s freaky how easy it is to protect against wave damage and even sea level rise.

  26. Judith: You asked:

    “This makes me wonder what the Democrats are really trying to accomplish with these hearings on climate change. If they are so convinced the science is completely settled, why do they bother with these Hearings?”

    Such hearings are really not for the purpose of acquiring greater scientific knowledge.The purpose is to convince their actual and hoped-for voters that the positions these politicians are publicly espousing are the right ones because they are based on “the science”. This purpose is to be accomplished via political theatre in the witnesses presentations and especially in their friendly or hostile questioning.

    There are no facts in the future; there are only forecasts or predictions about what will/will not happen in 2030, 2050 or 2100 and beyond. Predictions are opinions, not facts. Opinions about the future may prove to be right or wrong (to varying degrees), but none of these predictions can be “the truth” in the present. IPCC AR5 and the US National Assessment report are also opinions. Different opinions among scientists are just that, with neither scientist telling the truth or telling a lie. Otherwise a scientist who differed from the (real or imagined) consensus could be charged with perjury.

    As for the past, there can be facts, but again, in trying to prove the cause of past hurricanes, or their severity, or the cause of their economic cost, opinions may, and often do vary. That is in part because of the differences between causality and covariance or correlation and in part because of different opinions about what is a reasonable adjustment of raw data like temperature proxies. Unfortunately, as you have noted, scientists have largely become polarized, at least in the US, so that we now have “Republican science” and “Democrat science”.

    As to styles of presentation, Michael Mann and you were playing different games. His game was to provide credibility and political ammunition to those who believe, or profess to believe, that the science is settled and anyone who disagrees is a denier, and may be even dishonest. The consensus is, supposedly, that the planet is facing a climate emergency that must be fixed immediately. The necessary action is to break the hockey stick where it starts to slope upwards, to prevent more serious damage from extreme weather events becoming even more frequent and extreme. How this is to be accomplished affordably is usually unstated.

    Your game was to present current scientific knowledge dispassionately and rationally, explaining where there was reasonable doubt and uncertainty. Your message was that there is no hockey stick with hurricanes, which were as bad or worse in the past, but there needs to be better preparation for these events.

    Both of you were really invited as pawns in a political chess game. Each side of legislators wanted to checkmate the other in a game leading up to the next election, with the help of friendly testimony from a scientist. They don’t want an impartial scientist to come and tell them the truth, they want an advocate with a science degree to prove that their proposed policy is backed by scientific “truth”.

    As you find these political games to be unnecessary and unintelligible I can see why you might be reluctant to continue to play in them. However, as others have said, your science-based testimony is likely to be more valuable to policy makers and the public than an article in a scientific journal read by a small number of other scientists. Please keep testifying at these sessions so that your judgment of the evidence is made available to a wider audience and helps to result in better policy decisions.

    • Good post, Andrew.

      • Thank you. I am a retired lawyer, not a scientist, but I have testified before the Canadian Senate and House of Commons committees. Each political party on these committees is looking for witnesses that support their views. Our Prime Minister is fond of saying “We have listened to the science..” This is a personification of science. Science doesn’t talk, people do. What he should say is that he has listened to those scientists that support the policy he wishes to legislate. From what I see in the US and some work I have done in Australia it is pretty much the same. The political policy is developed first, then scientists are recruited and rewarded for supporting the party line.

    • aporiac1960

      “However, as others have said, your science-based testimony is likely to be more valuable to policy makers and the public than an article in a scientific journal read by a small number of other scientists. Please keep testifying at these sessions so that your judgment of the evidence is made available to a wider audience and helps to result in better policy decisions.”

      You correctly identify the real battlefield that motivates the interest of politicians, which is the electoral. For the same reason, it will not be careful and considered scientific analysis versus activism wrapped in scientific robes that ultimately determines policy direction, but groups like the ‘yellow vests’, who fully understand the political battlefield. They may not be scientific experts, but they are by necessity experts in the vices of the ruling classes, especially their predilection to build exorbitant but entirely useless monuments that bear their name at public expense. They understand that the more foolhardy, frivolous, and expensive, the greater the glory for these popinjays. The modern era analogue, of course, is called ‘policy’.

      The general public can get ‘down and dirty’ better than Michael Mann, recognise the type when they see it, and are not afraid to rise to the challenge. I think Judith underestimates the precision of the bullsh*t detector instrument that many non-scientifically trained individuals possess, and the value of the role she performs in helping them calibrate it. It is very important that she continues to plough her farrow, because that is a message all of itself.

  27. wadesworld242

    I only regret that Trey Gowdy will never get the chance to cross-examine Michael Mann.

  28. John Prince

    Judith, don’t ever shy away from the facts. Congress is nothing but showboat politics. Per Roy Spencer’s remarks, Americans know politicians and journalists are far from the most powerful. When it comes time to argue in front of the most important thinkers in this country, the Supreme Court, then you will be taken more seriously.

    • Beta Blocker

      John Prince: “When it comes time to argue in front of the most important thinkers in this country, the Supreme Court, then you will be taken more seriously.”

      The Supreme Court does not issue rulings on the validity of scientific theories, not directly anyway.

      Rather, the court rules on questions concerning whether or not a government agency properly followed its own processes and procedures in reaching a scientific conclusion.

      The court has ruled that the EPA has authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon GHG’s as pollutants. The court has also ruled that the EPA properly followed its own processes and procedures in publishing its CAA Section 202 Endangerment Finding for carbon.

      A strong legal foundation is now in place which would allow the EPA to push the Clean Air Act to its absolute limits in regulating America’s carbon emissions — something which the EPA has so far chosen not to do.

      The public debate over the validity of today’s climate science will not go critical mass unless and until the federal government begins imposing real personal sacrifice in the name of fighting climate change.

      If and when that day comes, a truly consequential public debate which goes well beyond the political posturing and into the heart of the science will commence.

      Every Congressional testimony we have seen and heard so far on either side of the scientific questions should be considered a practice exercise for the truly robust public debate that will occur if and when the federal government actually gets serious about regulating carbon.

      • John Prince

        Of course the SC does not rule on the validity of science. ?? Or thought. There are far many other questions they will get to deal with.

      • John Prince

        “The public debate over the validity of today’s climate science will not go critical mass unless and until the federal government begins imposing real personal sacrifice in the name of fighting climate change.” You make this point. Yes, the questions associated with ‘the personal sacrifice in the name of fighting climate change’ will most likely ultimately be heard in the SC. Plain.

  29. JC,
    This process works for the Democrats because it is a multi-pronged attack.

    The Media will only show how Mann definitively set the record straight against the audacious and unsupported claims of the right wing (maybe even alt right supporter) climate denier Judith Curry.

  30. Look how Niño 3.4 has been cooling these past days:

    I wonder if the models are going to be correct. They usually aren’t.

    • Ireneusz Palmowski

      Let’s look at the temperature drop at the equator.


      Although this animation goes to 19 June – it does show cooling SST in the Humboldt Current. Upwelling in the eastern Pacific has continued to intensify in the past week. It’s looking like the next MEI-V2 result – 9th July – will be in La Nina territory.

      Models – and people – don’t pick ENSO transitions well. And you should learn the difference between probabilistic forecasts and opportunistic ensembles.

    • Ireneusz Palmowski

      This decrease may be related to the blocking of the polar vortex in the stratosphere in the south.

      • Ireneusz Palmowski

        5. Conclusions
        This study showed that the disturbances of the troposphere circulation associated with SA/GCR variations
        take place over the entire globe. The spatial structure of the observed pressure variations is determined by the
        influence of SA/GCR on the main elements of the large-scale atmospheric circulation (the polar vortex, the
        planetary frontal zone and extratropical baric systems). The temporal structure of the SA/GCR effects on the
        atmosphere circulation at high and middle latitudes is characterized by a ~60 yr periodicity, with the changes
        of the correlation sign taking place in 1890-1900, the early 1920s, the 1950s and the early 1980s. The ~60 yr
        periodicity is likely to be due to the changes of the epochs of the large-scale atmospheric circulation. A sign
        of the SA/GCR effects seems to be related to the evolution of the meridional circulation C form. A
        mechanism of the SA/GCR effects on the troposphere circulation may involve changes in the development of
        the polar vortex in the stratosphere of high latitudes. Intensification of the polar vortex may contribute to an
        increase of temperature contrasts in frontal zones and an intensification of extratropical cyclogenesis.

    • Ireneusz Palmowski

      You need to look at the circulation in the Southeastern Pacific.

    • Multi-decadal variability in the Pacific is defined as the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (e.g. Folland et al,2002, Meinke et al, 2005, Parker et al, 2007, Power et al, 1999) – a proliferation of oscillations it seems. The latest Pacific Ocean climate shift in 1998/2001 is linked to increased flow in the north (Di Lorenzo et al, 2008) and the south (Roemmich et al, 2007, Qiu, Bo et al 2006) Pacific Ocean gyres. Roemmich et al (2007) suggest that mid-latitude gyres in all of the oceans are influenced by decadal variability in the Southern and Northern Annular Modes (SAM and NAM respectively) as wind driven currents in baroclinic oceans (Sverdrup, 1947).

      • Robert I Ellison: The latest Pacific Ocean climate shift in 1998/2001 is linked to increased flow in the north (Di Lorenzo et al, 2008) and the south (Roemmich et al, 2007, Qiu, Bo et al 2006) Pacific Ocean gyres.

        Is that the “tipping point” that you referred to here?
        Robert I. Ellison | June 27, 2019 at 2:53 pm

  31. Adam Gallon

    All part of the great game.
    On the Red Team, Professor Michael Mann, world-renowned expert on Climatology, Nobel Prize winner, discoverer of the famous hockey stick, that politically inspired attacks by fossil fuel companies, failed to break. On the Blue Team, some weather forecaster, who sells her services to oil companies. Who are you going to believe?

    • Adam Gallon: Who are you going to believe?

      The one who cites the most and best evidence.

      • Adam Gallon

        In real science, yes, but in this politicised arena, no. Try quoting Dr C’s work on one of the Alarmists’ Facebook pages. They’ll point out she’s on Desmog Blogs’ “Denier Database”
        It’s all play acting, Mann’s a much better actor.

    • Adam Gallon: Nobel Prize winner,

      It was the UN IPCC that was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, not Prof Mann.

      discoverer of the famous hockey stick,

      the “famous” hockey stick, the one that was adopted by the UN IPCC for its web page and then dropped due to a controversial misrepresentation, mistakenly removed the Medieval Warm Period from the graphed record.

      Who are you going to believe?

      The one who avoids close association with anti-science CO2 zealot and socialist AOC?

    • “All part of the great game.” To some it is a game. Gamesmanship is generally not the mark of a great scientist. I read that somewhere

    • Barn E. Rubble

      RE: Adam Gallon, “On the Red Team, Professor Michael Mann, world-renowned expert on Climatology, Nobel Prize winner, discoverer of the famous hockey stick, that politically inspired attacks by fossil fuel companies, failed to break.”

      You would have to be somewhat retarded, or a part of it, to believe any of that. Who are you going to believe, indeed . . . Mann’s arms length (at best) relationship to the truth and facts is well documented. Perhaps Mr. Gallon believes the word ‘crap’ when describing a peers’ work means something else in climatology circles.

      • Adam Gallon

        No need to be retarded, you just need to listen to what the alarmist camp comes out with. If you’re on Facebook, take a peek at the laughably entitled “Climate Reality” group. Drop Dr Curry’s name or work into one of their rants & see how quickly they raise Desmogblog’s listing of her as one of their “Climate Deniers”.
        Mann hobnobs with the people who matter, as far as the alarmists believe. The pawns like Occasional Cortex will willingly bask in his glory.
        It’s all politics & all politics is dirty.
        Remember, there’s big money behind the climate change industry, why do you think Trump’s not called it out?
        He talked loudly before his surprise election, he’s not come up with much since. Those that matter, have had a word with him.
        Big careers are being made, both in academia & politics.
        Big money’s being made, in renewables, transportation (All those new electric cars, that most of us will be having to use within a few decades tops), gas-fired power (As you can’t run a modern society on unreliable sources of power)
        We’ve long gone past the science, it’s now pure politics.

      • Yes, big big money is behind the scam.

      • Barn E. Rubble

        RE: Adam Gallon, ” . . . why do you think Trump’s not called it out?”

        He has, on many occasions, and continues tweeting about it . . . (OK, among other things he has no understanding of) but he won’t be signing on to the Paris Accord. Well, unless he thinks he’s getting a free car. (A Paris Accord.)

  32. A victory for climate forecasting!
    Thanks to the internet (and virtually every credible scientific institution on the planet) most the people in the industrial world have had years to prepare for extreme events like the current record breaking heat waves in Europe and India.
    I predict almost negligible heat related deaths and record A/C sales.

    Europe has had five 500-year summers in 15 years.
    “Richard Keller, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of medical history. The death toll should be more limited this year, said Keller, the author of Fatal Isolation, a book on the Paris heat wave of 2003 that killed thousands. “France is much better prepared, emergency services are in place, and awareness of the dangers is much higher.”

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  34. Mann has demonstrated that he is not a scientist.
    The convenient thing for NASA is that they can easily ignore climate histories and reconstructions (natural climate variability) predating the instrument and satellite records because they lack the ability to look past 1974.

  35. The First Thing Great Decision Makers Do
    So there’s this relationship between data and one’s decisions. My default decision was I wanted a wind turbine and solar panels. The data tells me what? I so wanted solar panels, putting about a kilowatt of them on my office still might happen. I think the article is about the proper use of data. Do I use data that just supports my views on socialism or social justice? Many people have a tendency to do that.

    • How long did it take you to move from vinyl to reel-to-reel to 8 Track to cassette to CD to MP3? I admit I should have skipped a few cycles like 8 tracks and cassettes but music is a emotional thing so logic fails.
      Solar was simple. How many KWh you use a year * local variable rate * 25yrs = $$.
      My solar calculation was: Safe rate 10/30yr treasury vs. PV cost* / total lifetime output(in KWh)
      *Remember to take advantage of rebates/credits available, including RECs.

  36. Pingback: Truth(?) in testimony and convincing policy makers | Watts Up With That?

  37. Judy,
    “A Guide to Expert Testimony for Climate Scientists” is undoubtedly helpful in a courtroom environment, but it misses the point for why I, a layman, bother to watch public hearings. Besides being technically informative, they give me opportunities to observe and judge the character, and hence the credibility, of both the witnesses and the questioners.
    At 66 years of age, I really don’t need a PhD to discern whether a person might be vain, disrespectful, or equivocating. By my age I’ve seen enough instances of argumentum ad hominem, straw man, cherry-picking, and other fallacious tools of persuasion to recognize them, even when they are wielded by distinguished individuals. I don’t claim infallibility in this regard, only enough discernment to discount a portion of what I hear, draw reasonable conclusions, and set appropriate priorities my own life outside the Beltway and Academia.
    When it comes to character and integrity, Judy, I say that you shine brightly in these hearings. That alone can influence people whom you will never know or meet. Accordingly, whenever you find yourself wondering “why you bother”, please don’t underestimate the value of your excellent scientific and personal example to others!

  38. Please continue to testify! The congressional record will show future generations how charlatans like Mann were refuted by rational scientists like yourself. Rational observers can see who has empirical evidence and who has conjecture.

    • Ireneusz Palmowski

      I completely agree.

    • Hughes Craft

      I agree also. Judith is the standard bearer of scientific skepticism, and it’s important for her to continue to present the science publicly. That’s who she is and she has to be herself.

      The actual forum is secondary. She’s built up excellent credibility and she should stay the course.

  39. Ireneusz Palmowski

    There are still no hurricanes in the Eastern Pacific.

    • melitamegalithic

      Are we in Hittite territory here?
      There was the wonderful ‘curse of Akkad’ thought to have been written within a century of the Hittites being destroyed by a change in the climate bringing a great drought and famine

      ‘For the first time since cities were built and founded,
      The great agricultural tracts produced no grain,
      The inundated tracts produced no fish,
      The irrigated orchards produced neither syrup nor wine,
      The gathered clouds did not rain, the masgurum did not grow.
      At that time, one shekel’s worth of oil was only one-half quart,
      One shekel’s worth of grain was only one-half quart. . . .
      These sold at such prices in the markets of all the cities!
      He who slept on the roof, died on the roof,
      He who slept in the house, had no burial,
      People were flailing at themselves from hunger. ‘

      Climates changes and great civilisations rise and fall. We must look to the lessons of the past when looking at future mitigation. We have seen it all before


      • Tonyb
        7″ sea level rise in 100 years and .5 *C increase in T are not going to destroy any civilization.

        It is all hype and look at dogger banks and that massive land change.

      • Tony,
        I think you are mixing up two different climate-induced disasters here.

        The Hittite Empire was brought down during what is known as the Sea People invasions at the Late Bronze Collapse, dated at ~ 1210-1150 BC (3160-3100 BP).

        The Akkadian Empire was destroyed a thousand years earlier during the 4.2-kyr event, dated at ~ 2200 BC (~4150 BP).

        While both have been linked to megadroughts, there are important differences. The drought of the Late Bronze Collapse seem to have hit hardest the areas around the Black Sea and Western Mediterranean. The drought of the 4.2-kyr event was more widespread, centered on the Arabian Sea and affecting Eastern Africa, the Southern Mediterranean, The Middle East and North-Western India.

        As the article you link says, once a human civilization became fully agricultural dependent, a four year drought and the civilization became history. And some of these droughts lasted decades.

      • Javier

        My intention was not to claim a direct relationship between the articles but to introduce a poem that sums up the enormous changes in climate that occurred in that broad region.

        Perhaps Judith needs to change tack and resort to poetry at her next Congress hearing. ‘Ozymandius’ would be another good one, although not factual it sums up the changes in civilisation.

        I can just see those congressmen and women nodding thoughtfully as Judith declaims;

        ‘And on the pedestal, these words appear:
        My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
        Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
        Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
        Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
        The lone and level sands stretch far away.”


      • A little addition:
        Quote from Javier : ” — once a human civilization became fully agricultural dependent, a four year drought and the civilization became history. –“. A group becomes a ‘civilisation’ when they become fully agrarian. viz: Franz Schwanitz in “The Origin of Cultivated Plants” says that the importance of agriculture to the human race and to civilisation in particular, can be seen by the fact that a hunter or forager needs in general around twenty square kilometres to sustain him. That same land under organized cultivation can support a society of six thousand persons working together. Pastoral group remain nomadic families, and suffer more from droughts. (eg Selling their sons into slavery to escape famine, so they may live).

        History has another telling relic; see However ignore the slant given here, and by Ipuwer himself. It is the collapse of a civilisation when its leaders lost sight of the woods for the gaudy flowers, in times of change. Recall from Herodotus via the priests of Sais, when the sun changed its place of rising, Egypt was not effected. Not directly, but global change effects everyone in the end.

      • aporiac1960


        Poetry is certainly instructional. Belloc may be a lesser poet than Shelley, but ‘Matilda Who told Lies, and was Burned to Death’ is a warning that Mann and his ilk could usefully study.

    • climatereason,
      I think I linked the wrong paper; had been looking through several. This is the one I intended, mainly because it references many sources of research on the same subject. Link:

      The point being inferred is how the reality of the historical events that are becoming very obvious from archaeological research, contrast with today’s idea or perception of ‘climate change’ or ‘global warming’. There is a lesson to be learnt there, and an eye-opener.

      My own research on ‘home-ground’ indicates abrupt change and abandonment starting at 3200bce and peaking at 2200. The geology says plenty. It was not total annihilation, as evidence shows the remaining folk picked up from the ‘ashes’ and started anew – at one point, but departed at a later point -. Key to survival was self sufficiency and resilience and living ‘close to nature’; fundamentally agrarian.

      In today’s society and its economics, the farmer seems to be the one to bear the major brunt of events and the last to be given importance. ( A society might last months without electricity, but won’t last weeks without food. Gold and stocks are not edible). Sadly over my 74 yrs I’ve seen the best productive land destroyed to ‘ideals of luxury’; soils that 400 years ago were imported at some cost to make the country more resilient. Same applies for hydrological works for agrarian irrigation, with depleted aquifers, facing long term ruin. Beneficial insects destroyed, and instead introduced virulent pests through global interconnection. Worse it was found economical to rely on foreign imports of food – from sources that have their own different major problems that today seem ignored. Both sides of the present climate argument seem oblivious of ‘the essential’. What our ancestors had to face in less than decades, our descendants may experience sooner than they think. They have not been prepared, as is evident.
      (ps. Akkad has its own lesson to teach, on a mathematical level, and would show how civilizations were dispersed. But for another time and place).

      • As long as we don’t knock out any critical links in the food web it looks like humans will be around for awhile longer than the pessimist would have us believe.
        Complexity researcher Dr. Eric Berlow, has been mapping ecological systems to see how robust or fragile they may be. Berlow’s detailed studies of these complex systems that map how dependencies in a system combine to create the whole.
        The recurring theme in nature, Berlow said, is that everything is connected, but not equally connected or randomly connected. “The non-randomness in the patterning of the architecture of nature,” Berlow concluded, “is where the library of information about longevity exists.”

  40. Ireneusz Palmowski

    Currently, no tropical cyclones are observed.

  41. It´s always the same with Mr. Hockey Stick. He is a Climate chauvinist like his twin Rahmstorf in Germany. Sooner or later they just link to their own studies…their fantastic religious climate hysteria and politics.

  42. Pingback: June 2019 – The Murgatroyd Diary and Resources

  43. From a serf’s personal perspective, which is okay because I am not giving testimony at a Congressional Committee Hearing, – an opinion on hockey sticks and bristlecones, (h/t the poet Brad Keyes,) Ahemm…

    ‘What good is that wood?
    That wood is no good.
    Would you graph that wood?
    I don’t think I would.’

  44. I enjoyed the c-span version. Most important question was from the Chair when he asked whether anyone disagreed that the earth was warming and no one answered in the positive. That could have been the end of the meeting.

    Interesting discussion about Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Problems are due to ineffective policies. I found the scientist’s discussion less interesting (no offense intended). I liked hearing from the others whose interests were focused on real obstacles and possible solutions that they have encountered.

  45. BTW Judith, I do agree with the sentiment of others here that continuing to testify is important for the public discussion. You are one of the few serious scientists who do it and abandoning the field to people like Mann is both unnecessary and harmful to what little remains of our civil discourse.

  46. “However, I am not cut out to be a politician. I have a bad habit of answering any question as accurately and honestly as I can“

    There’s “the present game”, and then there’s “the meta game”.

    Stay true to the science and your ethics, even if it feel like (and maybe you really are) losing the battle. To do otherwise is to sell your soul.

    Remember that General Washington only won 3 of the over 100 battles fought with the English. Yet in the end, he won the war.

  47. Doug Eaton

    Judith writes: “This makes me wonder what the Democrats are really trying to accomplish with these hearings on climate change. If they are so convinced the science is completely settled, why do they bother with these Hearings?”

    I have always suspected the larger purpose of the incessant bleating about global warming is to eventuate government control over the exploration, mining, refining, distribution and consumption of fossil fuels in free societies. It may take a couple of decades longer, but that has always seemed obvious to me. Such a massive undertaking will require reams of congressional testimony and unceasing manipulative propaganda from the press. For that reason, the incidence of hearings on the subject of climate change will only increase and it doesn’t matter what the science says because there will always be people like Mann who, as Judith demonstrates, are partisans masquerading as scientists.

    This is not new. Before WWII only two countries, Russia (USSR) in 1917 and Mexico in 1938, had nationalized their oil industries. Since then dozens more countries have done so or negotiated oil contracts with major oil production companies that give them more– and often majority– control. Enormous power from oil revenues is accrued in the governments of such countries and that has not gone unnoticed by the American and European left who live in countries where private companies still control fossil fuel production and distribution.

  48. Here are direct quotes from the Ontario Court of Appeal ruling on the constitutionality of the Federal carbon tax:

    “There is no dispute that global climate change is taking place and that human activities are the primary cause.”

    “The uncontested evidence before this court shows that climate change is causing or exacerbating: increased frequency and severity of extreme weather events (including droughts, floods, wildfires, and heat waves); degradation of soil and water resources; thawing of permafrost; rising sea levels; ocean acidification; decreased agricultural productivity and famine; species loss and extinction; and expansion of the ranges of life-threatening vector-borne diseases, such as Lyme disease and West Nile virus. Recent manifestations of the impacts of climate change in Canada include: major wildfires in Alberta in 2016 and in British Columbia in 2017 and 2018; and major flood events in Ontario and Québec in 2017, and in British Columbia, Ontario, Québec and New Brunswick in 2018. The recent major flooding in Ontario, Québec and New Brunswick in 2019 was likely also fueled by climate change.”

    Many, probably most, of these claims clearly and demonstrably run counter to well documented main-stream scientific evidence. This raises many questions, including:

    How did Canada’s Ministry of Environment and Climate Change become so thoroughly politicized as to endorse these obviously false claims?

    The evidence was “uncontested” – where the hell were the Conservatives?

    Where was the press (rhetorical question)?

    This case will be appealed – is anyone going to do a detailed point by point rebuttal of these “facts?”

    • All this means is that the plaintiffs did not produce any evidence on climate change, they merely presented legal arguments about who has what jurisdiction under the Canadian constitution, while the defendant (the federal government), in reply, presented evidence from a recent assessment. That’s what made the evidence “uncontested”.

      When the case is in the Supreme Court of Canada no new evidence can be presented. The case will be herd and decided on the basis of the record in the court below. So there is no opportunity for a point by point rebuttal.

      Canada’s Environment Minister is a keen alarmist and so is our Prime Minister.

  49. Daniel Poon

    In graduate school, I was introduced to two very different perspectives on how normative the presentation of a wicked problem and its solution space ought to be.

    One scientist said, “Lay out the facts and the science so that policymakers can make decisions.”

    Another scientist went much further, saying, “Frame the issue so as to leave no room for inaction.” He cautioned against recommending any particular course of action, but nevertheless insisted upon framing the status quo as maximally untenable, because the status quo is contributing to the problem.

    I have long agreed with the latter scientist’s perspective because there’s an inherent bias toward inaction in any decision-making body. Additionally, lay policymakers are not generally trained to evaluate risks, and as we have seen with the Green New Deal, policymakers are usually incapable of proposing coherent courses of action that actually address a wicked problem. Normative presentation helps a governing body prioritize, weigh, and ultimately decide between competing interests and visions.

    • I think Daniel the problem here is that there are literally millions of “problems” that could be addressed. That’s why scientists need to stick to facts because exaggeration leads to incorrect evaluations of costs and advantages of various possible actions or indeed inaction.

    • Another scientist went much further, saying, “Frame the issue so as to leave no room for inaction.” He cautioned against recommending any particular course of action, but nevertheless insisted upon framing the status quo as maximally untenable, because the status quo is contributing to the problem.

      In other words, it is more important to scare people into fixing something, anything, than it is to understand what needs fixing, or understanding if anything needs fixing. This really describes what has been going on.

      They get rich when they can sell whatever it is that is supposed to be the fix for whatever problem chicken little can come up with.

    • there’s an inherent bias toward inaction in any decision-making body

      That is for a really good reason, the actions that are taken cause much more harm than just doing nothing, until you understand what is really happening, do not do any dumb thing.

      The world is destroying the world economy and the production of low cost, reliable, energy and replacing it with more expensive renewable energy that is not reliable, doing much harm to all the people in the countries and regions that have signed up for this madness. The countries that have not signed up for this madness are laughing at us as they rake in the profits from selling us stuff we should never buy while they build more coal fired power plants because they are a best choice for low cost affordable energy.

    • policymakers are usually incapable of proposing coherent courses of action that actually address a wicked problem.

      You keep giving more and more reasons that they should be doing nothing, they are incapable of doing any right thing.

    • Normative presentation helps a governing body prioritize, weigh, and ultimately decide between competing interests and visions.

      It takes some time to determine which lobby group will give the most money and help the governing body members gain the most.

  50. Ceci n’est pas une crosse de hockey

    After (and apologies to} Rene Magritte

  51. Judith runs over the top of Michael Mann in this article by Graham Lloyd in The Australian:

    Not much left behind.

  52. Pingback: Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #365 | Watts Up With That?

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  55. Dr. Curry, my blog post from January 2016, “Science in the Courts – A Communication Problem; Also a Matter of What is Truth” may be of interest. The first part deals with expert testimony in courts, the second part deals with such testimony in Congressional hearings. The second part begins with “Communication Failure“.

    All the best.

  56. This is a bit late, but I would like to make a couple of points. First, with my background as a trial lawyer, I know that 98% of the general public will not understand sophisticated science arguments. Any complicated scientific argument needs a very concise, simple explanation that can be prefaced by words to the effect that this summary to some extent glosses over complicated ideas, however, the summary is fundamentally true. Then the presenter can reference the more complicated, precise explanations. Without a simple summary, the public and legislators will never be persuaded with respect to scientific issues because they will turn off, realizing that the concepts are impossible for them to understand.

    Both Richard Feynman and Freeman Dyson understood the necessity of simplifying scientific concepts to make them accessible to the public. For instance, Feynman put the material in the Challenger Oring that failed in cold water during a Congressional hearing and doing so was very effective and scientifically accurate.

    Freeman Dyson did something similar in an article he published.

    “To understand the movement of carbon through the atmosphere and biosphere, we need to measure a lot of numbers. I do not want to confuse you with a lot of numbers, so I will ask you to remember just one number. The number that I ask you to remember is one hundredth of an inch per year. Now I will explain what this number means. Consider the half of the land area of the earth that is not desert or ice-cap or city or road or parking-lot. This is the half of the land that is covered with soil and supports vegetation of one kind or another. Every year, it absorbs and converts into biomass a certain fraction of the carbon dioxide that we emit into the atmosphere. ….The number that I ask you to remember is the increase in thickness, averaged over one half of the land area of the planet, of the biomass that would result if all the carbon that we are emitting by burning fossil fuels were absorbed. The average increase in thickness is one hundredth of an inch per year.

    The point of this calculation is the very favorable rate of exchange between carbon in the atmosphere and carbon in the soil. To stop the carbon in the atmosphere from increasing, we only need to grow the biomass in the soil by a hundredth of an inch per year. Good topsoil contains about ten percent biomass,…

    So, my basic point is that giants have concisely simplified complicated scientific issues to make them accessible to the public. No one else should be reluctant to do so.