Open Thread 11

Time for a new open thread.


  1. #1 David Kane
    August 2, 2008

    Apologies for the parochialism, but if you are a Deltoid-reader and Lancet-afficianado and in Denver this week, please come to my panel at the Joint Statistical Meeting on Wednesday. I am also organizing a dinner for the panelists the evening before.

    And, for those planning ahead, we will probably have another panel at JSM 2009. None of the Lancet authors were available this year, but I have already extended invitations for next year.

    For those who have been following this debate closely, it is now fairly obvious (see here) that either the data behind L2 is fake or the data behind IFHS is fake. Although the statistical profession moves slowly, it does, eventually, take these sorts of situations seriously. Stay tuned for more news.

    I keep trying to cajole Tim into starting a new thread on Lancet news. (Here is a candidate for him to mock.) Alas, he does not seem that interested.

  2. #2 ben
    August 3, 2008


  3. #3 mel
    August 4, 2008


    I’m wondering when you’ll do the follow up post on Roger Bate you promised several weeks back re DDT and malaria.

  4. #4 Bernard J.
    August 4, 2008

    For any Australians who might not know, the ABC’s Four Courners is airing an episode on the melting of the Arctic ice tonight at 8.30pm.

    For those in other countries, our beloved public broadcaster is making this episode available over the ‘tubes gratis. It’ll appear here sometime soon after the broadcast, although I am not sure for how long it will be available, so hop to it.

    This should get the juices flowing – on both sides of the poo fight.

  5. #5 Bernard J.
    August 4, 2008

    OK, it’s been bugging me for hours – who was the spin doctor who advised the US government more thana decade ago to use the term ‘climate change’ rather than ‘global warming’?

    Please help me to go to sleep!

  6. #6 Tim Lambert
    August 4, 2008

    mel, thanks for the reminder. I shouldn’t let Bate off the hook.

  7. #7 bi -- IJI
    August 4, 2008

    Bernard J.:

    Frank Luntz.

    Sweet dreams. ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. #8 Hank Roberts
    August 5, 2008
  9. #9 Bernard J.
    August 5, 2008

    Thanks Bi. I will sleep better now!

    I wish that I could have squeezed it from the tip of my tongue last night when I was reading the denialist comments on the Four Corners forum about warming in the arctic. Some bozo claimed it was the IPCC attempting to win the PR battle…

    Hank, yes. I saw an interview with Luntz last year, and he was wryly commenting on his Damascan epiphany. Strange how we never hear the denialists mention this particular snippet in the debate.

    Or maybe not.

    Now, to bed, to sleep, and perchance to dream!

  10. #10 Scott
    August 5, 2008

    A question for Tim or any of the other Aussies who read Deltoid. T.L’s posts about The Australian’s readers not believing their g.w. denialist articles have got me curious. Here in the U.S., people typically subsribe or buy only one newspaper whereas based on my limited experiences in the U.K. and Ireland, people typically by two or more (thereby getting a little bit broader view of the political spectrum). So what do people do in Australia?

  11. #11 John Mashey
    August 6, 2008

    I offer a not very-good article, but it did offer an amusing summary:

    “The atmospheric greenhouse effect is a flea on the back of an oceanic elephant and the influence of CO2 but a microbe on the back of the flea and the influence of anthropogenic CO2 but a molecule on the back of the microbe.”

    To which I’d comment that some fleas can be deadly, i.e., bubonic plague.

  12. #12 mel
    August 6, 2008

    What’s wrong, Tim? Has the catallaxy got your tongue?

  13. #13 Bud
    August 7, 2008

    Scott – from my memory of Australia, you would struggle to get more than one printed news source. It only has two or three national dailies, and none are much cop.

  14. #14 bi -- IJI
    August 8, 2008

    I was just listening to the MP3 of Tom Harris’s talk at the Heartland conference. In the talk, Harris discussed the concepts of “information sharing” and “coordinated local activism”, which are terms that refer to … well, stuff.

  15. #15 blue
    August 8, 2008

    A new name seems to make the rounds, Roger W. Cohen, APS fellow, supporting Monckton:
    on the Anthony Watts website,
    at SPPI.
    He signs as APS fellow.
    The APS archive (1995 to present only) does not list him, scholar searches for R-Cohen + climate or RW-Cohen + atmosphere turn up some Cohens but no Roger W. Cohen.
    So much for his claim “I have been involved in climate change for nearly 30 years.”, I think.

    Who is that writer? Any ideas?

  16. #16 Joe Campbell
    August 9, 2008

    As a head’s up, there is an interesting new blog that has just been started, by Prof Barry Brook.

    It covers a wide range of climate science issues, as well as profiling his new seminar series entitled “Climate Change Q&A – Sceptical Questions and the Scientific Answers”. [podcasts are upcoming, apparently] Definitely worth checking out.

  17. #17 Bernard J.
    August 9, 2008

    Barry’s new blog is to be highly commended, and also recommended to all. I will be especially interested in hearing the responses from those Australian denialists who read it: as Barry is a ‘local’ climate scientist many of these trolls will have no excuse to not make an effort in reading, understanding, and sensibly responding to his material if they dispute it.

    Most especially, I will be interested in finding out exactly why their non-scientific backgrounds trump Barry’s expertise.

    Anyone willing to guess how long it takes a troll to use the vested interest/career security cannard to impute a lack of objectivity on Barry’s part?

  18. #18 Gaz
    August 9, 2008

    Scott #10 “So what do people do in Australia?”

    Oh, you know we just sit around watching kangaroo races and drinking beer..

    Seriously, there are only two national newspapers, plus one or dailies in each of the state capitals.

    Most people get their news from TV, as in most western countries, but most TV news is guided by what’s in the newspapers.

    The ABC (government owned but editorially independent Aust. Broadcasting Corp, not the American broadcaster) provides a counterpoint on radio, TV and www to some of the neo-con stuff in the press.

    It’s internally diverse despite that. For example they gave our favourite spreadsheet builder a platform..

    ..but balanced that with views from a climate scientist..

    However I think the issue here, in relation to the reason most Aussies accept the scientific consensus, is that this is not such a forgiving continent and we know it.

    It’s mostly arid or semi-arid and much of the most productive farmland is subject to fairly frequent drought – and we’ve had a few recently. Restrictions on water use are becoming run of the mill in the major cities. We know how delicate the balance is.

    We know only small changes in the climate can cause real damage.

    We’ve also had our share of man-made ecological blunders – introduced species like rabbits, European carp and cane toads breeding like, well, rabbits, and destructive plants like the prickly pear wreaking havoc.

    Also, the inland southwest of the continent is dominated by the Murray-Darling river basin, which has been abused to the point of no return and is a high-profile political issue.

    So the idea that something we do can cause a catastrophe to the environment which then has a serious negative effect on our lives is a familiar one. As a result there’s not much of a psychological hurdle for us take the whole AGW thing on board.

    Climate change was a big issue in the federal election last year, especially among yonger voters who were annoyed that the government (which lost the election) wouldn’t ratify Kyoto thing and wasn’t doing anything else of significance on the issue.

    That’s my take on this anyway.

    Gotta go.. the kangaroo races are about to start.

  19. #19 bi -- IJI
    August 12, 2008

    I finally did a linear regression over the differences between the Orland and Marysville surface station measurements that Watts has been making noises about.

  20. #20 Bernard J.
    August 13, 2008

    Reading Marohasy’s latest thread on the nonsense that she’s sharing with Duffy, I was overwhelmed with the proliferation of strawmen. Jennifer’s premise at the beginning is thusly constructed, but I was not even a quarter of the way through the comments before I lost count of the denialist scarecrows.

    It strikes me that someone might amusingly waste time and bandwidth, but perhaps to some useful end, by organising a ‘whack-a-strawman’ list.

    Frank, where are you in this hour of need(lessness)?

  21. #21 bi -- IJI
    August 13, 2008

    Bernard J.:

    Hey! I need to sleep too! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Uh-oh. Littlemore is going to debate Monckton on global warming. Doesn’t sound like a good idea to me, but maybe I worry too much.

  22. #22 Brian D
    August 13, 2008

    Bi: My one complaint here isn’t so much that Monckton is going to get publicity (I’m confident that, so long as he can stay ahead of the Gish Gallop and cite sources, Littlemore will decimate him); it’s that Littlemore is now as much in violation of the Sue Us petition as Inactivist Gary.

    I’ll be occupied when it’s airing, sadly — can anyone record it? (To my knowledge, Corus doesn’t have these things ready to download.)

  23. #23 Lance
    August 13, 2008

    Bernard J,
    “Anyone willing to guess how long it takes a troll to use the vested interest/career security cannard to impute a lack of objectivity on Barry’s part?”

    Let’s see, he is the director of “The Research Institute for Climate Change and Sustainability”. Do you suppose he is likely to have a bias on whether climate change is occurring and whether we need to make large scale changes to facilitate sustainability?

    What if I linked to a guy who was the Director of the Natural Variability studies department of the Institute for Industrial Land Use. Would you expect he might have a few preconceived ideas? That would be a “cannard” right?

  24. #24 Bernard J.
    August 14, 2008


    Rather than speculate on Barry’s motives myself, I thought it best to get the truth straight from the horse’s mouth. I’ve put it to him here.

    I am a little surprised that you are the one who took the bait. I would have thought that you, as one who has experience in academic endeavour, could easily discriminate between the scientists who are motivated by their interest and understanding of the science and the implications that arise from it, on the one hand, and the (small number) of less-than-scupulous folk who have rather less noble inclinations, on the other hand.

    I have worked for, and with, both types, and it generally doesn’t take a (mythical) rocket scientist to pick the difference – just a knowledge of how science really works.

    Admittedly, the practise of science often seems to be arcane and indecipherable to the average lay person, but seriously, do you really think that climate science is populated with men and women who are out to make a buck or to push an ideological barrow when the truth or otherwise of their work lies forever in the journals of the world for all to see?

    Dissembling , distortion and dishonesty might work well for lobby groups where the aim is to achieve a corporate or an ideological end, but deliberate fraud in science is not tolerated, the fevered imaginings of the conspiracy theorists notwithstanding.

    Or a you now conflating the bulk of climate science with tobacco ‘science’, CFC ‘science’ and other such dubious (at best) lobbies?

  25. #25 bi -- IJI
    August 14, 2008


    > What if I linked to a guy who was the Director of the Natural Variability studies department of the Institute for Industrial Land Use. Would you expect he might have a few preconceived ideas? That would be a “cannard” right?

    It’ll be a “canard” if that’s the only reason cited to dismiss him. And — surprise, surprise — I’ve blogged about this issue before.

  26. #26 bi -- IJI
    August 14, 2008


  27. #27 bi -- IJI
    August 14, 2008

    Ugh ugh ugh… why do I see an ad for one of Lomborg’s books in the right sidebar of this blog? Lambert should invent a way to click on an ad a negative number of times.

  28. #28 Lance
    August 14, 2008

    Bernard J,

    In my second post at Barry’s blog I clarified that I didn’t think he was in it “for the money”.

    My point was that when the very name of the institution asserts it’s conclusion of the phenomenon it seeks to investigate as an antecedent (climate change) and then infers policy direction (sustainability) it is hard to suggest that said organization is neutral on the issues involved.

    Does it not disturb you a bit that the very name of the institution asserts a scientific conclusion rather than an area of investigation? Also the word “sustainability” is a loaded political word. Frankly it sounds more like the name of an environmental “think tank” than an independent research institution.

    Scientists are people and they are prone to all of the social and political pressures of group think and network bias that influences other collections of professionals and administrators. As an academic I’m sure you are aware of this fact.

  29. #29 Chris O'Neill
    August 14, 2008

    when the very name of the institution asserts it’s conclusion of the phenomenon it seeks to investigate as an antecedent (climate change)

    You’re out of your mind if you think there is no climate change.

  30. #30 Bernard J.
    August 14, 2008


    You actually pose an interesting question.

    ‘Climate Change’ itself I would not regard as a value-loaded phrase, as there is a large body of science supporting it, even if there are true sceptics as well as a plethora of denialists. I think that it is able to stand as a valid descriptor, and it does not necessarily imply a bias in an institution that uses the term in its name. One could be a sceptic and work in CC: indeed, isn’t this the basis for the counter AGW case?

    As an ecologist, I have no problem with the concept of ‘sustainability’, but that may be because I think of it in different terms to a lay person. For me it represents a point/boundary/zone of human impact in an environmental/ecological spectrum that might be scientifically, albeit very difficultly, defined. In this sense its use in an institutional name tells me something, but I can see that this might be perceived differently by people with different views, especially with views that are inherently threatened by the (real or imagined) conflict of ‘sustainability’ and their own non-environmental interests.

    If others do attach a value-judgement to ‘sustainability’, this might reflect a different way in which the term is interpreted, or comes to be interpreted as spin-doctoring taints its initial meaning over time. The trouble is that whenever a controversial concept is incorporated into a moniker, no matter how innocuous that term is in the beginning, sooner or later someone is going to take umbrage, and the term will become politically loaded. We could run forever in those instances to chase neutrality, and never avoid eventual loadedness of certain descriptors.

    In such instances I think that there is an onus upon each of us to understand the intent of the name, before placing upon it our own or someone else’s value-judgement of it. Books and covers, and all that…

    Not to do so is to my way of thinking either intellectual laziness, or just plain ignorance.

    In this vein, the dissemblance that is inherent in some names could be equally used to judge (harshly) the material coming from thus-named organisations. Marohasy’s “Australian Environment Foundation” and her “Science and Environment” blog spring immediately to mind (she’s prolific with her ‘material’ at the moment). Both of Marohasy’s descriptors are intended to conjure impressions of scientific credibility, concern for valid environmental science and determinations of scientifically-justified use of the environment, but in reality none of these three intended impressions are valid. Scratch beneath the surface and it is quite plain that both AEF and S&E are vested-interest lobby tools, pure and simple.

    I could draw this to the attention of all when engaging (shudder) AEF or S&E, but in the end everyone understands that they are shop fascades and its the haggling over the counter that is much more important – or not, in this particular example!

    Carrying the metaphor back to your point, this understanding is not perhaps grasped by casual window shoppers, but in Barry’s case, aren’t we all already inside the store?

    And yes, I well know that scientists are political beasties as much as other folk. Whatever might happen in the corridors, tea-rooms and faculty meetings, the thing with the products of science is that they should be free of bias: peer-review should knock any such edges off, most institutions and journals have disclosure requirements where appropriate, and ultimately the published results should stand scrutiny for bias (quite aside from scientific validity) over time. In this regard I would hope that the vast majority of scientists are better able than most to separate their politics from their work – indeed, this concept is almost tautological.

    If not, then there is probably no hope for anyone else at all, and we might as well give up any pretense at human objectivity.

  31. #31 Lance
    August 14, 2008

    Chris O’Neill,

    “You’re out of your mind if you think there is no climate change.”

    If by that you mean that the climate is not static, then of course “climate change” is occurring and has since the time the earth cooled to form an atmosphere.

    The words “climate change”, as I’m sure you are well aware, have become synonymous with significant and dangerous anthropogenic global warming.

    That is why the institution we are discussing using the words “climate change” in its name is indicative of bias.

    Bernard J.,

    Would not the name Research Institute for Climate Studies and Human Impacts be a more neutral name?

    Your point that innocuous words can take on a pejorative meaning at a later time is moot since the Institute was founded in 2006 and the words “climate change” and “sustainability” were already politically loaded at that time. Indeed the Institutes “mission” listed on its website states the following,

    We undertake multidisciplinary research to mitigate carbon emissions and develop adaptive strategies to respond to the anticipated impacts of climate change.

    As you can see their mission is not one of investigation of the causes of climate change. It is clear that they have taken that as a given to be carbon emissions. They have also taken it as a given that we can “anticipate” “impacts” from climate change.

    These are not the hallmarks of an organization dedicated to impartially interpreted climate data. They have quite clearly made up their minds.

    If you weren’t yet convinced here is a statement form the welcome page.

    Most of the climate change likely to be observed over the next few decades will result from greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere. Further it is unlikely that greenhouse gases will be stabilised in the atmosphere for several decades and therefore climate patterns will continue to change.(emphasis mine)

    The word “will” certainly removes any doubt that they are open to interpreting any data that doesn’t comport with their preconceived conclusions.

    Also their welcome page says that the institute “was established as a joint initiative of the University of Adelaide and the Government of South Australia” so it is clear that it is in effect a government agency dedicated to furthering a pre-established policy rather than a research institution charted in the mission of open inquiry.

  32. #32 Lance
    August 14, 2008

    The word “charted” in the last sentence should obviously read “chartered”. Apologies for the typo

  33. #33 dhogaza
    August 14, 2008

    Does it not disturb you a bit that the very name of the institution asserts a scientific conclusion rather than an area of investigation?

    Doesn’t bother me one bit. Why would it? AGW has been shown true by any reasonable scientific measure. Bias towards truth isn’t a problem. You’d complain if a research institution proclaimed itself to be researching evolutionary biology, too, I suppose?

  34. #34 Bernard J.
    August 15, 2008


    We could continue splitting semantic hairs until the cows come home but, I suspect, with very little productive consequence. In this instance we are fortunate to have Barry’s ear, and I am sure that if you put it to him he will elaborate on his raison d’รชtre.

    If, after you have a response from him, you still have a problem with nomenclature and such, then perhaps we can continue a philosophical discussion, but I am not sure that you can ever prove the initial point, which is that Barry’s desire for employment clouds his objectivity.

    In this I would simply refer to my previous point, which is that the content of Barry’s output should stand upon its own merits. And as much as you might disagree with his conclusions, Barry’s stance reflects the scientific consensus, so any imputation of a lack of objectivity starts to skate close the conspiracy theories that denialists (as opposed to true sceptics) parade.

    Perhaps to the consternation of other regulars on Deltoid, I do not classify you as a conspiracist.

    Please reassure me on this.

  35. #35 Lance
    August 15, 2008

    Bernard J.,

    You can rest assured that I am not a “conspiracist”. To borrow a phrase from a like minded blogger I am a “luke-warmer”. I think there has been some warming the last century and that human activities have had some effect.

    I happen to think that an institutional momentum out of proportion with the evidence has developed in climate science. I have confidence that science is a self-correcting process and that this imbalance will be corrected.

  36. #36 Brian D
    August 15, 2008

    Quick question that shifts the topic slightly:

    Around December, Tim blogged about Vincent Gray’s comment fiasco on the AR4. Since then, all of the sources I’ve used to cite that (the comments themselves, and Dave Semeniuk’s excellent analysis thereof) have either vanished from the face of the internet or been locked for public access (I seem to recall Dave getting some violent mail from inactivists).

    Did anyone save those AR4 comments, or know of a mirror for any of the above? (I’ve already tried to no avail.)

  37. #37 Bernard J.
    August 16, 2008


    I certainly concur with you on the self-correction inherent in science.

    I am curious about how you would describe what you perceive as the consensus in current climate science, and how this differs from what you perceive as the current ‘momentum’ in the institutions responsible for conducting this science.

    What self-correction have you seen to date, if any?

  38. #38 bi -- IJI
    August 16, 2008

    A way to listen to the Littlemore vs. Monckton debate online.

  39. #39 Chris O'Neill
    August 16, 2008


    The words “climate change”, as I’m sure you are well aware, have become synonymous with significant and dangerous anthropogenic global warming.

    You weren’t talking about what the words have supposedly become synonymous with, you were talking about “the very name” of the institution, not some synonym. Please keep your pre-conceived notions out of this.

  40. #40 bi -- IJI
    August 18, 2008

    My attempt at a quick post-mortem of the Littlemore vs. Monckton debate. Then there’s the aftermath

  41. #41 blue
    August 18, 2008

    Brian D.

    For the comments on the AR4 drafts go here:

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