The Island of Doubt

It’s not so much that the pseudoskeptics who dominate the climate change denial camp are particularly clever, but they have been rather fortunate, and the forces aligned on the side of science have turned out to be human after all. The result is the denial camp is winning, and those on the defensive have some thinking to do.


First, consider the timing of recent events.

As the year began, climatologists were able to launch what should have been a devastating counterattack to the nonsensical but appealing notion that global warming has been replacing by global cooling. The records show that the first decade of the century was the warmest on record. Not only that, but 2009 tied for the second warmest year on record. This despite the recent La Niña, the phase of the irregular ENSO cycle that temporarily cools the surface waters of the oceans and consequently the lower atmosphere, and an unusually long solar minimum, which has the same qualitative, though not quantitative, effect on the Sun’s heating of the planet.

Then there was the nail in the coffin of the already moribund argument that the siting of U.S. weather stations lent a warming bias to temperature records. A new paper from the staff of the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., concluded the net bias came in the form of a cooling trend. If anything, temperatures in the U.S. have been rising more than previously thought. (Although the real bias is tiny, the important point is the absence of a warming bias.)

Given those facts, even a middle-school student can see the thesis that any warming trend was natural and short-lived is just plain false. And indeed, after a spate late last year of “there’s been no warming since 1998″ stories, largely in the UK but also to a surprising extent in the US, that particular fiction is no longer a favorite of the anti-intellectual pundits. But that hasn’t silenced them.

Instead, they’ve switched from attacking the science to attacking the scientists. The advent of the publication of hundreds of private emails among leading climatologists made this as easy as shooting fish in a barrel. We’ve all written things in haste that we’d love to retract, but that’s just not possible in the wired world. And everyone makes mistakes. Automobile manufacturers sell cars with faulty accelerators and brakes because they’re staffed by humans, just as IPCC authors cut corners and disregard protocol because they’re human.

Here’s IPCC author Phil Duffy, whose thoughts on the subject inspired mine:

Things happen, but let’s react appropriately. Medical doctors make mistakes every day. (In fact, medical errors in the US alone kill hundreds of people daily–the equivalent of a jumbo-jet crash.) And no doubt many of these errors happen because established procedures are ignored, sometimes knowingly. Does this mean the entire edifice of western medicine is wrong, or prejudiced, or the product of a conspiracy, and should be rejected? Of course not. Furthermore, the medical profession as a whole is still held in high regard, as it should be.

No one worth listening to is calling for a massive inquiry into the science underpinning modern medicine, or the engineering foundations of the car industry. But pseudoskeptics argue that the IPCC is systematically fraudulent simply because a couple of statements among thousands of pages of heavily edited and re-editing (and re-re-edited) documents cite gray literature instead of the peer-reviewed literature that supplied the science in the first place.

Is it controversial among those study such things that 40% of the Amazon is susceptible to drought? No. Is it controversial that Himalayan glaciers are receding? No. Only the way in which that science was presented and attributed was found faulty. To thrown out anthropogenic global warming because of such missteps is the climatological analog of dismissing an entire faculty of medicine because someone correctly diagnosed a patient because of a story they read in New Scientist instead of the medical journal article on which the story was based. Bad judgment? Yes. Fatal error? No.

Yet, that’s not the impression we get from reading the likes of George Will, or James Delingpole or Ian Plimer or Anthony Watts or any of the other questionable sources that find their way into Climate Debate Daily’s right-hand column. They would have you believe that climatologists are universally dishonest and/or stupid, more so than those of any other profession or trade. And after suffering years of insults to their intelligence and integrity, a few climatologists occasionally lose their cool in private correspondence, thus supplying the denial-mongers the fodder for this latest offensive in their war on reason and science.

There has been much gnashing of teeth among those who study the communication of science over the climate community’s poor “messaging.” But honest evaluation is there is no way scientists could have anticipated the challenges they face. The world has never before demanded so much of its scientists.They could not have been expected to self-censor their emails because there’s never been a comparable revelation of once-private correspondence among scientists. With 20-20 hindsight, the errors are evident. But that’s always the case with 20-20 hindsight, isn’t it.

So where does that leave those who care about getting the science message out to the public?

I have only one suggestion at this time, though hopefully more will become evident in the near future. The mainstream media has got to stop giving time and space to those who have no expertise in the field. Journalists who consider themselves in the business of supplying something akin to the truth have got to stand up to editors who insist on upon false equivalency or stop calling themselves journalists. News outlet administrators who pretend to respect their readers, viewers and listeners should read the riot act to anyone who blogs or otherwise works under their banner and insist they start respecting science if they want to continue in that capacity.

This isn’t about censorship. Thanks to the Internet, everyone can find a way to spread their point of view. It’s about applying the same standards to coverage of climate change that “respectable” media apply to fields like sports, business and other fields. Sports bloggers and journalists for major news organizations couldn’t get away with making up baseball statistics for long. They’d be laughed out of the office. Business reporters can’t supply false stock market numbers because that would be a violation of very essence of what they’re supposed to be doing. And yet climate science is somehow different. If you work for the Daily Mail or Telegraph in the UK, or Fox News (or the Washington Post‘s op-ed section) in the U.S., you can say or print anything you want about climatology, without regard for the facts. That should not be tolerated.

It’s not much, but it’s a start.

Comments

  1. #1 Pam Ronald
    February 4, 2010

    “The mainstream media has got to stop giving time and space to those who have no expertise in the field. ”

    exactly.

    Did you see that the anti-vaccination crowd is STILL supporting Wakefield even though he was shown to have conducted studies that were not ethical and he was paid by lawyers who are suing companies that produce vaccines? (this week in the NYT)

    Sheesh.It is very discouraging

  2. #2 Roberto Jamone
    February 4, 2010

    Yes,

    “That should not be tolerated” after all, dissent should never be permitted.

    This is the first time I’ve ever heard a climate warming advocate ever agree with the Iranian religious right.

    Way to go!

  3. #3 G.D.
    February 4, 2010

    And Roberto Jamone’s utter lack of ability to grasp what was being said shows you a lot about what the problem is. I am unsure whether he even sees that the move ‘newspapers shouldn’t let people publish stuff with utter disregard for the facts’ to ‘dissent should never be permitted’ is a glaring misinterpretation and one that gives him nothing a strawman from hell.

  4. #4 Hannah Bailey
    February 4, 2010

    I highly doubt the main reason is that non-experts get airtime on TV. And even if it was, how do you stop every Limbaugh, Hannity, and misinformed pundit from talking about global warming? Pass a law saying “If you’re not a scientist, you can’t talk about science over the air?”. No way.

    I’d say the main problem people have isn’t truly with the science, but with the implication the science seems to bring. As an Average Joe, the main people talking about global warming seem to be Democratic politicians and UN bureaucrats harping on about how it’ll doom us all, and the only way to fix it is higher taxes, less freedom for individuals and corporations, and the US giving tons of money to pay for more third-world palac- I mean infrastructure. I mean, ask the average person who the face of global warming is, and they’ll probably say Al Gore. How about the politicians with their agendas shut up, and let the scientists do the talking? Then maybe the doubts will decrease.

  5. #5 BaldApe
    February 4, 2010

    What amazes me is the resemblance between AGW deniers and cdesignproponentsists. In fact, it is the very structure of their arguments– the appeal to authority of scientists who are not climatologists, the grasping at straws to find some glacier somewhere that is advancing, the massaging of data to make it look like the last decade is cooling, the ad-hominem attacks, etc.– that most makes me reject what they have to say.

    As for this,

    The mainstream media has got to stop giving time and space to those who have no expertise in the field.

    Good luck with that. As long as some nut case has a contrary argument, the press will feel honor bound to present “both sides.”

    “The world is flat.”

    “No it isn’t.”

    Becomes a “controversy” in the press, rather than just contradicting an idiot.

  6. #6 pough
    February 4, 2010

    Roberto Jamone wrote:

    I agree with the Iranian religious right.

    Shocking and disgusting, but a little off-topic, don’t you think? Weren’t we discussing stupidity, misrepresentation, lying and quote mining?

  7. #7 Jim
    February 4, 2010

    As Phil shows, the debate is not about the science but about pure emotion. Most people base their decisions on emotion and identity with their social group, not the facts, as Phil demontrates.

    If you want to win over people to start believing in and doing somehting about global warming then you must appeal to their emotions. Spouting facts does little. Many journalists are just about the ratings, they know that stirring emotions gets eyeballs on their news stories and controversy stirs emotions, whether or not the controversy exists.

    Until the global warming public outreach community reaches out to people on an emotional level progress will be slow at best. The communicators need to appeal to people at a personal level. What does global warming mean to the individual? How does it affect the individual? Why should the individual care?

  8. #8 Don Langosta
    February 4, 2010

    I am not a denier or skeptic of any sort. I’d be inclined to call myself a believer, but I don’t like the connotation that I’d be unwilling to disbelieve.

    That said, what is the point of arguing this? Those who are not convinced now will never be, and truth is not a popularity contest; even if 99% of the planet believes climate change is a farce, that doesn’t make it so. Of course that’s the same kind of argument the skeptics use.

    Even if we all get on board about climate change, even if we convince the pseudoscientists to shut up and stop muddying the waters, then what? We won’t do anything about it; it would be far too expensive and the system is so complex we wouldn’t be able to fix the problem without risking an over-correction. Even if you get the pundits to agree it’s a real thing they’ll still say it isn’t anthropocentric and therefore there’s nothing we can (or should) do about it.

    I’m sorry to be defeatist, but this is a political argument. Not a scientific one. The politics do not change the science and the science is sound. Instead of fighting this losing battle, the scientific community should be looking for ways to quietly, subtly improve our chances of adapting, in ways that no one could find objectionable. That is the only way anything will ever get done.

    The deniers will go to their hot, dusty graves still denying, their last words, “is it cold today or is it just me?”

  9. #9 Baghdad Bob
    February 4, 2010

    What’s the matter James? Can’t take your own medicine I see.

    -Cheers

  10. #10 Nick
    February 4, 2010

    It’s very simple. The alarmists have been losing the argument because the science is bad science.

    Rather than complain because of some notion of solidarity with another ‘scientist’ you should be acting like a skeptic and trying to disprove the theories.

    After all, that’s the way science is done, unless its post modernist science

  11. #11 JerryM
    February 4, 2010

    No one worth listening to is calling for a massive inquiry into the science underpinning modern medicine

    Here lies the problem. If you’ve followed fellow skeptical blogs, you’d know that this is exactly what people are doing. CAM is rampant, and using all kinds of similar strawmen and conspiracy theories to question modern medicine.

    When we can’t even stop that field, with quick trials and clear evidence of efficacy – or none, from being represented in the media, we’ve got no hope about climate, with it’s climate!=weather problem, and the dire predictions from both sides, both climatologically and monetary.

    See also the latest http://www.smbc-theater.com/ Both Sides video for a chuckle and a sigh.

  12. #12 Jamie Alexander
    February 4, 2010

    I disagree with Jim (comment #7). Yes the denialists use emotion rather than reason to advance their agendas and we ought to take that into account. We ought to respond to people’s emotions—acknowledge them and give what comfort and reassurances we can—but we ought not to appeal to them. We are already labeled “alarmists” when we merely point out possible logical consequences of unmitigated global warming. Actively seeking to move people with emotional appeals will only give more credence to charges that we are pursuing a hidden political agenda of our own rather then wanting to deal with the unpleasant reality of global warming.

    We can express sympathy and understanding for the fear and anxiety that the facts evoke in people without giving up the exposition of those facts as our main method of persuasion. We do need to realize, however, that merely reciting the facts is not sufficient. We need to do a lot of patient explaining about where those facts come from. We need to rebuild trust in science and the scientific method, not by merely asserting that it is worthy of trust but by showing people that the results are reliable.

    We also need to refrain from spending all our energies contesting with denialists. That is their game. It is the contest itself that moves forward their agendas. They are a source of noise that should be ignored or filtered out as much as possible. That doesn’t mean allowing them free reign in the media. They need to be countered at every move. But if we can do that without drawing attention to them directly we’ll be much better off.

  13. #13 Gerard Harbison
    February 4, 2010

    The mainstream media has got to stop giving time and space to those who have no expertise in the field.

    Darn right. I’m tired of listening to Al Gore and Rajendra Pachauri, retired politician and railway engineer respectively.

  14. #14 Abdul Alhazred
    February 4, 2010

    Doomed. :)

  15. #15 BrerFox
    February 4, 2010

    I suppose this is no place to disagree but, I had the unfortunate experience of reading every one of the emails.

    You can read them any way you wish but the overriding experience was one of scientists who were selecting data to fit their theory, back balling skeptics, subverting the peer review process, self promotion, avoiding FOI law, deleting information, avoiding taxes and the list goes on and on.

    If their beliefs were true, they should have been concerned for their planet and trying to get anyone to demonstrate their error. They would have been staying up at night trying to find someone who could show them errors.

    My dear and sincere friends that is not what they were doing!

    If the AGW theory was genuine science they would have been entirely open and would have welcomed skepticism. If my calculations showed the world ending in short order I would be shouting from the roof tops to find out if I had made an error.

    I have been following this for a nearly a year. I have not seen one single bit of science that sustains the AGW position. If there is a problem then let the discussion be about that, not about how we can keep others from expressing their interpretation of the data.

    When the AGW group uses tree ring data on 12 trees and someone asks why they didn’t include the 50 +/- other trees in the study, I want an answer.

    When they use temperatures from thermometers that were moved, I want to know why. When they use temperatures from urban heat bubbles, I want to know why.

    When they are talking about the trillions of dollars and the loss of freedom I want them to answer the skeptics clearly and promptly.

    I have taken the position that by their actions they have proven, beyond a reasonable doubt, that AGW is a non-existent threat.

  16. #16 Kate
    February 4, 2010

    This is a fantastic article, James. Your insights for all sorts of facets of this problem were spot-on. I’m going to spread this post around in the hopes that more people will read it.

  17. #17 toby
    February 4, 2010

    Brer Fox wrote:

    “If the AGW theory was genuine science they would have been entirely open and would have welcomed skepticism.”

    There was a time when that was so, but when you have shot down the arguments 1 to 100, and then they come around to 1 all over again in a new guise, all you can do is throw up your hands. It is the tactics of the Tobacco Industry, Intelligent Designers, & Holocaust denialists all over again, and it is excellent media manipulation because the public is left with the impression of a “scientific debate” when the science is long settled.

    While we are at it, the petrochemical and coal industires are multi-billion dollar enterprises with tens of thousands of tame scientists. If they have not been able to fund a study debunking global warming by now, then that is a great argument for it.

    Bre Fox added “I have been following this for a nearly a year. I have not seen one single bit of science that sustains the AGW position.”

    Great! You have been reading contrarian blogs and ill-informed journalists, and you are an expert. Spouting shite about your freedom is no great wisdom when you have already sold it out to get cheap oil from brutal dictatorships in the Middle East.

    I think the theme suggested above is basically the right one. There may have to be a sharper demarcation between science and activism. I think we are clear when Richard Dawkins is speaking as a scientist and as an activist for a Humanist approach to life. What we can offer as scientists is an honest evaluation of proposed solutions – or lack of them. Let the politicos do the rest.

  18. #18 crazy Bill
    February 4, 2010

    “It’s not so much that the pseudoskeptics who dominate the climate change denial camp are particularly clever, but they have been rather fortunate,”

    You’ve probably got to remember that the ‘climate change denial camp’ has some extremely strong motivations to win the political war – as others have pointed out the fossil fuel industry is worth trillions overall, with exxon itself making $40Billion profit each year. Of course they are going to fight tooth and nail to avoid the constraints that the science is indicating are required. As we have previously seen with tobacco, asbestos, lead, CFCs, acid rain, etc etc, dirty industries and their pushers are not shy of using dirty tricks to discredit the science calling for cleanups.

  19. #19 Islander of doubt
    February 4, 2010

    At least the moral righteousness has been slapped out of the agw zealots. Now on to understanding the real science. It will be interesting to see where real science takes us. Reset. Start over ready begin.

  20. #20 dhogaza
    February 4, 2010

    It will be interesting to see where real science takes us. Reset. Start over ready begin.

    Yes, it’s time to disinter the remains of Tyndall and burn this pseudoscientist’s bones into oblivion!

    Obviously, he and the generations of physicists who followed were wrong. Very wrong. He was probably even born a pre-Marx Marxist!

    (gotta wonder if our troll understands just how much of science needs to be thrown out if his wish is to come true).

  21. #21 Stephen
    February 4, 2010

    James,

    Just a note that your third paragraph is confusing; it’s either El Niño or La Niña, but you’ve written El Niña.

    We’re currently in a moderate El Niño condition (see here)

  22. #22 Lyle
    February 4, 2010

    Hannah in #4 catches the correct point many have apocalypse fatigue having heard in many cases for most of their life that the end of the world is near. The proponets of global warming forget the most important question people ask about anything “Whats in it for me?” If the answer is blood sweat toil and tears, you better be standing off Hitler in the UK, otherwise you will not get thru. If as many supporters of the climate change theory say there are to many people, do your part, kill yourself to help out! A negative message is what the media love recall the line “end of the world predicted film at 11″. Lets face it we are all going to die the only question is when.
    But the issue about mitigation is that no one can agree on fundamental questions, starting with what is the discount rate to apply to the future? What to do about climate change depends greatly on this from an economic point of view, if the rate is 8%+ the answer becomes nothing if small then something makes sense. The issue that we are doing it for our children and grandchildren has a problem in that its only a part of an answer to whats in in it for me as they may or may not survive due to other causes.
    Predicting the end of the world as we know it is a popular passtime that has occurred for at least 2000 years.
    I have about concluded its to late to do anything so best to enjoy what time we have left, i.e. follow the sermon on the mount about the lillies who toil not, or related eat drink and be merry for tommorrow we will die.

  23. #23 Anna Haynes
    February 4, 2010

    > “I have only one suggestion at this time… The mainstream media has got to stop giving time and space to those who have no expertise in the field. Journalists who consider themselves in the business of supplying something akin to the truth have got to stand up to editors who insist on upon false equivalency or stop calling themselves journalists. …start respecting science….”

    IMO there needs to be a 1-stop-shop serving as a climate science resource doing handholding, quotes etc. for journalists; I suspect that right now, the only folks who’re willing/able to lavish time on journalists & help them interpret the science are the well-funded anti-science folks.

  24. #24 Art
    February 4, 2010

    IMHO the reason global warming gets denied and the denials get believed has nothing to do with how the scientists present the message. Or even the message as such.

    Imagine if the vast majority of the research pointed to fossil fuels not running out. That burning them helped the environment. That all the stuff we are doing now is fine and there was no need to change a thing.

    How would this go over? How would it be reported? Who would fight it? I think that the proposition would be immediately be broadcast by all media outlets. It would accepted by virtually everyone at first blush and everyone would go about business as usual with a big SEG on their face.

    The reason global warming isn’t accepted more widely has nothing to do with global warming or any lack of evidence. It has everything to do with it meaning we have to change.

    The question is not: how do we get people to believe in and react to global warming. The question is simply: How do you get people to accept bad news? How do you get people to change?

    This has more to do with addiction, mental inertia and our fear of change. I remember a study the looked at RNs who smoked and how many of them quit smoking. The RNs were certainly aware of the health consequences. They were likely well aware of the health consequences. The problem was not the uncertainty of the research or a failure to present to information well. The bottom line is that they smoked and were used to smoking. So even though they knew it might kill them most continued to smoke.

    We like our cheap energy. We like using all the energy we want and not worrying about the CO2. The fossil fuel industry like their profits. And we like the energy they produce. Yes, it will likely cause major problems and it is going to all come crashing down in a terribly destructive, uncontrolled and unpredictable ways. But that is tomorrow.

    Humans are simply not very good at controlling themselves to avoid undesirable consequences in the future. Historically there has had to be a major disaster and loss of life before people are willing to change. That’s just the way we are.

  25. #25 Katkinkate
    February 5, 2010

    Well said Art. The climate scientists’ message is being shot down in flames everywhere you look because, humans have always reacted violently to the messengers bearing bad news. Especially when it’s the rich and powerful that are being asked to bear the brunt of the costs of fixing it.

  26. #26 Hey! Get This...
    February 5, 2010

    The non-scientific public is selective and inconsistent about their suspicions of scientists. As Duffy, Hrynyshyn, et al., note, people may trust their doctors’ knowledge, but distrust climate scientists. Or, they will trust their dentist, and also believe an anti-vaccine quack.

    This is the same confusion that people exhibit in fearing the dangers of flying while casually accepting frequent in-town car trips as safe.

  27. #27 llewelly
    February 5, 2010

    But honest evaluation is there is no way scientists could have anticipated the challenges they face.

    Even if they had, what more could they do? Fossil fuel companies have billions of dollars to spend on PR. Climate scientists do not have that kind of money. The existence of extremely wealthy businesses is making this planet unlivable.

  28. #28 antonio zecca
    February 5, 2010

    It is simply *not true* that the denialist camp is winning. Today it is snowing here: this does not mean at all that “we are going in a new glaciation”. Even if week to week weather fluctuates from high to low, climate will go warmer and warmer in the next decades. The denialist camp is today on a winning fluctuation. They will (are already) loosing their stupid war.

  29. #29 Little Timmy
    February 5, 2010

    Could someone please tell me how to get a cimatology degree?

  30. #30 Owen
    February 5, 2010

    That said, what is the point of arguing this?

    This would be my personal opinion. The argument must be made and public support gained in order for changes to be made. Although I think we’ve gone far too long and there’s little chance of science winning this argument any time soon.

    Good thing I’m old an will be long gone before the shit hits the fan.

  31. #31 pough
    February 5, 2010

    Could someone please tell me how to get a cimatology degree?

    From an institution that confers upon people degrees in climatology. If you read stuff here, you know the names of at least a few climatologists. Find out where they went to university. Talk to that university.

  32. #32 donjoe
    February 5, 2010

    “What amazes me is the resemblance between AGW deniers and cdesignproponentsists.”
    Are you sure you’re not looking in the mirror, honey? :) Here are a few similarities between Xtian and climatic apocalyptists:

    * Each group ignores millions of years of Earth’s history when humans were not on the Earth.

    * Each group denies any major natural causation of the phenomenon or event that they are discussing.

    * Each group places human beings at the center of whatever phenomenon is being discussed. All else in nature is incidental.

    * Each group has massive floods (either in the past or the soon-to-be future) as a large basis of their beliefs.

    * ACGW proponents and Creationists each claim that mankind faces dire consequences relatively soon.

    * ACGW and Creationists each claim it is humans’ wicked ways for the cause of our soon-to-be troubles.

    * Early Christians (the religious roots of Creationism) bought “indulgences” as a means of lessening the punishment for their sins. The ACGW crowd purchases “carbon credits” to make up for their “sin” of using carbon.

    * Those who accept ACGW fear carbon. Creationists fear carbon dating.

    * After several public defeats, Creationists changed the term “Creationism” to “Intelligent Design.” After several cold snaps, ACGW proponents changed the term “Global Warming” to “Global Climate Change.”

    * Creationists claim if a person doesn’t believe in Creationism, then that person can’t be moral. ACGW proponents claim (or perhaps just imply) if a person doesn’t fully accept that humans are solely responsible for Earth’s recent warming trend (and that it will almost certainly lead to catastrophe), then that person can’t care about the environment.

    * Creationists places the planet Earth at the center of importance in the Universe. The ACGW focuses solely on the planet Earth while ignoring other cosmic factors that help shape Earth’s climate while also ignoring Mars’ recent warming trend.

    * The ranks of Creationists have had more than their share of doomsday prophets making all sorts of date-specific claims of the pending end of the world that never panned out. Likewise, the environmental doomsayers, from whom the current crop of ACGW proponents have sprung, also made all sorts of date-specific predictions of doom and gloom that failed just as miserably as those of any fire-and-brimstone fundamentalist. Just check out any of the failed (and rather laughable) dire predictions from the first Earth Day in 1971.

    ;)

  33. #33 Little Timmy
    February 5, 2010

    “Could someone please tell me how to get a cimatology degree?”
    ……………..
    pough: From an institution that confers upon people degrees in climatology. If you read stuff here, you know the names of at least a few climatologists. Find out where they went to university. Talk to that university
    _____________________________________

    O’rly? You real sure about that?

  34. #34 pough
    February 5, 2010

    donjoe, you gave got to be kidding. Climatologists and paleoclimatologists are the exact people who study the things you claim they are ignoring. Are you under the impression that ice core samples, ENSO, effects of volcanoes, solar cycles and albedo effects have only been brought to light by economists and energy industry execs some time after climatologists mentioned anthropogenic sources for CO2?

  35. #35 pough
    February 5, 2010

    O’rly? You real sure about that?

    WTF? Pointless. If you’re actually interested in a degree in something, ask in a place that does degrees, not a blog. I suspect you’re not actually interested in being anything other than a pest. Killfile.

  36. #36 MarkusR
    February 5, 2010

    Donjoe claims us “alarmists” ignore the counter evidence. When pointed to ‘our’ responses to this counter evidence, they ignore them, just like Creationists like to ignore what has already been responded many years ago in places like Talk.Origins’ Index of Creationist Claims.

  37. #37 Steve Bloom
    February 5, 2010

    Donjoe has no idea that the scientists who study deep-time climate are the most alarmed of all, and for good reason. Oddly enough this material gets hardly any media coverage. For example, how many people reading this know when the last time was that CO2 approached present levels and what the state of the planet was at that time?

    Those who haven’t may wish to watch Richard Alley’s presentation from December’s American Geophysical Union fall meeting.

  38. #38 Tedd
    February 5, 2010

    I think your suggestion of improved journalistic practices is unattainable, but also that it wouldn’t work even if it could be realized. Two things are needed to put climate science back in a position of unassailable credibility.

    First, all data should be freely available to anyone who wants to analyze it or attempt to recreate published results. The conclusions of climate studies are being used to design public policy proposals of unprecedented scope and scale. That’s just not going to be accepted unless there isn’t even the possibility of claiming any sort of manipulation of data or falsifying of results. I acknowledge that there may be some practical difficulties with this in some cases, but we must get as close to this ideal as possible, and any study that can’t meet it shouldn’t inform policy.

    Second, the source code of all climate models that inform policy should also be available. I suspect that even turning all the modeling projects into open source projects would be a good idea. The credibility of the models is as dependent on “transparency” as the credibility of other forms of study and analysis are.

    Achieve those two things, and climate scientists won’t even need to bother defending the technical merits of their work anymore.

  39. #39 dhogaza
    February 5, 2010

    Well, one reason is that out-and-out lie, as Steve McIntyre has done to Fox News:

    Steve McIntyre of the Web site Climate Audit also charged that the panel looked at papers that were already publicly available. “They did not examine any of Mann’s correspondence that was not already in the public record,” he said. In effect, he argued, the panel didn’t use any of its investigatory powers to plumb deeper.

    In actuality, the requested *all* of Mann’s e-mail of relevance, and examined it, looking for evidence of research misconduct and whether or not he deleted e-mails as requested by Jones.

    Not just those that “[are] in the pubic record were stolen” (had to fix that for McI, I’m sure he meant to be accurate).

    When outright, blatant lies like this are published about everything remotely related to climate change, how can honest people hope to win?

    It’s as if one team in the Super Bowl had uzis hidden under their jerseys and snipers in the press box, while the other team sticks to the rules.

  40. #40 dhogaza
    February 5, 2010

    Oh, this particular science blog doesn’t render the “strike” tag (as in <strike&rt;in the public record</strike> were stolen)

  41. #41 Michael Ralston
    February 6, 2010

    Tedd: ignoring the fact that you’re asking for climatology to meet a standard nobody expects any other science to meet, the vast majority of the data is open, and you clearly have never heard of the clear climate code project.

    But it doesn’t matter, because openness will never convince people whose livelihoods depend on burning fossil fuels, as you well know.

  42. #42 Nick
    February 6, 2010

    The only reason that the “denial camp is winning the climate war” is the usual reason: they’ve declared victory yet again,this time with more lazy MSM opinionators on board. Onanistic triumphalism is their hallmark,and few of them know enough about reality to know a win from a loss.

  43. #43 Tedd
    February 6, 2010

    …ignoring the fact that you’re asking for climatology to meet a standard nobody expects any other science to meet…

    I don’t see any reason to ignore that fact, let’s bring it right out in the open. Climate science is being asked to bear a burden no other field is being asked to bear; it concerns a subject of unparalleled importance, and it’s being asked to justify policy decisions of unprecedented scope and scale. Of course it needs to meet a more demanding standard. It would be irresponsible to approach it any other way.

    …you clearly have never heard of the clear climate code project…

    And that’s clearly not a logical conclusion to draw, since the Clear Climate Code project falls well short of what I proposed. But it is an excellent step in the right direction.

  44. #44 dhogaza
    February 6, 2010

    Of course it needs to meet a more demanding standard.

    Yet I doubt you ask the same of the denialsphere. I doubt, for instance, that you’re out there screaming for denialists to reject claims that standard physics explanations of how CO2 warms the planet violate the 2nd law of thermodynamics.

  45. #45 Big Timmy
    February 6, 2010

    How does one become a “climatologist”.

    You self-proclaim it. Simple as that.

  46. #46 Tedd
    February 6, 2010

    I doubt, for instance, that you’re out there screaming for denialists to reject claims that standard physics explanations of how CO2 warms the planet violate the 2nd law of thermodynamics.

    I’m sorry, I didn’t realize that I was being perceived as screaming. I’ll try to be more moderate in my remarks. I also hadn’t heard the claim that the greenhouse gas theory violates the second law, so, no I haven’t asked anyone to reject that particular claim.

    But, to return to the subject at hand, here’s how I perceive the situation.

    The climate change issue is taking place in the domain of science and in the domain of politics. In both domains, credibility is the key to success. In science, the credibility of an hypothesis grows as it resists being falsified and its predictions are confirmed. In politics, falsification and confirmation are difficult or impossible, so credibility is defined in human terms. You gain credibility with like-minded people by being consistent and reliable. You gain credibility with those holding different views by being forthright and open. Being “right” or discovering the “truth” are mostly irrelevant, in either case, and the perception that something is hidden can be as damaging as the discovery of something hidden.

    Therefore, science has nothing to lose and everything to gain in the political domain by being as open as possible. My proposal for achieving that is as stated above: unrestricted public access to data and code. I acknowledge that this is a big challenge. But, if you believe that this is an unprecedented problem, isn’t it realistic to expect that it will require unprecedented solutions?

  47. #47 Lance
    February 6, 2010

    Bad news climate changers, the American left has already begun to scurry off of your sinking pseudo-scientific ship.

    Having thrust a finger into the political wind they are scrambling to repackage their anti-fossil fuel legislative push as an “alternative energy” initiative.

    You will now see lots of TV spots with earnest, blue-collary looking, paid actors spouting nonsense about saving America from evil foreign oil producers while providing jobs for Joe six-pack. The cap and trade, save the planet stuff however is in the deep freeze and looks to be for the foreseeable future.

    Like frat boys caught sleeping with “fat chicks” they are pretending they never shared their beds with you poor climate changers now that the public has had a good look at your behavior in the light of day.

    Don’t worry. I’m sure they’ll still tell you they love you, in private, before they give you a good roll in the hay of the next election cycle.

  48. #48 Diogenes
    February 6, 2010

    Global Warming alarmists screwed the pooch by overexaggerating and manipulating data. Climategate may not have changed the underlying facts of greenhouse science but it did show so-called scientists manipulating data and trying to deceive the public. The moral high ground was given up.

    In addition while the science behind global warming is well understood the actual arguments for global warming revolve around a deep understanding of statistics and relevant climate data over the last few hundred years.

    What is beyond the understanding of elitist climate alarmists is that most people are actually not stupid. They understand that CO2 can heat up the earth, they can also understand that many things can affect the global climate and have indeed caused global heating and warming trends in the past. They haven’t made a very good argument and nor will any of their policy prescriptions with India and China ignoring any attempt to hinder their growth.

    In fact, even if you accept accelerated global warming, you cannot solve it unless you cut emissions mainly from the developing world along with a cessation of deforestation in places like Brazil.

  49. #49 dhogaza
    February 7, 2010

    Bad news climate changers, the American left has already begun to scurry off of your sinking pseudo-scientific ship.

    News for Lance, the planet and atmospheric physics don’t give a shit about the American left.

    Actually, since I’m 55 and have no children, I’m almost happy.

    Let’s run the experiment, and see what happens. I’m old enough that I’ll be able to gloat on my deathbed as the world continues to warm, while not having to worry about my progeny.

    Best of all worlds.

    I don’t know how old Lance is, but I hope he’s young, and has kids.

    I really, really do.

    Lance, we’ve known all along that you don’t actually give a fucking flying fucking shit about the science, but this post exposes it for all to see.

    “Bad news for science, the so-called left is dumping science, just as the right in the US did 30 years ago”.

    Yes, Lance, that’s bad news for science … and as a scientist wanna-be … just why does it make your breast swell with pride?

    Don’t worry. I’m sure they’ll still tell you they love you, in private, before they give you a good roll in the hay of the next election cycle.

    Yes, I expect to see an increase in anti-science Republicans in both House and Senate be elected this November.

    Now, if you were to actually finish your PhD in physics, why would this make you happy?

    Anti-science means anti-science-budget in the next decades. Where will your grant money come from?

    Oh, yeah, more ways to blow up muslims, I suppose, though since nukes are off the table, isn’t that really more employment opportunities for chemists?

  50. #50 Michael Ralston
    February 7, 2010

    Tedd: Except that you’re wrong when you say that climatology is being used to justify policy decisions of unprecedented scope and scale.

    Do you really think climatology is less credible than economics? Really?

    Also, if you don’t think the CCCP (hmm, unfortunate acronym) is “enough”, what would be? Do you expect scientists to spend more time releasing information than actually, you know, doing science?

  51. #51 Tedd
    February 7, 2010

    Do you really think climatology is less credible than economics?

    Me, personally? No. “The public,” generally? I don’t know.

    But that question misses my original point about credibility. Whether it’s justified or not, it’s the credibility of the climate research that’s currently at issue, not the credibility of economics research. If economics research was under the same public scrutiny (and I agree with you if you’re saying it should be, where it applies to the kinds of decisions being made at Kyoto and Copenhagen) then I would propose the same solution for economics.

    Also, if you don’t think the CCCP (hmm, unfortunate acronym) is “enough”, what would be?

    I don’t know what would be “enough.” What I said was that, for policy based on climate research to succeed politically, I think it’s necessary to apply the kind of principles employed in the CCCP to all the research that informs that policy. Is it sufficient? I don’t know.

    You seem to be an advocate of the CCCP. Wouldn’t you agree that it would be good to apply those principles to other research, too?

    Do you expect scientists to spend more time releasing information than actually, you know, doing science?

    No.

  52. #52 Lance
    February 7, 2010

    Dhogaza,

    “Lance, we’ve known all along that you don’t actually give a fucking flying fucking shit about the science, but this post exposes it for all to see”

    Au contraire my foul mouthed friend, I care a great deal about science as both a scientist and an educator. That’s why I am so incensed by the blatant exaggerations and outright lies used by AGW proponents to distort the science for political purposes.

    The IPCC is a political organization created for a political purpose. The science is just a tool and when it doesn’t support the chosen narrative it is ignored or replaced with whatever they can find that fits their purpose. The recent events surrounding Himalayan glaciers, among others, demonstrates this quite nicely

    “Yes, I expect to see an increase in anti-science Republicans in both House and Senate be elected this November.

    Now, if you were to actually finish your PhD in physics, why would this make you happy?

    Anti-science means anti-science-budget in the next decades. Where will your grant money come from?”

    After all these years you should know that I am not a Republican. They are the party of the religious right and corporate cronyism.

    I don’t want to live in the United States of Jesus any more than I want to live in a European style social democracy envisioned by the far left of the Democratic Party.

    Neither of these parties gives a damn about science except to the extent to which they can exploit it for their own political gain.

    If you would just talk to me like a human being you might find that we have quite a bit in common. I also care a great deal about preserving the environment and stopping real pollution, not the plant food CO2 variety.

    I am a bit younger than you and my wife and I are planning to have children. I don’t worry about global warming. I worry much more about habitat loss, water pollution, over fishing and ocean dumping.

    I want to preserve the natural beauty and diversity of the planet for future generations. I also want to maintain the integrity of science as an unbiased tool for understanding the universe.

    The huge amounts of money that have been spent on AGW research and political advertising attempting to scare the public into spending vast amounts of money on everything from cap and trade schemes to useless ethanol production and other inefficient technologies could have been working to actually improve the condition of the environment for the many species that need the help.

    AGW is first and foremost a political tool. One that is being abandoned by the political left of both the US and many other countries.

  53. #53 Bird Harrasser
    February 7, 2010

    dhogaza baccus – nice potty mouth. not so hard to imagine why you haven’t successfully mated up and procreated. and may we suggest you put down the meth pipe before posting.

  54. #54 dhogaza
    February 7, 2010

    AGW is first and foremost a political tool. One that is being abandoned by the political left of both the US and many other countries.

    Always, always, back to politics with you guys, isn’t it?

  55. #55 Derr Hog Hozer
    February 7, 2010

    The best thing all of the exposed warmer religion fraudster nutjob pesudo-scientists can do at this point, is to just go away quietly before they all end up in prison.

  56. #56 SBVOR
    February 7, 2010

    Coward! You declined to publish my comment.

    Can’t face the facts, eh?

    Typical — just like your fellow propagandists at RealClimate.org.

  57. #57 Lance
    February 8, 2010

    dhogaza,

    You seem to be missing my point. The fact that climate science has become politicized is precisely the reason that I, and so many others, have entered into the discussion.

    If I thought that dispassionate scientists were presenting solid science in an open and verifiable manner and that science was being reported to the public in an unbiased manner and that public policy was being formulated in a rational way that served the public interest I wouldn’t bother to post in blogs dedicated to the topic.

    The fact is a political agenda subtends the whole AGW edifice. Go to any “progressive” website and see how much space is dedicated to the topic of “Climate Change” and the public policies that favor more influence for their causes.

    So pretending that it is all about the science is nonsense. You are clearly motivated by your political leanings. Hardly a crime, but self righteously condemning others for pointing out the political nature of the discussion is a bit hypocritical don’t you think.?

  58. #58 Friends of Lance
    February 8, 2010

    what lance said.

  59. #59 dhogaza
    February 8, 2010

    If I thought that dispassionate scientists were presenting solid science in an open and verifiable manner and that science was being reported to the public in an unbiased manner and that public policy was being formulated in a rational way that served the public interest I wouldn’t bother to post in blogs dedicated to the topic.

    You’ve been caught out in too many lies for me to believe you.

    Sorry. Your past precedes you …

  60. #60 dhogaza
    February 8, 2010

    You are clearly motivated by your political leanings.

    Speaking of lies …

  61. #61 dopegaza
    February 8, 2010

    uh umm errr…..you totally got me again. drats! so let me just say….

    Liar Liar pants on fire.

    brilliant.

  62. #62 Lance
    February 8, 2010

    dhogaza,

    I again extend an open hand and you respond by giving me the back of yours.

    Pity.

  63. #63 dhogaza
    February 8, 2010

    I don’t care for dishonest people.

  64. #64 Lance
    February 8, 2010

    I have grown quite accustomed to you calling me a liar. It doesn’t even anger me anymore.

    In the past, in the heat of a pitched internet cut and paste battle I have overstated the emphasis of a research paper or taken bits out of context on occasion. These infrequent transgressions, while regrettable, were not outright fabrications nor were they ever purposeful deceptions.

    Mostly they reflected an over eagerness to rebut a point in real time to score that emotionally satisfying “gotcha” moment. I have seen you do the same many times.

    After all, these threads disappear into the internet ether after a few days and don’t lend themselves to months of careful research. Nor are they “peer reviewed” or rewarded with grant money.

    So if you want to claim that I am a “liar” and a “dishonest person” not worthy of respectful dialog you should perhaps exam the plank in your own eye.

    I hope that this will open a path to mutually beneficial communication. Sadly I expect that you will cut and paste my “admission of guilt” into a text file to throw at me in a future flame war.

    I’d be happy to be proven wrong.

  65. #65 Edmund Grats
    February 8, 2010

    Oh brilliant. Your suggesting free speech should be eradicated until it has been proven factual.

    You shouldn’t be speaking then.

  66. #66 dhogaza
    February 9, 2010

    In the past, in the heat of a pitched internet cut and paste battle I have overstated the emphasis of a research paper or taken bits out of context on occasion. These infrequent transgressions, while regrettable, were not outright fabrications nor were they ever purposeful deceptions.

    Ahhh … the “accidental liar” defense.

    It’s an interesting one …

  67. #67 dhogaza
    February 9, 2010

    After all, these threads disappear into the internet ether after a few days

    Well, no, actually your “accidental lies” will most likely follow you the rest of your life.

    Google, of course, digs deep into the past … and as global reliance on the net increases, expect specialized search engines to crop up and spider the web. Potential employers, in particular large, well-funded companies, will be target customers for such technology.

    So you might be careful regarding …

    These infrequent transgressions, while regrettable, were not outright fabrications nor were they ever purposeful deceptions.

    I will credit you for admitting you’ve been an ass in the past. If you quit being an ass in the present, I might give you a virtual [but conditional] hug.

  68. #68 Climate Central
    February 9, 2010

    If anyone is interested, Phil Duffy’s blog entry, referred to in this blos, is available at http://climatecentral.org/breaking/blog/mistakes_happen.

  69. #69 Jose
    February 9, 2010

    Conspiracy Theories are highly resistant to logical refutation and thrive on the barest whiff of smoke. Take a look at the faked Moon Landing conspiracy theory (which is still around) for instance.

    They do however fade in popularity after a few years. However they never completely fade away. I think we have to be prepared for this. The “AGW is a Marxist conspiracy” meme will probably be kicking around for the rest of our lifetimes but it should fade in popularity in a few years.

    The IPCC could probably reform itself to make itself less conspiracy theory friendly. However I’m not sure if that’s a good enough reason for reform.

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