User:William M. Connolley/The science is settled

1069947_10153830474903200_1629067627529165609_n User:William M. Connolley/The science is settled is a copy that I made of a wiki article that got deleted. I think I'd stick now largely with what I said then, 8th February 2007: Keep: its not the worlds greatest page, but its useful. Lee Vonces vote is a good example of the reason for keeping it: the page as it stands is substantially correct, but if it wasn't there the opposite misinformation would accumulate. Unfortunately, since the article was deleted, it's history isn't conveniently available. You may take it for granted that it was something of a war-in-progress when removed, but a fairly stable war if I recall correctly. I was reminded of this page by the ever-active JM, who found a link to it at I'm puzzled why they link to it; it doesn't say what they want it to say; but perhaps they read it rather carelessly. You may also like Gavin's take, also puzzlingly linked.

What happens if I look for "the science is settled" eight years later? My second hit is which says Al Gore declared that "the science is settled" and he was right. Yet, if you follow the link, what you actually find is The science is settled, Gore told the lawmakers. Carbon-dioxide emissions... - which is not a direct quote of Gore. My top hit is which is actually about something slightly different; it is addressing Climate Myth... The science isn't settled. And in reply, it is careful to avoid stating that the science is settled. The rhetorical trickery (to make it plain) is this: "is the science settled?" ask the denialists. Answer "no" and they go "aha! See! Even you lot don't believe it". Answer "yes" and they go "aha! It can't be science then! Science never deals with absolutes." Answer: "this question can't easily be answered simply without being misleading; we see that global temperature..." and those listening have fallen asleep and believe you're being evasive. This is just tedious, which characterises much of denialism.

There are then a number of really rather uninteresting hits before - aha - we strike gold with Climate change: the science is settled by VV. He even links to my preserved wiki page. VV is happy to say "the science is settled" - provided you understand by that he means a simplified; cut down view. But he's also happy to provide the details, if required.

For convenience, I'll inline a cut-n-pasted version of the article below; so you have to excuse any formatting infelicities.

"The science is settled" is a slogan attributed by opponents of the Kyoto Protocol and global warming theory to supporters notably in the Clinton administration. There are no known examples of its use outside the skeptic press, though some of the statements that were made have similar implications. The slogan itself has therefore become a detail in thepolitical debate.

Use as a rhetorical tool[edit]

The phrase is vague, and people who use it may not elaborate what exactly is settled. Certain aspects of climate change are widely accepted: that human actions have increased the amount of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, for example. Other aspects—the exact degree of climate change to be expected within the next century, if any—are not settled. In between are issues such as how much the earth has warmed recently and how much of this is due to human activity.

Opponents of global warming theory have said: "There is an idea among the public that 'the science is settled.'"[1] "How many times have we heard from Al Gore and assorted European politicians that 'the science is settled' on global warming?"[2] "We are assured that 'the science is settled.'"[3][clarification needed]

Uses of the slogan, or things somewhat like it[edit]

Clinton and Gore[edit]

In 1997, United States President Bill Clinton said:

  • "The science is clear and compelling. We humans are changing the global climate." (source: article)
  • "First, I am convinced that the science is solid, saying the that climate is warming at a more rapid rate, that this is due in large measure to a dramatic increase in the volume of greenhouse gases going into the atmosphere, and that nobody knows exactly what the consequences are going to be or when they're going to be manifest, but, on balance, it won't be all that long and they won't be good."
  • U.S. Vice President Al Gore at same event, in response to question "And the administration accepts that fact that that debate [about effect by humans] is over.": "Yes, sir. Yes, sir. On that one point, yes, sir."

Robert Watson[edit]

According to Sovereignty International, in 1997 Robert Watson:

was asked in a press briefing about the growing number of climate scientists who challenge the conclusions of the UN that man-induced global warming is real and promises cataclysmic consequences. Watson responded by denigrating all dissenting scientists as pawns of the fossil fuel industry. "The science is settled" he said, and "we're not going to reopen it here." [6]

Some GWT supporters suggest the quote is a fabrication, noting that the organization quoting Watson is involved in promoting "global warming skepticism". No other records of the press briefing have been produced.

Tim Wirth[edit]

  • On June 3, 1997, GWT opponent S. Fred Singer of the Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP) debated Bert Bolin, chairman of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. During the debate, Singer projected on a screen a quote allegedly from Undersecretary of State Timothy Wirth saying that global warming science was "settled." Bolin responded by questioning whether Wirth had been correctly quoted: "I think Tim Wirth, if quoted correctly, that he doesn't mean what you implied he meant. I've spoken to him, I know he doesn't mean it." [7] SEPP subsequently publicized this statement by Bolin in a news release claiming that Bolin "took issue with the statement by Tim Wirth," prompting Bolin to complain that SEPP had misinterpreted his remark. [8]
  • On July 31, 1997, In the Senate record, in comments about Senate Resolution 98 (the Byrd-Hagel Resolution) Senator Frank Murkowski (R-Alaska) said: "While it is true that Undersecretary of State Tim Wirth said that `the science is settled,' it is clear that there is not a broad scientific consensus that human activities are causing global warming." At the same meeting, Dr. Santer said: "Even the Chairman of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Dr. Bert Bolin, says that the science is not settled. When told that Undersecretary of State Tim Wirth had said the science was settled, Dr. Bolin replied: `I've spoken to [Tim Wirth], I know he doesn't mean it.'" (Congressional Record 1997, page S8626)
  • On June 28, 1998, global warming skeptic Patrick Michaels revived SEPP's claim, stating that during the months leading up to the signing of the Kyoto Protocol, Wirth had "repeatedly declared that 'the science is settled.'" [9] However, this column by Michaels was written more than six months following the meetings at which the Kyoto Protocol, was drafted, which suggests that Michaels was probably paraphrasing loosely rather than quoting Wirth's words verbatim.

Stu Eizenstat[edit]

  • The Global Climate Coalition, an organization created by the fossil fuel industry to oppose action on global warming, complained in November 1998, "Undersecretary Eizenstat repeated the Clinton administration's shopworn claims: the science is settled and recent weather is proof that global warming is upon us." [10] However, the GCC did not claim that this paraphrase of Eizenstat's alleged remarks was an exact quote.
  • A press release [11] from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which describes itself as "a non-profit public policy organization dedicated to the principles of free enterprise and limited government" and, which strongly opposes the Kyoto treaty, claims that "US lead global warming negotiator Stu Eizenstat misled the press at a November 10 press briefing. He announced that the 'science is settled', parroting Vice President Al Gore's favorite non-truth, and went as far as to refuse to answer a reporter's question about the science."

Dr Kurt M. Cuffey[edit]

  • "Mounting evidence has forced an end to any serious scientific debate on whether humans are causing global warming. This is an event of historical significance, but one obscured from public view by the arcane technical literature and the noise generated by perpetual partisans....
But now, after this summer of 2005, the serious scientific debate about global warming has ended. There is now no reasonable doubt that atmospheric pollution is causing global warming, and this warming is strong enough to have serious consequences in the next century" [1]

John Quiggin, economist[edit]

  • "There’s no longer any serious debate among climate scientists about either the reality of global warming or about the fact that its substantially caused by human activity…" [2]

David Milliband, UK Environment Minister[edit]

  • "I think that the scientific debate has now closed on global warming, and the popular debate is closing as well"[3]

Camilla Cavendish[edit]

  • "The science debate is effectively over. The Stern review means that the economic debate is all but over. Only the political debate is left..."[4]


See also[edit]


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If you don't eat yer meat you can't have any pudding. How can you have any pudding if you don't eat yer meat?

By Everett F Sargent (not verified) on 19 Dec 2015 #permalink

Michael Mann on Bill Maher show: Yes, the science is 'super settled.'

By Thomas William… (not verified) on 19 Dec 2015 #permalink

Why not provide the link. Context is always important.

Michael Mann on the Bill Maher show where he explains what is settled.

from the wiki

"Certain aspects of climate change are widely accepted: that human actions have increased the amount of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, for example. Other aspects—the exact degree of climate change to be expected within the next century, if any—are not settled"

A very early version of the wiki page is in wayback. The science is settled: January 28, 2005.

Clinton, Watson, Wirth, and Eizenstat were the only 'Uses' sub-sections at that time.

OT: You need to write a Watts AGU post or reopen the comments on 'The fruitarians are lazy' so we can rehash some of Evans choicer comments in light of subsequent events :)

By Kevin O'Neill (not verified) on 19 Dec 2015 #permalink

I offer a few more details on the inspiration.

Two older gentlemen had a booth (not a poster, a booth in Exhibts) extolling a book,
What Really Causes Global Warming?: Greenhouse Gases or Ozone Depletion?
by Peter Ward, Foreward by David Bennett Laing.
(NOT "Unde a Green Sky" Peter Ward).
Here you can learn that CO2 is no big deal, warming is caused by ozone depletion caused by volcanoes.

He has 2 websites:
He offers $10K for the right lab experiment.
" Estimates of the sensitivity of climate to a doubling of carbon dioxide concentrations assume that all observed warming was caused by greenhouse gases. Remarkably, however, the only published effort to quantify how much the air is warmed when carbon dioxide concentrations are increased (Ångström, 1900) did not find much effect.
"There is no such thing as consensus science. If it’s consensus, it isn’t science. If it’s science, it isn’t consensus. Period."
- Michael Crichton, MD."

They offered 3 glossy brochures, one of which gave me information of which I was formerly unaware:

"" There has been a fundamental misunderstanding in physics about what radiant energy is and how it should be calculated. Natural philosophers and scientists have debated for 2400 years whether light travels as waves or as particles. New observations show that light and other forms of electromagnetic radiation travel simply as frequency, in a manner similar to the signal from your cellphone or a radio station, and that the thermal energy involved is simply equal to frequency times a constant, representing the energy of the atomic oscillators which are the sources of radiation. It turns out that the energy of ultraviolet B radiation is actually 48 times greater -48 times "hotter"- than the energy of infrared radiation, confirming common experience. There simply is not enough energy involved with greenhouse gases for them to play a significant role in global warming."

[That's impressive quality gibberish, as others have noted. By odd co-incidence, needs help, do feel free to join in -W]

By John Mashey (not verified) on 19 Dec 2015 #permalink

John, I'm embarrassed for you - you've never read the Platonic dialogues where Plato and Aristotle debated the duality of light? Long before the Copenhagen Interpretation there was the Athens Interpretation.

And Stonehenge was, of course, the first known double-slit experiment - so it's clear the debate has raged for millennia.

By Kevin O'Neill (not verified) on 20 Dec 2015 #permalink

Maybe, it's been a while, but i don't think the duality was really wave-particle.
but perhaps you can explain the most relevant part:
"New observations show that light and other forms of electromagnetic radiation travel simply as frequency, in a manner similar to the signal from your cellphone or a radio station, "

By JohnMashey (not verified) on 20 Dec 2015 #permalink

John, re:"“New observations show that light and other forms of electromagnetic radiation travel simply as frequency, in a manner similar to the signal from your cellphone or a radio station, “

Sorry, I can't even make a bad joke out of that gibberish :)

By Kevin O'Neill (not verified) on 20 Dec 2015 #permalink

Tim Worth is a man of very liberal sentiments , and delightful company, , but Peter Principled out as a Governor of Little Brain of Colorado.

The science of gravity isn't settled. We don't know exactly what happens around black holes.

Jumping off a 100 story building isn't wise.

By Phil Hays (not verified) on 20 Dec 2015 #permalink

New observations show that light and other forms of electromagnetic radiation travel simply as frequency, in a manner similar to the signal from your cellphone or a radio station

Do you want to debate that or just say "the science is settled, dude"?

By Victor Venema … (not verified) on 20 Dec 2015 #permalink

“There is no such thing as consensus science. If it’s consensus, it isn’t science. If it’s science, it isn’t consensus. Period.”
– Michael Crichton, MD.”

Is there a consensus that the earth revolves around the sun? Isn't that observation considered settled science?

[There is a fair consensus that Crichton was a bozo with a talent for writing fiction -W]

Joseph: comparing something that is very complex with an unknown number of first-order factors like climate with the earth circling the sun is just as childish. The popular patina of certainty and the passively implied threat of danger surrounding the climate issue has only strengthened the Christopher Walter Monckton, 3rd Viscount of Brenchley's (blessed be his name) of the world.

Why not just concede some of the denier points like the Hockey Stick is a POS and the GCMs have significant problems and we have no skill in predicting if bad weather will increase and if the SLR will get out of control. Perhaps agree that hippie power is problematic.

No. Instead, defend to the hilt every single marginal result, bad idea and mixed message. Science and engineering are sausage factories and "you people" are pretending it's a chocolate shop.

This makes the consensus look weak and dishonest.

The fastest way to marginalize deniers is to thank them for their interest, agree with their points that are right and compliment them on how they have acted to improve the science.

If only one side looks angry, dismissive, obstinate, etc. then they will marginalize themselves. Fighting back gives them standing and legitimacy. Kinda like how the US has cocked up the whole terror thing.

Howard writes: "Why not just concede some of the denier points like the Hockey Stick is a POS ..."

Which Hockey Stick?

By Kevin ONeill (not verified) on 21 Dec 2015 #permalink

Kevin: waste of time. A good motto is:
Ignore Unsupported Opinions by Unidentifiable Individuals ...
especially those with demonstrable and strong Dunning-Kruger afflictions.

By John Mashey (not verified) on 21 Dec 2015 #permalink

This illustrates one of my all time most hated fallacies: when disengenuous quacks (who more often than not have a political, not a scientific agenda) purposefully conflate disagreement about how or why something works with disagreement about whether or not it is the case in the first place. I am lucky enough to be married to a brilliant physical geographer, and although much of the conversations with his colleagues is above me, (I am a psychologist) the fact of global warming seems pretty well distinguished from disagreements about the hows and whys. Just this saturday I was lucky enough to hear a stimulating debate about the role of coccolithophores in moderating CO2 in the atmosphere. At one point I asked one of my husbands colleagues, a geochemist, if he had any luck explaining these debates to nonscientists, and he confided that he would hesitate to even bring it up with a nonscientist because he was afraid that the disagreement would be interpreted as showing that scientists don't agree about the reality of global warming. How sad that this kind of ignorant, knee jerk denialism stifles the genuine debate that does exist.

By lara leishman (not verified) on 22 Dec 2015 #permalink

Mashey: The anonymouse card, pretty weak. Why so defensive?
Kevin: Why so Coy? Point out the specific HS you want to defend.

Howard, did you ever complain when Anthony Watts uses his standard "anonymous coward" skit?

By Victor Venema … (not verified) on 22 Dec 2015 #permalink

In reply to by Howard (not verified)

Victor: I don't comment on WUWT because nearly all my posts never made it past the gatekeepers... very similar experience on Real Climate, BTW. Years ago over on the Kloor site, I repeatedly shamed Mosher and Fuller for being WUWT apologists because Anthony advertised their book on their website. Shortly thereafter the book was pulled and Mosher started treating deniers more harshly. He's a warmista now. Not saying I caused it, but that was the sequence.

Howard - The *specific* hockey stick? Isn't that rather missing the point? The list is by no means all inclusive - most phenomenological studies show the same thing. Did you miss ATTP's post on Consilience of the evidence?

By Kevin O'Neill (not verified) on 23 Dec 2015 #permalink

Kevin: I'm not disputing warming or the need for decarbonization. I am disputing hockey sticks because they are patently false. I think Marcott showed the stick not to be flat, but then unfortunately tacked on UHF instrument to ULF proxy data which provides a false blade of increased rates of change. It's the appearance of placing a thumb on the scales that gives deniers credibility. As Lara points out above, the cowardly acts by scientists whom feel they need to hide the warts to prevent the misunderstanding by ignorant fools. When you have scientists thinking they can finesse a fool by playing politics, only the fool benefits because the truth (warts) will out. Nixon taught us that it's not the crime, it's the coverup.

[Far too many get hung up about this. I think you're wrong, FWIW, but the evidence has been out there for years; if you haven't seen it yet it is because you don't want to, and won't see it now -W]

Howard - you're *still* missing the point. What thumb is on the scale of all the various phenological studies? All the various GMST studies? One thumb could be accident, error, or even intent; multiple thumbs starts sounding pretty much like a conspiracy. I save my tinfoil for cooking.

By Kevin O'Neill (not verified) on 26 Dec 2015 #permalink

The blade is the part of the hockey stick we are living in and it is the best known and most extreme. Anybunny going on about exact shape needs to see what hockey players do to their sticks.

With respect to Marcott and Shakhum (the wheelchair), they go back a lot further than Pages 2K and other reconstructions. Anybunny trying to to topological comparisons of M&S with PAGES2K, MBH, etc in the deep past is donating a considerable amount of their credibility.

By Eli Rabett (not verified) on 26 Dec 2015 #permalink

Kevin: Human nature that strives to have a positive result, strives to be a hero and wants to fit in with the cool kids is not a conspiracy.

Eli: The blade is the most extreme because 1) we have very high frequency thermometer data. The paleo proxy past is fuzzy and filtered and averaged over time. You are comparing apples and amoeba.

W: Frankly, I don't think you clean science types really appreciate how messy proxy data is. The cleanest data and the strongest proxies come from ice and the marine sediments.

You are right, it does not matter if this HS part of climate science is settled. You might think it is and maybe you are right.

The real settled science is that 4-W/m2 is definitely coming no matter what and the world is poised to burn coal until we find something cheaper. We don't need to know more than than and I'm not convinced that another $10B of research will get us to a more useful answer other than tighten up the phony error bars around the TCS/ECR guesses. This is another area where you clean science guys are way over-confident. There are too many unknown unknowns tied up in these numbers. It's more complicated than predicting earthquake frequencies, which we know the causes of. Wake me up when DO events are deciphered.

Ranking of mitigations are political, economic and engineering problems. If you want to save the planet, you should support transferring our research budget away from settled enough climate science into industrial energy and pollution control engineering.

Howard - so every 'hockey stick' is the result of a thumb on the scale. Thank you, you're dismissed.

By Kevin O'Neill (not verified) on 27 Dec 2015 #permalink

So Howard, are you "a big time denier", or "a big believer in mitigation"? A holder of several air pollution control patents with a financial interest in continued fossil fuel use, or just an engineer who insists on precise measurement? Are you a compulsive contrarian who is always the only one that really understands the topic under discussion, or just a hippie hater? Answer yes or no!

By Mal Adapted (not verified) on 27 Dec 2015 #permalink

Yes! It's amazing how being a compulsive contrarian leads to interesting discoveries in life, art, science, recreation, etc. The comfort of the herd is an illusion.
Happy New Year

‘THOUGH logic choppers rule the town,
And every man and maid and boy
Has marked a distant object down,
An aimless joy is a pure joy,’
Or so did Tom O’Roughley say
That saw the surges running by,
‘And wisdom is a butterfly
And not a gloomy bird of prey.

‘If little planned is little sinned
But little need the grave distress.
What’s dying but a second wind?
How but in zigzag wantonness
Could trumpeter Michael be so brave?’
Or something of that sort he said,
‘And if my dearest friend were dead
I’d dance a measure on his grave.’