Lisbon reconciliation unsettling


The Lisbon climate reconciliation workshop is over and it has created a lot of blog-fodder. I’m quite intrigued by the concept and find it a worthwhile undertaking to try to assuage the tempers in the public debate. Whether this workshop was a useful step towards that goal I wouldn’t know; I wasn’t there. The stories floating around paint a bit of in-crowd picture, with participants varying from staunch contrarians, social scientists and journalists to a small handful of climate scientists at the more agnostic side of the spectrum of professional opinion. Strong proponents of the mainstream scientific view were largely absent AFAIK, as were more activist voices. (I don’t know the views of all those present, so take this characterization for what it’s worth.)

If one were to divide the whole spectrum of opinion in three categories (overplaying uncertainty – mainstream scientific view – overplaying certainty), one could say that only the former category was well represented, and perhaps some who are edging between the first and middle category. Based on the names I recognize, it definitely wasn’t a representative sample from those engaged in the public climate change debate. Which thus defeats the purpose of reconciliation a bit I guess.

Apparently RC’s Gavin Schmidt was also invited, but declined. Gavin writes that his

decision not to go was based purely on their initial assessment of why there was conflict in the climate debate. They appeared to think that it was actually related to reconstructions of medieval temperatures and differing analyses of ice extent. Since these are not even close to the reason why climate science is politicised, I saw little purpose in trying to ‘reconcile’ on points that are completely tangential to the real causes of conflict.

Somehow Gavin’s absence was twisted by Fred Pearce, who wrote that Gavin Schmidt

said the science was settled so there was nothing to discuss.

Needless to say, Gavin has said nothing of the sort (he’s said the opposite). Anonymous conference participant “tallbloke” has outed himself as the source. In a letter to the New Scientist editors, Gavin wrote:

Since, in my opinion, the causes of conflict in the climate change debate relate almost entirely to politics and not the MWP, climate sensitivity or ‘ice’, dismissing this from any discussion did not seem likely to be to help foster any reconciliation.

As an experienced climate journalist, Pearce is well aware of the baggage that the term “settled science” carries: It is often used as a strawman attack on climate science, in which context it means something like “there’s no uncertainy and therefore no need to discuss any of these scientific issues”. Gavin and most, if not all scientists, would vehemently disagree to this.

At other instances (e.g. by Simon at CaS) it is defined as “widespread agreement amongst experts on the main tenets of the issue”. Most Scientists would agree that such consensus exists (it’s hard to argue with really), but it is not at all the same as the definition often used when used as a rhetorical weapon by contrarians. So a defense that that’s how it was meant doesn’t sound convincing to me.

As Stoat rightly sais:

“the science is settled” has been one of the mantras used almost exclusively by climate denialists as a term of insult for those actually doing science (…). It is a feeble attempt at a double bind: is the science settled? ha ha, then you can’t be a scientist because real science is never settled. Is the science not settled? Oh great, then we don’t need to do anything until it is.

Update: Gavin’s response to the conference invitation conforms to his initial description of why he declined. Steve McIntyre chimed in to say that Fred Pearce had read this email as well, which makes the twisted transcription into “settled science” even weirder. Eli assembled the main back and forth’s.

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83 Responses to “Lisbon reconciliation unsettling”

  1. Eli Rabett Says:

    It is, as they say, getting to be even stranger. Clearly this was a set up and Gavin was quite right to refuse. Nick Stokes was about the only one from the third camp. He seems pretty positive about the whole thing ( Nick can take care of himself in the clinches, but the bottom line is going to be that this occurred at all, sort of like Heartland.

    Now Eli would have been tempted if the airfare was thrown in, Bacalao and port are not evils, and the pasteis are to die for. Bunnies will participate for food and drink

  2. Hank Roberts Says:

    I’m waiting to see (but not holding my breath) whether the promised summary of the proceedings will “put to rest any skeptical debate about the basic physics of gaseous infrared radiative transfer.” It’d be a miracle if it did.

    That phrase may be useful when someone asks what science is settled.

    I suppose limiting it to “gaseous infrared radiative transfer” still leaves room for those who don’t believe in semiconductors.

    I pity them, sitting there in the hot dark with their electron tube radios typing on their analog computers using dinky incandescent flashlights.

    This stuff doesn’t work if you don’t believe in the physics, right?

  3. Bart Says:

    In principle, I would have liked to go if invited, since the concept of reconciliation appeals to me. Meeting people in person almost inevitably leads to some reconciliation (with the odd exception of course).

  4. Neven Says:

    In my opinion they should have invited you, Bart. But perhaps you would’ve been too good at reconciling, and that isn’t really what they want?

  5. Scrooge Says:

    I’m sorry but this looks to me like a feeble attempt to gain legitimacy. Its like the flat earth society inviting scientists to argue the round earth theory and by the way pay your own way. Seems to me we already have the top scientist in their fields working on this in large numbers with lots of debates and discussions. I think I remember they had a conference in copenhagen awhile back.

  6. TimG Says:

    I can’t figure out what the point of this meeting. I am inclined to agree with Gavin: the real issue is the politics of policy – not science.

  7. Tom Fuller Says:

    Bart, there’s an old American movie about our version of football called North Dallas Forty. In it, a character played by a real footballer named John Matuszak gets into a verbal tussle with the team’s owner.

    Matuszak’s great line to the owner was ‘Everytime I talk about the game you say it’s a business. And everytime I want to talk business you say it’s a game.’

    There’s a bit of that going on here. For Gavin, when McIntyre wants to talk science Gavin wants to talk about policy. When Pielke Jr. wants to talk policy, Gavin wants to stick to the science.

    There are voices on your team that have said the science is settled. They are political or bloggers, not scientists. There are those on your team who say that 97% of climate scientists believe the Consensus. (They don’t define the sample size, the questions they were asked nor the degree of ‘compliance’ is required to be part of the 97%.)

    Gavin Schmidt dips in and out of that ‘game’, depending I guess on what sort of day he’s having. To pretend he doesn’t is a bit foolish–it’s there on RC.

    Pearce was wrong and sloppy–a bad combination for a journalist, and he should be taken to task.

    But don’t try and pretend that there isn’t a concerted effort to present a united front on aspects of climate change that isn’t warranted, insofar as sensitivity is concerned, and doesn’t in actuality exist unless you excommunicate scientists that have criticized it in the past.

  8. Lisbon Lux Says:

    Who cares what science and politicians have to say? Doesn’t everyone want to live in a cleaner planet anyway?
    If the reason for the climate change debate is to come to a conclusion of whether it’s really happening or if it’s the result of Man or nature, it should not even be debated. But it’s interesting to note that such a meeting took place in Lisbon, the capital of a country that’s becoming a leader in renewable energy.
    You may want to read this article:

  9. Marco Says:

    Tom, I know you are going to ignore me, so I hope Bart can take over, but I have two challenges to you:

    1. Prove Gavin Schmidt wants to talk policy when McIntyre wants to talk science.

    2. Prove Gavin Schmidt wants to talk science when Pielke Jr wants to talk policy.

    I read Realclimate, and your claims are simply not backed by any of the posts there.

    Regarding the 97%:

    It’s quite clear in that paper what the sample size was, what the questions were, and what the required ‘degree’ of compliance is.

    Of course, they are part of ‘our team’, and hence you will dismiss the study anyway.

  10. J Bowers Says:

    I think Timothy Chase has a pretty good comment on this.

    Add to that the opening of another comment elsewhere, by the Gulbenkian Foundation organiser, brought to light by Eli, it makes you wonder…. a lot.

    My bold…

    One of the major shames about what seems to be a climate change sham is really about the work some governmental and non-governmental organisations have done and citizenry commitment etc….

    Nature blog

  11. Tom Fuller Says:

    Marco, I’m not going to get into it with someone who trashes me all over the intertubes. But I will note that everyone you love to trash, including me, would count as part of the 97% who answered those two questions. Lindzen, both Pielkes, McIntyre, Bishop Hill, Watts, probably even Monckton.

    So if the debate stops there and those are all the questions, let’s declare peace, open the champagne and bring the good news from Ghent to Aix.

  12. Steve Reynolds Says:

    Marco, the question asked for the 97% was:

    Do you think human activity is a significant
    contributing factor in changing
    mean global temperatures?

    I think 97% of commenters at Climate Audit would say yes to that.

    The question I would like to see asked is:
    Do you think greenhouse gases emitted by humans during the next thirty years are likely to cause severe net negative impacts on human well being?

  13. Dave H Says:

    @Steve Reynolds

    A question I find interesting that you might want to ask:

    Do you think that the IPCC assessments have erred on the conservative side and have understated risk and/or severity?

    We could have all sorts of fun comparing the number who think there is no problem, with the number who think the problem is far worse. Then maybe fatuous conversations about where the “middle ground” might lie would operate on a radically different landscape.

  14. John Mashey Says:

    Just to update:

    Tallbloke says:

    ““”tallbloke | February 5, 2011 at 4:34 pm | Reply
    Ahh well, not exactly. I got Fred to read it out loud to Steve and Ross. So he couldn’t make notes at the same time. And we had a couple of beers, which may be why he didn’t remember it very clearly later.””

    Hence, Tallbloke (Roger Tattersall, apparently a Web Content Editor in School of Education @ Leeds U, who’d been asked to recommend climate scientists to contact, had accidentally gotten a copy of Gavin’s email, was quite happy to share it with Pearce, McIntyre, and McKitrick.

    This was earlier earlier explained:

    “@42 The right, honorable answer was:”I cannot comment.”
    We’re not as secretive as the people whose failure to disclose FOI’d information you defend. Attendees had a legitimate interest in the reasons for declining the invitation to dialogue IMO.”

    It remains to be seen how much the EC paid for this. But one thing is clear: if you ever get an email from these folks asking you to attend, do not actually give any constructive reasons why not, just say “I would love to but my schedule does not permit me to spend a week on this.”

  15. Scrooge Says:

    @steve I just reviewed a guardian article for what its worth, but what it indicates is 300000 deaths per year due to GW and 125bil in damages increasing to 500000 deaths and 600bil by 2030. If that were true do we even have to ask that question?

  16. Steve Reynolds Says:

    Dave H,

    I agree that would be a much better question than the ones in the survey. I would be interested in seeing the result.


    I agree, if there was credible evidence that was true, then the question would likely be unnecessary. But let’s do the experiment and ask the question, and see what scientists actually think.

  17. jyyh Says:

    I just wanted to say somewhere I wouldn’t trust an engineer who calculates everything by setting 3.14=4, all too easy for a workman to forget to convert everything back to the measures in a ruler. But maybe he provides a full set of tools that are to his standard, whatever it is?

  18. Marco Says:

    As I thought, Tom tries to cop out of the difficult questions for providing evidence. Equally important, he is shown wrong (not the first time), and does not acknowledge he was wrong. Interesting, isn’t it, how Tom claims Pearce did something bad, while he himself does not acknowledge his own mistakes. Of course, Tom will just take this as more evidence I am “trashing” him on the Internet. In the meantime, Tom posts nasty messages over at Eli’s and Michael Tobis, and thinks that that is perfectly normal.

    @Steve Reynolds: you may want to do such a survey on Climateaudit. I doubt you get to 97%. Moreover, nobody is stopping you to do your own survey with your own questions.

  19. Tom Fuller Says:

    Marco do you really think I ducked the important questions or did I skip the trivia and go to the important issue?

    That’s why they don’t have a game called Importa Pursuit… you can’t get the answers on the back of those little cards…

  20. Marco Says:

    Yes, you ducked the important questions. Questions that go straight to your integrity. I asked you to provide proof that Gavin wants to talk policy when McIntyre wants to talk science, and vice versa with Pielke Jr.

    And with respect to the supposedly important issue you managed to make a claim, get it shown wrong, and rather than acknowledge you were wrong, you changed the subject!

  21. Tom Fuller Says:

    Marco, you actually have questions about my integrity? Now? After spending the past two years calling me names and telling lies about me? Go ask someone else for assistance in setting your frame of mind in order regarding Mr. Schmidt, McIntyre and Pielke.

    Don’t insult people and then ask them for stuff. I told you at the top of the thread that I was not going to engage with you. You have told too many lies about me and insulted me too frequently. Have a good life. May it not include me.

  22. Marco Says:

    Tom, please show me ONE example where I lied about you. ONE. Oh wait, that’s another requests, so you’ll ignore that, too. Well, anyone else willing to ask Tom for evidence that Gavin wants to talk policy when McIntyre wants to talk science, and vice versa with Pielke Jr?

    And if you’re at it, perhaps ask Tom to show where I lied about him?

    And if you’re really bold, ask him why he thinks it is OK to insult Michael Tobis and Eli, when he himself gets so upset when he supposedly is insulted?

  23. JSmith Says:

    Tom Fuller :

    What evidence do you have which shows that Gavin Schmidt wants to talk policy when McIntyre wants to talk science ?

    What evidence do you have which shows that Gavin Schmidt wants to talk science when Pielke Jr wants to talk policy ?

    What evidence do you have which shows that Marco lied about you ?

  24. Bart Says:

    Marco & Tom,

    Please stop the back and forth bickering; it doesn’t get anyone anywhere.

  25. Tom Fuller Says:

    Marco, I owe you an apology. I have just spend a couple of hours trawling through weblogs. You did not do the things I said that you did, and I apologise without reservation.

    I classed you in a category of commenters on weblogs that you frequent, people like dhogaza etc.

    As someone whose opinions have been mischaracterized in the past, I know how infuriating that can be, and I should not have written about you in that way without checking.

    I apologize.

  26. Marco Says:

    Tom, apology accepted. Would you now be willing to answer the other questions? I simply cannot find any evidence for what you claimed, which does not equal that there is no such evidence.

  27. Tom Fuller Says:

    Well, Marco, I don’t know if you’re in the U.S., but today is Super Bowl Sunday, so it may not happen today.

    But we do need to frame the question a bit better. My contention is that Mcintyre wants to discuss the science with Schmidt, but Schmidt does not want to discuss the science with McIntyre. As he wrote in declining the invitation to Lisbon, he wants to discuss the policy (which I find strange, as his specialty is science, not policy).

    And my other contention is that Pielke wants to discuss policy with Schmidt, but Schmidt does not wish to discuss policy with Pielke (which I don’t find strange, as Pielke’s specialty is policy and Schmidt’s is not.)

    I don’t think this would be violently contested by any objective observer. What would take time to find is specific quotes to show that Schmidt tries to talk policy with McIntyre and science with Pielke–these are things that I remember from comments on places like The Blackboard, Judith Curry or Collide a Scape–and maybe here, but they will be hard to tease out. But as we have just seen, my memory can fail me at times.

    Do you not find it a bit odd that a climate scientist would say that the conversation should only be about policy? I personally think that a chance to discuss atmospheric sensitivity, aerosols, clouds, and even paleoclimatology with people of good will and different opinions would be quite valuable.

  28. J Bowers Says:

    I get the impression that Schmidt wants to discuss the science with McIntyre via the peer reviewed literature. Jones, too. It’s the best way to show and discuss the working out.

  29. Scrooge Says:

    I think the so called good will has been shown for what it really is over the last few days. I don’t think anyone there wanted any scientist to actually teach them something. It looks like it was simple politics. Since this isn’t the first time this group has shown to be inept at reading e-mail(s).

  30. Bart Says:


    Gavin wanting to discuss politics was directly linked to the stated purpose of that meeting: Reconciliation in the climate debate. Since according to Gavin the polarization of the public climate debate is mainly due to politics, it makes no sense to exclude politics from attempts at reconciliation. Makes perfect sense to me. You may not agree that the root of the conflict is political. I think the root of the conflict is direcly due to the perceieved consequences of climate change and the perceived consequences of doing something about climate change are huge; and people are polarized according to their view of which consequences are worse (and then in some cases downplay the consequences of the other issue). Whether “political” is a good term for that I guess can be argued, but that’s how I see it.

    Gavin would almost certainly prefer to just talk about the science (but then in the suitable fora, see also J Bowers’ comment). He almost certainly wouldn’t wish for the debate to be so highly polarized.

    And thanks as well for your apology to Marco; I appreciate the statement.

  31. Tom Fuller Says:

    Bart, I think that Gavin and many others would be happy to discuss the science as it was in 2005, but do not want to discuss the science of 2011. I can understand their (and perhaps your) desire to limit discussion to peer-reviewed literature, as that thins out the herd. But it doesn’t necessarily improve the quality of discussion.

    There will always be political elements to the discussion of all environmental issues, including climate change. I enjoy those discussions and participate as much as I can. However, I have a real interest in having the science discussed in open forum as well. I’m really sick of being called a denier (but I want to reiterate that Marco did not do so), simply because I do not believe important questions regarding atmospheric sensitivity, aerosols, clouds, the paleoclimatic record, ARGO temperature records since 2003, temperatures in the troposphere, measurements of Antarctic ice via GRACE, and more, are being discussed openly in an environment when the Consensus Team is pushing for rapid deployment of remediation strategies.

    I am concerned about Arctic ice. I am concerned about methane release. I am concerned about shifting weather patterns. But until the host of real issues with the science is addressed at my level (interested layman who can follow the equations), it is useless to ask for my support–or even to ask me to defer judgement.

    The Consensus Team has played enough word games with the science to stimulate healthy skepticism. I can understand the motivation behind some of it. But they’ve created the environment they are operating in. From deliberate distortions of the work of Svante Arrhenius to red buttons blowing up skeptics, the Consensus Team has landed itself where it is today. And that will not be resolved by the slow motion ping pong match that characterizes progress via peer reviewed literature.

    I’ll make you a deal, Bart. You promise me that governments will put aside all plans for action to deal with climate change until peer review deals with remaining issues, and I’ll agree that peer review is the best channel for doing so.

    But don’t tell me this is a life or death issue and then say disputes should be solved paper/rebuttal/revision/repeat in the traditional manner.

  32. J Bowers Says:

    If you want an example of constructive discussion of the science you need look no further than the dialogue between Eric Steig and Ryan O’Donnell over warming in the Antarctic.

    A paper was published, another paper was published, they remained highly civil with each other to clarify points, Steig offered his reasons on why O’Donnell et al was flawed but still emphasised that O’Donnell et al was a good paper that added to the knowledge. I suspect they would be good collaborators on future analyses of Antarctica, and wouldn’t be surprised if they do it.

    The knowledge moves forward.

    Compare to the comments at Climate Etc on Gavin’s email. Sorry, the idea that any of those people could have influence over policy on one of the most important issues that mankind has ever faced since irrigation was invented makes my blood run cold.

  33. dhogaza Says:

    Bart, I think that Gavin and many others would be happy to discuss the science as it was in 2005, but do not want to discuss the science of 2011.

    So, Tom, how does the science of 2011 differ from that of 2005?

    The *science*, Tom, I’m not talking about the increased politicization of the non-scientific attacks on the science.

    Please be specific.

    I know, for instance, that the latest version of GISS Model E, as of about 6 months or so ago, seemed to be converting on a sensitivity to doubling of CO2 of about 2.7 or 2.8 degrees, which is very slightly lower than the version used for AR4 runs. I can’t imagine Gavin wouldn’t be interested in talking about that.

    Gavin and others at RC discuss new papers as they come out. That’s hardly refusing to discuss new science.

    I’m truly baffled.

    Which bits of the science don’t you think Gavin is willing to discuss?

  34. Neven Says:

    There have been quite some heavy losses of summer sea ice in the Arctic in the period 2005-2010. Glaciers retreating some more. 2010 equalling the average anomaly of 1998 and/or 2005 depending on which dataset you use, around a time when sunspots are very low, etc.

    What has changed that Gavin and many discuss the science as it was in 2005?

    Oh yeah, there was Climategate, but this didn’t have any meaning with regards to the science/evidence.

    I’m also curious as to what Tom might mean.

  35. Neven Says:

    Correction: What has changed that Gavin and many others would be happy to discuss the science as it was in 2005?

  36. Marco Says:

    Tom, I’m not very much encouraged by your “Consensus Team” remark. I do know that many people understand the slow wheels of policy actions, in particular in an area where what we do now will at best have an effect in a decade or more.

    It can be compared to many new drugs: you sometimes see those “new drug promising in cancer treatment” messages, and at times at the end “may be on the market in 15 years”. It really isn’t much different with climate change: if we decide to take action now, there still will not be much action for another decade. Look at the Kyoto Protocol: adopted at the end of 1997, in force by 2005. And then it often still had to be ratified by several countries.

    I think Bart already addressed your comments about Gavin Schmidt, and I have little of substance to add there.

  37. Bart Says:


    As others have also noted, I don’t see much difference between the science of 2005 and that of 2011, apart from the usual slow but steady progress in cumulative understanding. The public debate has polarized even more, that’s been a notable change indeed.

    Your remark of wanting the science to be discussed openly and addressed at a layman level is interesting. To me that is showing that there is failure on the part of science and science communicators to explain the science to the public. This is an area that is being made more difficult by the many countering efforts of non-scientific information about the topic, so it’s a difficult landscape to operate in. Even though the peer reviewed literature and scientific conference are the proper fora for scientists to discuss the science amongst themselves and move it forward, they are clearly not the fora for increasing public understanding. And I interpret your comment as a call for making such fora also available. With which I heartily agree. RC is one such forum btw, but I know that you have disregarded them.

    Perhaps you care to elaborate what it is you need/want in this respect. Would good books on climate science fill the void? Or public lectures or Q&A sessions with scientists? Or public discussions between scientists and “skeptics”? Other ideas?

    Of these three I think the former is already undertaken, but mostly by individuals. I think a large and thoroughly vetted group effort would be very beneficial to even out as much as possible the subjective judgment calls that are inevitable when something is written by one or only a few people. The IPCC report is not a very readable document for the interested layperson, but a transcription of its main results in plain language is something I’m getting at.

    Q&A sessions I think would be great. I’m a little weary of public debates between antagonists, for reasons that have been discussed at many places: It’s not a good forum for getting at the best understanding, because in such a session the truth is subordinate to the persuasive and debating skills of the debater. However, such public debates may in part be unavoidable for the science to regain public credibility, as refusing to debate can too easily be spun into “you have something to hide; you’re afraid” kind of accusations. And frankly, the latter accusation (fear) has some truth to it, as scientists (chosen for their good understanding of the subject matter) are afraid that due to their lack of rhetorical skills compared to some of their opponents (chosen for their rhetorical skills) they will lose the debate. Perhaps the solution is not to not debate, but to learn how to better debate. Some musings for another blog post…

    I’m not taking your deal, Tom. Policy decisions are always made on the basis of incomplete knowledge/uncertainties. Waiting for certainty is like waiting for Godot.

    Scientific disputes are best handled with in scientific fora.
    Personal/ideological/ethical/political disputes are best handled in other fora.

  38. Neven Says:

    To me that is showing that there is failure on the part of science and science communicators to explain the science to the public.

    Or a failure on part of the public to try to understand the science and see the denial machine for what it is. Or both.

    Why does the public always need to be pampered so much? Pamper them too much and they become spoiled. Remember that nutty Dutch politician we had a few years back, Pim Fortuyn? There was something he said that I particularly liked, and it went along the lines of: “Dutch politics is messed up, but our citizens aren’t doing so great either”. I can’t find the quote, but it was a really smart (and honest) thing to say.

  39. Bart Says:

    Neven, agreed. I just chose to focus on the part that is within the scientists’ control. (“change the things you can; accept the things you cannot”)

  40. Neven Says:

    I still don’t understand they didn’t invite you to come to Portugal, Bart. You could have traveled there with Jeroen van der Sluijs, who seems like he’s a decent bloke. What were they thinking?

  41. toby Says:

    Bravo, Neven. In an election here in Ireland, where the electorate twice awarded the goverment to the spendthrift friends of reckless bankers, I can appreciate the quote from Fortuyn.

    I find Tom Fuller’s remarks bizarre. He seems to think there is a consistent critique of climate science out there, and there are no papered-over disagreements among deniers. Yet the stupidest, most naive critique of the greenhouse effect will not attract a tither of criticism from the denialosphere. That is reserved for what Phil Jones or Michael Mann wrote in an e-mail many years ago.

    Bart is actually right. Publisc debates are useless – as evolutionists found. They are just opportunities for more Gish-Monckton gallops, and windy press releases proclaiming “victory”. Moderated Q&A sessions (I thought one with Stephen Schneider with a roomful of Australian lay denialists was effective) are a better idea.

  42. Tom Fuller Says:

    I picked 2005 casually, to try and identify a time when the discussion of science was replaced by a large-scale campaign to push extreme interpretations of the IPCC AR4, dominated by iconography of polar bears, Himalayan glaciers, and the Maldives, with repeated articles about the spread of malaria, catastrophic sea level rise and the collapse of African agriculture replacing discussion of science.

    I would say that a crowd of well-meaning ‘communicators’ from environmental groups pushed aside most scientists and made the situation worse.

    I can understand that scientists may not feel comfortable with debates. However, because the consensus position has lost credibility with large swathes of the public, you will need to find a different way to engage with them. If you don’t like debate, you need to find an alternative. (I would respectfully suggest that a Truth Squad is not the answer, first because they seem to be delivering canned statements that do not resonate, and second and more importantly, they are reacting, not acting).

    Maybe you’ll find a better way of getting your message across. I doubt it, because people have been trying to communicate effectively for a long time, and ‘better’ ways might have already been tried and tested.

    I would suggest instead that you politely excuse the failed ‘communicators’ who butted in on your discussion and learn how to communicate effectively yourselves, using the channels (including debate) that currently exist and function well.

    It really isn’t as hard as physics.

  43. J Bowers Says:

    Just some examples of climate scientists (and one science historian) communicating the science and the politics, with a bit of other, for those who haven’t already seen them:

    * Richard Alley explains subduction and murders Johnny Cash
    * Alley and Rohrabacher
    * Gavin Schmidt talks about the politics of climate change.
    * Stephen Schneider talks to 52 Climate Change Skeptics [PART 1]
    * Stephen Schneider talks to 52 Climate Change Skeptics [PART 2]
    * Stephen Schneider talks to 52 Climate Change Skeptics [PART 3]
    * Stephen Schneider talks to 52 Climate Change Skeptics [PART 4]
    * Richard Alley Dances to Explain Ice Ages, CO2 and Global Warming
    * Huddle with the Faculty: Richard Alley
    * Kerry Emanuel – Bigger Hurricanes, Inland Danger
    * Kerry Emanuel – Debate is Essential in Science
    * NOVA – The Secret Life of Scientists: Gavin Schmidt – PBS
    * Naomi Oreskes – The American Denial of Global Warming

  44. gryposaurus Says:

    Well, the counter-message is getting more unified I see. from Judy and Mosh to Fuller. Truth to Power. Are you sure you guys are 1) using it correctly or 2) aren’t falling victim to it yourselves? If anyone’s interested in what I mean, follow the Lisbon V thread at Curry’s. Watch the re-framing. See what Judy’s version of PNS now allows for discussion on science, but it’s limited to, the GHE exists and 2) we are emitting greenhouse gases. Even increasing water vapor is off the table if you read the comments. So the PNS is no longer about the interface of politics and values and extending the community to other experts in other fields, apparently it’s about undermining science by not allowing any policy discussion include elements that are at all uncertain, even if we have a high confidence in it. Where have we seen this nonsense before. This is only based on Judy’s threads, but I have no other real information to go on as of yet. What the hell happened at the Lisbon meeting? Jeez. What happened to PNS? Hopefully, Sylvia S Tognetti can figure out what’s going on here. And for a counter-look at truth to power and PNS, read Hulme. This debate is getting weirder. Now we are being preached to about messaging and when and if we are allowed to discuss policy based on what we know. Which is what PNS is about. You can’t reconcile by eliminating what we know. Does anyone else follow what is going on over there?

  45. Tom Fuller Says:

    gryposaurus, are you suggesting that we are collaborating on a message? If so, check your premises…

    As for Truth to Power, I think what we’re asking for is Truth From Power.

  46. Gryposaurus Says:

    No. Just repeating.

    Explain truth from power.

  47. Bart Says:


    What alternatives to staged debates do you envision? What do you think about the idea of Q&A sessions; public lectures (something I like to engage in and getting very positive feedback from); books?

  48. Paul Kelly Says:

    J Bowers,
    That constructive discussion of the science between Eric Steig and Ryan O’Donnell may no longer exist. O today says of S: “There are not enough vulgar words in the English language to properly articulate my disgust at his blatant dishonesty and duplicity.”

    I am glad this thread is focusing on what Gavin actually said – that politics is the real cause of conflict in the climate change debate – rather than Pearce’s sarcastic misquote.

    Nobody seems to know exactly what Gavin means by “politics”. It would be good if he defined the term more precisely, but it’s understandable if he preferred not to expose himself to the inevitable incivility no matter what he said. Bart’s site would be a great place for him.

  49. Tom Fuller Says:

    Hi Bart,

    I personally like the idea of Q&A sessions, but would strongly caution you that whatever mode you choose, the key to credibility will lie in your willingness to share the stage.

    I actually think one of the greatest developments in the climate controversy would be a travelling roadshow with Bart Verheggen and Lucia Liljegren. I’d buy a ticket.

  50. Neven Says:

    I actually think one of the greatest developments in the climate controversy would be a travelling roadshow with Bart Verheggen and Lucia Liljegren. I’d buy a ticket.

    Me too, but only if Lucia is knitting during the Q&A (and Bart too if he wants). :-)

  51. Tom Fuller Says:

    We could also require Lucia to respond in haiku, and have Bart answer in limerick…

    There once was a climate a’heatin’
    And Monckton at work on defeatin’
    The forces of good
    But the boys in the hood
    Left Monckton a’bruised and a’bleatin’

  52. Neven Says:

    Nice limerick, but if only the boys in the hood were the real skeptics dissociating themselves from the fringe (Goddard, tallbloke, Morano, Horner, Plimer, Easterbrook, Watts, CEI, Heartland, etc, etc)! When is that going to happen, Tom?

  53. dhogaza Says:

    First Tom says:

    Bart, I think that Gavin and many others would be happy to discuss the science as it was in 2005, but do not want to discuss the science of 2011.

    and when challenged moves the goalposts:

    I picked 2005 casually, to try and identify a time when the discussion of science was replaced by a large-scale campaign to push extreme interpretations of the IPCC AR4, dominated by iconography of polar bears, Himalayan glaciers, and the Maldives, with repeated articles about the spread of malaria, catastrophic sea level rise and the collapse of African agriculture replacing discussion of science.

    Notice that Tom’s not talking about the *science* at all. Just about people talking about the science. Nothing here to support his claim that Gavin doesn’t want to talk about the *science* of 2011.

  54. dhogaza Says:

    Paul Kelly:

    That constructive discussion of the science between Eric Steig and Ryan O’Donnell may no longer exist. O today says of S: “There are not enough vulgar words in the English language to properly articulate my disgust at his blatant dishonesty and duplicity.”

    And which side is arguing with civility, and which person is engaging in personal attacks on the personal integrity of the other?

    And, of course, who will the denialsphere blame for the breakdown in civility?

  55. Tom Fuller Says:

    Neven, there is no orthodoxy in the skeptic world, and even less for those of us who consider ourselves Lukewamers. I haven’t paid much attention to Mr. Goddard, and have criticized Monckton frequently. I have also criticized Morano, although not as much as he’s just a paid aggregator without original content. Good headline writer, though… I wrote a short critical review of Plimer’s work when I was at Examiner (poorly written, didn’t convince me of any of his major points).

    But so what? I like Anthony Watts and guest posted on his site for a couple of months. I’ve slammed CEI and called them dinosaurs. Don’t know much about Heartland. But again, so what?

    I’ve never heard a breath of criticism of Romm, Lambert, Rabett, Tobis, Hansen, Gore et al from the Consensus team. And pretty much by definition, it is a team. The only person who had the balls to stand up and say Prall, Schneider et al was bogus was Spencer Weart, who is I guess beyond criticism. And that paper is not worth the paper it’s written on.

    So a united team won’t criticize errors on its side, but wants a disunited aggregation of people who don’t agree with each other on half the points in contest to start rating each other?

    Doesn’t sound logical to me.

  56. Paul Kelly Says:


    What do you think of this whole reconciliation push? To me, and apparently to Gavin,it’s a bit of misdirected effort.

  57. dhogaza Says:


    I’ve never heard a breath of criticism of Romm, Lambert, Rabett, Tobis, Hansen, Gore et al from the Consensus team.

    And here I always thought “The Team” was a label used to describe mainstream climate *scientists*. You’ve got two climate researchers on your list, along with a non-practicing physicist who works for a political organization, a computer scientist, a physical chemist, a politician, etc.

    As far as your claim regarding “The Team” not criticizing other mainstream climate scientists, here’s eric steig:

    Personal gripe: everyone loves to average Antarctic sea ice over the entire domain, but this is about as sensible as averaging sea surface temperatures on the Pacific coast of the U.S. with sea surface temperatures on the Atlantic side. Actually, it’s the same thing! It doesn’t make any sense, but it is done all the time, especially by people (including — ahem — many of my colleagues) who’ve never been to Antarctica and can’t appreciate the scale of the place.

    He’s talking about NSIDC and others … OK, NSIDC isn’t on your list, I guess you want criticism of those specific people …

    raypierre has also taken on Hansen’s claim that runaway global warming ala Venus is a real possibility if we burn all of the fossil fuels available to us.

    And tobis has criticized Romm more than once.

    When realclimate analyzed Gore’s film, they pointed out a handful of areas where he’d made some relatively minor errors.

    etc etc.

  58. dhogaza Says:


    What do you think of this whole reconciliation push? To me, and apparently to Gavin,it’s a bit of misdirected effort.

    You should visit Deep Climate’s latest thread, in which he begins to analyze it.

    Ravetz, one of the organizer (the person who came up with the idea, apparently), had earlier posted on WUWT that essentially the question is whether or not the climate science community is fraudulent, or whether or not they’re simply bumbling fools.

    I’d say that such posts as background for organizing a conference on “reconciliation” make said conference more “disingenuous” than “misdirected”.

    My first thoughts were “misdirected”, as you say, though, before people began pulling out the various bits of background material.

    A second organizer, another post normal science type, is on record as declaring climate science to be a “sham” about a year ago (commenting at the Nature online site).

    You get the point, I’m sure. Telling the world that the people you want to “reconcile” with are responsible for a “sham”, or are fraudulent, or incompetent is hardly an indicator that you’re seeking an objective discussion on climate science.

  59. dhogaza Says:

    Tom Fuller:

    Bart, I think that Gavin and many others would be happy to discuss the science as it was in 2005, but do not want to discuss the science of 2011.

    Am I the only person waiting for Fuller to answer our challenges to this statement?

  60. Paul Kelly Says:


    It’s not about Lisbon in particular or Gavin not attending. It’s about his reasons for it, which are worth discussing

  61. J Bowers Says:

    Re Paul Kelly. February 7, 2011 at 21:52

    Oh well. In all honesty, all I can say is that I felt disappointment but zero surprise, which tells me something. That’s not a comment either way on the actual work of either. But, if I were a policy maker hard pressed to make a fast decision, while unable and unqualified to analyse either’s analyses, and the world depended on choosing between one of the two, it’d be, “I’m with NASA guy.” It’s just how it is in the real world. I’m not saying O’Donnell’s wrong, I’m saying there comes a point when everyone’s gonna say, “Enough is enough.”

    The general population of the world really doesn’t care if someone’s nose is out of joint.

  62. dhogaza Says:

    Paul Kelly:

    It’s not about Lisbon in particular or Gavin not attending. It’s about his reasons for it, which are worth discussing

    I don’t see a push for reconciliation, I guess that’s where we differ. Where would you suggest I look?

    Note that on the science side it’s *always* been made clear that honest contributions to the science by outsiders is welcome. People who work in climate-related fields (Lindzen, Spencer, a bunch of others) who disagree with the mainstream view have no trouble getting published, of course, it’s always been a myth that they’re “locked out”.

    I would suggest that “the other side” wants surrender, not reconciliation, and not collaboration. Look at what RomanM is up to … not only is he insisting that he’s right and Steig’s full of it, but his vitriol is thoroughly unprofessional in a public forum (I’m sure that any of us involved in the technical world is aware that virtiol in *private* is not at all uncommon).

    So where am I supposed to look for this “reconciliation” push? Curry? She’s still pushing the “IPCC fraud” meme, though she’s a bit more subtle than some.

    They want surrender, not reconciliation.

  63. Dave H Says:

    @Tom Fuller

    > Neven, there is no orthodoxy in the skeptic world

    I would agree with this to an extent that the “skeptical” position is not a single thing, but a huge range of mutually contradictory assertions (where each skeptic believes their own position to be entirely reasonable, and representative of the most common view). There are a few key tenets that are quite sacrosanct however:

    The hockey stick is broken.
    The CRU emails revealed scandalous abuse of peer review.
    The exonerating enquiries were a whitewash.
    The IPCC represents an “alarmist” position at one end of the spectrum, with crazy physics deniers at the other and self-described “lukewarmers” claiming the righteous middle-ground.
    The word “denier” definitely has intentional holocaust associations.
    Acting to mitigate is *definitely* more costly than just carrying on and adapting as necessary, but all evidence to the contrary is too uncertain.
    Consensus is bad, except when one agrees with it, in which case it is good.

    Arguing against any one of these is liable to get you shouted down as… well, as a heretic.

  64. Tom Fuller Says:

    Well, from the Lukewarmer perspective, what I would submit as the major issues are:


    Inability to define atmospheric sensitivity to a doubling of concentrations of CO2
    (Related) Role and net effects of aerosols and clouds


    All the rest. Lots of points. Great distractions. Many valid. Some not.

  65. dhogaza Says:

    Tom Fuller, is this meant to be your list of stuff that’s different in science in 2011 than 2005, that Gavin would be unwilling to discuss?

    Well, from the Lukewarmer perspective, what I would submit as the major issues are:


    Inability to define atmospheric sensitivity to a doubling of concentrations of CO2

    atmospheric sensitivity to a doubling of CO2 is well *defined*. I assume you meant an inability to compute it?

    If so, it’s a false statement. Sensitivity to CO2 has been computed many times by many people, both before and during 2005 and now in 2011. So I’m still not sure what you mean.

    Perhaps … an inability to shrink the error bounds? That’s a major problem, Gavin’s discussed it before and I’m sure would discuss it again. But it’s not something that’s different in the science in 2011 compared to 2005.

    It’s a stubborn problem. One that, to my very incomplete knowledge, is expected to be stubborn in the future, too. We’ll see if AR5 shrinks the uncertainty bounds.

    The really odd thing – beyond your ability to clearly state what you’re talking about – is that you think it’s a “lukewarmer” point of view. It’s been the biggest bugaboo regarding our ability to project future effects of various future concentrations of CO2. It’s been out in the open, it’s a major theme of the published science, of the IPCC reports, of … the universe, life, and everything!

    It’s far more accurate to call it a major problem from a *mainstream* point of view. The problem, of course, is that policy people and folks in other areas of science such as ecology look at even the lower end of the broad range of uncertainty and go “oh, shit, if we’re lucky and climate sensitivity is only 2C this is going to hurt”.

    (remember that Tom Fuller thinks that sensitivity is 2.5C, i.e. *worse* than the lower range accepted by the mainstream view, and not at all far off from the current GISS Model E 2.7-2.8 or so values that Gavin has suggested the latest version will spit out for AR5).

    (Related) Role and net effects of aerosols and clouds

    Gavin’s talked about both, why would he not talk now? They’re both problems. People like yourself and 99% of the denialsphere wouldn’t even *know* of such problems if it weren’t for the fact that mainstream scientists have been saying all along that “hey, the understanding the impacts is weak”.

    of course, people on one side of the divide insist that the fact that cloud feedbacks are hard to characterize means that they must be strongly negative, just enough to balance the forcing due to increased CO2 and the water vapor feedback, without evidence, of course.


    All the rest. Lots of points. Great distractions. Many valid. Some not.

    Now that’s what I call being specific …

  66. Sou Says:

    The major issue from where I hail is not scientific, it’s when are governments going to take the lead with sufficient action so we stop getting cat 5 cyclones that have torn up or flooded much of eastern and central Australia and fanned fires in the south west. I’d love to get to a point when we no longer have 75-year bushfires every other year, and 100-year floods three times a season.

    While the Fullers of the world rant on about wanting to get an exact and precise ‘number’ for atmospheric sensitivity (will we ever?), the farmers down here are going from ruin to catastrophe. The city people are blaming ‘them’ or ‘the government’ for the multiple record rainfall events causing flooded homes and wrecked cars. At least when things happen in the cities people take note. Otherwise the general public and the media have pretty well ignored the climate change and increasingly severe extreme weather events over the past couple of decades.

    Okay, so I’m selfish and haven’t mentioned the weather disasters in Brazil, Egypt, Russia, Europe, the Philippines, Sri Lanka or North America.

    Any debate is political. Trying to frame climate science as a ‘debate’ is farcical.

  67. Marco Says:

    Tom, you’re being quite, ehm, ‘generous’ if you claim Spencer Weart called Anderegg et al “bogus”. He said there were defects and should not have been published as it was, but that most assuredly does not equate to “bogus”. Unless you already decided it was “bogus”, and hence anyone criticising said paper becomes that person also saying it was “bogus”. One of the best examples of confirmation bias I have ever seen.

    Note also that your list of names who are supposedly never criticised for being wrong completely misses the issue, and is wrong anyway. When these guys make a mistake, they are being told they made a mistake and should correct, also by the regulars. Problem is, they are not wrong very often…
    The issue being missed is that people like Goddard et al make so many, and sometimes very obvious errors in their own ‘theories’, and yet these are cited as valid contradicting ‘theories’ in climate science that climate scientists are supposed to respond to.

    To add a bit of humour to this: Judith Curry has been somewhat of a proponent of the notion climate scientists should respond to the objections/suggestions of “skeptics”. You know, even if only 1% is valid criticism, it still is time well spent, was her opinion. Well, that position went straight out when she was suckered into reviewing Slaying the Sky Dragon. Suddenly it was enough that someone showed certain aspects were wrong.

  68. Paul in Sweden Says:

    “Bart Says:
    February 5, 2011 at 00:05

    In principle, I would have liked to go if invited, since the concept of reconciliation appeals to me. Meeting people in person almost inevitably leads to some reconciliation (with the odd exception of course).

    +1 :)

    Good for you Bart — with Chatham rules in play I don’t think we will ever find out what went on but I think you and Keith and both Pielkies should have been invited also.

  69. Marco Says:

    Paul in Sweden:

    There have been some suggestions that the Pielke’s WERE invited (and agreed). Then again, this information comes from Tallbloke, so there’s a clear element of doubt there…

  70. Tom Fuller Says:

    Marco, I call that paper bogus because I read it, studied it and understood it. Finally, something in climate science fell within my field of competence. Bogus is my word, not Weart’s. He dismissed it the day it came out. So did I. [edit. BV] It violates the first canon of social research, damaging the reputation of the research subjects by falsely labeling some of them as deniers, which was the meta tag [edit. BV].

    But Marco, I’m pretty sure you followed the thread over at Tobis’ site where I made the same points in much greater detail. And this is what is killing you consensus-ites. Your refusal to learn from your mistakes and your determination to defend error on every point.

    One reason you guys are getting your butts kicked in the marketplace of ideas is that none of you will admit error. Another is the casual dishonesty of pretending you haven’t seen criticism.

    Of course, far more damaging is the behaviour of people like Stephen Schneider in that paper, or Eric Steig more recently.

  71. Bart Says:


    Your negative opinion of that article is also clear without using all too strong language. Please tone it down.

  72. Marco Says:

    Tom, you said, and I quote:
    “The only person who had the balls to stand up and say Prall, Schneider et al was bogus was Spencer Weart”

    That indicates to me, and I would expect anyone else, that you claim Weart called the paper bogus.

    I’m not defending the paper, I am defending factual accuracy with regard to Spencer Weart’s comments.

    P.S.: you’re taking O’Donnell’s words and assume they are correct. Tell me why you do not believe Eric Steig, who contradicts O’Donnell?

  73. Eli Rabett Says:

    What’s to criticise? Eli is always right.

  74. Tom Fuller Says:

    Gee, Marco, why would anyone believe O’Donnell over Steig? Hmm. Maybe because all the relevant materials are online? For everyone to look at and decide for themselves?

    Marco, what is your opinion of Prall, Schneider et al as published in PNAS?

  75. Bart Says:

    Tom, Marco, others:

    Please move this discussion to the open thread, and keep this one for discussions related to the reconciliation workshop and “the science is settled” controversy. Thanks!

  76. Tom Fuller Says:

    Hi Bart,

    Happy to oblige and my apologies to all who want to discuss reconciliation and the Lisbon conference. Good luck…

  77. Sou Says:

    Frankly, I see no point at all in attempting ‘reconciliation’ with the crowd at the Lisbon workshop, most of whom have shown no desire at all for reconciliation – quite the reverse (as demonstrated even during the conference itself). Their views have never been relevant and the world has moved on, and climate change is being felt in more and more simultaneous weather disasters. So many disasters, in fact, that a lot of them are getting little attention in the media.

    There is a saying: ‘if you can’t fight them, join them’. I think ignoring them is the better approach. Meeting with that crowd runs the risk of appearing to grant them the legitimacy they seek. Ignore the people and combat their furphies and action-delaying tactics with the facts.

  78. John Mashey Says:

    Suppose one wants to make policy, but is neither a policy-maker nor a relevant working scientist, in an area like this. What to do?

    Create a new buzzword that one can own, and that can claim sovereignty over the discussion, at which one can be the center, because one invented the buzzword.

    I’d say that, for example, Steve Schneider had a strong emphasis on expressing uncertainty and a long track record of communicating with various stakeholders and people of various levels of expertise, as well as the proper role of science in *informing* decisions that would have to be political/ethical priority calls. He was doing that for decades without having to invoke something like PNS.

    Of course, Merchants of Doubt equivalents are quite happy to join anything that casts doubt and confusion ins service of anti-science, and many people are happy to have a free trip. However, if I were an EC citizen, I might wonder abotu the use of my tax money.

  79. Paul Kelly Says:


    When I asked you about the reconciliation push. I said that to me it’s a bit of misdirected effort. Neither of us would have attended; I”ll assume your challenge to define, defend or recommend a reconciliation push isn’t directed at me.

    You gave many fine reasons to dismiss the reconcilers, but none of them is Gavin’s. I’m still not sure what he meant, but am trying to define politics to include polity broadly and policy.

    Which leads to Sou: “… when are governments going to take the lead with sufficient action”. Based on the experience of the last twenty some years and especially the last three, never. Well, not soon or even for a good long while. Can you accept that reality and look somewhere other than government for a successful approach?

  80. Paul Kelly Says:

    John Mashey,

    I’ve gotten from stoat, Gavin and some others that there’s enough science already and the science discussion is a distraction from the real issues and the root causes of conflict.

  81. Bart Says:


    I would say it differently. There are truckloads of interesting and not 100% certain science bits to discuss, as I’m sure Gavin would agree. But those are typically not the root cause for the hostile nature of the public debate, which is much more fed by people’s different viewpoints of how to deal (or not deal) with the climate change issue (dubbed “political” by Gavin, perhaps a bit too narrow of a word to describe the dynamics).

    Herman Daly is relevant to this discussion:

    Focusing on [the basic science, first principles, and directions of causality] creates a world of relative certainty, at least as to the thrust and direction of policy. (…)
    If you jump out of an airplane you need a crude parachute more than an accurate altimeter.

  82. John Mashey Says:

    Some, but not all, of the debate is carefully crafted following the same techniques as the cigarette folks, marketing/PR/lobbying tactics I’m afraid the US gave to the world. (Sorry).

    The science is certainly settled enough to give things like US GCRP.

    But there are still big uncertainty ranges, and better bounds for some of those are worth $T. Some areas where people currently live may or may not simply have to be abandoned (from drought issues), and having a better handle on sea level rise has vast benefits. Even knowing the difference between +1m and +2m for 2100AD is huge. (And I’ve gone through local government planning exercises that illustrated the difficulty with the uncertainty. For example, if you are going to build a big sewage plan with some expected lifetime, the optimal location changes.

  83. Paul Kelly Says:

    John Mashey wrote:

    “Suppose one wants to make policy, but is neither a policy-maker nor a relevant working scientist, in an area like this. What to do?

    Create a new buzzword that one can own, and that can claim sovereignty over the discussion, at which one can be the center, because one invented the buzzword.”

    I am one, neither policy maker nor scientist, who wants to make policy aimed tangentially at climate mitigation. The buzzword I’ve created is Replacing Fossil Fuel. I own it with a Federal EIN. It has sovereignty because all discussions of climate lead of necessity to replacing fossil fuel.

    So the buzzword became a company. We sell small units of energy transformation. These are not offsets or credits. Our product is actual efficiency or technology deployment.

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