Yes, we can (communicate)!

by

And now it’s time for something uplifting:

‘Of course scientists can communicate’ (Tim Radord’s Nature column)

there are reasons why scientists, in particular, should be and often are good communicators. One is that most scientists start with the engaging quality of enthusiasm. (…)

Enthusiasm is infectious, but to command an audience of readers, scientists should exploit their other natural gifts. One of these is training in clarity. Another is training in observation. And a third is knowledge. (…)

thoughts have value only when expressed, and the more clearly they are expressed, the greater their potential value. (…)

The problems for the scientist as a public communicator start with academic publishing: the language, form and conventions of the published scientific paper could almost have been devised to conceal information. (…) So to be effective communicators, scientists have to learn to stand back from their own work and see it as strangers might do. (…)

And while we have our ducks in a row, let me invoke the canard that scientists occasionally propagate about the media: that it does not appreciate scientific uncertainty. That one is especially irritating. It seems to say “I, as a scientist, wish to have it both ways. I want the privilege of knowing better than you, and the indulgence of being wrong without guilt, because science, don’t you see, is really about uncertainty.” To which the foolish answer might be “In which case, why should we listen?” But alas, people in any case listen selectively, even to the best communicators, which might be why so many Americans think Darwin’s theory of evolution is “only a theory”. Scientists are not the only people to blame for a problem in communication.

But…

If large proportions of the public believe demonstrably silly things (such as young earth creationism or that the earth is the centre of the universe or that AGW is not happening*), perhaps that’s a sign that there’s something in human nature that makes them prone to believing silly (though comfortable) things? Humans may have big brains, but we’re by and large not very good at intuitively understanding things that we can’t directly observe (that probably wasn’t a highly needed survival skill during our evolution). Or is it something in our culture? Or the education system? Or all of the above?

The problem with many of these complex questions is that the most boring and least useful answer is usually the right one: All of the above…

The real issue is perhaps not so much how to improve the journalists’ or scientists’ communication, but rather how to depoliticize the topic of climate change. Picked up at Yulsman’s,

John Fleck:

The impediments imposed by the way audiences filter what we say based on political belief systems means that our [journalists] work can only effect things at the margins.

(the same can of course be said for scientists’ communication efforts)

Andy:

(People’s) beliefs, whether sensible or otherwise, about a whole range of empirical questions are determined by their political identity.

The good news is, the climate debate hasn’t always been as politicized as it is now:

Polls show that as late as 1997, Republicans and Democrats had virtually indistinguishable views on the science of global warming. But an aggressive campaign by the fossil fuel industry and conservative think tanks to cast doubt about the scientific evidence that human activity is warming the planet changed that. Today, public understanding of climate science reflects a deep division along partisan lines.

Undoing that division is key. I found Jonathan Adler’s thoughts interesting and thought provoking (mostly so for libertarians) in that respect.

*) Even though all of these examples taken as absolutes are rather silly/unlikely, I don’t mean to imply absolute equivalence between these examples. Jeez, since when are disclaimers needed on blogs?

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185 Responses to “Yes, we can (communicate)!”

  1. magnus westerstrand Says:

    But journalists is a big part of what is political questions… if media where better at pointing out ppl making “mistakes” all the time on the same subject and holding them responsible for them. One of the biggest problems as i see them is the sub gropes that just watch the media that pleases them eg. Fox News and similar channels…

  2. Steve Fitzpatrick Says:

    Bart,
    An informative post. A few comments:

    Johnathan Alder is nothing like a libertarian. He is probably closer to the European political center than to a truly libertarian POV. Still, the sooner people address global warming as what it is… a political question… related mostly to priorities, values, world poverty, and inter-generational responsibilities, the sooner the issue can be meaningfully addressed. References to ‘young-Earth’ beliefs is a straw-man issue. Very few people who think much at all believe such non-sense. There are (however) lots of people who doubt the accuracy of projections of very high climate sensitivity and extreme future warming.

  3. Marco Says:

    Steve:
    http://www.gallup.com/poll/145286/Four-Americans-Believe-Strict-Creationism.aspx
    Note that 22% of postgraduates signed up on the creationist view of human creation. Note that a mere 25% of postgraduates does not believe a god played any role.

    Your “lots of people who doubt the accuracy of projections of very high climate sensitivity and extreme future warming” is rather poorly defined and perhaps even irrelevant. I also don’t believe climate sensitivity is six degrees, or that the earth will warm by 20 degrees in the near future. That still doesn’t even remotely put me in any category which could be construed as “skeptical of AGW” or even “skeptical of AGW impacts”.

  4. Bart Says:

    Steve,

    With that partly tongue in cheek comment (also note the disclaimer ;-) I was referring e.g. to the fact that

    Surveys that measure the public’s views on evolution, climate change, the big bang and even the idea that the Earth revolves around the sun yield a huge gap between what science tells us and what the public believes.

    See also Marco’s reply. It basically means that there’s a much wider scientific literacy issue that ‘just’ about climate change, and I think there’s a relation between them. Looking at what are the common factors that could explain this widespread belief in unscientific explanations, Eli pointed at the role of the media, whereas I explored the role of the audience/human psychology (call me an amateur psychologist if you wish).

    Regarding Adler, perhaps it was Curry’s framing that led me to think of Adler as a libertarian; she clearly portrayed him as such. But what’s in the name.

    I agree that the scientific issues and the political issues regarding climate change should be clearly distinguished, and that in the political sphere indeed it is about priorities, values, world poverty, inter-generational responsibilities, etc.

  5. Eli Rabett Says:

    A large part of the problem with science issues in general, not just climate issues, is that while the science is not political, the ways of addressing the issues raised by the science is.

    The natural tendency of those who have difficulty with the implications of the science is to belittle it. That is certainly one place where journalism has failed us and scientists have failed us, both by being less forthright that needed. Playing the refs only works until the ref pulls out the red card. (Yes, Eli knows that is a pun that cuts four ways).

  6. Eli Rabett Says:

    While it is true that scientists can be good, even great communicators, it is not part of the job description, and to demand this of everyone is both unfair and self defeating.

  7. Bart Says:

    Eli,

    That’s both very true indeed.

  8. Grypo Saurus Says:

    Alder is very much a libertarian. He actually just wants to promote the principles, not a strict adherence to market fundamentalism that the corporate establishment preaches.

  9. MikeN Says:

    I think a big problem with the communication is scientists’ refusing to admit mistakes and circling the wagons, straining credibility. Is it that hard to admit that Tiljander was used upside-down? Instead we see an attack from Michael Mann that such an accusation is bizarre.

  10. John Mashey Says:

    MikeN, what do you think about:
    a) The massive plagiarism and distortions of the Wegman Report?

    b) The falsification in <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Talk:The_Hockey_Stick_Illusion&oldid=380146816#HSI_pp.23-30.2C_421_…_dog_astrology"Hockey Stick Ilusion, to attribute words to Jon Overpeck for which there was zero evidence, other than fact he said he didn’t write it, and use key quote for a dog astrology journal.

    c) The wrong statistics (in AR parameters) by McIntyre, followed by a 1:100 cherry-pick of hockey-stick-looking curves (generated by wrong statistics).
    See this, which happens when someone actually reads the code.

  11. Tom Fuller Says:

    Mashey, exactly what does that have to do with Mann/Tiljander?

  12. Marco Says:

    Tom, it relates to the people who attacked Mann, who are not being held to the same standard. Not even close to the same standard…

  13. toto Says:

    Instead we see an attack from Michael Mann that such an accusation is bizarre.

    Actually, in this particular case, we see a reply to the comment McIntyre actually wrote, rather than to the one he thinks he has written.

  14. willard Says:

    And thus a talk about communicating science gets stuck in the mud of a Finnish lake.

  15. Tom Fuller Says:

    And willard, thus a talk about communicating science illustrates the reasons why it isn’t happening. Surprised?

  16. Tom Fuller Says:

    Just to review the bidding here, MikeN makes an assertion–that climate scientists strain credibility by refusing to admit obvious error. He cites an example: Mann/Tiljander.

    Nobody since has responded to his assertion. John Mashey tries to hijack the thread by introducing his pet peeve, Wegman’s alleged misbehavior. Not to talk about communication but to introduce false ‘immoral equivalence.’

    I try to reroute backto MikeN’s example about how scientists fail to communicate. Marco tries to justify Mashey’s attempt at derailment. toto actually tries to enter into the details of the incident MikeN brought up, although wrongly. But willard washes his hands of this and implies that it’s not the fault of his fellow co-religionists.

    Yes, climate science has a communications problem. It starts at home.

  17. Tom Fuller Says:

    I find MikeN’s assertion quite plausible and his example reasonable. I doubt if many commenters here enjoy going to Watt’s Up With That, but I think it would be instructive in this instance to show how many of we critics of consensus behaviour think that climate scientists could have and should have responded to some of the controversies involved 10 years ago.

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/03/18/you%E2%80%99re-not-allowed-to-do-this-in-science/#more-36186

  18. Marco Says:

    Tom, there still is a discussion, in the scientific arena (not the blogs, there the decision is already made) whether the use and type of use of the tiljander proxies by Mann constitutes an error, or whether it can be used as it was used by Mann. More importantly, however, Mann has shown that its inclusion or exclusion does little to the overall shape of the reconstruction. Just like MM05 ultimately did very little (in fact, even less) to MBH98 and MBH99.

    So, when will we see you guys demand McIntyre apologises for his error?

    Chirp, chirp, chirp, chirp, ad infinitum. Just like you decided not to react to my question on the Open Thread.

  19. MikeN Says:

    Marco, that discussion is irrelevant to Mann’s reply to McIntyre. Neither his original paper or his response to McIntyre’s objection defended upside-down usage. His response implicitly denied upside down usage, and even called the accusation bizarre, which I believe it would be for his 99 followup paper.

  20. MikeN Says:

    John Mashey, I find parts A not particularly relevant, B has been responded to by Bishop Hill

    C is interesting, though I find many flaws and other things that make me suspicious like references to Wahl and Ammann that had a low R^2. The methodological objections from W&A and A&W are valid by themselves. I find it strange that DC did not provide a summary of the other 99% of the simulations. It’s quite possible the top 1% is visually better, and selected for that reason, but the other 99% also have that problem making a primary critique disappear. I’d be surprised he didn’t think of that. Nevertheless the critique is interesting, and I’ll look into it.

  21. Tom Fuller Says:

    Marco, what error of McIntyre are you referring to?

  22. MikeN Says:

    Further down in DC’s thread, he admits the cherry picking of 1% has only a small effect, and concedes the main point about PCA being flawed, elevating hockey sticks to PC1. McIntyre has also in his various replies mentioned that it is the interaction of PCA and flawed proxies that is the problem, not PCA alone. That leaves the issue of ARIMA vs ARFIMA and whether it affects the results.

  23. MikeN Says:

    >however, Mann has shown that its inclusion or exclusion does little to the overall shape of the reconstruction.

    Actually this is not true. The robustness sensitivity diagrams change when you remove Tiljander, because suddenly without Tiljander, the bristlecone pines become key to the results. I find this conclusion surprising given the methodological weakness of the paper. It tends to produce hockey sticks from random data, yet it still requires a flawed proxy to produce a hockey stick. This suggests to me a conclusion that cannot be reached from other climate papers: That the Medieval Warm period was warmer than current time period, to an extent that it overwhelms the flaws in Mann’s CPS algorithm.

  24. Brandon Shollenberger Says:

    I read a comment by Marco upthread, and I had to respond:

    Tom, there still is a discussion, in the scientific arena (not the blogs, there the decision is already made) whether the use and type of use of the tiljander proxies by Mann constitutes an error, or whether it can be used as it was used by Mann.

    This is a fascinating claim. As far as I know, I have never seen anyone make it. As far as I know, even Mann never made it. Even if it were true using Tiljander upside down was defended in the literature (and I say it isn’t), it wouldn’t actually address the real issue. The Tiljander series are uncalibrated to temperature in the modern period due to anthropogenic influence. Arguing the data can be flipped upside down doesn’t magically mean the anthropogenic impact on the data disappears.

    More importantly, however, Mann has shown that its inclusion or exclusion does little to the overall shape of the reconstruction.

    This is only true if you include the tree ring data which has long been the source of controversy. Of course, one of the most important claims in the paper was it didn’t rely upon tree ring data. That’s been shown to be false. Ultimately, that means the paper is basically just MBH + Tiljander.

    Just like MM05 ultimately did very little (in fact, even less) to MBH98 and MBH99.

    It really doesn’t matter what shape the reconstruction takes if the reconstruction fails validation tests. As such, I won’t get into the issue of how much of a difference these things make in the shape. Instead, I’ll put it as simply as I can. This is what has been shown by McIntyre and company:

    MBH’s results depend entirely upon tree ring data despite the fact it claimed otherwise.
    Mann08′s results depend entirely upon tree ring data, or the use of proxies uncalibrated to temperature.

  25. Marco Says:

    Tom, good question. I could mention a few. Let’s start with his claim Briffa was stonewalling him about the data, a claim he upheld while he already HAD the data, received from the actual owners of the data. Well, maybe that’s not an error, just plain deceptive.

    OK, let’s take his claims about Yamal, then:
    http://delayedoscillator.wordpress.com/2009/10/05/yamal-emulation-i/
    (do go through all the links to prior posts, and note the comment from jmsully: McIntyre hiding the incline by throwing data out. This from the guy who got so obsessed with the divergence problem…)

    Of course, we already know that he changed TWO parameters at once to attack MBH98 and 99:
    http://www.people.fas.harvard.edu/~phuybers/Doc/hockey_grl2005.pdf
    The reply to Huybers’ comment is rather evasive, as it doesn’t really acknowledge the finding of Huybers that only changing one parameter and using Mann’s normalisation, actually doesn’t introduce much of a spurious hockeystick.

    Or how about all of McIntyre’s claims about supposed violations of IPCC policy, which were not violations of IPCC policy at all?

    Shall we also add McIntyre’s quote mining, perhaps?
    http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2010/08/steve_mcintyre_quote_mining_ex.php
    or other mistakes:
    http://deepclimate.org/2010/06/29/revisiting-tar-figure-2-21-part-1-another-false-claim-from-steve-mcintyre/

    Now, we could go on and on, but I know you will not accept that McIntyre has been wrong and has failed to properly acknowledge his errors on multiple occasions.

  26. Marco Says:

    Sigh, a repetition of the McIntyre says, Mann says. And the Shollenberger’s and MikeN’s will blindly trust McIntyre, why I just wonder how all those other reconstructions with other data keeps on reproducing or being very similar to Mann’s reconstruction (Ljungqvist, anyone?).

  27. Tom Fuller Says:

    MikeN and Brandon, thank you both. However, using your contributions to lead us back to the subject of this thread, I am fairly convinced that Marco has seen both of your arguments, both here and elsewhere. I find your arguments convincing, and more importantly, the counter-arguments I have seen to your points seem of a decidedly lower quality of both science and logic.

    So this example is useful. Mann’s errors are defended by people on this thread. Some of these people claim scientific training. Bart, who is a climate scientist, declines to weigh in.

    I am forced to conclude that some participants in the discussion are more interested in excommunicating than communicating.

    I’d be happy to be proven wrong.

  28. Tom Fuller Says:

    Marco, you actually just noted something that I know the details of quite well. McIntyre did indeed have the data he had requested from Briffa. He had several versions of it, actually. He didn’t know what Briffa used for publication, so he asked for it.

    And for any who might think that strange, they need only recall that McIntyre had been burnt on this very issue by the Hockey Team, who had provided him with the wrong version of data previously.

    More importantly Marco, I’m pretty sure you know this, too. I find it curious that you bring up arguments that have been answered fairly convincingly in the past.

    As I am personally convinced only that McIntyre is human, and hence as subject to error as any of us, your final comment is wrong. So is your first. Please explain to me why I should give any weight to your comments in between?

    To recap, Marco: You make a claim about McIntyre that I know to be false. You make a claim about me that I know to be false. What kind of science communication do you call that?

  29. Bart Says:

    Tom, I can’t prove you wrong on an assertion that you don’t have any evidence for. This is just part of the poisoned atmosphere of this whole discussion, which routinely reaches the lowest level when hockeysticks or Mann are part of the topic, which is a prime reason I’m not interested in discussing it. The other reason is that pretty much every alleged wrongdoing or mistake from Mann turns out to be hardly relevant to the result, whatever it may be. Those are the reasons I decline to weigh in, and I’m not by any means an expert on anything that Mann does (his behavior, his email, his paleo research – nothing), which is another not unimportant reason I decline to weigh in.

    Now, in response to MikeN’s original assertion: I think by and large scientists have no trouble admitting mistakes, though often there is also considerable pride in one’s research that may preclude being very upfront about that. Plus of course oftentimes things may not be as clearcut as they seem at first sight, which means what looks like a mistake to one person may not be a mistake in somebody else’s perception. The circling of the wagons is indeed a problem that I recognize in the dynamics of the popular debate. In response to the virulous attacks many scientists have (understandably though also counterproductively) gotten overly defensive. This attitude may preclude admitting mistakes to people who have in the past engaged in such virulous attacks. At which point a self reinforcing mechanism (call it a positive feedback loop if you wish) is at work.

    All:
    Discussions on this thread should pertain to the them of this post: Scientists’ role in science communication. Detailed discussions of Tiljander, McIntyre or other such topics should go to the open thread.

  30. Tom Fuller Says:

    Bart, thanks for your reply. I don’t find it particularly satisfactory, but glad that you’re at least considering the issue.

    MikeN’s example is sadly just one of many that could be used to show the difficulty ‘science’ (as opposed to individual scientists) has had in responding to criticism regarding climate science.

    His example, however, is fairly clear-cut in that there is little doubt about the facts of the matter, Marco notwithstanding.

    I would submit to you that one of the reasons the atmosphere regarding some of these particular discussions is poisoned is precisely because most scientists, like you, refuse to engage in the particulars.

    On issue after issue (and there are many such), we are left with credible criticisms of specific points on published science that go unanswered by the scientists involved and by the wider scientific community. In your absence, your adherents attempt to refute not just the criticisms but the critics, using language that I doubt you would sanction on your behalf (although you allow it quite freely here).

    I’ll try to make a point that I have addressed before. Communicating involves listening as well as speaking. All of the anguished language I have seen coming from the ‘climate science establishment’ is oriented around crafting a better message, finding more effective channels of distribution and lately swarming to the breach any time a new criticism is uttered in the press or larger media world.

    None of the discussion about communications and science has involved listening to or engaging in dialogue with the people who are offering these criticisms.

    That’s not communications, Bart. That’s about getting a larger megaphone.

  31. Bart Verheggen Says:

    Tom

    Part of the issue of what you perceive as “not listening” is that in general people’s willingness to listen to someone is inversely proportional to the extent that that someone has engaged in attacking the person. I see very little chance of Mann listening to McIntyre or McIntyre listening to Mann for example; there’s too much bad blood there. And that bad blood extents to the wider communities behind these persona’s. That’s a real shame, but it’s also a reality. I’m trying to be open to hearing other voices, but I also feel great amount of antipathy if someone comes in with all kinds of (in my perception not entirely fair) accusations against either climate science in general of specific climate scientists. I’m trying very hard not to respond defensive to such, but that ain’t easy.

  32. Tom Fuller Says:

    Bart,

    It ain’t easy for any of us. I keep coming back here after being called denier and anti-science time and time again, all in the hopes of being able to establish a dialogue about something I consider important.

    I don’t think Mann or McIntyre probably are going to listen to each other, but I see no reason why that should be extended to a wider group.

    You think it does, you think it’s a shame, you think it’s reality. I think it’s a challenge. If you are going to communicate, who are you going to communicate with? Either the large majority who have already indicated they just don’t care, people who already agree with you, or people who are interested but not convinced?

  33. MikeN Says:

    >very little chance of Mann listening to McIntyre or McIntyre listening to Mann for example; there’s too much bad blood there. And that bad blood extents to the wider communities behind these persona’s.

    Indeed it does. One reasonable attempt at dialogue escalated after McIntyre refused to call the author unless he first apologized for saying ClimateAudit engages in ‘vicious commentary.’

  34. MikeN Says:

    >This attitude may preclude admitting mistakes

    That just makes things easy for skeptics. It used to be I could point out a paper that was wrong in climate science, which was very accessible for a lay audience. The data was right there as an easy spreadsheet that could be graphed, and the source material could be seen graphed as well. Comparing the two it was obvious the author got it wrong, and it hurt the credibility of the field a bit. I can’t do that anymore as the author issued a correction. In the process, it makes that author more credible.

  35. willard Says:

    > One reasonable attempt at dialogue escalated after McIntyre refused to call the author unless he first apologized for saying ClimateAudit engages in ‘vicious commentary.

    Citation needed, here or in the Open Thread, where this comment belongs.

  36. Paul Kelly Says:

    Bart,

    After much thought, weighing the various arguments presented here and at the other blogs, and based on my experience in hundreds of media interviews, I blame the journalists for not properly communicating the science.

    Journalists ask the wrong questions. The question for scientists is if human caused climate change is as you say an immediate existential threat, why are you as a scientist not devoting your abilities to the science necessary to face that threat?

  37. Brandon Shollenberger Says:

    Perhaps my personal view would be of some relevance to this topic. Simply put, I don’t have any faith in the claims of global warming causing serious problems. The people advancing these claims have failed to convince me of them, and they have failed utterly. Some of the failure may have to do with science, but I suspect most of it could be blamed on communication. For example, I made a comment here regarding the “hockey stick.” Now then, I agree it was somewhat off topic, but after it I got to see this comment:

    The other reason is that pretty much every alleged wrongdoing or mistake from Mann turns out to be hardly relevant to the result, whatever it may be.

    This sort of comment helps ensure I won’t be convinced of anything. The original hockey stick completely depended upon a small set of tree ring data despite claiming the exact opposite. That’s the only issue which matters, and all the other issues only come up because they serve to hide the real issue. The issue with his later paper is just as simple.

    The issues can be boiled down to a single sentence. Given how simple it is, people should have no problem reaching an agreement on the subject. But they never do. If people can’t agree on something so simple, how can they hope to agree on something far more complicated, like the effects of global warming?

    I don’t have the knowledge to assess the scientific merits of most arguments regarding global warming. I don’t know if they are right or wrong. All I know is every issue I look at, no matter how simple, isn’t handled properly. Maybe I’m unlucky. Maybe I’m drawn to issues based upon the fact they aren’t handled properly. Maybe there are just lots of issues. I don’t know.

    All I know is as long as people making serious claims fail to properly handle issues simple enough for a lay person to understand, people like me won’t be convinced.

  38. Brandon Shollenberger Says:

    I came across a link to another blog post on this site during some unrelated reading. In the comments, our blog host said (in part):

    If McIntyre wouldn’t make snide insinuations and instead contribute constructively to the science, he would be taken a lot more seriously by scientists. After looking a bit into this, I’m not surprised that he is criticized rather harshly.

    This echoes a sentiment I’ve seen expressed a great deal. I’m curious about something though. Is this meant to suggest people like Michael Mann and Gavin Schmidt would take Steve McIntyre more seriously if he behaved differently, or are we just talking about scientists in general?

    If it is meant to be the former, I have to say that seems extremely naive. The behavior toward McIntyre predates any snide insinuations you might claim he has made. If it is the latter, I have to wonder, does the same sort of behavior from people like Mann cause scientists to take him less seriously?

    Incidentally, it is rather cheeky to say things would be different if McIntyre “instead contribute[d] constructively to the science.” McIntyre has published a number of papers, and he has certainly contributed constructively to the science.

  39. Tom Fuller Says:

    I think we’re getting into some interesting issues that are only slightly off-topic.

    Brandon, I think extrapolating from the events leading up to Climategate is dangerous. I don’t think it’s fair to tar people like Bart here with the same brush that Michael Mann and Phil Jones actually deserve. Of course, I’m just defending the central thesis of our book, that Climategate and the events that caused it was an issue regarding a small band of scientists rather than the science itself. But I think it is true. I don’t think the Hockey Team is the only group of scientists studying climate that have cheerfully climbed out on a limb equipped with only a saw, but I also don’t think they are representative of the large number of scientists doing good work.

    On the other hand, when Bart tries to defend climate scientists without investigating the claims made against them, he risks looking foolish at best to readers who have closely followed some of the narratives.

    And this comes down to communication at its core. As a lukewarmer, I need to be clear that most of my issues with the consensus are about ethics and best practice, over-generalization and an unwillingness to admit uncertainty. As a part of the consensus, Bart should stick to defending the science, not scientists in particular.

    The skeptics have it easy, as far as messaging. The burden on them is far lighter. But that’s really the way it should be in science. People like Lindzen and Christy should be encouraged, not vilified. People like Monckton should be treated with as much gentle good humor as can be mustered–he is not serious, nor are his arguments. But the consensus cannot say that because there is a Monckton, skepticism is invalid, any more than I can say that because Phil Jones told his colleagues to delete any emails regarding AR4 that what Bart is doing is invalid.

  40. Brandon Shollenberger Says:

    Tom Fuller, I’m not sure I know what you’re referring to. I don’t believe I extrapolated anything, and I certainly didn’t say anything negative about Bart.

  41. Tom Fuller Says:

    Sorry, Brandon. I didn’t mean to infer that you had.

  42. MikeN Says:

    >>The other reason is that pretty much every alleged wrongdoing or mistake from Mann turns out to be hardly relevant to the result, whatever it may be.

    >This sort of comment helps ensure I won’t be convinced of anything.

    It is similar to a comment made on the VS unit root thread.

    I think it can be very polarising to immediately classify every question about climate change into one of two categories

    A) It attacks all of established climate science, and must therefore be wrong

    B) If it doesn’t overturn all of established climate science, well, it must be a nit pick and unimportant.

  43. Bart Says:

    MikeN,

    The problem comes in when a catecory B issues is presented or defended as an A.

  44. willard Says:

    I think it can be very polarising to immediately turn a general question of science into a question about Mann or Jones. It’s a trivial matter to coatrack any question of science with the words “Mann” and “Jones”. So it’s a trivial matter to polarize debate.

    One can even hold that every discussion will sooner or later implicate Mann or Jones. This would be the equivalent of the Godwin’s law of climate blogland, by collective guilt by association. At the very least, any discussion can be turned about Mann or Jones, more so when Tom Fuller is showing interest.

  45. Tom Fuller Says:

    Yes, Willard, that would distract us from the obviously more delightful task of de-McIntyring the planet. Sorry to have intruded.

  46. Robert Murphy Says:

    Tom Fuller:
    “The skeptics have it easy, as far as messaging. The burden on them is far lighter.”

    That’s because their target audience isn’t very bright. They’ll lap up any old argument, as long as it is supposed to be against AGW. Even when their arguments don’t agree with each other; “The warming is from the sun/AMO/PDO/natural variability” + “There’s been no warming/ all the data is faked/warming ended in 1998/1995″. They’ll uncritically accept obvious fakes like Easterbrook’s graphs but will hang on any perceived mistake from someone like Mann (even when the *auditors* McIntyre and Mckitrick made a far bigger mistake *fixing* Mann’s hockey stick). So-called *skeptics* haven’t a skeptical bone in their bodies. Such people will believe anything, and they do, as long as it’s anti-AGW.

    Willard:
    “One can even hold that every discussion will sooner or later implicate Mann or Jones.”

    Don’t forget Al Gore, too. Did you know he’s fat? I would never have known that before reading *skeptic* sites. And Hansen can’t be forgotten either. Between Mann, Jones, Hansen, and Gore, there’s more than enough fodder for obfuscating bloggers to confuse the gullible.

  47. Steve Fitzpatrick Says:

    Bartt, Marco,
    While it is true that a significant fraction of Americans believe crazy things, it is also true or Brits (GM crops are bad), Japanese (social pecking order), French (quality wine can only come from certain… French.. soils), and everyone else. The more technical the issue, the fewer people are competent to even understand what is involved.

    What fraction of people can offer a meaningful explanation of how an LCD screen works? Or a personal computer (or even a transistor!)? Internal combustion engine? The Carnot cycle? How an airplane stays in the air? Particle/wave duality? What a cloud is and how it forms? The lack of basic technical understanding is so common and wide-spread (worldwide) as to be uninteresting.
    When someone lacks their own competence to understand something, they automatically adopt the POV of their social group. In the case of many Americans, that social group is dominated by Christian Biblical teachings. Adoption of the POV that is compliant with that of your peers is everywhere, in every human group, and in every human activity.

  48. Tom Fuller Says:

    So, as they taught me long ago in uni, the necessary precondition for communication is the establishment of trust.

    I don’t necessarily have to believe what you say. But in order to communicate, I have to believe at a minimum that you believe what you say.

    Which puts me in a bit of a dilemma. I believe that increased concentrations of CO2 do warm the planet, although I don’t know (and I don’t believe anyone else knows) what the sensitivity of the atmosphere is to those increased concentrations. So theoretically I should be easy to communicate with.

    However, Mann won’t admit error in his work. Jones instructed colleagues to delete emails. The leading proponents of vigorous action to combat climate change have personal lifestyles that are sybaritic at best and baselessly debauched at worst.

    Scientists working on what they say is the most important issue facing the planet refuse to even look at the work of their peers that is criticized, let alone to cooperate with those struggling to find understanding. The effort of BEST to establish a broader base of temperature readings and make them publicly available was vilified by consensus media outlets because of the participants. When, as everybody knew, the first findings were perfectly in line with other databases, the same sources crowed that this was a feather in the cap for the consensus and continued to vilify BEST members.

    Bart, the people who believe as you do are in fact communicating. I don’t think that what they are communicating is really what you want.

  49. J Bowers Says:

    “However, Mann won’t admit error in his work.”

    But he does respond.

    http://www.pnas.org/content/106/6/E11.full

    Seems a reasonable enough person to me, in a sciency way. If only Douglass, Michaels, Spencer and Christy were given a need to respond by McIntyre. Fat chance.

  50. Brandon Shollenberger Says:

    J Bowers, that’s about the worst example you could possibly pick. In response to the claim Mann’s reconstruction used the Tiljander series upside down, Mann says:

    The claim that “upside down” data were used is bizarre.

    I agree the claim is “bizarre.” However, it is only “bizarre” because of the absurdity of someone doing such a thing. That the claim is “bizarre” doesn’t change the fact it is true.

    He follows that comment by saying “Multivariate regression methods are insensitive to the sign of predictors,” which is true. Unfortunately, this doesn’t address any criticisms which have been raised, as there is more than one step involved in making a temperature reconstruction. In other words, while what he said is true, it is completely non-responsive. Later, he goes on to say:

    Potential nonclimatic influences on the Tiljander and other proxies were discussed in the SI, which showed that none of our central conclusions relied on their use.

    Mann’s paper claimed to show modern temperatures were anomalous for over a thousand years, even without using tree ring data (this is straight from the abstract). However, as even Gavin Schmidt has acknowledged, without including the Tiljander series, Mann’s reconstruction doesn’t validate any further back than 1500. If you don’t include the Tiljander series, you can’t get the results he claimed.

    Mann certainly talks back. If that’s all you require, then yes, Mann “responds.” If instead, you expect him to address criticisms, deal with issues or even just make true claims, he doesn’t “respond.” Neither does anybody supporting him.

    w

  51. J Bowers Says:

    “J Bowers, that’s about the worst example you could possibly pick. …”

    Nope, it’s Mann communicating via the scientific literature. It might not be what you want, but it’s still communication. But it wasn’t an invite to rehash old talking points about technical details on a disputed use of proxy data which has been covered at Stoat, Dot Earth, Not Spaghetti, Climate Audit, AGW Observer, etc, ad nauseum.

  52. Bart Says:

    Steve F,

    I think that’s indeed an important mechanism (to automatically adopt the POV of their social group). However, to the extent that people are doing so to even adopt what I dubbed “silly” things, it signifies a lack of critical thinking. I think without any attachment to a social group, one can also form a preliminary opinion about complex topics, using some shorthand hints for who to trust and what’s more likely true.

  53. Heraclitus Says:

    Tom Fuller, you talk of the the “consensus media outlets” villifying the BEST project, but I at least am not clear what you mean by this – unless you are talking about Climate Progress, which is the only place I remember seeing anything that might be approaching vilification (I’d say it was closer to justifiable suspicion).

    I’d categorise the Guardian, for example, as a consensus media outlet, but this certainly doesn’t look like vilification http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2011/feb/27/can-these-scientists-end-climate-change-war

    Seems to me you might be manufacturing a controversy there.

  54. Tom Fuller Says:

    Heraclitus, perhaps I overstated media reaction. If so, I’m relieved as well as apologetic. Perhaps I was overly influenced by the virulence of the comments in Romm’s hit piece, when it was clearly the usual vile suspects.

  55. Brandon Shollenberger Says:

    J Bowers, I discussed those “technical details” because doing so shows Mann wasn’t communicating with that response. He was pretending to communicate. He was pretending to address the criticisms leveled against him, but in actuality, he didn’t respond to them in the slightest. His response would have been no less responsive if he had just said, “Nuh-uh,” and it would have been less misleading.

    I explained all this in my comment, but you ignored it. I don’t know if you just didn’t read my comment well or what, but your response to me was rubbish.

  56. Steve Fitzpatrick Says:

    Bart,

    Sure a few people do use critical thinking, even when their conclusions are contrary to the POV of their social group (I concluded God did not exist when I was about 15 years old, and nobody taught me to believe that…). Some people will learn enough to critically examine technical issues, but I think that is a very small minority; mostly people take the easier approach. With regard to who people will/should believe, there are lots of things that inspire confidence in an ‘expert’, and probably even more that inspire doubt. My personal observation is that most people trust those who share their personal views/values, independent of any technical merit.

  57. J Bowers Says:

    Brandon, why do you assume that Michael Mann should dance to McIntyre’s tune all of the time? It’s McIntyre who needs Mann et al far more than Mann et al need McIntyre anyway. McIntyre is nothing without the Hockey Team. No wonder he keeps re-animating zombies. Inbetween Inhofe’s and Cuccinelli’s witchhunting efforts to turn him into a criminal, and his usual day job, don’t you think Mann has enough to fill his time?

    “He was pretending to…”

    Ah, that good old pseudosceptic ESP works its magic. Why the need for communication when mindreading’s available to you anyway?

  58. Brandon Shollenberger Says:

    J Bowers, your first paragraph make no sense. You claimed Mann responds. I pointed out the example you provided should not be considered a “response” in any meaningful sense of the word. None of the questions you asked have any bearing on the issues being discussed. Other than giving you the opportunity to make derogatory comments about certain people, I have no idea why you made them.

    Ultimately, rather than address anything I said, you latched onto a minor point of semantics. Sure, maybe Mann believes his comments were responsive. Maybe he doesn’t realize nothing he said had any bearing on the criticisms leveled against him. In that sense, perhaps it was inaccurate to say he “pretended” to respond. Exactly what difference does that distinction make? None. I have no problem fixing my word choice, but you cannot use a minor nit like that to avoid discussing the issues at hand.

    You made a claim. I offered reasons that claim shouldn’t be accepted. You responded by ignoring what I said, jumping onto an issue of word choice and making irrelevant comments which were derogatory. That is the epitome of how not to hold a conversation.

    I see no point in continuing this “discussion.” I suspect our host would rather we not, and I can’t imagine anything productive coming from it. You are welcome to respond, but unless there is a significant change in how you respond, I won’t be commenting again.

  59. Paul Kelly Says:

    Since first stumbling onto climate blogs in 2007, I’ve marveled at the frequency of communications posts. The constant lament is why oh why the loss in the marketplace of ideas. There is always a desire to place blame.

    The public is ill informed or downright stupid. Journalists don’t know what their job is. The Koch brothers. Big Oil. Science haters. The scientists themselves. No, no. It could never be the message or the messengers.

    There is no clear cut message. The principle messengers are flawed.

  60. andrew adams Says:

    Tom Fuller,

    However, Mann won’t admit error in his work. Jones instructed colleagues to delete emails. The leading proponents of vigorous action to combat climate change have personal lifestyles that are sybaritic at best and baselessly debauched at worst.

    Leaving aside the question of whether these things are true, how are they a barrier to communication between proponents of AGW and yourself?

  61. Steve Fitzpatrick Says:

    andrew adams,
    “Leaving aside the question of whether these things are true, how are they a barrier to communication between proponents of AGW and yourself?”
    Tom can speak for himself, of course, but IMO if those things are even partially true, then they are exactly the kinds of behaviors which cause people to not trust the accuracy of the message.

    It is really pretty simple: anybody who believes that CO2 driven warming presents a serious threat to humanity ought not be regularly jetting off (with enormous CO2 emissions!) to exotic destinations like Tahiti for climate science conferences. Climate scientists who want their (un-welcomed) message of extreme future warming to be well received must be (and must be perceived as) more pure than Ceasar’s wife, and should conduct themselves in ways that are consistent with the dire nature of their predictions. They really have not been doing this.

  62. Bart Says:

    The physics of radiative transfer and feedbacks are not the least dependent on whether climate scientists fly to Tahiti or not.

    If you can only address a problem when you’re pure as the driven snow, than no problem will ever be addressed.

  63. J Bowers Says:

    Steve Fitzpatrick — “Tom can speak for himself, of course, but IMO if those things are even partially true, then they are exactly the kinds of behaviors which cause people to not trust the accuracy of the message.”

    Watts Up With That just went down in flames, then, which makes the fact that Watts is involved with the Berkely project even more disturbing.

  64. Tom Fuller Says:

    Andrew, the central message of the climate consensus is that we have to change the way we live. According to them, this change must be dramatic–we have to cut 80% of our emissions of CO2. Soon. They say things like the planet has a fever, or the streets of Manhattan will be flooded soon.

    This is a message (not communications–the ‘debate is over’, the ‘science settled’). Without exception, anyone disputing this message is systematically trashed–see J Bowers re Anthony Watts as just today’s example.

    Since this is not communications, the message needs to be evaluated by the normal criteria we use for messaging.

    1. Is the message credible and coherent?
    2. Are the messengers credible and coherent?
    3. Are the actions of those who preach and believe the message consistent with the implications of their message.

    1. One part of the message is that recent temperature rises are unprecedented in recorded history. Michael Mann’s paleoclimatic reconstruction of past temperatures tried desperately to show that they were. His torturing of the data was so extreme that Keith Briffa, Ed Cook, Tom Wigley (all prominent supporters of the thesis) thought that he went too far. Keith Briffa, normally touted as a pre-eminent paleoclimatologist, thought that ‘recent temperatures had been matched 1,000 years ago.’ When this is brought up in polite company, his stature is demoted to that of ‘just one scientist disagreeing with the results.’

    Obviously this does not disprove global warming. How could it? The globe has warmed. Nor does it disprove an anthropogenic component. How could it. The world has gone from 5 million cars to 880 million cars in 60 years, from 500 power plants to 50,000 power plants in 100 years.

    What it should do is cause us to look carefully at the narrative the consensus has constructed as part of their carefully non-communicative message.

    When Phil Jones broke the law by asking his colleagues to delete all emails relating to AR4, he was trying to protect the narrative. He and his fellow Team members had colluded to gain pride of place for their findings and to minimize the accurate criticisms of a certain Steve McIntyre. He and his buds acted unethically and against the interests of a clearer scientific and political understanding of present and past climate.

    This does not mean that all climate scientists are sleazy. This is one group of half a dozen individuals that gradually crossed the line between vigorous advocacy of their findings and cooking the books. And it does not mean that global warming is disproved. It isn’t.

    When the major advocates of vigorous action to combat global warming make no attempt to lead by example or incorporate some of their advice to the world in their personal activities, it shows the insincerity of some of what they say. And this is true even though living a Puritan lifestyle of sackloth and ashes would not change emissions or lower the temperature.

    Since they refuse to communicate they are forced to operate by the rather simple rules of effective messaging. They have not done this.

    Which is why we are where we are.

  65. luminous beauty Says:

    TF,

    When Phil Jones broke the law by asking his colleagues to delete all emails relating to AR4…

    Asking someone to delete emails who is not subject to British FOIA nor, at the time, U.S. FOIA, is not against the law, not even if the the ICO, in a public statement, says it has the appearance at first glance of being against the law. Actually deleting emails on UEA servers might be, but there is no evidence Jones did nor had administrative access to UEA servers in order to do so. The existence of these emails stolen from UEA servers is unequivocal proof that they were not deleted.

    Your and your sycophantic hangers’-on persistence in exaggerating what was, certainly, a well meaning but ill-advised over-reaction to specious attacks on Jones’ professional work as damnably unethical and criminal, and your unwillingness to confess the over-reaching dimension of the slanders you commit is why we are here.

  66. Tom Fuller Says:

    Phil Jones broke the law by asking someone–anyone–to delete emails in advance of a FOIA request. The UK Information Commissioner’s Office called it the clearest prima facie case of breach of the act possible and said that only the expiration of the ridiculously short statute of limitations prevented further action on their part.

    I’m looking around for sycophantic hangers-on, but don’t seem to see any. Maybe I should check behind the couch.

  67. luminous beauty Says:

    Brandon Shollenberger,

    You make the claim that the Tiljander series should not be used because it cannot be calibrated simply against the instrumental record. It is, indeed, why Mann identified this series, among others, to be problematic. However, I can think of three or more alternative methods of calibration off the top of my head.

  68. luminous beauty Says:

    TF,

    Perhaps you should research the difference between ‘prima facie’ and ‘res ipsa loquitur’ and how they relate to the burden of proof in legal proceedings, and how a breach of the law can only be said to be, at most, alleged absent due process.

  69. Tom Fuller Says:

    Luminous beauty, I would certainly brush up on my Latin and consult with my acquaintances who follow the legal profession if a) I had any doubt about the matter and b) if I hadn’t already done so extensively in preparing our book.

  70. luminous beauty Says:

    TF,

    I would add, given the murkiness of the British FOIA, its allowable exceptions and lack of clear precedent, not to mention whether it can be shown that Jones was acting on legal advice from UEA’s FOIA officer, an official adjunct of the ICO, it is impossible to say exactly what is legal or illegal barring actual legal proceedings. It most certainly cannot be decided by a public statement from an ICO officer who has no knowledge of nor involvement in the case other than what he has read in the press.

  71. Tom Fuller Says:

    I stand by what I wrote.

  72. Paul Kelly Says:

    “… the fact that Watts is involved with the Berkely project even more disturbing.” What a load of baloney. The surface station project is recognized as the most comprehensive survey of temp station siting, is accepted by the monitoring agencies and used in climate literature.

    I am fascinated by the dangling keys in front of toddlers aspect of climate discussion. Here we have a post on communication, yet most here prefer the jangle of picayune argument. If someone who has made a living communicating (Fuller, myself) points out reasons communication is failing or how communication actually works, he is dismissed and attacked.

    1. Is the message credible and coherent?
    2. Are the messengers credible and coherent?
    3. Are the actions of those who preach and believe the message consistent with the implications of their message.

  73. luminous beauty Says:

    And fall.

    Seriously, Tom, one could become rich making book on occasions a lawyer has told a client that a case was open and shut and subsequently fell on his face in court. Exponential wealth when considering free advise.

  74. J Bowers Says:

    Tom Fuller — “Without exception, anyone disputing this message is systematically trashed–see J Bowers re Anthony Watts as just today’s example.”

    In trying to paint a picture of one side being “systematic” about trashing those with whom they disagree ignores the simple fact that it’s done by those who you seem to think are “off message”. An appeal for the underdog. You should get a job in DC, Tom.

    But isn’t it strange how those who are “off message” aren’t facing criminilisation or fighting investigations by legislators and public prosecutors, while those who are “on message” are. A disinterested observer could be forgiven for concluding that your view would be in polar opposite to the evidence, Tom. Or is it usual for those who are “on message” to be the ones who face constant official persecution? Maybe the Communists in Fifties America were actually “on message” and McCarthy was “off message”. Who’d have thought it?

  75. J Bowers Says:

    Paul Kelly — “The surface station project is recognized as the most comprehensive survey of temp station siting, is accepted by the monitoring agencies and used in climate literature.”

    Sorry to put it back into context.

    Has Watts apologised to NOAA yet? No.

    http://tamino.wordpress.com/2010/03/05/message-to-anthony-watts/

  76. Steve Fitzpatrick Says:

    Bart,

    Of course physics has nothing to do with what climate scientists do/act; I suggested nothing like that. I thought the general issue here was effective communication. That is what I was addressing. Advocates for a position must be credible to be effective.

    I don’t think you understood my point. If someone wants to gain credibility for the danger of emitting too much CO2 to the atmosphere, and that same someone wants to encourage (or even force by law) humanity to drastically reduce CO2 emissions, then it does not at all help with credibility to be jetting off to exotic destinations for scientific conferences. It does not help at all to appear to say one thing and do another. It is a serious issue: when an advocate like Al Gore flies all over the world in his private jet, buys a multi-million dollar apartment… at sea level… and then pronounces how much we need to reduce CO2 emissions, and how rapidly sea levels will soon rise, that is not good for his credibility. Phil Jones telling people to delete emails is not good for his credibility. It is a question of effective communication, not physics. Surely you can see this.

  77. Paul Kelly Says:

    J Bowers,

    Don’t give a rip about the Tamino/Watts Feud. It’s just another one of the dangling keys. Care to take on the three questions about the message posed by Fuller and again by me?

  78. Brandon Shollenberger Says:

    luminous beauty, there is no possible way to calibrate Tiljander to temperature (for the period following anthropogenic impact, obviously). The three other “methods of calibration” you claim to have thought of wouldn’t change the fact the Tiljander series don’t correlate to temperature during the period in question. Your comment makes no sense.

    As a side note, does anyone else find it funny J Bowers just posted a link to a blog post which does nothing more than belittle a person? He didn’t provide a link to actual arguments showing Anthony Watts is wrong. Instead, the link was just to someone claiming to have made the arguments.

    Presumably, J Bowers doesn’t want to discuss technical details. Instead, just like his previous example, all he has offered is the claims of people he agrees with. Mind you, I’m not saying the claims he offered this time are wrong. However, the last ones he offered were (horribly) wrong, yet he offers these ones in the same fashion.

    That is the sort of thing which causes so many problems. If a person is well-acquainted with one topic, and your “side” is wrong about it, how can they be expected to trust your position on the topics they don’t know well?

    In this case, I happen to be acquainted with both topics, so I know J Bowers is right on this one (though I might argue Tamino is excessive with his criticisms). However, if I hadn’t taken the time to look into the issue when it first came around, I wouldn’t have believed that link. That’s how we humans judge complex issues we know little about.

    Addressing criticisms and admitting mistakes can only serve to strengthen a position.

  79. Tom Fuller Says:

    That’s sort of the Joe Romm theory of argumentation–link to a previous post that disputes something and call it decisive refutation.

  80. J Bowers Says:

    Paul Kelly, you assume that I think the questions are the right ones. “Consistent” is used only once when it should be in all questions, as an example. You also seem to assume that because Fuller has said so then it must be so, and the discussion has now been defined by how Fuller frames it.

    I do, however, object to “preach” as much as Fuller objects to “denialist”. Time for you both to practise what you “preach”.

  81. Tom Fuller Says:

    J Bowers,

    I see no evidence of preaching in what either Paul Kelly or I write. Media criticism is not that exalted a field as of yet.

    Bart writes above that scientists can communicate. I certainly agree. I however doubt if the people that scientists are letting step to the podium before them can. At least I see no evidence of a serious, let alone successful effort.

    You serve as a typical example of the genre. You’re not at all interested in communicating, just beating us into submission. Keep trying.

  82. luminous beauty Says:

    Brandon,

    luminous beauty, there is no possible way to calibrate Tiljander to temperature (for the period following anthropogenic impact, obviously). The three other “methods of calibration” you claim to have thought of wouldn’t change the fact the Tiljander series don’t correlate to temperature during the period in question. Your comment makes no sense.

    It isn’t true that the Tiljander series don’t correlate to temperatures during the instrumental period, just that the raw data don’t correlate that well. The problem is that there are step changes in amplitude as land use changes have been introduced.

    ”In the case of Lake Korttajarvi it is a demanding task to calibrate the physical varve data we have collected against meteorological data, because human impacts have distorted the natural signal to varying extents.”

    Demanding, but not impossible. It is possible, using historical metadata, plausible physical reasoning and a lot of work to correct for those amplitude changes by normalizing the data between periods delimited by human impacts. That is the first method that comes to mind. The other two plus avoid direct calibration to the historical record, by multiple regression methods against other relatively local proxies, or partial reconstructions of multiple nearby proxies, or even all proxy reconstructions, that have been so calibrated, allowing the use of the series at least pre-18th century.

  83. luminous beauty Says:

    The surface station project is recognized as the most comprehensive survey of temp station siting, is accepted by the monitoring agencies and used in climate literature.

    Well, yes, maybe. Nonetheless, the conclusions published in the literature are diametrically opposed to all that Watts contends on his blog.

  84. Marco Says:

    Paul Kelly, allow me to take on the questions:

    1. Is the message credible and coherent?

    Grosso modo, yes.

    2. Are the messengers credible and coherent?

    Grosso modo, yes.

    3. Are the actions of those who preach and believe the message consistent with the implications of their message.

    Grosso modo, yes.

    Now, those are MY answers. The more, ehm, ‘skeptical’ people here will answer as follows:

    1. Is the message credible and coherent?

    No! How can a trace gas have any effect? And if it has any effect, it surely is positive, we all know warm is better than cold. And model A says it will warm 2 degrees, and model B 3 degrees, so the models don’t even agree anyway.

    2. Are the messengers credible and coherent?

    See answer to 1. Oh, and Phil Jones asked someone to delete e-mails, so there.

    3. Are the actions of those who preach and believe the message consistent with the implications of their message.

    Of course not. Just see how they keep on applying for more money, while claiming we already know enough.

    Of course, you can get anything in-between and even more extreme. The simple fact is that one message does not fit all. And when the message doesn’t quite fit a person, it easily becomes the messenger who is blamed. If only he had framed it better! But when a messenger uses different messages for different audiences, the obfuscators will attack the messenger for not being consistent. There’s nothing easier than to obfuscate in a complex field.

    And, Paul, the surface station project was indeed used in the climate literature. That climate literature showed that the frequently uttered claims about the effect of the poor siting were grossly overstated, to the effect that the result was OPPOSITE to the claims. The person making that claim was also forced to remove a libelous remark from a document (it wasn’t a Tamino vs Watts issue, several people on the skeptic side even claim THEY were the once who made Watts backtrack). That same Watts has a knack of making false claims, and the question remains whether that is a matter of general poor understanding, or perhaps malice. Somehow this same person got attached to the Berkeley project?

    Anyway, if there is anyone who fits Tom Fuller’s description of dishonest and unwilling to admit errors, Anthony Watts is still likely to be more extreme in that regard than that person.

  85. Marco Says:

    Tom, as long as the scientist does not say what you want to hear, you will consider the scientist a bad communicator. It’s a quite common trait in many people: “nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, I can’t heaaarrr you!” when the message is not to one’s liking. Some people are worse than others in that regard.

  86. J Bowers Says:

    Tom Fuller — “That’s sort of the Joe Romm theory of argumentation–link to a previous post that disputes something and call it decisive refutation.”

    It’s a number of independent contradictions of Watts’ accusation against NOAA, for which Watts has still not apologised. Tamino is only one.

    The further discussing of the technical details, which are discussed to death elsewhere, is, “Oh, let’s talk about this yet again and make further iterations of the same old same old”. That’s sort of the Steve McIntyre theory of argumentation.

  87. Tom Fuller Says:

    Se io credesse che mia risposte fosse…

  88. Tom Fuller Says:

    J Bowers, I don’t see why Steve McIntyre should quite talking about the serious errors he has found in paleoclimatic reconstructions until the people involved acknowledge those errors and move to correct them.

    People like you saying they are the same old, same old just reinforce the impression the rest of the world gets that the Hockey Team has been recalcitrant for a decade.

    …a persona che mai tornasse al mondo…

  89. Paul Kelly Says:

    J Bowers,

    I do practice what I preach. That’s why I’m involved in organizing The Leo High School Windows and Doors Project. Click on my name and join the club.

    If you have questions better than the ones Fuller posed, please pose them. I repeated Fullers questions because they are precisely the ones that must be answered in analyzing why a message is or isn’t being communicated.

  90. J Bowers Says:

    Tom Fuller — “You serve as a typical example of the genre. You’re not at all interested in communicating, just beating us into submission. Keep trying.”

    Hoisted by your own petard.

  91. Brandon Shollenberger Says:

    luminous beauty, you say:

    The problem is that there are step changes in amplitude as land use changes have been introduced.

    This is a bold claim, and it is completely unsupported. In actuality, the problem isn’t one of step-changes. Step-changes are relatively easy to correct for, but a change in signal type is not.

    Of course, you could argue it is “possible” to correct the data. Theoretically speaking, maybe it would be. Maybe I could also determine the weather in China by observing a leaf fall outside my window. Nobody has offered any way to do either, by in some asinine sense, both are “possible.”

    In any meaningful sense, it is impossible to derive any information about temperatures from the later portion of the Tiljander series. Oddly enough, you say:

    allowing the use of the series at least pre-18th century.

    Nobody has been talking about the pre-18th century portion of the series, so this comment makes little sense. Being able to salvage a portion of the data series might be useful, but it would be completely irrelevant to the issues being discussed.

  92. J Bowers Says:

    Tom Fuller — “I see no evidence of preaching in what either Paul Kelly or I write.”

    http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/Practice+what+you+preach

  93. Tom Fuller Says:

    It’s almost frantic, the way that Bowers and beauty keep trying to distract from the topic of communication. It’s actually the opposite of communication. Which is the point Paul Kelly and I are trying to make.

    …questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse…

  94. Bart Says:

    Paul, Tom

    I think those three points on communication you mentioned make sense, with the caveat about the third one that I made earlier (in reply to Steve F). The more complex the chain of cause and effect, the more more complex the third point becomes. If someone sais too much coffee is bad for you but in the meantime downs 8 cups a day I guess he can say he’s addicted and maybe it’s true. His message will however lose credibility indeed. But would you care to venture a guess how many people drink more coffee than they think is good for them? People don’t always act in accordance to what they (think they) know. It seems a little too easy to dismiss someone’s message because they too possess that very human trait. And then I’m only talking about drinking coffee. In a complex area such as climate change people have vastly different perceptions on how it should be tackled, and on their own role in that. Projecting how they should behave and then dismissing them because they don’t is sometimes a little too convenient of an excuse to dismiss the message I think.

    Paul,
    You seem to perceive a lot more value in the surface stations project than most scientists do. Though I would admit that this issue is clouded by all the bickering: Any merit Watt’s efforts may have is hidden under such thick layers of overinterpretation and accusation that most scientists don’t care to look for it. You could fault the scientists for being blinded by those layers rather than seeing the pearls of wisdom underneath, while others fault Watts for hiding his pearls under those layers. Both PoV’s are valid from within their own frame of reference.

    Luminous, Brandon, others: Tiljander or other proxies are off topic here. Please move that to the open thread.

  95. Paul Kelly Says:

    Marco,

    AFAIK, Watt’s involvement in the Berkely project is only that they’re using his siting data. Watts is certainly not a science authority for me. I take all my climate science questions to stoat and consider his answers well grounded.

    Your answers to the three questions are grosso modo not answers at all. How about one example to back up each of the yeses?

  96. luminous beauty Says:

    TF,

    J Bowers, I don’t see why Steve McIntyre should quite talking about the serious errors he has found in paleoclimatic reconstructions until the people involved acknowledge those errors and move to correct them.

    Even if those ‘errors’ that are true are not serious, and those that are serious are not true? Why?

    “S’io credessi che mia risposta fosse a una persona mai tornasse al mondo

    Fitting that you should be commenting as though from the depths of hell.

    PK,

    Have you ever heard the saying, “One can lead a horse to water, but one can’t make him drink”? Steve Fitzpatrick has above made an allusion to Ceasar’s wife, which you seem to be echoing in the question “Are the actions of those who preach and believe the message consistent with the implications of their message[?]“. I have no idea if you have any sensitivity to irony, but Pompeia was divorced by Julius, not because of any impropriety she had committed, but because of an impropriety committed by Julius’ best boy, Publius Clodius, for which Julius saw he was acquitted.

    Since we are into quoting romantic languages; what does “Le mieux est l’ennemi du bien” mean to you.

  97. Paul Kelly Says:

    Bart,

    I don’t perceive any value to Watts’ station data other than that it exists. That Watts was unable to interpret the data correctly isn’t surprising, but doesn’t detract from the quality of the data. I was just reminding J Bowers that some scientists, who are qualified to interpret the data, value it enough to include it in their work.

  98. Tom Fuller Says:

    Bart, we’re not talking about coffee here. We’re talking about people standing in front of the world and saying global warming is the challenge facing this century.

    So when they consciously hide the uncertainty of paleoclimatic temperature constructions (serious and true, luminous beauty), when they tell their colleagues to delete emails so that people will not discover how they have behaved (serious and true, luminous beauty), and when they pursue lifestyles of conspicuous consumption of both energy and other resources (serious and true, luminous beauty):

    This conflicts with the message that they are trying to convey. As they have rejected communication (how much advice have you seen on why consensus supporters should never debate a skeptic?), anything that conflicts with the message is of prime importance.

    And there is entirely too much that conflicts with the message. My advice to scientists (I’ve said this to Bart before): The intermediaries that have self-selected themselves to ‘communicate’ on your behalf are doing you a disservice. Get them out of the way and do it yourself.

    You literally cannot do worse than the clowns that precede you.

  99. luminous beauty Says:

    So when they consciously hide the uncertainty of paleoclimatic temperature constructions…

    If all the ‘errors’ claimed by M&M were true, they would increase the uncertainty of the MBH reconstruction, pre-1600, by little over 10%. Something you won’t hear from McIntyre, but affirmed by Mann, Amman & Wahl, Rutherford, Ritson, Von Storch, NAS, et al. But they aren’t true. MBH’s PCA is not de-centered in any way. It is M&M’s mistaken reproduction of MBH that is de-centered. The persistent red noise noise has been revealed as a cherry pick, all that r2 nonsense is silly because you just can’t use the r2 statistic, as McIntyre pouts about it, in any meaningful way, and the problem with bristlecone pines has since been shown to be not a problem. And so on.

    …when they tell their colleagues to delete emails so that people will not discover how they have behaved…

    Jones made a mistake in thinking he could, as a lead IPCC author, throw out any reference to M&M because it was junk (it is junk). When informed he couldn’t do that, he compounded his mistake by sending that infamous email to Gene Wahl, c/o Micheal Mann, in the not mistaken belief that if his first error was uncovered, it would be used by unscrupulous actors (look in mirror, TF) to make trouble.

    Bad decisions, yes, but not damnably unethical nor fraudulent nor arguably, as has been shown, illegal behavior.

    …when they pursue lifestyles of conspicuous consumption of both energy and other resources…

    So Al Gore flies around the world in jets and lives like the wealthy and influential person he is. You would have him travel in a row boat, live in the open, eat twigs and leaves and wear a hair shirt? I have news for you TF, Al Gore doesn’t believe we have to impoverish our lifestyle to mimic the Paleolithic. He thinks we have to transform the way we produce energy and treat the natural world. I know the subtly nuanced difference, just like so much else, is a little hard for you to understand, Tom.

    As someone has said, “A lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can get its boots on.”

    That is the default communication method upon which you rely, Tom.

  100. Steve Fitzpatrick Says:

    Just a brief aside on an effective message: What well known climate blogger drives an electric car? What well known climate blogger installed solar panels on his house (before he was well known)? What well known climate blogger regularly advocates prudence in the use of energy, and the need to reduce petroleum imports?
    Three questions, same answer: that right-arm-of-the-devil himself, Anthony Watts. Were that it Joe Romm.

  101. Steve Fitzpatrick Says:

    luminous beauty,

    “So Al Gore flies around the world in jets and lives like the wealthy and influential person he is. You would have him travel in a row boat, live in the open, eat twigs and leaves and wear a hair shirt?”

    You really don’t get it. I suggest you consider how effective your approach of blatant hostility has been, and how effective you expect it to be in the future.

  102. luminous beauty Says:

    Steve,

    You’re so sensitive. You can’t tell the difference between sarcasm and hostility? Here’s the deal. I’ll treat you kindly when you lay off the ad hominem fallacies.

  103. Brandon Shollenberger Says:

    Out of respect for our host, I won’t be making any sort of lengthy response. However, I feel obligated to point out this entire paragraph from luminous beauty is false:

    If all the ‘errors’ claimed by M&M were true, they would increase the uncertainty of the MBH reconstruction, pre-1600, by little over 10%. Something you won’t hear from McIntyre, but affirmed by Mann, Amman & Wahl, Rutherford, Ritson, Von Storch, NAS, et al. But they aren’t true. MBH’s PCA is not de-centered in any way. It is M&M’s mistaken reproduction of MBH that is de-centered. The persistent red noise noise has been revealed as a cherry pick, all that r2 nonsense is silly because you just can’t use the r2 statistic, as McIntyre pouts about it, in any meaningful way, and the problem with bristlecone pines has since been shown to be not a problem.

    Not only is it false, much of it is completely made up. Since it isn’t topical here, that’s all I’ll say. If anyone would like me to discuss the subject or details further, I’d be glad to do so somewhere more appropriate.

  104. J Bowers Says:

    @ Steve Fitzpatrick, March 23, 2011 at 04:39

    What well known climate blogger consistently provides a platform to any plonker out there who wants to tear down and consistently cast doubt on the reasons for switching from fossil fuels to renewables? One question, you know the answer, it ain’t Joe Romm.

    Romm drives a hybrid and explains it all HERE, by the way. He also consistently advocates an eventual switch from fossil fuel to renewables altogether, not to just reduce imports.

    So, that addresses, both ways…

    3. Are the actions of those who preach and believe the message consistent with the implications of their message.

  105. J Bowers Says:

    Tom Fuller — “…when they tell their colleagues to delete emails..”

    Sorry, why are you using the plural “they”?

  106. willard Says:

    Here’s how scientists should communicate:

    http://nymag.com/daily/intel/2011/03/the_daily_shows_pitch_perfect.html

  107. Steve Fitzpatrick Says:

    luminous beauty,
    “I’ll treat you kindly when you lay off the ad hominem fallacies.”
    Wow, you really do not get it. Treating an adversary with a measure of respect is a minimum condition for winning a public debate.

    I most certainly am not sensitive. But I can recognize a losing communications strategy when I see one. Aggressive/hostile/sarcastic is always a loser. That is your strategy and, unfortunately, is the same one that many (most?) people who are very concerned about AGW seem to adopt. Mix that misguided communications strategy with a healthy dose of leftist politics (see who funds Joe Romm), and lots of people are not likely to be very receptive. I say “unfortunately” because what advocates like you do makes an honest discussion of public priorities and the required political compromises less likely.

    There are a lot of good reasons (the potential negative consequences of future AGW is only one) to not burn every source of fossil carbon as fast as possible; shrill and offensive argument about AGW inhibits a rational discussion of those reasons. By suggesting that those who disagree with you are not just mistaken, or just don’t share your priorities, but in fact have evil intention (are liars, corrupt, immoral, stupid, etc., etc.), you insure that most people will discount whatever you say.

    With regard to any effective communications strategy: If you are going to talk the talk, you had better be willing to first walk the walk, or people will mostly ignore you. Jetting off to Tahiti for AGW conferences is not the right walk. This is so simple and obvious that I am astounded many seem to doubt it.

  108. willard Says:

    Steve Fitzpatrick,

    How to you reconcile:

    > Treating an adversary with a measure of respect is a minimum condition for winning a public debate.

    with

    > Wow, you really do not get it.

    ?

  109. Steve Fitzpatrick Says:

    willard,
    Well I don’t know if this is really a public debate, but that sentence was not intended to be disrespectful, and if it was, then I apologize. I am trying to point out that LB appears to think that respect for your adversary depends on, well, that person not really being an adversary. Please compare the tone of my previous comment to any of several of LB comments above; for me the difference is quite clear. If people like LB were to use a more measured tone and a lot less sarcasm there message would be better received. I am trying to help communication, but I suspect that you don’t think so.

  110. Marco Says:

    Paul Kelly:

    I think I make it clear in my response that MY “yeses” are not necessarily other people’s “yeses”. In fact, I am certain you will not agree with my “yeses”, for the simple reason that we look for different messages. I could, for example, point to Richard Alley. He’s, in my book, an excellent communicator of the science, is coherent and consistent in his message, and I know of no examples that would make his lifestyle incongruent with his message.

    However, that latter point is also the most troublesome point that Tom Fuller brought up. The fact is that taking the message and really following up on it, may well push you into the area of “activism”, which then becomes an easy way to attack the message and the messenger itself. Good examples are the attacks on Al Gore for investing in sustainable energy and doing CO2 trading, and those on Jim Hansen for demonstrating against coal mining. Note that Al Gore is thus attacked for both doing what he himself preaches (“invest in clean energy!” but also for NOT doing what he (supposedly) preaches: reduce energy use. Of course, when Al Gore then points out that he only buys “green” energy, it suddenly becomes less different from his message, but those subtleties are easily forgotten in an ideological debate.

    Please also note that I do believe that Al Gore could easily do more himself to reduce his environmental impact. However, the black-and-white attacks on him are just a good example of how easy it is to muddy the waters.

  111. Tom Fuller Says:

    Yeah, Steven, willard is always so, so respectful and wanting to engage on the actual points of the issue at hand.

    If this conversation were about another subject, ranging from healthcare to foreign policy to education, and I saw comments such as those from luminous beauty, willard and J Bowers, I would be shocked and offended if they were actually advocates for my position on the argument and quietly pleased if they were my opponents.

    Bart, these are the people who are ‘communicating’ about climate science while you are actually doing climate science. It presents you with a dilemma. They’re on your side. They are killing you. Read the thread. I just did. Were I in your position I would be deeply ashamed of these people and even more deeply concerned about their impact on what is still an ongoing debate.

    They are not pointing to truth or reality. They are trying to cover up or distract from serious errors that have been made. They are trying to stop communication. At some point Bart, you will have to ask why.

  112. willard Says:

    Steve Fitzpatrick,

    I acknowledge that you are trying to help conversation, I agree that tone matters and am willing to concede that J Bowers has stated her case with scorn.

    Perhaps it’s easier to notice with a person that does not share our values and our outlook, our culture and our style. For instance, when you say that:

    > This [the walk and talk argument] is so simple and obvious that I am astounded many seem to doubt it.

    I see a problem with that kind of claim. Even when expressed in a measured way, as it is right now, it basically conveys the idea that J Bowers and others are refusing to admit something that is so simple and obvious that words are failing you to explain it.

    Bart tried to explained it with his coffee addict. J Bowers first tried to follow the logic of “practice what you preach”. Luminous Beauty referred to it as an ad hominem “fallacy”. These are not dumb persons, and they are being dumbed too. However sarcastic these points are being conveyed, there is a communication happening. And I might add that the communication is happening even if it turns out that something conveyed is false, contrary to what has been said earlier in the thread.

    The preach what you teach or the walk and talk argument pertains to public relations, not communication per se. When an alcoholic says to me that alcool can be bad for you, I tend to believe that person. But I am not sure I would take an intemperate drinker for my nation-wide week of soberness.

    Still, I wonder if we have data about that, or if we just discussing from our comfie armchairs right now. I’ve been told that something like that is being taught in the university. Usually, scholars back up their claim with references: do we still have some about that?

    (See how easier it is to push the boundary of politeness by staying polite.)

    All this miscommunication has something to do with tone alright. But the problem does not reduces exactly to tone. By chance, because discussing tone usually leads to tone trolling. So I hope I have shown that even matters that seem obvious deserves due diligence.

    Meanwhile, let’s not forget that science is corrupt.

  113. willard Says:

    > Were I in your position I would be deeply ashamed of these people and even more deeply concerned about their impact on what is still an ongoing debate.

    Since we’re into confidence, Bart, were I in Tom Fuller’s position, I would be deeply ashamed too, and only by looking has been written under the name of Tom Fuller.

  114. Marco Says:

    Tom Fuller = tone troll. Of course, his own tone in the matter doesn’t count, he can be as obnoxious as he wants to be. But oh dear when others reciprocate!

  115. Tom Fuller Says:

    Good to see you making my points for me, willard and Marco.

    Your strategy is working so well for you that obviously there’s no need for you to change.

  116. willard Says:

    Of course, repeating Tom Fuller’s precise modus operandi only serves to poison the well.

    Let’s be glad Tom Fuller can see that.

  117. Tom Fuller Says:

    willard, it would be amusing if nothing else to see you take issue with any specifics of what I mentioned upthread. Probably not instructive, but at least amusing.

  118. andrew adams Says:

    Tom,

    Sorry for the delay in replying and for the lengthy response.

    First of all, the central message of the “climate consensus” is that AGW is real, that the consequences are likely to be serious and it needs to be addressed. The extent to which this means we have to change the way we live is more debatable, there really is no consensus about the specific policies which are required in order to combat AGW and there is disagreement about he likely impact of certain policies – but these are separate arguments which many of the scientists who support the central message do not get involved in (publicly anyway).

    In any debate on a question of science the messengers should surely be judged primarily on the extent to which they can support their arguments with references to established science – that is what gives the message credibility and coherence. There may be individual scientists whom you don’t find credible on a personal level, but you can still make a judgement of the scientific basis for their arguments, or you can ignore them and consider the arguments of the others whom you find more credible.

    IMHO, arguments about the supposed behaviour of Mann and Jones are pretty insignificant in the overall context of this debate. Paleoclimate reconstructions are a part of the picture regarding climate change but are not essential to the pro-AGW argument (Kyoto predated the HS remember) and there are a number of other studies apart from Mann’s which support the same conclusions. The fight between McIntyre and Mann (and their respective supporters) is a sideshow, the importance of which is greatly exagerated by those who want to use it as a distraction from the important questions.

    Phil Jones’s request to delete emails is agreed to be wrong by both sides and there may be other ways in which he did not behave as he should have done, but this does not affect the scientific argument for AGW, as I think you admit in your own book. Nor can I see any support for your accusation that “one group of half a dozen individuals…gradually crossed the line between vigorous advocacy of their findings and cooking the books”. Which individuals apart from Jones and (presumably) Mann are you accusing and exactly what books were “cooked”?

    And of course scientists are not the only messengers, there are others (such as yourself) and their credibility should equally be held up to scrutiny. The reason why the likes of Watts and Monckton regularly get “trashed” is because the message they are conveying is misleading at best and dishonest at worst but they still have influence. It is often suggested that the whole furore, controversy etc around the subject of AGW is down to the actions of climate scientists and others who advocate action on AGW as if the “skeptics” have no responsibility for the situation or no agenda of their own. This is nonsense – they have an active roll in this saga and they have to accept responsibility for their actions. Even if they have an electric car.

    Which leads me to the point about people’s actions. If someone is claiming that as an individual I should be taking specific actions then obviously I would expect them to do the same, but otherwise I’m really not interested in examining the lifestyles of those who support action on AGW, nor do we generally have the neccessary information to do so. For me it’s just so trivial compared to the importance of the real questions.

    Now I don’t doubt that you disagree with my some of my judgements in respect of both the science and certain individuals, but that’s the thing – you have already taken an interest in the subject in some detail and reached certain conclusions, so you look at the message the scientists are trying to get across from that perspective and it doesn’t satisfy you because they don’t share your judgement on those points. And that’s why I’m not convinced by your arguments about communication vs messaging – it seems to me that you just don’t like the fact that those making the pro-AGW case won’t make the concessions you want.

    But ultimately the people who need to be persuaded aren’t those who already get involved in blog discussions and follow the minutae of these issues, it’s the wider public who are aware of the general hooha over the issue of AGW and may be vaguely aware of climategate or the HS but really just want to know if the threat of AGW is real, what are the dangers and what our options for action are. Those making the pro-AGW case have to make the argument as they honestly see it – it may be neccessary to address issues such as the HS and climategate but that doesn’t mean they have to accept the skeptics’ interpretation. The skeptics are equally free to make their own case, we will see which is more persuasive.

  119. Bart Says:

    Here’s an idea:

    Shall we stick to discussing the topic at hand rather than engaging in endless bickering?

  120. Steve Fitzpatrick Says:

    Willard,
    “Bart tried to explained it with his coffee addict. J Bowers first tried to follow the logic of “practice what you preach”.”
    .
    There are lots of people who know excess weight is bad for you (and excess alcohol, other drugs, etc.) yet can’t keep themselves from over-consuming. I’m not sure this is at all a parallel to energy consumption/CO2 emissions.

    The crux of the difference is that both cost (the excess weight and health consequences) and benefit (all that yummy food) are with the same person. If that person says “I know I should eat less, but I can’t stop” then most would, if anything, believe him, and even feel a bit of pity. It is quite different if the same obese person wants to pass a law limiting access to food…. all the while stuffing his face to extreme excess. The preacher who shouts from the pulpit about the sins of sex and drink loses credibility when the congregation learns of his frequent late-night womanizing and drinking. Leading by example is important.

    “The preach what you teach or the walk and talk argument pertains to public relations, not communication per se.”

    I completely disagree with this. It pertains mainly to credibility, which is crucial for communication. I believe that relatively well off people have a moral obligation to help poor people in third-world countries improve their condition through education and financial assistance with food, clothing and medical care. I believe that… and I do it. While I am by no means rich, each year my wife and I donate more than US$3,000 helping to support children in poor countries, and we have several times taken time from business trips to visit these children and encourage them to excel. Walking the walk is anything but public relations. It is mostly about the standards you hold yourself to.

  121. J Bowers Says:

    willard — “and am willing to concede that J Bowers has stated her case with scorn.”

    His, not her.

    Shows scorn? And why not? Why is the debate any different to the tobacco debate but with the added value of the internet? Is it because the individuals in many cases (but not all) are unique to the subject of climate change? Others have chosen to call it for what it is.

    That’s communication, but not to anyone here, and certainly not to the denizens of WUWT or Climate Audit. What would be the point except to waste time? 33% of Americans think the Sun revolves around the Earth, and strangely enough, roughly the same amount of Americans don’t trust science or scientists.

    You know the poor souls who freeze when a crashed aircraft is being evacuated – they usually get trampled on by the survivors. The problem with the climate debate is that they’re blocking the exits and pushing everyone else back into the plane while being encouraged to do so by the denialati bloggers, corrupt politicos who’d sell their granny if it meant election funding, and PR spin-meisters.

    So, slap my wrists for not being quite so polite as you’d like. Somehow, though, I just can’t bring myself to feel bad about it. I wonder why.

  122. J Bowers Says:

    Bart, I forgot that Youtube links like to embed themselves into WordPress comments these days. Apologies if you don’t like that kind of thing.

  123. Tom Fuller Says:

    Bart, I’m certainly willing to. Check the thread and it’s very easy to see who is causing the divergence from the topic. Just saying.

    Andrew, thank you for your long and well-thought out reply.

    I absolutely agree with what you write in your first two paragraphs.

    We disagree starting with your third paragraph, but only to the extent that we remember we’re talking about the topic of scientists communicating on this thread.

    If we preface each sentence in your paragraph with the phrase, “As far as scientists communicating…” all of a sudden the hockey stick is important. It appeared six times in TAR and was plastered all over the media as the decisive evidence that current warming was unprecedented.

    For scientists to communicate, it absolutely is important for them to have credibility. Remember that Jones got into all this mess not because of the Hockey Stick, but because he was unable to admit to the scientific community that his sample selection for Jones et al 1990 did not meet the criteria set down for it in his paper. And he’s never issued a correction–just another paper 15 years later that revised his estimate of UHI dramatically upwards, but which he doesn’t discuss in reference to his 1990 paper.

    These messages do apply to the overall communication of AGW, a phenomenon that I do not dispute. What the consensus community told us was that temperature rises were unprecedented, that we were the cause and that the impacts would be dire.

    But they consistently overstated their level of certainty about all of it and went to extraordinary lengths to conceal their overstatements. It’s not just the Hockey Team. Rajendra Pachauri’s behaviour regarding the Himalay Glacier episode is shockingly bad–far worse than anything Jones did. The man leads the IPCC.

    You say you are not interested in the personal activities of those who advocate action regarding climate change. But others are. I’m more interested in their professional activities, but others take personal behaviour as a symbol of commitment to an issue. I have no respect for Monckton–he’s a hack journalist who may have had a hand in getting this whole argument started back when he worked for Margaret Thatcher. But I know Anthony Watts, and he’s an honest and hard working individual who reacted to the shockingly poor state of temperature instrumentation in the only way an ordinary non-scientist could–by organising a group of volunteers to take pictures of measurement stations. He’s not the same type of person as Monckton.

    Is Watts often wrong? Yes. On the other hand, so is Hansen. So is Gore. For me the difference is in the consistency of behaviour. Hansen is consistent and I respect him (to the extent that I understand it, I agree with a lot of what he publishes, as well). Gore and Pachauri are not consistent. I do not respect them.

    If you have the time to look upthread at my previous comments, you will see that I too am convinced that AGW is real, is an issue and needs to be addressed. I support a carbon tax ($12/ton re-evaluated decenially), technology transfer to the developing world at $100 bn/year and the EPA’s regulation of large emitters. As you correctly note, the people who need to be convinced are certainly not reading this weblog.

    I am commenting here because I believe Bart should be communicating directly with the public instead of allowing the discussion to be dominated and diverted by people protecting those who have quite frankly discredited themselves.

    If you look through the entire thread here, it is really easy to see who is trying to talk about communicating and who is trying to change the subject.

  124. Steve Fitzpatrick Says:

    J Bowers,
    “So, slap my wrists for not being quite so polite as you’d like. Somehow, though, I just can’t bring myself to feel bad about it.”

    Maybe you should consider if your approach leads to progress toward the goals you state or if it inhibits progress toward those goals. I would sure fell badly if my actions were contrary to my objectives.

  125. Paul Kelly Says:

    Marco,

    Without regard to the content of his work, Richard Alley answers yes to Fuller. I’d say William C. and John N-G could also answer yes. Until we all live like Ed Begley Jr., matters of hypocrisy or irony in lifestyles are like whatever. My original comment was: ” There is no clear cut message. The principle messengers are flawed.”

    “I am certain you will not agree with my “yeses”, for the simple reason that we look for different messages.” is wrong on many levels.

    The purpose of Fuller’s questions was to provide you a bit of self education in the area of communication. There’s a reason climate science isn’t being communicated as you would like. Some of us, who have made their living communicating, are trying to give you a framework for analyzing communication. Resistance isn’t futile, but it is counterproductive.

    I hope you don’t mind that your certainty has been upended. I don’t know what purely scientific message you are looking for. I’m looking for the dead center consensus. The “what to do” message we’re looking for may be up for grabs.

    I frame the message this way. For a variety of reasons, fossil fuel use should be replaced in this century. The faster it happens, the better. Luckily. for the first time in history, the technology exists to begin to make it happen. It must happen from the bottom up.

  126. Tom Fuller Says:

    Paul, your last paragraph sums it up pretty completely. You should nail it to a door somewhere.

  127. J Bowers Says:

    Steve Fitzpatrick — “Maybe you should consider if your approach leads to progress toward the goals you state…”

    What are my goals, Steve? I don’t recall stating any.

    Tom Fuller — “You say you are not interested in the personal activities of those who advocate action regarding climate change. But others are.”

    Those others need to get out more often. Hanging around the denialati knitting clubs clearly doesn’t do them much good with all that unsubstantiated harsh gossip. On the subject of harsh gossip, to what specifically are you referring with regards to Hansen when you say… “Is Watts often wrong? Yes. On the other hand, so is Hansen.”

  128. Tom Fuller Says:

    J Bowers, predicting that riverside streets of NY would be underwater (originally in 20 years, now revised by the journalist he talked to to 40) certainly qualifies as an error. He was certainly premature in his conversations with the press about short term temperature rise.

    But more importantly, Hansen’s communications have been strategically mistaken. I know this is a tautology, but the results are evidence of that. Just as the most frequently publicized example, his protest against strip coal mining was a mistake with regards to his advocacy on AGW issues.

    I agree with his position regarding strip coal mining. But the premiere scientist and communicator regarding anthropogenic global warming cannot, must not, sidetrack himself with parallel public campaigns.

    He is right on the issue. He is wrong on the communication.

    Remember–because the consensus community has decided not to engage in dialogue with non-consensus people, their messaging has to be perfect.

    It’s a piss-poor alternative to real communication, but it’s their choice. And they’re bungling the execution of it badly.

  129. willard Says:

    Steve Fitzpatrick,

    Perhaps this pins down our different:

    > I’m not sure this is at all a parallel to energy consumption/CO2 emissions.

    Eating too much is bad for us, while dumping too much CO2 in the atmosphere is bad for us. Both lead to consequences that might be contrary to our objectives, if you let me use your phrasing.

    Reducing obesity in a population is a tougher problem to solve than communicating the risks of overeating and sedentarity. We are having communication programs, yet populations are having problems adopting healthier lifestyles. So I’m not sure the main reason is because nutritionists are failing to convey a message.

    ***

    Choosing spokepersons among nutritionists that were stuffing themselves of potato chips while talking about bad eating habits would be very strange indeed. I’m not sure that this is the point about which people disagree here. I’m quite sure that to construe the debate about that question is the best way to fabricate a controversy void of any constructive output. (If you have a way to get to Hawaii that does not imply a jet, please let me know.)

    There are at least two ways to answer to this point.

    The first one is to reply that scientific claims are independent from the way the messengers live up to them. Smoking cigarettes kill, even if a smoker says it. I am quite confident we can reach an agreement about this simple point.

    This connects to your point about credibility. While credibility is important, and I doubt that many disagrees with that, it is not central to most of **scientific** matters. The credibility problems you are emphasizing pertains to the choices we have to face as a society, and these choices are political ones.

    The second one is to say that spokepersons, the Al Gores and the Christopher Monktons of the word, are being targetted by lobby relationists and journalists selling controversy and newspapers that abide by the dictum that “nothing sells like a contrarian headline”. It’s their job to be the targets of these kinds of attacks. Some are better at dodging PR bullets, but they’re all humans and we’re running out of Saints.

    Underlining this way by which some (if not most) media operates helps understand that framing the debate around “Al Gore is fat” (paraphrasing) and “Phil Jones cooked the books” (not even paraphrasing) serves other principles than noble ones. It creates a very simple Dutch book:

    - Mention Al Gore or Phil Jones and generalize to one’s heart content;

    - Portray anyone who tries to contest this editorialing as someone “protecting those who have quite frankly discredited themselves”

    - Rinse and repeat ad nauseam in every discussion, as your main communication objective is to name names and associate people with names.

    The way this Dutch book works as a communication trick deserves due diligence. But it’s an old trick. It even has a latin name: it’s called the ad indignationem.

    The audit will never end. Science is corrupt.

  130. Marco Says:

    Paul, you keep on claiming the principle messengers are flawed. Yet, you do not explain how and why, you merely say so. Name names of those principle messengers, and why they are flawed.

    And while you are at it, perhaps you can also explain why evolutionary biologists are incapable of teaching half the population of the USA that the theory of evolution is a very workable theory to explain a vast amount of observations. Perhaps you can tell us which messengers have done what wrong there? Or could it maybe perhaps who knows be that it is the content of the message that is inconvenient, rather than the messengers or message itself being flawed?

    I am also doubtful there is any “dead center consensus” that is functional. It requires a large group willing and able to be pragmatic, and that’s sorely missing.

  131. Tom Fuller Says:

    But Willard, the mainstream media does not publish the ‘Al Gore is fat’ story and does not attack Phil Jones. Very few ‘contrarian headlines’ ever see the light of day in the established newspapers or television shows.

    Those arguments are largely confined to the comments section of weblogs. Almost all of the mentions I see of of Al Gore’s weight come from people such as yourself using it as a (poor) example of non-consensus arguments.

    The audit should never end. Science is not corrupt. A handful of scientists abused the trust that the vast majority of scientists earned.

  132. Marco Says:

    Tom, you are contradicting yourself. You expect the communicators to follow up on what they preach. Hansen does so, and you blame him for it.

    And please tell us why his prediction (which included doubling of CO2, a ‘minor’ point you left out) is “an error”. We’re still 17 years from the 40 in 1988, and not close to doubling.

  133. J Bowers Says:

    TF, I think Hansen has a couple of decades of observations to go before his prediction is binned, don’t you think? The West Side Highway already has a habit of flooding when it rains hard. Twitter helps commuters avoid the worst hit spots.

  134. Tom Fuller Says:

    Marco,

    I believe you are incorrect. Many people are able to engage on strip mining, an issue that is much easier to illustrate than global warming. Hansen should not have associated himself publicly with it–it diffuses his message and those who might sympathize with some of his views on one issue may disagree with points raised by the other (although one would suspect a certain congruence of opinion).

    As for his prediction of flooded NY streets, it ain’t going to happen in 17 years either, and we all know it.

  135. Tom Fuller Says:

    Gee, J Bowers, ya think? Streets flood when it rains? Stop the presses.

  136. luminous beauty Says:

    Steve,

    I am trying to point out that LB appears to think that respect for your adversary depends on, well, that person not really being an adversary. Please compare the tone of my previous comment to any of several of LB comments above;

    OK

    But I can recognize a losing communications strategy when I see one. Aggressive/hostile/sarcastic is always a loser.

    My comment which you describe as ‘blatant hostility’:

    So Al Gore flies around the world in jets and lives like the wealthy and influential person he is. You would have him travel in a row boat, live in the open, eat twigs and leaves and wear a hair shirt?

    I’m trying to understand how your humorless ascription of me as a loser is not aggressive or hostile, and my sarcastic rebuttal to the horrific sins ascribed to Al Gore is.

    Sarcasm is a form of humor. I’ll concede it may seem brutal when one is the butt of the joke. Nonetheless, it is a reasonable test of character to see how well the recipient can take it in stride. Honestly, Steve, you fail the test. (more sarcasm)

    In the interest of collegiality, let me say I do get your point that public opinion is often swayed by the perception, whether warranted or not, of personal behavior of the messenger rather than reasoned assessment of the message.

    Do you understand my point that this is an ad hominem fallacy? This is to reduce a matter of existential importance for the whole of human civilization to the level of Charlie Sheen’s antics.

    Do you not understand my further point that the false but widely publicized perception of impropriety of Pompiea (Jones, Mann, etc.) can be manufactured by the real but unacknowledged impropriety of Publius Clodius (McIntyre, Watts, etc.) when reinforced by the clouded judgment of Julius Ceasar (Bishop Hill, Tom Fuller, etc.)?

    How are we to communicate against this veil of disinformation by treating the malefactors with pompous dignity as if they are blameless and worthy of respect?

    For the record, my respect for an adversary depends on his being worthy of respect, not by whether his character fulfills my subjective expectations, but by the strength of his arguments. Absolutely not what you said. That’s ridiculous.

  137. Paul Kelly Says:

    Marco,

    Two principle messengers of the climate is an existential threat message are Al Gore and Joe Romm. If you do not understand their flaws, nothing I could say would reveal them to you, nor would I even try. I don’t know why anybody has a problem with evolutionary biology. It doesn’t conflict with any Scripture I’m aware of. You are right that even perfectly done communication is not guaranteed to be received.

    I don’t know what you mean by functional. There certainly is a dead center consensus. There is no lack of a large group willing and able to be pragmatic. There’s you and me and probably Bart. Anybody else here willing and able to be pragmatic?

  138. MikeN Says:

    Luminous beauty, Tiljander is off topic for this thread, except possibly in a very narrow way. If you have a way to calibrate Tiljander, I would appreciate it if you would add the description at Amac’s blog on the subject.

  139. Bart Says:

    Andrew, excellent comment.

  140. J Bowers Says:

    Tom Fuller, so what happens when it rains, sea level rises, and there’s a storm surge? “Stop the presses” will be the right phrase.

  141. Tom Fuller Says:

    3mm/yr x 17 yrs = 51 mm.

  142. Steve Fitzpatrick Says:

    luminous beauty,

    “I’m trying to understand how your humorless ascription of me as a loser is not aggressive or hostile”
    I never said or implied anything like that.

    “Sarcasm is a form of humor. ”
    No, mostly it is a way to insult people, and sometimes a way to avoid addressing there legitimate arguments.

    “This is to reduce a matter of existential importance for the whole of human civilization to the level of Charlie Sheen’s antics.”
    I do hope you don’t really believe that. Humanity will survive both Charlie Sheen and global warming just fine; we are pretty smart monkeys after all.

    “How are we to communicate against this veil of disinformation by treating the malefactors with pompous dignity as if they are blameless and worthy of respect?”
    “I BESEECH YOU IN THE BOWELS OF CHRIST THINK IT POSSIBLE YOU MAY BE MISTAKEN.” Absolute certainty never wins debates.

    “For the record, my respect for an adversary depends on his being worthy of respect, not by whether his character fulfills my subjective expectations, but by the strength of his arguments.”
    And that is your biggest error. Treating an adversary with respect is crucial in any debate (indeed, in most any human activity), no matter what you think of him or his arguments, and especially crucial if your adversary does not treat you with respect.

  143. Steve Fitzpatrick Says:

    Tom Fuller,

    I honestly think we are both peeing into a hurricane here. Too bad.

  144. Tom Fuller Says:

    Isn’t there a Jerry Jeff Walker song about that? ‘Pissing in the wind, making and a’losing friends, singing all those crazy songs we’re never gonna sing again.’ Something like that…

  145. Steve Fitzpatrick Says:

    Tom Fuller,
    I learned the expression from one of my now long dead uncles (who was a preacher, BTW): ‘ “I finally see” said the blind man as he peed into the wind.’

  146. luminous beauty Says:

    Steve,

    So you think my jibes are witless and lacking irony? Now I am hurt.

    So saying my argument is a loser argument is different than saying I am a loser? I get it. I really do. No hostility intended on your part. No, not at all. I still don’t know what was so incomparably more hostile about my Al Gore comment, though. No, you are not avoiding addressing my legitimate argument. No, not at all. I get that. And you’re not even trying to be funny. Hilarious.

    I agree humanity will most likely survive global warming. And splendidly, at least for the survivors. Though I’m not so absolutely certain as you. It’s the distinct likelihood of disruptive climate change that comes with the warming and what possible impact it might have on civilization that causes me some small trepidation. Of course, there is some small chance all these increasing and increasingly widespread extreme weather events are just a fluke, so no worries, right?

    “I BESEECH YOU IN THE BOWELS OF CHRIST THINK IT POSSIBLE YOU MAY BE MISTAKEN.” Absolute certainty never wins debates.

    No need to shout. I’m not deaf. I’m perfectly willing to accept extreme and persistent incompetence rather than malevolence as an explanation. Nor do I rule out a combination of the two. See, I’m open to all kinds of possibilities.

    If I treat your arguments with respect even though your arguments are not worthy of it, how will you ever know?

  147. luminous beauty Says:

    Steve,

    The expression as I heard it was, “”I see,’ said the blind carpenter to his deaf wife as he picked up his hammer and saw.”

    But I’m uncertain whether, in the fable, which of you and Tom are the carpenter or the wife, or maybe both just the dumb hammer.

  148. Steve Fitzpatrick Says:

    luminuos beauty,

    I was saying that the style of argument that you choose is a loser; it was not a comment about you personally. You are by no means the only person who adopts this style (there are lots of examples on this blog and many others). And no, there was no hostility intended at all.

    I was not singling out your Al-Gore-hair-shirt comment specifically; it was but one example. Most all your comments (including the one to which I am now replying) are pretty much the same…. that is, dripping with sarcasm. A couple of other examples of non-constructive sarcasm:
    “And splendidly, at least for the survivors.”
    “No, you are not avoiding addressing my legitimate argument. No, not at all. I get that. And you’re not even trying to be funny. Hilarious.”

    The issue is not what respect you have for my arguments (or anyone else’s arguments). The issue is whether you treat your adversaries (or for that matter, anybody who happens to disagree with you) with a measure of respect. As far as I can tell, you reserve respect for those you completely agree with.

    BTW, most people will find that sarcasm shows disrespect. Most people don’t like it at all, nor the person who uses it, even if the sarcasm is directed at someone else. My experience is that sarcasm, among other non-productive arguments, is most commonly used by relatively young people. Most people learn by experience to avoid it. Of course, some never do.

  149. Steve Fitzpatrick Says:

    Luminuos beauty,
    “But I’m uncertain whether, in the fable, which of you and Tom are the carpenter or the wife, or maybe both just the dumb hammer.”
    .
    Not at all constructive, and not funny.

  150. willard Says:

    > Mix that misguided communications strategy with a healthy dose of leftist politics (see who funds Joe Romm), and lots of people are not likely to be very receptive. I say “unfortunately” because what advocates like you do makes an honest discussion of public priorities and the required political compromises less likely.

    Not constructive at all, and no less sarcastic.

  151. Paul Kelly Says:

    Thank you, Willard. Until your comment, I hadn’t had a good laugh all day.

  152. Paul Kelly Says:

    Oops, hit the post button before finishing my comment. You could have cited any number of comments on this thread as an example of sarcasm and lack of constructiveness. You chose one that doesn’t have a trace of either.

  153. luminous beauty Says:

    Not constructive at all, and no less sarcastic.

    Ah! Brevity is the soul of wit. Willard, I’m in awe.

    O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us
    To see oursels as others see us!
    It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
    An’ foolish notion!
    What airs in dress an’ gait wad lea’e us,
    And ev’n devotion!

  154. Marco Says:

    Paul Kelly:

    But of course Al Gore is flawed. He’s a politician from the Democratic Party! There, it’s that easy to make him a flawed messenger.

    Anyway, his message is coherent, he has corrected himself when he was shown wrong, and he himself is following up on what he preaches, as all his energy comes from sustainable resources. Of course he could do more, but unless he’s living in some kind of cave by an open fire, there will be people claiming he’s a flawed messenger.

    Joe Romm is a flawed messenger, because he’s sarcastic and harsh towards deniers, I guess? That’s all you can put on the man.

    Of course, Joe Romm is in my opinion not a principle messenger. He’s a useful secondary source.

  155. Marco Says:

    Tom Fuller, I don’t see why protesting against coal mining is diluting the message that we should reduce CO2 emissions.

    And regarding sea level rise, remember the caveat “doubling of CO2″ (apart from a few other issues, such as expected increase in storm surge incidence…)

  156. J Bowers Says:

    TF — “3mm/yr x 17 yrs = 51 mm.”

    Ah, global averages do not address the subject of local anomalies. We were talking about New York, right?

    It ain’t an even process like filling the bathtub, you know, Tom. Gravity, thermal expansion and circulation changes mean you can’t leave the bath running and leave it for ten minutes. A planet sized tub can overflow at multiple points even though the rim’s perfectly level and even.

    ScienceDaily (Mar. 16, 2009) — Global warming is expected to cause the sea level along the northeastern U.S. coast to rise almost twice as fast as global sea levels during this century, putting New York City at greater risk for damage from hurricanes and winter storm surge, according to a new study led by a Florida State University researcher.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090315155112.htm

    Some research indicates that when it melts in Greenland then Australia gets the sea rise.
    http://www.goodplanet.info/eng/Contenu/Points-de-vues/The-Secret-of-Sea-Level-Rise-It-Will-Vary-Greatly-by-Region

    Uneven thermal expansion and gravity, changes in circulation patterns, accelerated ice melt, along comes a storm surge – yellow gondola cabs for The Battery, please.

  157. Steve Fitzpatrick Says:

    Willard, luminous beauty, Marco, J Bowers,

    It seems you all pretty much reject the suggestions about effective communications that have been made by Tom Fuller, Paul Kelly, and me. That is OK with me. I think all three of us are honestly trying to facilitate communication about a complex and politically divisive subject.

    I have often noted (long before my comments on this thread) that the “take-no-prisoners-and-give-no-quarter” approach to disagreements, especially any disagreement with a political aspect, is usually not effective. No matter what you think of those who disagree with you about AGW (in either science or public policy), I hope that you will consider the possibility that treating those people with disrespect, hostility, and sarcasm is not the most effective approach to convincing them, or anyone else, of your position, and that in fact it is probably the very least effective approach. But based on the content of this thread, I do not expect that hope to be fulfilled.

    I must travel for the next 7 days (mainly without internet access), so I bid you farewell.

  158. willard Says:

    Steve Fitzpatrick,

    When you say:

    > I think all three of us are honestly trying to facilitate communication about a complex and politically divisive subject.

    I am not sure I can believe you any longer. The only thing you kept bringing on was that “sarcasm is bad for you”. You have ignorerd most of the points raised in response to your claim. You have not even acknowledged that people know that “sarcasm is bad for you”.

    So that means that we might be witnessing the usual self-righteous tone trolling about “Liberal arrogance”. This is an effective communication strategy. It is so effective as to have become a rhetorical trick.

  159. Marco Says:

    Steve,

    Sad to see you go, as I wonder how you consider the likes of Tom Fuller treating others with disrespect, hostility, and sarcasm. I also am quite interested to learn why you think it is OK to come here and complain about the tone, when you don’t do it elsewhere ? (unless it is an ‘alarmist’ pointing out inconvenient facts)

    Better yet, take these wonderful examples of “respectful, non-hostile, and non-sarcastic” communication by you yourself:

    “I read all the Royal Society abstracts, and skimmed most of the articles. Outside of the article on sea level change (which is at least reasonable), they are total rubbish; endless alarmism based on the assumed accuracy of IPCC and climate model projections of future warming. All assume a climate sensitivity of 3+C per doubling of CO2. Just rubbish.

    I expect this is one of the last desperate gasps of alarmist climate scientists before the reality of much lower climate sensitivity crushes their wild-eyed predictions of doom.”

    “The rest of the papers are just unhinged raging…. no surprise there. Like I said, these look like the last gasps of the true devotees.”

    “An experienced physical scientist (an engineer, at that!) explaining to a lightweight scientist (AKA climatologist) that he completely misunderstood the technical issues involved.”

    With these quotes from Steve Fitzpatrick himself, I propose that his attempts to sound reasonable are just a simple case of tone-trolling.

  160. Steve Fitzpatrick Says:

    Willard,

    Please reread my previous comment and then consider that I could just as well have posted the exact same words at WUWT (with different names, of course). It would apply there in exactly the same way as here.

  161. J Bowers Says:

    “…while I appreciate the value of “taking the high road”, I do not object to emphatic statements that conclusions are incorrect. Strong language is needed sometimes when errors must be corrected.”
    – Editor of Journal of Geophysical Research – Atmospheres.

    http://rabett.blogspot.com/2010/04/advanced-trolling-101.html

    http://rabett.blogspot.com/2010/03/its-always-f-third-referee.html

  162. willard Says:

    Steve Fitzpatrick,

    That is exactly my point. It is always possible to tone troll. It always has a point. Yet it never succeeds when it comes from an opponent. Its main use is to score points by playing the victim, playing the righteous, or whatnot.

    Conservative commenters know that sarcasm does not help. God bless them for their discipline. Liberals are just a bunch of punks: no wonder we see more tone trolling among them.

    That said, Conservatives have their own sarcastic style. See the “laugh of the day” by Paul Kelly for a particular instance here. Recall the “Obama is Superman” meme on a national scale. If these tricks really were ineffective communication strategies, they would be less used, don’t you think?

    I too hope that people tone done sarcasm. I too did try to tone it down. I am afraid there is nothing we can do to prevent it.

    Perhaps the best way to deal with sarcasm is to stop talking about sarcasm.

  163. willard Says:

    Thanks for making me recall what I said about tone trolling at Eli’s place. It might be appropriate to repeat it here:

    ***

    The tone troll is wrong when he conflates civility with humaneness. It is quite possible to mock, tease, deride, vex “with all due respects.” Anyone with schooling experience should know that.

    A tone troll would be silly to expect blog comments to show more politeness than mundane scholars’ gatherings. A tone troll would even be sillier to believe that politeness safeguards against verbal violence or that politeness’ warnings will increase civility.

    A tone troll would be right in saying that it’s more challenging, more inspirational and more fun overall to take the effort to mock, tease, deride or vex someone “with all due respects.” Like anywhere else, authenticity is key. But who can judge if an exchange really is authentic? Something between a mob and a deity always have to moderate.

    http://rabett.blogspot.com/2010/04/advanced-trolling-101.html?showComment=1270217722690#c493340084654848139

    ***

    The operative word is “collegiality”, mentioned earlier by Luminous Beauty. Collegiality matters more than politeness.

    ***

    Please accept my apologies for using to polite-she earlier, and rest assured that I did not mean to try to slap your wrists.

  164. willard Says:

    The above thanks and apology were meant for J Bowers.

  165. J Bowers Says:

    Willard, I didn’t have you in mind concerning slapping of wrists, but thanks for the consideration, I should have been clearer.

  166. J Bowers Says:

    One of the problems with trusted conversation is the consistent methods used by the Denialati (that’s slang for the opposite of an “alarmist”, “warmista”, Catastrophic-Anthropogenic-Global-Warmist”, etc, by the way) to disinform the public and legislators. To give a false impression and deceive. This is well illustrated by astroturfing. For instance, PolluterWatch addresses this in a memo to the Koch PR team:

    “Major fail for you then when Wikipedia found out that your web guys, New Media Services, had created sock puppets to edit out the links and banned them from the site. Ouch!”

    Also…

    Koch Industries Employs PR Firm To Airbrush Wikipedia, Gets Banned For Unethical ‘Sock Puppets’

    “Lyndsey Medsker, a senior account director for NMS, spoke to ThinkProgress today. She explained that NMS also maintains the Koch Industries Twitter page, Facebook page, and has an active team working on promoting Koch Industries in the comment section of blogs and news websites.”

    This is the same PR machine that science is up against, sometimes referred to as ‘corporate denialism’ (look it up, Tom). I believe this is why the scientists are perceived to be poor communicators in comparison to professional gobs***es. The scientists are actually excellent communicators. It’s a requirement, after all, to be concise and clear.

    A tell of the intentions of the “Denialati” is their choice of venue for getting their message across, IMHO. Go to Youtube and type in Richard Alley, and do the same for Pat Michaels in another tab, and see if you notice an overall difference in the venues for communicating their “message”. Invariably, Alley is in a legislative hearing, in the field, educating, or murdering Johnny Cash, with the odd news interview, while Michaels is consistently in a legislative hearing or a news studio. Not once do you find Michaels directly educating or even in the field.

    News venues are not always used to spread a political message but it is the primary platform, and when you see such a bias of venue choice to spread a “message” I do believe it’s a valid proposition that the Denialati “message” is not concerned with discovering or confirming what’s true or most likely, but that it’s in practise a focused propaganda and/or PR campaign.

  167. andrew adams Says:

    Tom,

    We are obviously in agreement about the need for scientists to be able to reach the wider public – those who don’t tend to get involved in arguments on the internet and don’t have strong preconceived ideas on the subject of AGW or are genuinely skeptical. When considering the kind of message which should be put across and the potential barriers to communication issues such as climategate and the hockey stick do arise and people do have strong and conflicting views about them so I don’t think that people are necessarily diverting the discussion when they object to your particular interpretation of these subjects, but unfortunately whenever these things are raised in the context of any discussion they do tend to take over and distract from the main point.

    I’m not sure to what extent arguments about how people debate on blogs is relevant to the above question. I’ve been arguing on the internet for the last 15 years or so, mainly in forums devoted to politics, and the tone of arguments about climate change is no different from most contentious issues where people have strongly held opinions and is positively genteel compared to some (Israel/Palestine for example). Now I’m all in favour of civilised discourse and generally try to hold to that myself but I’ve also expressed myself pretty strongly at times when I’ve been provoked or have come across an especially dumb argument, and am certainly guilty of the use of extreme sarcasm on occasions. Which is not to say that absolutely anything goes – I think there are limits to what is acceptable and there are certain blogs (not just on the subject of climate change) which I can think of where the comments boxes are just cesspits, and I don’t mind that some blogs practise very strict moderation to keep discussions on a more technical level. But IMV the debate on this thread and on this blog in general are well inside the boundaries of what I would call acceptable rough-and-tumble, and although I wouldn’t go so far as to accuse SteveF of tone trolling I do think he’s being a tad over sensitive. I also have respect for most of the regular commenters here – yes they can dish it out but they are generally well informed and can argue the technical points well when it come down to it.

    I guess you could argue that the tone of the debate on many climate blogs may be offputting to those who don’t have strong preconceived ideas and are coming to the blogosphere to learn rather than argue for one side or another, and this may be a barrier to getting the pro-AGW message across. I sympathise with this up to a point and I have seen on odd occasions innocent questions mistaken for something more sinister and treated overly harshly (although there are reasons why these kind of over-reactions occur), but I think people have to accept the nature of the medium – it’s not that difficult to separate real information from the invective and while I’m not sure I would advise people to rely on blogs alone as a source for education they can certainly be a valuable resource. Certainly as someone who does not have a science background myself I feel I’ve learned a massive amount from the various climate related blogs which I follow – communication does seem to have been effective in my case.

  168. Tom Fuller Says:

    Hi Andrew

    An awful lot of what you write makes perfect sense and matches my impressions of what is on offer here and elsewhere. I’ve learnt a lot on climate blogs and yes, this is one of the better ones.

    Naturally, the few nits I need to pick jump out at me. First, I don’t really think that many people are looking to get educated on climate change at this stage of the game. I think that most people who land here have already formed an opinion. So I think that it’s ‘just us chickens’ here, especially 100 comments down from a longish post.

    I think the old concept of trolling is a bit past its sell-by date. What I see is somewhat of a territorial struggle for a comfort zone, with commenters making assumptions about the views of the host and wanting a place where like-minded folk can engage in a dialogue that perhaps they would not use in a forum they consider neutral or hostile. I think when they find and habituate a venue in this way they consider outsiders as intruders and can be hostile. I see some of that here.

    I come here because I’m trying to clarify/communicate/evangelize the lukewarmer POV to people like Bart. I’m just trying to establish that a third position on this issue exists and has legitimacy. To me that’s the real battle. The consensus team has a lot to gain by pretending that the opposition is a monolithic block, as it allows them to use the most extreme skeptic opinions to deligitimize opponents who are miles away from Monckton etc.

    The reaction from some commenters here is instructive in that light, and I don’t expect that to change. However, I’m not writing to instruct others on the science–I’m not a scientist. I am hoping to help salvage something useful from the wreckage the consensus forces have created in terms of communication. I get paid to help organisations do that and the consensus position badly needs to understand a) that their strategy has failed, b) why it has failed and c) how they can do it differently.

  169. J Bowers Says:

    TF — “I am hoping to help salvage something useful from the wreckage the consensus forces have created in terms of communication. I get paid to help organisations do that…”

    Which organisations do you get paid to help “do that”, and can you be specific about who the “forces” are? Perhaps put names to generalisations?

    TF — “The consensus team has a lot to gain by pretending that the opposition is a monolithic block, as it allows them to use the most extreme skeptic opinions to deligitimize opponents who are miles away from Monckton etc.”

    Cuccinelli; Inhofe; email theft; potential criminilisation; potential prison terms; corporate PR funding; suppression and changing of scientific findings at a government level; investigations of scientists at academic, legislative and criminal levels; astroturfing; death threats; libels; private investigators monitoring their daily movements … and then some.

    Tell us that the consensus team have no legitimate reason to genuinely believe there is an effort to discredit them and their science.

  170. Tom Fuller Says:

    J Bowers, no I will not tell you who my clients are. Are you kidding?

    As for consensus organisations, I would cite the environmental NGOs as the primary examples. As you yourself refer to the consensus team, I’m surprised you ask.

    I’ve never denied that there is an organised effort to oppose climate change. I don’t think it’s very effective. I’m not a part of it, and I doubt if anybody (apart from Morano) in the blogosphere is, either. In case you missed it, I’m a lukewarmer, and am spending time here trying to differentiate my position from that of Cuccinelli and Inhofe.

    I wrote and published an open letter to Cuccinelli criticizing his treatment of Michael Mann, and spent a long time with his press person trying to get an interview with him.

    I didn’t see you offer to sign that letter, J Bowers. It’s still up there somewhere on the intertubes.

  171. J Bowers Says:

    Tom, when I say consensus team I mean the consensus scientists as “team” automatically makes me think of “Hockey Stick Team”. But it’s a little difficult keeping track of who’s meant to be who as seen in earlier comments. And no, I wasn’t kidding, but I’ll live.

    As for the NGOs, they do good work. Greenpeace in particular is highly adept at finding out who’s paying who and how much. Their delving into the Koch funding of climate change denial was highly revealing and useful. I’ve come to appreciate Greenpeace a lot.

    TF — “In case you missed it, I’m a lukewarmer, and am spending time here trying to differentiate my position from that of Cuccinelli and Inhofe.”

    Sorry Tom, I’m still coming to terms with this “lukewarmer”, “third position”, thing. What third position? Is it when someone takes the highs and lows of CO2 doubling sensitivity estimates and picks the halfway number? Would that really be a third position, or just getting in the way of the real debate and adding noise to the signals? That’s not intended as snark, either.

    I actually don’t compare you to Cuccinelli or Inhofe, so that we’re clear. It takes a special type of nutcase to fall to their level.

    TF — “I didn’t see you offer to sign that letter, J Bowers.”

    What letter? Well done for trying to contact him, though. Don’t give up, it’s still ongoing.

  172. Tom Fuller Says:

    No Bowers, that isn’t what being a lukwarmer is about. I’ve described it enough here at Bart’s on threads you’ve participated in. You obviously don’t read what people you consider your enemies write, which doesn’t surprise me, given how you respond.

  173. Brandon Shollenberger Says:

    In an “excellent comment,” Andrew Adams said:

    Paleoclimate reconstructions are a part of the picture regarding climate change but are not essential to the pro-AGW argument (Kyoto predated the HS remember) and there are a number of other studies apart from Mann’s which support the same conclusions. The fight between McIntyre and Mann (and their respective supporters) is a sideshow, the importance of which is greatly exagerated by those who want to use it as a distraction from the important questions.

    Unfortunately, this comment greatly understates the problem. The first part is true. Paleocllimatology is not necessary for the global warming argument. Along these lines, Steve McIntyre has even said he felt it would make sense to drop millennial reconstructions from IPCC reports. He has consistently said the hockey stick received far more attention than it deserved, and the validity of it has little to do with the validity of global warming. The only reason it is so significant is because of how much effort is put into defending it.

    And that brings us to the problem with this comment. Andrew says “there are a number of other studies apart from Mann’s which support the same conclusions.” This is true. It is also misleading. Every millennial reconstruction showing a hockey stick has received criticism for the very same basic issue as with Mann’s papers (undue reliance upon a small selection of proxy data). Mann’s work receives the most attention, to be sure, but the problem in his work is systematic to reconstructions in general.

    Paleoclimatology isn’t necessary, and it does tend to serve as just a distraction. On the other hand, people keep defending it by understating or unfairly dismissing the criticisms people raise in regards to it. These criticisms may be “unimportant” in and of themselves, but the fact they are handled improperly is extremely important. If arguments on one topic are dismissed basically without consideration, how can anyone trust what is said on other topics?

  174. luminous beauty Says:

    I’ve never denied that there is an organised effort to oppose climate change. I don’t think it’s very effective. I’m not a part of it, and I doubt if anybody (apart from Morano) in the blogosphere is, either. In case you missed it, I’m a lukewarmer, and am spending time here trying to differentiate my position from that of Cuccinelli and Inhofe.

    Let us look at these claims in some detail.

    Denial of denial – this is certainly the ground held by Inhofe, Morano, Cuccinelli, etc. who claim that AGW is a fraud. TF wants to separate himself from these actors, but is it true, is it even possible. Though he declaims the fraud word, nonetheless, the anti-factual and overblown insinuation of unprofessional, unethical and illegal conduct of certain climate scientists he espouses, and the implicit suggestion of guilt by association of the whole climate community for not acceding to his tormented interpretation of fact indubitably serves to enable them. Indeed, the spurious accusations derived from McIntyre & McKittrick, Wegman and Climategate, which TL defends with unremitting zeal are the very bases of Cuccinelli’s investigations, no matter how hard he tries to disassociate himself.

    Denial of fact – This is the domain of those who say the science is wrong, that there is no evidence of AGW. TF, and his luke-warmer buddies seek deny any connection to this position by saying they accept the fundamental physics of AGW, but downplay the sensitivity of global temperature to greenhouse forcing. Their basis for making this claim is the uncertainty of sensitivity measurement, but their denial is in not recognizing that uncertainty is a two way street, that their claim of sensitivity less than 3C/2CO2 has no more strength than the claim it is greater. This is the infamous Overton Window strategy, which is a political means of manipulating public perceptions, and anti-scientific to its core.

    Denial of consequence – This is the ground on which the luke-warmers have the greatest strength since the balance of benign and dire consequences of future warming are the most uncertain, yet it the same fallacy of uncertainty only being in one direction which still applies.

    Deny, Attack, Reversal of Victim and Offender – This is most insidious form of denial in which the luke-warmers engage and which TF demonstrates so lucidly on this very thread. It is the very fault of the ‘alarmist’ scientific community for not adequately communicating the risks of global warming and by not acceding to the ‘middle ground of the luke-warmers in their oh so innocent moderacy that is to blame for the failure of political action.

    Hilarious.

  175. Tom Fuller Says:

    Luminous beauty, your condition is clinical, your recital of absurdist positions humorous. Good luck.

  176. luminous beauty Says:

    If arguments on one topic are dismissed basically without consideration, how can anyone trust what is said on other topics?

    This is untrue Brandon. These arguments have been considered widely and extensively, not just on blogs but in the refereed literature, and been found to be overblown and exaggerated and of very little consequence. You may disagree as much as you like, but you must admit that your personal opinion cannot be accepted as the sole arbiter of fact.

    On the other hand, the fact that you persist in bringing up what you readily admit is a distraction makes one wonder how anyone can trust anything you say about anything.

  177. luminous beauty Says:

    Luminous beauty, your condition is clinical, your recital of absurdist positions humorous. Good luck.

    Ah! The projection gambit, once again, Tom? Sorry I can’t wish you the same. Recovery from denial requires hard work, preceded by the admission one has a problem. Luck is not involved. Funny, I just can’t see you ever making that first step.

  178. Brandon Shollenberger Says:

    luminous beauty, seeing as I previously responded to you by saying you made multiple claims which were completely made up, it should come as no surprise I say your latest response to me is untrue. Again, if anyone wants to have a discussion over such topics, I’d be glad to in any appropriate forum. However, I do feel obliged to discuss a non-technical point you raised in your response:

    On the other hand, the fact that you persist in bringing up what you readily admit is a distraction makes one wonder how anyone can trust anything you say about anything.

    I have never admitted these issues are just distractions. The technical points, in and of themselves, are often distractions. The issues highlighted by these technical points are not. I have never raised anything as “a distraction,” so your portrayal of me is as fallacious as your representation of any other facts I’ve seen you address.

  179. Tom Fuller Says:

    Brandon, DFTFT.

  180. luminous beauty Says:

    The issues highlighted by these technical points are not [distractions].

    The only ‘issues’ you’ve raised are, “…arguments …. dismissed basically without consideration…”

    The technical criticism you raise, “…undue reliance upon a small selection of proxy data..” isn’t actually correct. All the data that pass selection criteria are used in the constructions. The pertinent criticism would be that omission of select data that are questioned for what amount to spurious reasons will drastically change the shape of reconstruction. They won’t and it doesn’t. Of course, omission of any data will reduce the statistical significance of any reconstruction, which is what you really want. That you can’t justify such omissions as giving inconsistent results in the first instance is the cause of much gnashing of teeth and pulling of hair and claims of unfairness. TFB

    The technical criticisms have been considered, in depth, and there is virtually nothing to them. That is the truth. Your assertion that it is untrue is, … wait for it … untrue. If, as you say, “These criticisms may be “unimportant” in and of themselves…” then how can issues raised by your subjective opinion of how they’ve been ‘mishandled’ be anything but a distraction and an off topic diversion. I certainly haven’t the patience to rehash ancient history by playing silly semantic games.

  181. Brandon Shollenberger Says:

    But Tom…

  182. willard Says:

    Andrew Adams,

    I am in agreement with almost everything you said here on this thread. I agree in particular with this:

    > When considering the kind of message which should be put across and the potential barriers to communication issues such as climategate and the hockey stick do arise and people do have strong and conflicting views about them so I don’t think that people are necessarily diverting the discussion when they object to your particular interpretation of these subjects, but unfortunately whenever these things are raised in the context of any discussion they do tend to take over and distract from the main point.

    To see how climategate has become a distraction, here are some relevant quotes:

    Bart, on the 2010-11-18, at 09:07 admitted:

    > Yes, there were indeed signs of inappropriate behavior in the emails (the request to delete emails ranks number 1 imo).

    http://ourchangingclimate.wordpress.com/2010/11/17/climategate-scandal-that-wasnt-and-scandal-that-was/#comment-9458

    J Bowers, on the 2010-11-19, at 14:10, admitted:

    > I’d most likely accept that Jones thought there was a loophole [...]

    http://ourchangingclimate.wordpress.com/2010/11/17/climategate-scandal-that-wasnt-and-scandal-that-was/#comment-9543

    Even dhogaza agrees that deleting emails:

    > [W]as unethical and his buddies have said so.

    http://blogs.chron.com/climateabyss/2011/02/steig_this_is_not_complicated.html#c2050840

    But notice on that thread how JAE is not there to read but to mindframe, so dhogaza has to repeat:

    > I already said it [deleting emails] was unethical.

    http://blogs.chron.com/climateabyss/2011/02/steig_this_is_not_complicated.html#c2051799

    Mapleleaf, on the 2011-03-22, at 01:24:

    > Jones was an idiot for suggesting people delete emails for the purpose he was suggesting, that was plain wrong (even if he was under stress at the time), and I do not know of anyone (including “the team”) who disagrees.

    http://ourchangingclimate.wordpress.com/2011/03/10/open-thread-march-2011/#comment-12163

    ***

    This is a deliberate. This is a trick. This is not salvaging communication.

  183. willard Says:

    By “this”, I am referring to the “I can I trust you?” meme.

  184. Eli Rabett Says:

    Willard does not go far enough. What you learn from the sort of things that he points to is that you never can have a discussion with someone who only is there to repeat a meme. The two choices are ignore them, or call them out. Repeatedly. Of course, they then accuse you of being a bad bunny.

    Nuts.

  185. On Credibility: As Many Walks as Talks | Planet3.0 Says:

    [...] Andrew Adams: the central message of the “climate consensus” is that AGW is real, that the consequences are likely to be serious and it needs to be addressed. The extent to which this means we have to change the way we live is more debatable, there really is no consensus about the specific policies which are required in order to combat AGW [...]

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