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As the previous thread should be about “Dilemmas in Science Communication” and not “Dilemmas in Communication with Tom Fuller” I thought I’d bring my comment over here.
What worries me most about Tom Fuller is that he creates enough doubt about his position that I can’t entirely discount the possibility that he might be right, about some things at least. Fortunately he regularly enough gives me good reason to reconfirm my distrst of him:
“It is this group of people that have come forth with ridiculous nonsense ranging from No Pressure videos to inane chatter about extreme weather events, from scare stories about polar bears to scare stories about Himalayan glacier melt. Either this group is, as they claim, the consensus and as such I oppose them or the actual consensus has not repudiated their science fiction and I oppose this group on behalf of the consensus and will criticize the consensus for not standing up to them.”
The No Pressure video was an attempt to try a different approach, the humour was probably misjudged in light of the wide audience and paranoiac positions. But anyone who has reflected on it and still pretends to think this was a genuine threat or that the violence was anything more than an absurdist juxtaposition should be exposed and condemned. They are the ones stirring up hatred and their fault far outweighs the fault of those who made the video.
Is it credible to think, given the projections of impacts, that we shouldn’t be talking about climate change when we observe extreme weather events? Of course not and of course there has been some misguided commentary, but the vast majority of what I see from the ‘consensus side’ is moderate and thoughtful and far more accurate and nuanced than “The IPCC came out last month reaffirming the academic, peer-reviewed literature saying that none of the recent weather ‘events’ is attributable to climate change.”
To class concerns about polar bears as ridiculous nonsense shows the paucity of genuine objections to the ‘consensus’ position.
The Himalayan glaciers? Who has not repudiated the genuine mistakes that were made? The response may have been defensive and slow, but why might that be?
Of course by responding like this I am falling into the trap that Tom Fuller has set, but then not responding is also falling into the trap – he’s very good at providing a selection of threads to pull on, as the unravelling of the previous thread demonstrates. I’m defending the indefensible, never mind that the criticisms are so overblown as to have been drowned in the spray of muck – it’s up to me to pick out and give credibility to the justified points, but to focus on anything other than these is to spin and dissemble.
The Fullermania on the other thread kept me from explaining my characterization of your comment about journalists. It probably was a little overblown, but the absolutism of your statement makes it incorrect. There are many journalists at the BBC, NPR, the NYTimes and even Forbes who present the context you desire. Louise linked to one later in the comments.
I think the other thread is an example of what’s wrong with climate communication and what Bart is trying to get people to move away from. Everything seems to be based on finding disagreements, magnifying small ones into large ones. Better to look for points of agreement, however small and build on that. My sense is that you pretty much feel the same way.
Paul, fair enough, my statement may have seemed absolutist, but my choice of phrasing was a mimicking of Tom Fuller’s, the point I was intending to make was about the media as a whole.
There are of course examples of journalists who are consistently good in their treatment of climate change, and Louise’s link to Dan Vergano at USA Today suggests he may well be one, but no one journalist or even group of journalists can communicate the full context of the climate debate on thier own. This needs to be happening consistently, articles like that need to be the norm not the exception. The media are not communicating the balance of the debate well.
I don’t fully agree with you about building on small points of agreement, though I would generally read your arguments with respect. A sustainable approach to sustainability needs to be based on an understanding of the reality, and the uncertainties, we face. I don’t accept that going along with a position which superficially aligns with mine is the correct thing to do because there are short term benefits in such co-operation. If there remains a fundamental disconnection in the motivation behind such agreement then I cannot rely on continued co-operation when the conditions change.
“The Fullermania … I think the other thread is an example of what’s wrong with climate communication”
Ah, you mean the fact that is was overtaken by Fuller’s trolling, by his numerous rude and crude attacks, his arrogant hotheaded blustering? Followed by your grossly dishonest blabber about “Fuller bashers”?
“To class concerns about polar bears as ridiculous nonsense shows the paucity of genuine objections to the ‘consensus’ position.”
Why give any credit whatsoever to the fulminations of Fuller, an arrogant know-nothing blowhard who is completely devoid of the character qualities required to weigh and evaluate evidence? Absence of Arctic sea ice will lead to polar bear deaths as a matter of simple logic. Given the current scientific projections of when that will happen, someone who denigrates a concern about the loss of polar bears as “scare stories” is not willing or able to engage in a rational discussion.
I agree with OPatrick’s point above about the “building on small points of agreement” argument. I would also make the point that this seemingly reasonable line of argument effectively requires those of us on the “consensus” side to give up the majority of what we actually believe on the subject of AGW, because for many skeptics all they will accept is that CO2 is a greenhouse gas and a doubling of CO2 will on its own lead to 1C warming. They won’t accept the magniture (or even the sign) of the feedbacks, and so the level of climate sensitivity. They won’t accept that the impacts will on balance be negative or the possibility of particular extreme negative impacts. So based purely on the “points of agreement” the only possible conclusion is that we don’t have enough information to take meaningful action.
It’s the same with the emphasis that some want us to put on “no regrets” policies. This sounds very reasonable until you realise that it means not actually taking any actions specifically to address the threat of AGW and again goves the skeptics an effective veto on what is up for discussion.
Actually, for cooperation and trust to work, it is important that you stay true to your beliefs. I believe climate is one of several valid reasons to get rid of fossil fuels. Do you, the others here, agree?
I’m afraid of coming over to this thread as I’m pretty sure I’d be followed. But you guys are having the more interesting conversation. OPatrick, if you want to re-enter the other thread I’d like to engage you on the points you made up top. No offense taken if you’d rather not.
Since the resident troll posts in every thread, the notion of following him is absurd … not to mention that I was here first. But he isn’t honest about even the most mundane things.
Paul, for trust and cooperation to work, the participants must not engage in blatant intellectual dishonesty, like your ridiculous nonsense about “Fuller bashers” demonstrating “the greatest impediment to effective climate communication”. You might as well accuse people of being ebola bashers, perpetuating the disease by criticizing the ebola instead of engaging it in dialog. Or accuse torture victims of being torturer bashers, failing to engage in a conversation by answering their questions.
As the previous thread should be about “Dilemmas in Science Communication” and not “Dilemmas in Communication with Tom Fuller”
Exactly so, but the latter is what you get from comments like Paul Kelly’s, and his dishonest “Fullermania”, as if liars and trolls were innocent and those who refute them or are provoked by them are the guilty parties. The difficulties of communicating science should not measured by the difficulty of communicating it with those totally lacking intellectual honesty, who show up in the middle of such discussions to disrupt them by putting all the focus on themselves. The proprietors of a China shop can have a discussion of how best to present their wares to the buying public, and even invite members of the public to participate, but it will all go to hell if they invite in the bull.
I think the other thread is an example of what’s wrong with climate communication and what Bart is trying to get people to move away from. Everything seems to be based on finding disagreements, magnifying small ones into large ones.
That is not even remotely characteristic of the other thread, unless you’re referring to garbage like
Eli confuses journalists with historians, official spokesmen, and fair witnesses. The way he goes on about them, odds are Flossie Rabett was terribly scared by a journalist, lo those many years ago.
or partisan point missing like
Sulfur cap and trade was put into the 1990 Clean Air Act by the first President Bush. Even though it was supported by the Environmental Defense Fund, it was called a Republican trick by environmentalists and progressives.
Paul, there are other reasons to move away from fossil fuels, I’ve no problem with people discussing those, but to rely on these arguments and ignore climate change risks both a failure to act urgently on fossil fuel because of changes in circumstances unrelated to the threats posed by climate change and a failure to address the wider network of interelated problems which feed in to climate change, such as deforestation.
Peak oil is, presumably, the most obvious reason but I don’t see how this approach can prevent the development of unconventional sources. I don’t trust it as an argument on its own.
Security concerns can be applied to alternatives to fossil fuels as well, for example with international electricity grids. I think the more sustainable approach to security is diplomacy rather than barricades.
Taking a long view I don’t believe it’s sustainable to address systemic problems by sleight of hand. If we can’t accept a representative model of reality in our political and social actions then we have a society which is increasingly vulnerable to external pressures. Dealing with problems in a piecemeal manner, ignoring their interconnectedness, is not a long term strategy I am prepared to sign up for. I’ll use those alternative arguments if I am convinced they are valid but never at the exclusion of arguments I know are valid and overriding.
Regarding “staying true to your beliefs” I think that if your beliefs are contradicted by the evidence then stubbornly holding onto them in the face of that is not a good idea and will not win trust from others. OTOH, if you are confident in your opinions and can back them up with evidence then it is right to stick to them and argue your case, even if it unpalatable to others.
And yes, there are other reasons apart from climate to reduce our reliance on of fossil fuels, but the urgency of this task and the costs we might be prepared to bear are greatly affected by the need to mitigate climate change and so we can’t afford to simply put that particular consideration aside in order to reach some supposed “common ground”.
Science writers now work in an age where uncomfortable ideas and truths meet organized resistance. Opposing scientific consensus on such things as anthropogenic climate change, the theory of evolution, and even the astonishingly obvious benefits of vaccination has become politically de rigueur, a litmus test and a genuine threat to science. How does denial affect the craft of the science writer? How can science writers effectively explain disputed science? What’s the big picture? Are denialists ever right?
There is a half-full glass here, which is that a number of people who clearly identify emotionally and politically with the denialist movement have taken major steps towards the scientific consensus in order to maintain their credibility. While sharing the denialosphere’s loathing of “activists” and its demonization of scientists like Hansen and Mann (whose unforgivable sin was to establish beyond a reasoned doubt that humans are causing a rapid and substantially unprecedented warming of the earth’s climate) the lukewarmers avoid three major pitfalls of denialism:
1. They do not have to deny the basic physical laws which dictate that greenhouse gases cause warming.
2. They do not have to refute the massive physical evidence that the climate is warming.
3. They do not have to pretend that the vast majority of scientists who accept the theory of AGW are participating in a vast conspiracy to hide the truth about (1) and (2).
The lukewarmist position also allows one to position oneself as a moderate threading the needle between two extremes.
but there is a problem
The real contrast here is not between “activists” and “skeptics” but between deniers and everybody else – between the science and the right-wing lunacy. But lukewarmers are exploiting the shift in the Overton window brought about by voluble climate deniers to position their radical views as a sane middle ground.
Here’s the problem. Lukewarmism doesn’t get its adherents where they want to go – because even if we accept at face value their claims, the world would still require intense efforts to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases in order to stave off disaster.
and the need to shift the Overton window back towards reality is what Eli is trying to do. If you have a world only with the Sky Dragons, the Lucias and the Barts out there the window shifts toward denialism. Indeed you can make an argument that the entire Pielkesphere exists to destroy any opposing pressure to shift the argument back to reality, else why the virulent attacks against Joe Romm, Mann, etc.
Rabid Eli, when JBowers linked to the same Idiot Tracker series, we noticed quite quickly that someone who cannot even identify who he’s talking about might be less than reliable about his description of what they are doing. And in fact he is less than reliable.
Analysis that begins with a conviction regarding motivation leads nowhere quickly. Your case is the exception that proves the rule.
Bart’s point is that fervid arguments over hockey sticks and feedbacks et.al. may have become counter productive. Such horrors over a few degrees. But, you say TF’s lukewarmism prevents policy. Ironic, since you and he have pretty much the same views on policy. In any event, this is the non Fuller thread.
Agree or disagree? Climate is one of several valid reasons to get rid of fossil fuels. So far everyone who has agreed has also expressed reservations.
I very much agree with your first paragraph at 8:59. Indeed, if your beliefs are contradicted by the evidence then stubbornly holding onto them in the face of that is not a good idea. Your second voices concerns that Bart and OP also have that should be addressed.
I can’t quite agree that the urgency and costs of fossil fuel replacement are greatly affected by the need to mitigate climate change. The problem is that after 4.3 IPCC reports and who knows how many COPs and all the billions spent, the case for a climate urgency sufficient to warrant the policy advocated has not been made. Now, you really can’t blame the science. Recently, some research suggests this failure to make the case can be blamed on the information deficit model. I also blame reliance on a political process and taking a top down approach.
Paul, first of all, like Everett Dirksen said about money, a few degrees here, a few degrees there, and sooner or later you are talking about serious climate change. But no, if you want to figure out where the lukewarmers are going, look at whom they aim the balance of their arguments. Your assumption is that they are balancers, but the public ones are anything but and their message is (to continue a bad trend) don’t worry, be happy nothing is happening.
Eli does need to thank everyone for helping to crystallize the issue.
There are any number of individuals and organisations making the case for urgent action to mitigate climate change. You may not find that case persuasive, you may think that the people making it have not done so effectively, but I don’t see how you can claim the case has not been made.
JBowers, do you really think there is validity of any sort in the content Idiot Tracker posted? Really. Do me the favor of re-reading what is written on those two posts and tell me if the content corresponds at all with reality as you see it.
Because, truly, if you and I see reality so differently, it’s hard to imagine how communication can really take place.
‘Lukewarmism’ is a manufactured artificial polarisation thats primary purpose is to suck debate into two camps of people who accept that CO2 will warm and there will be some feedbacks. Instead of a broad spectrum of ideas, it seeks to create a refuge for deniers to continue their online war for pollution.
A multi-billionaire has two sons whose birthdays all fall on the same day. One year for their birthdays, he brings them to the mansion and calls them in one by one, starting with the eldest.
“Son, it’s your birthday, name anything you want and you can have it.” The son replies, “Dad, I want to start my own publishing empire, but need the funds to start it up.” Dad replies with, “Son. here’s $100 million, go and start your empire.”
The younger son, six years old, is brought into the room and sits on his dad’s lap. “Son, it’s your birthday, just name what you want and you can have it.” The wee lad thinks about it and jumps up with glee on his face. “Daddy, all I want for my birthday is a cowboy outfit!”
To the young boy’s delight, dad takes fifty dollars out of his pocket. “Here you go, son. Go and buy Climate Depot.”
“you are incorrect about the Lukewarmer position, ”
The very fact that there is a ‘Luke warmist’ position suggests I am close to the money. The very act of giviing it a name is part of the process of artificial division. Instead of a broad spectrum of possible outcomes, forcing people who accept the impact of radiative physics into camps is a deliberate and manufactured ploy.
f Naomi Oreskes or Doran and Zimmerman wanted to determine a coherent picture of lukewarmer views on AGW, who should they contact? Which of the list of climatechange myths at http://www.skepticalscience.com/argument.php do you think they got wrong? Which of them do you think most other lukewarmers would think they got wrong?
More than a year ago, the YesButDenier argument became a topic of discussion at Keith’s. There followed a discussion in which I participated. One of my comments there was about strictures on labelling:
- always describe what one is talking about;
- use labels proponents themselves use;
- minimize their use;
- use the objective form.
The latest weekly episode made me think that it would be time to revisit that topic.
My own incentive would be to come up with three more strictures, to be able to write Seven Strictures on Labeling, to ape a title used by Nelson Goodman in a famous paper where he was criticizing the concept of similarity. The idea behind the pastiche is that in the first sentence, Goodman was calling the concept of similarity “a pretender, an imposter, a quack”.
Let’s start this with another philosopher:
After a very inspiring book entitled **On Bullshit**, Harry Frankfurt came to realize the need to distinguish bullshit from truth. And so he wrote a little book called **On Truth**. In the introduction, he explains why the need to talk about truth, and why we take truth as an important normative concept.
Frankfurt held that there was no need to quarrel about what truth really is: he was not interested into yet another theory about that. What he wanted to pinpoint was the essential element of truth, which escapes most of the pitfalls, like distinguishing objectivity and subjectivity. He underlined the fact that people do use the notion of “fact”, that is people do presume that there are statements about which we usually have no reason to dispute.
To illustrate his idea, he quoted George Clémenceau, to whom it was onced asked to speculate what would discuss future historians about the First World War:
> They will not say that Belgium invaded Germany.
Considering our weekly episode, I found the remark fitting.
Not that it shares any similarities with anything, mind you.
dorlomin, you are incorrect about the Lukewarmer position, its origins and its aims. But enjoy your fantasy world.
Well, you first defined your lukewarmer position as accepting the AR4 2-4.5C range for climate sensitivey to a doubling of CO2 as being reasonable, as you posited 2.5C at WUWT.
The problem, of course, is:
No mainstream scientist believes that a sensitivity of doubling of CO2 of 2.5C is benign. This includes folks like Lindzen and Spencer, who argue and argue for a sensitivity of more or less 1C because they understand that your “lukewarmer” position is untenable.
These scientists (as opposed to failed journalists like Fuller) understand that a sensitivy of 2.5C, which you have publicly endorsed, is game over for the skeptic case.
Who should I believe? Failed journo Fuller or respected and tenured MIT prof Lindzen, or Spencer?
The first label that I noticed in the **Dilemmas in science communication** thread was:
> I’m being a little unfair to you, Bart. You’ve been far more engaged (and more engaging as a consequence) than many of your ‘tribe.’
The label here is “tribe”.
Here’s the Wikipedia presentation of the concept:
A tribe is viewed, historically or developmentally, as a social group existing before the development of, or outside of, states. Many anthropologists used the term tribal society to refer to societies organized largely on the basis of kinship, especially corporate descent groups (see clan and kinship).
It is important to note that the word ‘tribe’ is a contested term due to its roots in colonial anthropological foundations and the connotations that these hierarchical definitions have.  It is common practice to use alternative terms like ‘ethnic group’ , or nation.
There are two things to note from this note:
First, that the word has strong connotations and is on shaky theorical ground.
Second, that the alternative terms are not good substitutes: “Bart’s ethnic group” and “Bart’s nation” lack either relevance and punch.
Perhaps the word “clan” would be safer than tribe. We would then see that this is clearly a metaphor, since I don’t believe I share blood with Bart. Although anything is possible.
At the very least, Bart’s tribe is more advanced than a “clan” or a “gang”, another label that deserves due diligence.
Willard — “What you say reminds me of a scence from *300*:”
The first part of explaining why Xerxes despoiled Leonidas’s body (for blasphemy) which was highly unusual (if not unheard of?) with regards to a fallen enemy monarch. The second part being “Molon Lave!” in ancient Greek, IIRC, translates as the common Greek insult “come and take it” accompanied with a grasp of the genitalia, not “come and take them” with reference to their weapons. That would have been the ultimate insult, the straw on the camel’s back, to Xerxes.
The next label I could spot in that other thread was in this sentence:
> But still, gentle reader now that we have all decided that journalism is completely innocent and full of virtue (well a slight exaggeration), perhaps we will get off the kick that all scientists need to be sent to communications re-education camp?
Here is Ze Wiki blurb for one relevant entry:
> Reeducation camp (Vietnamese: trại học tập cải tạo) is the official title given to the prison camps operated by the government of Vietnam following the end of the Vietnam War. In such “reeducation camps”, the government imprisoned several hundred thousand former military officers and government workers from the former regime of South Vietnam. Reeducation as it was implemented in Vietnam was seen as both a means of revenge and a sophisticated technique of repression and indoctrination, which developed for several years in the North and was extended to the South following the 1975 North Vietnam takeover.
If I were a journalist, I would not like to be sent to a reeducation camp.
> Laogai (simplified Chinese: 劳改; traditional Chinese: 勞改; pinyin: láogǎi), the abbreviation for Láodòng Gǎizào (勞動改造/劳动改造), which means “reform through labor,” is a slogan of the Chinese criminal justice system and has been used to refer to the use of prison labor and prison farms in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). It is estimated that in the last fifty years more than 50 million people have been sent to laogai camps. Laogai is distinguished from laojiao, or re-education through labor, which is an administrative detention for a person who is not a criminal but has committed minor offenses, and is intended to reform offenders into law-abiding citizens. Persons detained under laojiao are detained in facilities which are separate from the general prison system of laogai. Both systems, however, involve penal labor.
These concepts are related to this other one:
> The Gulag (Russian: ГУЛаг, tr. GULag; IPA: [ɡʊˈlak] ( listen)) was the government agency that administered the main Soviet forced labor camp systems. While the camps housed a wide range of convicts, from petty criminals to political prisoners, large numbers were convicted by simplified procedures, such as NKVD troikas and other instruments of extrajudicial punishment. The Gulag is recognized as a major instrument of political repression in the Soviet Union.
The last blurb does not underline the fact that gulags were labor camps. Labor camps are a more general phenomenon:
Ok. So it’s not sure what kind of education that is going on in these kinds of camps. There must be a reason why we’re using this concept here. But whatever the reason, it does triggers quite violent memories.
> A chain gang is a group of prisoners chained together to perform menial or physically challenging work, such as mining or timber collecting, as a form of punishment. Such punishment might include building roads, digging ditches or chipping stone. This system existed primarily in the southern parts of the United States, and by 1955 had been phased out nationwide, with Georgia the last state to abandon the practice. Chain gangs were reintroduced by a few states during the “get tough on crime” 1990s, with Alabama being the first state to revive them in 1995. The experiment ended after about one year in all states except Arizona, where in Maricopa County inmates can still volunteer for a chain gang to earn credit toward a high school diploma or avoid disciplinary lockdowns for rule infractions.
With this kind of chain, we can reach the Godwin point fast enough:
> Extermination through labor (German: Vernichtung durch Arbeit) is a principle that guided the operation of the [REDACTED] concentration camp system, defined as the willful or accepted killing of forced laborers or prisoners through excessive heavy labor, malnutrition and inadequate care.
It would be interesting to analyse the archipel of concepts.
In any case, the connotation of “reeducation camp” is quite clear, and just reading these blurbs should make us realize that “all scientists need to be sent to communications re-education camp” seems quite hyperbolic.
In fact, it’s so hyperbolic that I can’t think of anything else than **O Death**:
Notice the three chain gang members, keeping us somewhat in the theme.
As is often the case, the Cohen Brothers show how to portray taboos in an artful way.
Well yes, re-education camps are not pleasant places in the countryside, but you knew that Willard, that’s the whole purpose of the Judith Curry Movement, to force scientists to keep their heads down (you could trace that last phrase as to what was required in some places). As you know, phrases carry images with them for those who have looked up.
Indeed, Eli, I had a vague idea that this was not rosy. But looking around the various historical implementations tends to show us the potency of the bagage our metaphors are carrying. You can say it’s just a reason to browse Ze Wiki too.
But I also believe that non casual readers should be aware of another kind of bagage, carried by content of the discussions the members of the climate bloglands previously had.
In that case, I believe the notion of re-education got your attention in that comment by Richard Tol at MT’s, just after agreeing with me:
> For instance, you may have noticed that I am affronted by the notion of sending Christian fundamentalists to re-education camps.These are deep issues. I think climate policy should simply respect such divisions of opinion. We may use other policies to counter the excesses.
Deep issues indeed. This expression got a bit carried away. The aggravation did not come from the term, but from the insistence to use it: it’s tough to stay in speaking terms with someone who insists in using a label you told him you do not like.
Anyway. This episode ended OK, I believe. It took time, though, and people involved still remember it. That you are still use the expression shows that these metaphors cut deep.
Sometimes, using them may have some healing effect. Or at least some dedramatization,effect. It is a part of your irony kit.
Language is a social art.
PS: Readers will note that MT’s site has been imported from Blogger with the comments inverted: the thread must be read from bottom to top.
The myth is described in the very first paragraph:
> At the Planet under Pressure conference in London at the end of March, it was difficult to avoid thinking of an additional pressure to the ones treated at the conference: the pressure of scientists trying to get the message across. Their insights tempt them to play the role of Cassandra, the ancient Greek beauty who was granted the gift of prophecy, but who was cursed so that nobody would believe her.
It provides a nice fall too:
> She (Cassandra, or: planetary science) “is a figure both of the epic tradition and of tragedy, where her combination of deep understanding and powerlessness exemplify the ironic condition of humankind”.
So Cassandra might have been the first to wait for Godot.
In the paper I cited in the Communication thread, there is a paragraph that might relate to Cassandra:
> As painful as these attacks may be, they should not lead climate scientists to conclude that communication is hopeless. Doing so would represent what psychologists call the ‘spotlight effect’, exaggerating how much attention others pay to our actions. For better and worse, most people do not think about science all that much. It would be equally tragic if the attacks goaded scientists into becoming polemicists, a role that would undermine their credibility by making science seem like less trusted professions, such as the media and politics.
> Co-variation principle states that people attribute behavior to the factors that are present when a behavior occurs and absent when it does not. Thus, the theory assumes that people make causal attributions in a rational, logical fashion, and that they assign the cause of an action to the factor that co-varies most closely with that action. Harold Kelley’s covariation model of Attribution looks to three main types of information from which to make an attribution decision about an individual’s behavior. The first is consensus information, or information on how other people in the same situation and with the same stimulus behave. The second is distinctiveness information, or how the individual responds to different stimuli. The third is consistency information, or how frequent the individual’s behavior can be observed with similar stimulus but varied situations. From these three sources of information observers make attribution decisions on the individual’s behavior as either internal or external. Kelly’s theory and the examples of prediction are represented in the diagram.
It would be interesting to test this theory with labeling behaviors. Usually, that means someone already did it. Let’s see.
Seems I’m 17 years too late:
> [T]he processes of attribution and labeling are closely interwined[.]
Returning the Communication thread, we must pay due diligence to this recurring theme, that appeared the first time on April 18:
> It was also very helpful for me to get acquainted with someone who was firmly in the consensus camp but did not act like Romm or Rabett, lambert or Tobis.
Then on April 20:
> For every Hansen and Bart, there are covens full of Elis, Tobises, Lamberts and Romms. Not to mention their groupies. The result is what you see around you.
Then on April 22:
> The mis-statements and wild claims by the Romms, Lamberts and Tobises of the world have given the skeptics plenty of ammunition. It is this that has led to a reduced perception of the need for immediate action.
There are 21 occurences of “tobi” in the thread.
Speaking of which, it would be interesting to know if anyone has any information about this:
> Do you know how many times Tobis has had to apologize (however grudgingly) for being wrong in disagreements with me in the past two years? Nine. Do you know how many disputes we had on scientific issues? Nine.
Let’s also note that this just reappeared at Junior’s on May 11th, 2012:
> My first instinct two and a half years ago was to confront lies in the same forum they were uttered. And at the beginning I tried to be far more polite about it than I am now. But there are too many blogs, too many Marlowe Johnsons Nevens, dhogazas, Secular Animists, willards, Michael Tobises, ad nauseum.
On the communications thread, the easily baited Tom Fuller was badgered off the thread by a group of commenters whose intent was to keep him from commenting on the actual topic of the post. They bring up tired, scurrilous, years old accusations, rehash irrelevant arguments over 40 year old memories and make mountains out of rhetorical molehills. Many in the group had no interest in the actual topic and came here only to drive Fuller off. That’s the fact, Jack.
The same group uses the same tactic on other blogs, In fact, you can find a similar group on almost every blog. For example, there’s a group at WUWT that harasses stoat about his role at wikipedia no matter what topic he is commenting on.
“The mis-statements and wild claims by the Romms, Lamberts and Tobises of the world have given the skeptics plenty of ammunition. It is this that has led to a reduced perception of the need for immediate action.”
That is an accurate analysis of the situation. It is not something Fuller made up. It is the conclusion of social science research. It was a topic at the communications meeting that prompted Bart’s post.
Paul, what a load of humbug. Tell me, what are the “mis-statements and wild claims” by people like Tim Lambert and Michael Tobis that have given pseudoskeptics “plenty of ammunition”?
Heck, I’ll make it easy for you: find 5 such examples for Romm! But there is one caveat: you’ll have to show that pseudoskeptics have used Romm’s “mis-statements and wild claims” as ammunition, AND that those WERE “mis-statements and wild claims”.
If you claim Tom made an accurate analysis of the situation, you must have evidence. I’d like to see it.
In the meantime, I keep the position that Tom Fuller called the backlash onto himself when he started to accuse the Rabett of Lysenkoism and used the term “consensus preachers”. Apparently, being called a denier (which happened much later in the thread by one person, who even apologized) is much worse than linking someone to Lysenko, for which Tom did not and likely never will apologize.
On another note, please bear in mind that you have yet to answer the last claim on that Communication thread, according to which your repeated pronouncements about what we should do lack empirical support.
I’m not absolving Fuller. He is pugnacious. This fight started long before he called Rabbet names. Who knows who struck the first blow, or when? Who but the participants cares?
For Romm, I’ll just name two off the top of my head and leave it at that: the end of July 4th fireworks and the Minnesota bridge posts.
While we might disagree about what constitutes exaggeration, the idea that exaggeration is counterproductive to the message is widely held. It is mentioned in the van Soest Cassandra post at Planet 3.0.
Paul, pugnacious is actually an understatement, but these fights always happen in places where the blog owner intervenes. You don’t need to defend me. I was no worse than these guys. But I was no better, either. And that’s setting the bar too low.
So, Paul Kelly found two, but fails to show how pseudoskeptics have used Romm’s “mis-statements and wild claims” as ammunition, AND that those WERE “mis-statements and wild claims”.
The Minnesota bridge example is a good one: some pseudoskeptic websites mentioned it, but fail to point out that Romm asked *the question* whether it could be related to climate change. That’s neither a mis-statement nor a wild claim!
Moreover, as you note yourself, the ‘fight’ with Fuller has a long history, but no one badgered him until he started making those comments about “consensus preachers” and invoked Lysenko. That is, he was and is fully welcome to comment on the topic of the thread, but he will also find himself attacked when he adds the qualifiers he did.
> That is an accurate analysis of the situation. It is not something Fuller made up. It is the conclusion of social science research. It was a topic at the communications meeting that prompted Bart’s post.
I believe all the claims in that paragraph are wrong.
Not only are these claims wrong, but by making them, you are repeating the very same pattern you are condemning with these claims.
I don’t know how to settle this except by asking you to provide evidence for them.
So I started with the last one, since it’s the one less susceptible to replay what you are condemning right now.
You ignored that request.
Please advise how to settle that.
I believe you should already know that I am not a fan of labeling. I already told so in the other thread and it is the subtext of all the comments so far in this Open thread.
But I disagree that this is the root of all evils that happen in the blogs. I also disagree that this has much impact in our current climatic predicament. And I do believe this is something that comes with self-victimization.
You’re right that Wikipedia is not enough to pay due diligence. But paying due diligence does not amount to provide citations. In this case, it provides a good starting point to analyze what happened here, and what oftentimes happens elsewhere.
As Eli recalls, he was sitting quietly in his little den when Tommy, opened with a small fugue
“It was also very helpful for me to get acquainted with someone who was firmly in the consensus camp but did not act like Romm or Rabett, lambert or Tobis. If nothing else you’ve shown it’s possible to be a gentleman throughout this debate.”
Now, Eli ignored, that, congratulated Bart (best wishes again) and expressed his opinion, often repeated that journalists and their training is the largest part of the problem of science communication, to which Tom spit out
“For every Hansen and Bart, there are covens full of Elis, Tobises, Lamberts and Romms. Not to mention their groupies. The result is what you see around you.”
And Eli replied
“Eli, besides being a bunny, is a scientist. Tom is a journalist and covetous. Witch, of course, is the point. Enough punishment, but note the manipulation of symbols, the journalists stock in trade. Witches, except for the Wiccan, are in the western world, evil, so scientists are witches, but of course there are some good witches.”
after seven or eight nasties from Tom, Eli replied a day later to the question raised by Mr. Fuller why he had not seen any journal articles by Eli Rabett
As for Rabett being a scientist, I see no citations under that name.
Eli uses a pen name.”
Mr. Fuller then went into full meltdown mode. About ten days later, after having not said anything about Mr. Fuller, Eli asked
“The Bunny has been holding his keypad on this one making general comments, with only a couple of indirect observations on what Mr. Fuller has been writing about him but frankly Mr. Fuller’s comments about the Rabett and others have exceeded the bounds of acceptable discourse. It appears to arise from Mr. Fuller’s need to negatively portray those who have figured out his game is to try and split the opposition to his position on climate change. This tactic has become the topic of the open thread and guess what, there, Mr. Fuller is busy denying that he is trying to do the very thing.
Eli would encourage anyone who doubts to simply search through this thread for “Rabett”. You will find a progressively shriller set of characterizations of others by Mr. Fuller. Observing Mr. Fuller’s concerning loss of control Eli has resisted directly confronting Mr. Fuller’s nonsense. Of course, under pressure, Mr. Fuller rolled downhill to using some of the nastiest ethnic slurs in the language to try and elicit a response against which he could claim that he was being victimized. Eli can only congratulate everyone for resisting replying in kind.
Eli could only conclude that Mr. Fuller was allowed to continue as long as he did as a textblog example of how one can discredit oneself.”
And so it starts again. Mr. Fuller continues to be arrogant, rude, and obnoxious. He seeks to besmirch Eli’s, Joe’s and Michael’s reputations by repetition. Now the Bunny has tried over the past few weeks to simply respond obliquely to Mr. Fuller’s propagandistic bloviating, but there is a limit and Eli is at it. If you want this to stop, if you want a discourse, get him under control, or get him gone.
I just read that Minnesota bridge piece, it wasn’t something I was previously aware of but it seems fairly innocuous. The question of whether infrastructure in the US is built to cope with the extremes of climate we expect if the world continues to warm seems a reasonable one to ask. I have to say that if that is an example of a “mis-statement or wild claim” which is somehow damaging the “warmist” cause then all I can say is that it proves what I already suspected – that the “skeptics” and “lukewarmers” are absurdly quick, determined even, to take offence.
It does seem that any claim that any event anywhere might possibly be attributable to climate change does meet with a great deal of hostility from certain quarters.
> If there were a place in my resume to put “Elicits enraged and [REDACTED] commentary from people ranging from Secular Animist and dhogaza to Eli Rabett, Marlowe Johnson and BBD” I would cheerfully do so.
Link to Joe Romm’s piece on the MN bridge. Paul Kelly may have been one of those writing comments?? Eli simply notes the update at the top of the post
UPDATE: Turns out it was legitimate to ask weather the temperature played a role — the feds did examine this issue in detail, but ultimately concluded it was not a factor (see their final report here, page 126).
Rabett, are you threatening to leave this blog if I don’t quit doing whatever it is you are misrepresenting me as doing? That’s not much of an incentive for me to stop.
You’re not an honest interlocutor. It is too wearying to document the many instances–but your most recent comment can serve, as you jump over entire sections of the thread, misrepresent your own performance and imprint your over-facile interpretation everywhere. Kind of like you do with everything.
People who refer to themselves in the third person usually do so for clinical reasons. One sad effect of the practice is that they commonly excuse their poor behaviour by displacing it onto the personality construct. Added to that your pseudonymous identity and your on again off again claims to subject matter expertise and you have created the perfect online ghost. You can play the character assassin and then bow and scrape Eli’s way out of it whenever Josh Halpern wants.
So, as with willard (who waited three whole days before forgetting his commitment in response), this is the last time I’ll respond to you. I am glad that I know some real scientists–I would be horrified to think you are representative of the breed.
Eli is no longer prepared to sit quietly by while you cast unwarrented aspersions upon him and his friends. The clinical reason dear five year old, why Eli uses a third person approach is that it amuses him. If you have a problem with that, well, it is another problem for you.
You are an immature child who believes the world should and must revolve around your wants and and has been allowed to believe that the golden rule does not apply to your worthless hide. That stops now.
Yes, Paul it was an interesting thread, and stripped of some argy-bargy, not a useless one. Joe Romm was a bit strong going in, but soon backed off in his first comment. But even the initial post was not a full throated claim that the heat wave before the collapse had contributed but a conditional statement that it might have and that should be investigated and Joe did add the update at the end of the process.
It is long past time to acknowledge that there has been a split in both camps. Those in the skeptic community have been making the case for several years, trying to differentiate between the Republicans using climate change as a domestic political issue, Sky Dragon and Iron Sun aficionados, etc. who are a fringe, and more reasoned skeptics with honest questions. We Lukewarmers have at least acknowledged that there is a difference.
The same is true on the other side. There are thousands of climate scientists, environmentalists and even policy advocates that are doing the best they can to analyze the causes, estimate the effects and plan for the results of climate change. Their cause is hampered by the equivalent of the Sky Dragon worshippers and Iron Sun aficionados, for most of whom time stopped in 1998 and all argument ceased in 2007. These climate cargo cultists do as much damage to the consensus as Morano or Monckton does to honest skeptics.
The difference is that whereas skeptics are fighting to differentiate themselves from their slightly battier namesakes (who fight to retain the same label), the consensus has not stood up to confront those who say they are on their side but act in ways that harm the consensus.
> I am glad that I know some real scientists–I would be horrified to think you are representative of the breed.
reminded me of this:
> Scientist A may be having lunch with scientist B and say, “Scientist C is an ass.” Scientist B probably wouldn’t blink an eye, unless he/she liked scientist C. But scientist A standing up at a conference and saying “Scientist C is an ass” would be thoroughly frowned upon. Unless scientist A proceeded to demonstrate, through evidence and logic, that scientist C really was an ass, in which case many scientists in attendance might appreciate the elegance of the proof.
Your claim that the skeptics fight to differentiate themselves from their battier namesakes doesn’t, except with a very small number of exceptions, accord with my experience. Mind you, no one is responsible for the opinions of others so it doesn’t bother me that much – it only really bothers me when they actually agree with them or repeat their idiotic arguments.
But that’s by the by, what I really want to know is who exactly are the equivalents of the skydragons on the consensus side and what specific claims do they make which are equally unscientific?
I am not sure I can phrase an answer delicately enough to avoid triggering another flame war–which I don’t want any more than Bart does.
Some of my reply would amount to calling published scientific papers unscientific, which would go down well, I’m sure. More of it would consist of public figures and blog commenters taking wildly unscientific liberties with tentative results of well-intentioned science. In any event, it would involve some people here in the room and would doubtless restart a fight. So if I do it at all, I will do it offline and paste it in to long comments. I will then take a long break so as not to get involved in the give and take surrounding it.
An example of what I am likely to come up with is the calculation of 300,000 additional mortality burden annually due to climate change. I could explain why it is not only wrong but abusive of the science it purports to use, and how it is misused and identify serial exploiters of it for propaganda purposes. Another is distortion of glacial records. Another is sea level rise. If you can handle it, a quick look at the headlines over at Marc Morano’s Climate Depot will show you a quick list of areas where anti-science warmists provide numerous examples.
Here’s one from today: “The consequences [of global warming] amount to to global suicide – a self inflicted genocide.” The author of that quote, brought to the blogosphere’s attention in part via a link from Eli Rabett, is a Holocaust survivor and a professor at CUNY. His remark is anti-science. It is published because of his personal history. It is propaganda. Now, I could list the consequences noted by the Stern report and the IPCC that show global warming not to be global suicide nor a self-inflicted genocide–do you need me to do that to prove my assertion?
It is not scientific to think you can determine the expertise of opposing groups of scientists by counting publications and citations. That is a category 1 error. It is anti-science. The publication of Anderegg, Prall et all in PNAS in 2010 was anti-science in both intent and effect. I could explain the errors and malice inherent in that paper–and use RomanM’s explanation of their serious mistakes in analysis that have been acknowledges but remain uncorrected. Using the trappings of science to undermine science in my mind is worse than spouting about Sky Dragons. Will that take the conversation where you want it to go?
But note the difference–what I would be describing is the distortion of science done by others. People who unscientifically extrapolated the resurgence of malaria were not working from a blank slate, but from scientific papers. A combination of the need for a favorable story and in inability to think quantitatively created one of many firestorms where science was either distorted or abandoned.
Another example of what I would likely put forward is one of any number of topics where participants in the debate completely shut out the results of research conducted after wild claims inspired further investigation.
This is a different category of error when judged against the wilder theories at the outer limits of skeptic-dom. Although there are warmist proponents of ideas that are anti-physics, most of what I would cite would amount to unscientific use of science for propaganda purposes. There is no shortage of people discussing global warming in the public arena who have no background in science and they make very serious mistakes. But the warmists who fall into this category tend to double down on their errors and not abandon them.
A lot of it would be rehashing of topics discussed to death here and elsewhere. I have no doubt that it would inspire the same type of fight as occurred on the previous thread. So if I do it at all, it will consist of a data dump and hasty exit.
I’m not intimately familiar with all topics that Tom brings up, but for those that I have some grasp on, they don’t even come close to being as unscientific asthe skydragons, but it’s hard to say in the absence of any specifics. I’ve been over sealevel rise with Tom before, and he doesn’t trust/believe the new scientific insights in thjat area. That doesn’t make it unscientific or idiotic or extreme.
To equate (the consequences of unmitigated) global warming with suicide or self infliced genocide is a figure of speech as I take it, and not a scientific proclamation along the lines of the greenhouse effect/gravity/evolution doesn’t exist. But that said, I can understand that such a statement falls wrong on people, and scientists would be wise not to make such statements. (see als Jan Paul van Soest’s Cassandra science)
If I would have to give an example of the same as, but than opposite to, skydragon-type “skepticism”, it would be something like “We’re gonna boil the oceans away next year if we don’t stop burning all fossil fuels by next weekend”. It also fails on numerous counts, but you get the point. There just isn’t an equivalence of skydragon-type scientific extremism on the other side.
Sometimes, the truth is not in the middle. In fact, the truth couldn’t care less what we think of it, so there’s no reason that it would be in or even near the middle. Science is not a democracy.
Bart, the problem with what you say about science not being a democracy is that it doesn’t describe the real issue. The real issue is whether science is turning into an oligarchy, a gerontocracy, a gentleman’s club for true believers or maintains fidelity to the ideal of meritocracy. Papers like Anderegg, Prall et al should serve as a warning sign to you, Bart.
You miss my point about the issues I did raise. Again, the origin of the discussions about sea level rise, glacier melt, the spread of malaria, and many other topics besides, is from legitimate science. But their mutation into hysteria is not. That the Iron Sun and Sky Dragon foolishness does not spring from science does not make them more idiotic than those twisting science about the Greenland ice basin. It just means that the skeptic fantasists might be more original than their counterparts.
Tom, my point is that none of those, even with the hysteria from outside of science, come even close in terms of how far removed from accepted scientific insights they are. The distance, however one wants to measure it, is just not comparable.
Exaggeration of an otherwise valid point is not equivalent to total nonsense.
The truth is not in between those two.
If it were, or of people thought it was, that would be an incentive to come up with something ever more nonsensical, in order to drive the accepted truth to one’s side. Shifting the Overton window. It works, at least perception-wise, but it has nothing to do with reality.
Bart, part of what you say is obvious–Sky Dragon and Iron Sun are way out there–but part of what you say I vehemently disagree with.
Sky Dragon and Iron Sun are like Velikovsky-ism. Except for the few adherents they claim, they have no impact on the discussion. On blog threads we all just page down until they disappear. (Sorry Oliver Manuel–I do wish you well.)
The hyperbole superimposed upon scientific findings both pollutes and buries the original science. The media coverage of claims about malaria meant that no attention was focused on the very real possibility that climate change can change the geographic range of pests, especially those afflicting livestock in Africa.
Real work ends up being ignored or discounted because of it. (I’m not speaking of scientific discussion or inclusion–but about the policy impacts.)
More broadly, as Keith has been noting over at Collide-a-Scape, these exaggerations suck the oxygen out of discussions about things ranging from biodiversity loss to the Anthropocene. Myths about 50 years of anthropogenic emissions of CO2 being the cause of mass extinctions undercut the real efforts to minimize the impacts of the real causes–habitat loss, hunting, introduction of alien species.
What has been mentioned over and over again in the Communication thread and rehearsed here has been condensed in an illuminating figure of speech:
> Their cause is hampered by the equivalent of the Sky Dragon worshippers and Iron Sun aficionados , for most of whom time stopped in 1998 and all argument ceased in 2007. These climate cargo cultists do as much damage to the consensus as Morano or Monckton does to honest skeptics.
Our italics and strong emphasis.
This figure of speech inverses the usual association trick: instead of smearing by associating with a bad character from the same “side” (which we assume only for simplicity’s sake), it gets associated with a bad character, but from the opposite “side”.
At first, I was tempted to call this guilt by dissociation. But the concept of dissociation is already taken, and it would be incorrect to use it. So I advise against it, and suggest instead to consider it as the same old guilt by association trick concealed into some kind of chiasmus.
Another interesting aspect of this figure of speech is the indefiniteness of the stigmatization. We do not know, at least theorically, the target of this association. How we can stigmatize an abstract being is one of the miracle of humanity.
That stigmatization is occuring with this figure of speech is quite clear. For instance, if we take Goffman’s characterization, we clearly see from this figure of speech that there are three kinds of people:
- the stigmatized
- the normals
- the wise
The wise are
Wise persons are the marginal men before whom the individual with a fault need feel no shame nor exert self-control, knowing that in spite of his failing he will be seen as an ordinary other.
For storification’s sake, this seems to work like a charm. But when we look at the dimensions of a stigma, the analysis is surprising:
Bart makes an important distinction. There is science, policy and politics. For climate issues, science can and should provide a frame based on best knowledge for debates about policy and politics, and indeed, it has done so for many years but recently there have been concerted attacks on the scientific basis because of policy and political preference.
In terms of science, there is a very broad consensus, one might call it the standard model, which can be seen in the various IPCC reports. On the other side, only incoherence, often within the same comment.
Eli has often said he doubts that there is any overlap whatsoever between what actions he would recommend to meet the challenge of climate change, and what Barry Bickmore would, but the Bunny and the Barry do not have to exhaust themselves debating that there is a change coming and roughly what it will entail.
Just a brief note. Before posting a link to Micha Tomkiewicz’ new blog, Eli went and tracked down his CV, looked at a couple of his papers in the energy policy area and tried to understand which scientific interest drove him into blogging on climate. Indeed, the post at Rabett Run has links to all this.
Now when the Sky Dragons were filling Judy’s Eli did the same thing for one of them, the applied mathematician (being very lazy here). Clearly the guy was good at what he did and equally clearly he had not done his homework on climate issues in general, and previous work, as he was claiming things which were simply not true (for example that no IR radiation from the sky had been observed)
I agree that exaggeration of otherwise valid points is not doing the public discussion about climate change any good. As long as that is not extended to imply some sort of equivalence (which just isn’t there), than I have no beef with that statement.
I do think that exaggerations of the negative economic impact of mitigation (and, as a debating tactic, to downplay the negative impacts of climate change) is even more pervasive and perverse in the public debate than the exaggerations of the negative impacts of climate change.
But that shouldn’t lead to only hammering down on either one of these exaggerations indeed, which is a natural instinct when one finds oneself in a strongly polarized debate. That I think is Keith’s major point when he keeps pointing out that people much more readily criticize the other side, and forget to criticize similar wrongdoing from their own. He has a valid point there.
Hi Bart, yes he does. And I don’t mean to equate the scientific validity of Sky Dragons with radiative transfer theory. But this quote from James Hansen is a) wrong, b) inflammatory and c) a mistake in both strategy and tactics:
“The global warming signal is now louder than the noise of random weather, as I predicted would happen by now in the journal Science in 1981. Extremely hot summers have increased noticeably. We can say with high confidence that the recent heat waves in Texas and Russia, and the one in Europe in 2003, which killed tens of thousands, were not natural events — they were caused by human-induced climate change.” He makes four claims in that quote. All four are false. All four have been studied by other scientists. All four have been rejected.
And Hansen is a good scientist who has been around the block. He should know better. There are many who make equally absurd claims without his background. When people like myself or Lucia Liljegren or Roger Pielke Jr. try to pull the conversation back to reality, we are accused of trying to shift the mythical Overton window, which is absurd on the face of it.
The iconic claims of global warming alarmists that were in fact attempts to shift the Overton window have all been discredited. In case you’ve misremembered, they were:
That the central threat to polar bears was the ongoing melt of Arctic ice
That Himalayan glaciers were melting rapidly and might disappear by 2035, later corrected to perhaps 2350, both figures being false
That global warming caused the permanent disappearance of snow on Mt. Kilmanjaro
That African agriculture would decline by 50% due to global warming.
That the Amazon rainforest was doomed to become largely savannah due to global warming
That there would be 100 million climate refugees by 2010, later readjusted to 50 million by 2020
That malaria would greatly increase its geographic range due to global warming
That warming induced sea level rise would flood the streets of Manhattan, either by 2017 or 2037
That’s just scratching the surface. There are many more such claims. They are posted on a dozen skeptic websites and are used in both blog commentary and partisan political debate on legislative floors in more than one country.
The number, falsifiability and ease of comprehension of these claims far outweigh the damage done to the skeptic cause by things like Sky Dragon and Iron Sun, mostly because they received far wider dissemination.
It’s back to my original point. Ninety percent of these errors were unforced and came from NGO marketers, not scientists. But scientists usually kept quiet.
Scientists have to politely take back the microphone.
This is a bit of a rushed comment due to lack of time. First a point of agreement – from my understanding the 300,000 deaths figure is certainly dubious, although it’s not an argument I have actually seen used is any discussions I have been involved in. WRT the Anderegg and Prall paper, of course it’s not a “scientific” paper in the sense that it furthers our understanding of the science behing AGW, it’s an attempt to demonstrate the extent to which practicing scientists accept the consensus decision, in a sense like Oreskes’s well known survey of the published literature. I have seen it claimed that their research is sloppy and some people’s views are misrepresented; I haven’t looked into this but if true then they obviously deserve criticism, but I don’t have any problem with what they did in principle and to call their paper a “blacklist” is just silly IMHO.
On the wider point, as I said above I agree with Bart. The “skydragons” are putting forward what they claim to be a serious scientific theory which is in opposition to well established science, and they are demonstrably wrong. I don’t see anything comparable on the consensus side in terms of blatantly bogus scientific “theories” directly contradicted by the evdience. It is true that there are areas of debate such as the likely consequences of AGW and the extent to which we are seeing its effects now where people may sometimes make claims that stretch the science further than can be justified. But then there are very large uncertainties in these areas and people may legitimately have differing views about where the “truth” most likely lies. The worst case scenarios are genuinely scary and it’s not wrong for people to point this out, they just shouldn’t overestimate the certainty of these occurring. But in my view those who make very confident prediction os apocalypse are no worse than those who are equally confident that threre is no chance of adverse outcomes, or even that they are likely to be benign.
You mention in particular sea level rises and ice melt – again there are great uncertainties because we are not able to predict what will happen to the ice sheets. But for that reason the IPCC projections of ice sheet loss and thus sea level rise are far more likely to be under than over-estimates, and we know for certain that we are heading for global temperatures which in the past saw sea level many metres higher than now, it’s a matter of when, not if.
None of which means people should have licence to overstate their case, and if they wilfully do so or their claims are just plain absurd it is fair to criticise them, but in some cases they might just have reached different conclusions from you on what can be justified by the science.
Thanks–I think you’ve summarized pretty well where we agree and disagree. I have a far lower opinion of Anderegg, Prall et al than you and I think that the iconic points pushed by NGOs have done more harm than wildly inaccurate science pushed by the Dragonistas and Iron Sunners.
As for the ice sheets and sea level melt, I note that you say in one sentence that we are not able to predict what will happen to the ice sheets and in the next sentence that IPCC projections of ice sheet loss are far more likely to be under than over estimates.
If we can’t predict, we can’t. IIRC, the IPCC said in both TAR and AR4 that increased precipitation over the Antarctic would tend to compensate for ice melt loss in other parts of the globe, but they had very little idea of how much that compensation would amount to. They felt this phenomenon would fade out around 2040, if memory serves. That seems reasonable, and observations seem to be producing data that does not conflict with it. Arctic ice is decreasing. Antarctic ice is increasing. Sea level rise does not appear to be accelerating.
I believe wait and see messages are far more appropriate at this point in time.
Well, of course, science is a moving object and Hansen’s statement about the global warming signal is not wrong, but statistically accurate. His analysis of changes in the statistical distribution of local temperature anomalies discussed at Rabett Run and in a recent preprint show that
a) The mean local anomaly is significantly hotter in the last thirty years
b) The distribution of anomalies is significantly broader (more hotter and colder anomalies relative to the local decadal average
c) The distributions are skew, strongly favoring hotter, much hotter local anomalies
To be honest I don’t have much of an opinion of Anderegg and Prall either way, I don’t think it’s particularly important.
On the subject of ice melt I don’t think there’s any contradiction on my part – we can’t predict how quickly the ice sheets will lose mass but they are only going in one direction. It’s just a question of how quickly they will melt and to what extent they might lose mass through calving. Yes, arctic sea ice is increasing (which is actually consistent with predictions) but it is the ice sheets which are important here,and they are decreasing.
When you refer to the “iconic points pushed by NGOs” I presume you are referring to the point you mentioned in reply to Bart.For a start I think we have to distinguish between something creating a (often overblown if not completely bogus) storm in the blogosphere and having a real impact on public opinion. But to take some examples (I can’t anser all of them off the top of my head) -
Yes, the himalayan glacier debacle was damaging. I think it was much more cock-up than conspiracy but is was inexcusable and the aftermath was badly handled. But it was also widely condemned by the “consensus” side.
Global warming is indisputably a threat to polar bears. The arctic sea ice is diminishing, it is an essential part of their habitat.
I think you overstate the claims which were made about the Amazon. In any case the scientist on whose work they were based has confirmed that his work was represented correctly. The Amazon has of course suffered two devastating droughts in the last five years.
New York is vulnerable to sea level rise. It’s certainly not going to be permanently underwater by 2037 (Hansen didn’t claim it would be) but it will be more at risk to flooding due to storm surge. Ultimately we have to wait and see but the danger is not something to be dismissed out of hand.
IMHO there is another side to each of those stories. I’ve argued them all at length over the years with various bloggers and commenters. I’m loath to do them all at once–but I’d like to try and sway your opinion–would you like to pick one?
The uncertainty the IPCC noted on ice melt is going in one direction, as the IPCC AR4 explicitly did not take acceleration of ice melt into account. That acceleration has for example been measured for Greenland and Antarctica, so there’s your answer as to why the IPCC is already ‘wrong’ there.
Second, Antarctica is losing ice mass, too (Rignot has some things to say about that). Fuller probably mixes up ice and sea ice, which I thought only Wattsians did.
This, thus, is also an area where the IPCC AR4 is wrong (well, the GCMs are).
“If we can’t predict, we can’t.” This is just “since we don’t know everything we know nothing” rephrased, and its still BS.
“As for the ice sheets and sea level melt, I note that you say in one sentence that we are not able to predict what will happen to the ice sheets and in the next sentence that IPCC projections of ice sheet loss are far more likely to be under than over estimates.”
Ice dynamics contain nonlinearities – pressure melting, brittle/ductile flow transitions, dynamic/static coefficient of friction, etc – and our current understanding of these parts of the physics precludes accurate modelling. In some cases, such as the unexpected collapse of the Larsen B Ice Shelf, the nonlinear physical processes dominated. We know, both from physics(snowfall accumulation versus melting/calving) and from the paleo record(ice age onset versus end, Lakes Aggasiz & Missoula), that nonlinearities are more likely to contribute to rapid ice sheet loss and sea level rise.
I cannot predict the sequence of rolls, or the bets you will make, but I can project that you will lose your shirt when playing with loaded dice. And putting CO2 into the atmosphere is loading the climate dice.
“IMHO there is another side to each of those stories.” Are you talking about whether the earth can be described as a sphere, versus the other side which says it’s an oblate spheroid with eccentricity of ~0.0335, or versus the other side which posits that the earth might be flat and we really need to start counting turtles?
IMHO, people who make a big deal about the “other side to the story”, want, as others have put it, to “continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue”.
Woops – eccentricity of 0.00335 – an order of magnitude smaller. I suppose there will be some who think that was a typo, others who think it was a deliberate exaggeration, and still others who believe that it shows I am completely clueless and my models cant say for certain what shape the earth is.
There may be legitimate arguments to be had on all of those topics, but the point is that none of my arguments fall outside what is represented by mainstream science. If you wanted to argue a particular point, rather than take any the examples I mentioned I would be inclined to consider Hansen’s statement which you so objected to. Whether it’s true that “The global warming signal is now louder than the noise of random weather” I’m not sure, but the rest of his statement is not obviously false. He has identified an increase in the occurrence of hot summers which are three standard deviations above the norm (from 1950-81) – in fact these were virtually unknown previously. He claims that this makes it highly likely from a statistical perspective that the Texas and Moscow heatwaves were linked to global warming. It doesn’t surprise me that people might disagree with this analysis, but it does tie in with the similar kind of analysis made by Rahmstorf and Coumou. The fact that others looking at the issue from a purely meteorological perspective have not been able to make such an attribution doesn’t necessarily make Hansen wrong. AFAICT it’s an area where there can be genuine disagreement.
P.S. I just noticed that I missed an earlier question which you asked. The answer is – at first I wasn’t too bothered but as the match went on I was rooting for Chelsea.
You’re certainly correct in that none of the arguments are outside the mainstream of scientific thought. I’ve tried to include that caveat throughout this conversation.
The error (if error it is as opposed to design) that I see is exemplified in Hansen’s work you cite–I don’t argue with his graphs or points, not having dived into the work as of yet. There are lots of people with equivalent credentials who disagree with his findings, but that is all part of the give and take of normal science. This is exactly the type of finding that Kerry Emanuel characterized as statistical nonsense a few years ago, but he might be wrong about that. Eventually we’ll know.
My questions are more meta.
Why start that study in 1951? He had access to adequate data to include periods before his baseline 1951-1960. I think the reason may well be that he would find his ‘three sigma’ events replicated prior to the starting pistol of anthropogenic contributions of CO2.
I’m a firm believer in statistics, but why all of a sudden is weather expected to follow Gaussian patterns of distribution and why is three sigma the bar now set? It may well be, but that seems to be an assumption of the paper, not something that is shown within it.
The IPCC and a lot of other people are on the other side of the fence on this one. I’ve criticized the IPCC and those people frequently. Science will sort itself out. But it is the framing of the research issue that is the real problem to me.
“We take 1951-1980 as an appropriate base period, because temperatures then were within the Holocene range to which humanity and other planetary life are adapted.”
Which, to me is a little hand-wavy.
Or this bit?
“The decade-by-decade shift to the right of the temperature anomaly frequency distribution (Fig. P1) will continue, because Earth is out of energy balance, more solar energy absorbed than heat radiation emitted to space (5), and it is this imbalance that drives the planet to higher temperatures. Even an extremely optimistic scenario, with fossil fuel emission reductions of 6%/year beginning in 2013, results in global temperature rising to almost 1.2°C relative to 1880-1920, which compares to a current level ~0.8°C.
We argue that it is important to keep the base period defining climatology fixed. Shifting the base period continually to the most recent three decades hides the increasing variability that we found. A base period prior to 1980 avoids this problem and yields a climatology within the global temperature range of the Holocene, to which nature and human civilization are adapted.”
Which is stronger but still does not wholly negate CHTom’s point. It would be interesting to see figures for the decades prior to 1950 – perhaps CHTom could rustle them up for us, to show his mettle. After all, he is on record as saying “the reason may well be that he would find his ‘three sigma’ events replicated prior to the starting pistol of anthropogenic contributions of CO2.” It’d be nice (for once) to see him backing assertions up with evidence. But I’m sure he’s argued them all at length over the years with various bloggers and commenters and will be loath to do them again.
Quiet Waters, as I mentioned, I haven’t had time to read the paper as yet. I’d like to back up what I say, but am time constrained at the moment.
Hansen does discuss the 30s, saying, “Summer temperature anomalies for the United States are shown in Figure 8, including
maps for 1934, 1936, 2006 and 2011. The mean temperature anomalies in these four warm summers (approximately +1°C or +2°F) are practically indistinguishable, as the differences among them are smaller than the uncertainty.”
Which I find interesting. Later he writes, “Year-to-year variability, which is mainly unforced weather variability, is so large for an area the size of the United States that it is difficult and perhaps unessential to find an “explanation” for either the large 1930s anomalies or the relatively slow upturn in hot anomalies during the past few decades. However, this matter warrants discussion, because, if the absence of a stronger warming in recent years is a statistical fluke, the United States may have in store a relatively rapid trend toward more extreme anomalies.”
Which to me looks like he knew what he was looking for right from the beginning.
And then he writes something that truly looks like a bit of hand-waving: “Some researchers have suggested that the high summer temperatures and drought in the United States in the 1930s can be accounted for by sea surface temperature patterns plus natural variability (Nigam et al., 2011; Hoerling et al., 2011). However, others (Cook et al., 2009, 2010, 2011) have presented evidence that agricultural changes and crop failure contributed to changed surface albedo, aerosol (dust) production, high temperature and drying conditions. Furthermore, there is empirical evidence, supported by climate simulations (Puma and Cook, 2010; Cook et al, 2011), that agricultural irrigation has a significant regional cooling effect, and increasing amounts of irrigation over the second half of the 20th century probably contributed a summer
cooling tendency in the United States that partially offset greenhouse warming. Such regionallyvarying effects may be partially responsible for differences between observed global change and observed change in specific regions.”
There’s something else curious about the beginning of the paper, which I need to look into before I start writing about it.
Ah, silly me got as far as the refs of the summary & didn’t look down. Fig. 7 pretty much blows CHTom’s argument out of the water – and not just for 3-sigma events, 2-sigma shows the pattern too.
I wonder how often we’ll see this quoted in certain circles:
“Also note that the extreme summer heat of the 1930s, especially 1934 and 1936, is comparable to the most extreme recent years.”
Whilst this is ignored:
“The largest area of 3σ anomalies was in 1941, when it reached 2.7% of the land area. This compares with recent values as great as 20% and an average about 10%.”
CHTom – your quote selection is interesting. I note your focus is on the US sections of the paper, I hope when you do get around to writing about it you will spend some time on the global perspective it gives whilst remembering that “Prediction of regional climate change is difficult because of the multiple factors that can affect regional climate and the high degree of chaotic (unforced) variability.”
Why you find the last paragraph you quote handywavy I struggle to understand – Hansen has shown due diligence and his literature search found several feasible hypotheses for the US offset to global temperatures and his presentation of them here is of a standard that should be recognisable to anyone who’s read enough journals. i.e. “The reason for x is not fully known, a & b suggest y, whilst c has found z”
Okay, Quiet Waters–I’ll not say anything until I’ve read it thoroughly, just so you can’t impute motives to things that jump out at me. Although why you can say something wrong after your first look without having improper motives mystifies me.
I’ll actually bring up the point at the beginning of Hansen, Sato et al that raised my eyebrows.
On page 1: “Summer, when most biological productivity occurs, is
the most important season for humanity and thus the season when climate change may have its biggest impact. Global warming causes spring warmth to come earlier and it causes colder conditions that initiate fall to be delayed. Thus global warming not only increases summer warmth, it also protracts summer-like conditions, stealing from both spring and fall.”
My reading is not encyclopedic on this subject, but I don’t recall ever seeing someone write that summer is the season when climate change may have its biggest impact.
What I have always read has been a variation on what I quote here, grabbed at random from the Twin Cities Star Tribune:
“Twin Cities lows in December and January, averaged over the most recent 30 years, have increased 1.6 and 2.0 degrees over the official normals. It’s an increase that University of Minnesota Extension climatologist and meteorologist Mark Seeley called “emphatic.”
He noted that the dynamic is right in line with what most global-warming science has outlined. Warming should be most obvious in northern latitudes on winter nights because heat is more effectively trapped by greenhouse gases during long sunless hours than it is during the more volatile days of summer.” I could have grabbed similar quotes from hundreds of explanations of global warming.
Obviously the two phenomena are not mutually exclusive. But it greatly surprises me that it surprises me–that I have not seen this claim before.
The clue, Tom, is in the word “impact” and its different meanings/uses.
Greenhouse gases (not global warming) are indeed expected to have the greatest impact *on temperature* in winter. But Hansen et al clearly refer to another “impact” of climate change: the effect of climate change on summer, the latter being the most important season for humanity. That is, they indicate that the changes in the growing season(s) will have the largest impact, rather than the (probably larger) changes during the non-growing season(s).
There are two major effects of winter temperature changes on ag. First, plants that overwinter must be able to survive the hardest freeze during the winter season, second, planting in the spring is limited by the day of the last freeze.
Can anyone explain to me how Hansen justifies claiming that summer is the most important season for humanity? I would expect each season to have its reasons. And adherents. And detractors. Did summer win a vote on Scientists Have Talent?
PDA, it isn’t only poets who praise spring time. And farmers fear the fall worst of all. Early onset of bad weather has trashed more crops than miserable summers, which tend to depress harvests rather than destroy them. It’s a cycle and each of the seasons has its place.
If there is one that could be shorter and milder, it would be universally acknowledged as winter. Which coincidentally is why so many outside the consensus community have pointed to warmer winter nights as a feature rather than a bug.
“Early onset of bad weather has trashed more crops than miserable summers, which tend to depress harvests rather than destroy them”
Reduced yield is almost as bad as a complete failure and (in developed countries at least) the latter is often alleviated through insurance policies.
The ‘winter temperatures are all good’ meme is similar to the various CO2 is plant food memes whereby though, superficially, true it fails to account for all the caveats and exceptions that the agricultural science community are well aware of.
As I mentioned above, vernalisation is important in many temperate crops – particularly orchards, and I know that many farmers are increasingly resigned to grubbing up their trees in the not too distant future, particularly galling for those who are tending trees their grandparents grew up under.
The importance of winter cold (and temporal extent) in the suppression of pests is also something that “so many outside the consensus community” appear to be blissfully unaware of. I pointed to an example of phenological suppression above, foresters in the Pacific north west are well aware of what happens when the winters don’t get cold enough and European cattle and sheep farmers got a good demonstration of the ‘baton effect’ (what happens when the climate envelope of a sub-tropical disease vector expands to overlap with northen relatives allowing the disease to be passed into a novel vector species). There’s more, of course as there would be in such a complex system but they are a few I can take off the top of my head – one for each major agricultural system.
And nobody mention water storage in glaciers please.
Quiet Waters, I’m well aware of the need for pest killing temperatures in winter. My argument is that each season is important for different reasons.
For Hansen to all of a sudden claim that summer “is the season where climate change will have its greatest impact” is startling. As he doesn’t cite other sources for this statement, we are left to wonder if it’s his own extrapolation or assumption.
I’m not saying it’s necessarily wrong. But global warming will have its most dramatic and measurable impacts on winter, not summer.
And trolls aside, spring and fall are just as important to agriculture as summer, for different reasons.
The clue, Tom, is in the word “impact” and its different meanings/uses.
Greenhouse gases (not global warming) are indeed expected to have the greatest impact *on temperature* in winter. But Hansen et al clearly refer to another “impact” of climate change: the effect of climate change on summer, the latter being the most important season for humanity. That is, they indicate that the changes in the growing season(s) will have the largest impact, rather than the (probably larger) changes during the non-growing season(s).
That’s pretty weak Tom. You attacked the Hansen paper first on the selection of time frame & once your argument was shown to have no merit you focus on the claim about the summer as if this somehow invalidates the paper.
Whilst it’s certainly true that this is an unreferenced assertion that maybe should have been either supported or culled, the paper still stands and the selection of the summer period is common in research into CC impacts (e.g. http://www.nature.com/srep/2011/110818/srep00066/full/srep00066.html ) and you appear blind to the fact that the justification IS there – several commenters above have tried to point this out to you.
Meanwhile, whilst attacking Hansen for looking at the potential negative impacts of summer warming you blithely dismiss the impacts of winter warming with the sentence “so many outside the consensus community have pointed to warmer winter nights as a feature rather than a bug”. One could use this behaviour to impute motive…
Of course, if you reference any of these assertions it would help your case – I’m particularly interested in where you get this “spring and fall are just as important to agriculture as summer, for different reasons.”
Quiet Waters May 23: “Can anyone point to where I, or anyone else has imputed CHTom’s motives with regard to his reading of the Hansen paper?”
Quiet Waters May 28: “You attacked the Hansen paper first on the selection of time frame & once your argument was shown to have no merit you focus on the claim about the summer as if this somehow invalidates the paper.
…”Meanwhile, whilst attacking Hansen for looking at the potential negative impacts of summer warming.”
Mea culpa, I made it very easy there for CHTom to avoid the substance of the argument by focussing on the personal instead, apologies to all.
To answer his question:
“Quiet Waters, please show me where I attacked Hansen. About anything.” Which I assume is asking where he attacked Hansen’s paper as this is what I had stated, and meant:
part the first: “The error (if error it is as opposed to design) that I see is exemplified in Hansen’s work you cite”
part the second: “I think the reason may well be that he would find his ‘three sigma’ events replicated prior to the starting pistol of anthropogenic contributions of CO2″
part the third: “Which to me looks like he knew what he was looking for right from the beginning.”
part the fourth: “And then he writes something that truly looks like a bit of hand-waving”
part the fifth: “Did summer win a vote on Scientists Have Talent?”
part the sixth: “For Hansen to all of a sudden claim that summer “is the season where climate change will have its greatest impact” is startling. As he doesn’t cite other sources for this statement, we are left to wonder if it’s his own extrapolation or assumption.”
Of course not all of these are direct attacks and some are rather subtle, particularly when taken out of context but the tenor of CHTom’s posts since his reply to andrew adams above is well represented with these exerpts.
The reader will note that all these examples come from before the question was asked, not five days after…
Sure, at least til the trolls show up again. Having looked again at the paper my concerns about Hansen’s statements remain. I do think they are not serious and that he could address them very easily.
The various theories about climate change do agree that the season that will be affected most is winter. Specifically, very cold winter nights will become less frequent.
Although that is the headline that is widely published, that does not mean that other seasons will be unaffected. Hansen understand that and so do I. If he wishes to argue that the effects on agriculture will be dramatic, he is free to do so.
Precession of the seasons happens for a variety of reasons
Most of the little I have read on the subject comes from AR4 WG1 and WG2. I must say I am unimpressed on the quality of thinking or the quality of sourcing involved. The most widely reported example is the conflation of potential problems in Moroccan farms over the next 50 years with the destiny of African agriculture as a whole.
Estimates of the effects of climate change on agriculture are complicated by several constraints.
First, models do not resolve to regional or country level, hence we do not at present know how climate change will affect areas with large-scale agriculture.
Second, estimates of effects on agriculture generally freeze agricultural expertise and technology at present day levels. Yet agriculture is a vastly different enterprise today than it was 50, 40 or 30 years ago.
(As an aside, it might be instructive to consider the last couple of years, ‘afflicted’ by what many in the climate consensus community call more extreme weather than was seen before and labeled a preview of what climate change will bring. Between 2010 and 2011, the USDA says total grain production grew from 385 to 399 million metric tons. The only net loser in total grain production was Argentina, which fell from 48.9 to 45.4 million metric tons.)
Third, changes in the start, stop, duration and weather conditions for the seasons are actually older than agriculture itself. Climate scientists are concerned about these things and they should be. Farmers, however, are used to it. No indication is given of the adaptability of humans to changes in conditions. Changes in the length of spring and summer have happened within living memory and have been reported on in newspapers back in every decade since 1900. (Just as changes in the geographic range of individual species have been known to shift long before climate change was bruited as the cause.)
My personal opinion is that Hansen wrote this section too quickly and didn’t use da Google. That’s not a crime. It does not even mean he was wrong. But it’s an over-facile interpretation of an ill-defined consequence of a phenomenon that has not been precisely measured.
My comment about precession of the seasons happening for a variety of reasons is poorly worded. I should have written that lengthening and shortening of the seasons happens for a variety of reasons, not just because of axial precession.
A constructive attitude, Tom. When you’ve considered the state of knowledge concerning drought as reviewed in Dai and the observations of the Hadley cells and the implications as investigated by Johanson & Fu (2009), let’s resume.
Nothing wrong with an ackowledgement of course, but Karoly’s email mentions that they found the error by themselves as well. It’s entirely unimportant in the end.
Note what McIntyre say about it though:
“As readers have noted in comments, it’s interesting that Karoly says that they had independently discovered this issue on June 5 – a claim that is distinctly shall-we-say Gavinesque (See the Feb 2009 posts on the Mystery Man.)
I urge readers not to get too wound up about this”
So, clearly dog-whistling with something “interesting” and “Gavinesque”, and then, just for the form, saying “let’s not get too wound up about this” (so that he can defend himself against any claim that he made a big deal out of it)
Jeez, I wonder which of these two mutually exclusive messages will end up being most influential with his followers.
A paradigm changing paper in Nature concludes that, to affect policy decisions, climate science requires a new communication science based on something other than the information deficit model. It offers several possible avenues looking for a focus.
Now, I am not the first or the only person advocating replacing the deficit model. I initially asked what would you rather do, win an argument or achieve a goal? I was surprised that those who saw the greatest threat generally preferred winning the argument. They refuse to consider any approach that did not begin an end with climate science education. It is they who most need to respect communication science as much as they respect climate science.
Replacing the deficit model is a daunting task. The model is the basis for an enormous politically connected, well funded web of institutions. Start with the IPCC and work your way down.
‘Sceptics’ occasionally claim that the ‘debate’ is symmetrical. But obviously it is not: there is no coherent ‘sceptical’ scientific position and no rapidly growing body of work challenging (never mind invalidating) the hypotheses on which the standard position rests.
Doing away with the deficit model and its correct assumption of asymmetry enables *false symmetry*. How can this possibly be constructive? How will it help achieve anything?
Your final paragraph is rather troubling btw. ‘Sceptics’ conflate institutions (and individuals) with the science itself then go on the attack. The absence of a ‘sceptical’ scientific argument is instantly and conveniently forgotten as the excrement flies at people and buildings.
If you think the IPCC and other institutions should be reformed in specific ways, fine. But that view should not be conflated with the claim that the deficit model is broken and must be abandoned. They are different arguments.
The claims of ‘sceptics’ don’t have anything to do with this. Replacing the deficit model in no way disputes or diminishes any of the science. Doing away with the deficit model has no effect on the assumption of asymmetry other than to eliminate it as a problem .
As to the IPCC, again, what ‘sceptics’ think about it is irrelevant. My criticism of it is based on solid social science research. Rejecting this research is, to coin a phrase, scientific denialism.
Answering second question first, the most recent is at Nature .
False symmetry is a problem in the deficit model because it can hinder the desired science education. A communication model focused on cooperative effort toward a specific shared goal eliminates the need to argue over reasons for the shared goal.
As much as there are shared goals, that may be a pragmatic choice. But many object to the goal of a swift energy transition. Fritz Vahrenholt (next two posts) being one example of many. Scientifically sounding skepticism as a means to slow down the energy transition, some may be say.
Thanks for the link. If, as the study claims, a greater level of scientific literacy is simply used by individuals to confirm their own cultural prejudices then we are in a pickle. This certainly confirms my own subjective experience – and possibly yours. Smart contrarians are no more amenable to rational persuasion than the idiots. We conform to our cultural biases first and foremost.
The paper’s concluding remarks on how this might be addressed constructively are extremely unconvincing. I am forced to conclude that debating with contrarians – even the clever ones – is an utter waste of time. Some disturbing implications flow from this.
An interesting discussion, but I wouldn’t jump to conclusions based on this single study.
“The paper’s concluding remarks on how this might be addressed constructively are extremely unconvincing. I am forced to conclude that debating with contrarians – even the clever ones – is an utter waste of time.”
Convincing anyone of anything whatsoever, while their intellectual acumen and cultural convictions are on display for the whole world to judge… may be an unwise way to perform an exchange of rather complicated ideas. The term ‘debate’ itself stems from politics where the real goal is not to approximate truth, but to impress the audience instead.
The blogosphere is akin to a public podium where opponents slug it out for an audience. Under those circumstances it is often pretty hard to say: “hey, you may be on to something, let me think about it.”
Debating contrarians on a public blog is a hopeless way to proceed, possibly with the exception of the effect it may have on a certain segment of the public who may still be ‘on the fence’.
The first paragraph of the article says Vahrenholt supports the idea of an “Energy Transformation”, but argues that the current German approach is too costly and even counterproductive. Vahrenholt, cites corn ethanol, PV overbuild, and grid compatability and stability among reasons to argue for a better approach. His company has invested billions of euros in renewable energy. Lumping him in with those wishing to slow the transition is more than a stretch. He is actively invovled in the transition. His reasons for pusuing transition may now be different than yours, but they are there, nonetheless, and are valid.
You have reacted within the deficit model and engaged in an irresolvable argument that does not advance the transition, however correct on the science you are. In a cooperative effort model, you would recognize the shared goal and engage in a discussion about how best and how quickly to do it. That is the discussion – and no doubt a contentious one – that will advance the tradition.
The concluding remarks were rather muddled. Clearer would have been we don’t know where to go, but we know we’ve got to get outta here. That we conform to our cultural biases has been pretty well established here, by Denning, in the Nature post and elsewhere. It applies to both those who accept and those who reject.
The impression you get from Vahrenholt’s position is I think one that many will share, mostly because he’s in the renewable energy business (even if it’s embedded in a huge fossil fuel company). However, to say that he shares the same goal of an energy transition (which to me is more a means to an end, the goal being a stable climate) is a bit of s stretch. He calls for the transition to go slower (rather than faster), warning e.g. that “we run the risk of destroying the foundations of our prosperity.”
Even if he claims to share the same goal, his words work actively against it.
Your caution against “the deficit model” is worth heeding, but you approach it very black and white, as if it’s entirely useless to correct falsehoods. I think there will remain a place and a use for doing so. It is not enough to bring about a energy transition, but it’s one of the requisites necessary in the long term. Besides, as a scientist I believe in the value and virtue of bringing scientifically sound information to the public. A democracy can only function optimally if the public can distinguish sense from nonsense.
In addition we need to work on making these sorts of issues less of a political wedge, so that it becomes tolerated again for conservatives to care about climate change and for liberals to accept vaccination as a public health good, just as examples. That would lower the cultural resistance against scientific information. The solution is not to stop providing scientifically sound information to the public.
I take your point, but am with Bart here. And not because it is his blog. Although this is a good way to start :-)
Of course I agree with you that a focus on shared goals rather than antagonisms is preferable. BUT I disagree that accommodating to nonsense is in anyone’s interests, ever.
The problem with doing so is that it opens the door to bad faith actions by the other party (or ‘side’, if you prefer). As I presume neither party to be above bad faith actions, the only way to ensure continued productive (good faith) action is for both parties to adhere to the best available understanding of the facts. No private versions of reality allowed. Look to history for examples of the consequences of that.
That means providing scientifically sound information to the public. It is a necessary part of the transparency required for functional democracy. It will therefore be an absolute requirement for success in decarbonising electricity generation.
I’m with Bart here, too. I like your use of the word preferable. Decarbonizing electricity generation can be accomplished without any reference at all to climate science – not that it should be. Think that’s not true? Consider this. The Chevy Volt is an advanced decarbonized vehicle. The auto executive who developed and produced the Chevy Volt is a stone climate denier. That is the wonder of shared goal.
You and Vahrenholt share a common goal. You do not share a common view on how to go about reaching it. Nor do you share ultimate goals. For you energy transition is a means to an end, the ultimate goal of a stable climate. For him it is also a means to an end, his goals of economic efficiency and environmental stewardship.
I understand it’s not black or white. Even if it is preferable to move to a new communication model, that new model doesn’t really exist in any concrete form yet. Cooperative effort and shared goal are subjects just now coming into communication science literature.
It is absurd to call someone whose company has invested and continues to invest billions in alternatives a delayer. Vahrenholt proposes not delay, but a more economical and more carefully considered course. Mistakes are made when fools rush in.
One of the mistakes he mentions is corn based ethanol. It was all the rage among the climate concerned, wasn’t it? He notes that PV is overbuilt in Germany and that wind has not been as productive as hoped. The data backs him up. He favors producing electricity with natural gas rather than coal, a widely accepted bridge mitigation strategy.
He is convinced that the contribution of CO2 to global warming is being exaggerated and that there is more time to come to genuinely sustainable solutions. “We run the risk of destroying the foundations of our prosperity.”
“there is more time” is inconsistent with your “he does not propose delay”, Paul. Strange as it may sound for someone in his position, he does. His opinion may have nothing to do with his current position at RWE. He may just be concerned about “destroying the foundations of our prosperity”, and taken a bit of an alarmist view on such alleged destroying.
From your comment about Vahrenholt’s motivations it is clear that you have little experience with the way the energy sector in Germany is under transformation:
It is absurd to call someone whose company has invested and continues to invest billions in alternatives a delayer. Vahrenholt proposes not delay, but a more economical and more carefully considered course.
RWE is primarily a fossil fuels based energy company. Currently about 4.3% of their production is renewables, which is increasing but the majority of their investments is in lignite and hard coal based plants, as well as an increasing share of natural gas. Within their portfolio RWE Innogy is just a small segment, and Vahrenholt is under a LOT of pressure from several sides to perform better:
* the German government is pushing very hard indeed for a more sustainable, and less carbon-intensive energy supply – they are NOT kidding;
* PV and Wind are very succesful in Germany, even after a few short years. So succesful that on some days half of the electricity supply comes from localized PV and wind instead of central facilities;
* investements made by RWE in nuclear and hard coal will have to be written off way faster than thought;
* there is a push for (shale) gas within the German energy sector, at the same time the Bundesrat is very cautious in going along with shale gas development. See also Sebastian Lüning’s role, who is a specialist in shale gas exploration & production.
I don’t believe Vahrenholt is ‘against’ renewables as such, on the contrary! But his branch of RWE is stuck between a rock and a hard place: localized and distributed PV are getting more attractive by the day and they are bringing energy prices down, in Germany. At the same time his parent company has expensive investments which aren’t being used as efficiently for base load, as once planned. Increasingly RWE becomes an energy transport company because now the need is investment in increased transport capacity under quickly changing supply conditions.
These are the pains of a large scale transformation: if a company can’t cope, they will simply lose the battle as they should in a competitive marketplace where success is measured more and more by how low your carbon output per kWh is, and how effective you are in meeting the express need of your customers for cleaner, locally generated energy.
(PS: I consider the accelerated phase-out of nuclear plants in Germany a serious mistake, but that is a different matter than Vahrenholt’s motivation)
Paul Kelly says:
“One of the mistakes he mentions is corn based ethanol. It was all the rage among the climate concerned, wasn’t it? ”
I have often noted the corn based ethanol fiasco laid at the feet of the “climate concerned”. I would like to see some specific references to any sustained enthusiasm for corn based ethanol from any responsible or respectable climate concerned voice. My impression is that corn based ethanol is now and always has been promoted primary by Mid-western farm interests and big agribusiness.
Following Bart’s and Bob’s comments: It may well be that I have – knowing him only from the interview – been overly generous to Vahrenholt, ascribing some of my own views to him. I think his view is that prosperity is essential to reach the goal of energy transformation, be it done for climate or any other additional reasons. As Bart noted, this view likely precedes his new found skepticism. I don’t know if his aversion to action based on an immediate existential threat is new or longstanding. I have the same aversion, though with a much more consensus centered view of the science.
Regarding the science, we have here a clear cut case of conversion by hockey stick. He was a thoroughgoing consensus guy until he read the Bishop Hill book. Even though he’d long used the Mann graph in his presentations, the book was convincing to him. It opened him up to a 180 turn on the science. I haven’t read the book. Has anyone else?
Yes, the ethanol craze started with agribusiness, was picked up by the energy independence crowd and then many, certainly not all, of the climate concerned. Instances? Al Gore, off the top of my head. He has, thankfully, seen the light as have most others I might be able to name. President Obama is a career long supporter of corn ethanol subsidies, including during the last election. His EPA is mandating its increased use. I voted for McCain, in part, because of his career long opposition to ethanol subsidies. You may recall that McCain was actively working for climate legislation in the Senate, a process in which then Senator Obama pointedly refused to participate. Ignoring these warning signs, the climate concerned voted overwhelmingly for Obama. For their choice they got, in the words of one of his most ardent 2008 supporters “a failure on climate”.
It opened him up to a 180 turn on the science. I haven’t read the book. Has anyone else?
Yes, I’ve read it. The problem is, as so often, one of false equivalence. MBH98/99 isn’t a proxy for the entire field of climate science, but McKintyre (as ably chronicled by Montford) makes it seem so. It’s a clever book because it shows the defence of the Mannean Hockey Stick by the mainstream in a persuasively unflattering light. You are manoeuvred into a contrarian and paranoid mindset quite deftly by the end. One’s sense of perspective is artfully eroded.
Don’t hold your nose. Have a go. Not reading this stuff actually provides contrarians with a modest stick to beat you with. And we can’t have that :-)
Vahrenholt has in the past (der Spiegel) aluded to another turning point in his thinking: That the predictions (as he perceived them) of increased windspeed didn’t materialize for two years in a row made him doubt the whole IPCC. Von Storch at his blog has criticized Vahrenholt’s simplistic thinking w.r.t. this aspect.
The Obama Administration has been disappointing to the climate concerned. Obama’s Illinois roots help explain, if not justify, his long term support for corn subsidies. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, former Iowa governor, is an unabashed corn subsidy and ethanol cheer leader. McCain shifted colors on climate legislation well before the last election (remember our favorite drill baby?) and now seems firmly in the pocket of his fellow Republicans and the energy interests that fund them. The energy independence crowd intersects minimally, if at all, with the climate concerned. At least Obama is resisting the Keystone XL pipeline.
Paul Kelly says, “Mistakes are made when fools rush in.” Then he cites corn based ethanol as one of these mistakes that he implies is being foisted on us by the “climate concerned”. He has not supported that it was ever “all the rage of the climate concerned.” He notes only that any climate concerned who initially might have supported corn based ethanol have now backed well away. Unfortunately, I do not count President Obama among the climate concerned.
Bart, “simplistic” is quite the understatement. Vahrenholt apparently had a problem with basic reading, unaware of the 2050 (as in, 40 years from the time point he was looking it), nor did he read the actual paper cited.
And remember he also claimed reviewing the IPCC report on renewable energy made him reconsider his position. Supposedly he found all those flaws, which the IPCC did not correct. Slight problem for that narrative: anyone can read Vahrenholt’s comments and see how they have been addressed. However, it is not even needed to check how they have been addressed, since Vahrenholt’s comments in no way amount to major issues!
It looks like Vahrenholt has created a narrative in his head of how he saw the report, after he picked up McIntyre’s “Greenpeace!”-claim, which was further distorted by the usual suspects (and Matt Ridley).
RWE has a lot more invested in its open cast brown coal (one step up thermodynamically from burning dirt) operations than it does in renewables. Varenholt is in the game for delay, in particular to prevent closing the brown coal open cast operations.