Launching ClimateDialogue.org

by

Guestpost by ClimateDialogue editors Rob van Dorland, Bart Strengers and Marcel Crok

ClimateDialogue.org
Exploring different views on climate change

Goal of ClimateDialogue.org
ClimateDialogue.org offers a platform for discussions between invited climate scientists on important climate topics that have been subject to scientific and public debate. The goal of the platform is to explore the full range of views currently held by scientists by inviting experts with different views on the topic of discussion. We encourage the invited scientists to formulate their own personal scientific views; they are not asked to act as representatives for any particular group in the climate debate.

Obviously, there are many excellent blogs that facilitate discussions between climate experts, but as the climate debate is highly polarized and politicized, blog discussions between experts with opposing views are rare.

Background
The discovery, early 2010, of a number of errors in the Fourth IPCC Assessment Report on climate impacts (Working Group II), led to a review of the processes and procedures of the IPCC by the InterAcademy Council (IAC). The IAC-report triggered a debate in the Dutch Parliament about the reliability of climate science in general. Based on the IAC-recommendation that ‘the full range of views’ should be covered in the IPCC-reports, Parliament asked the Dutch government ‘to also involve climate skeptics in future studies on climate change’.

In response, the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment announced a number of projects that are aimed to increase this involvement. Climate Dialogue is one of these projects.

Topics
We are starting Climate Dialogue with a discussion on the causes of the decline of the Arctic Sea Ice, and the question to what extent this decline can be explained by global warming. Also, the projected timing of the first year that the Arctic will be ice free will be discussed. With respect to the latter, in its Fourth Assessment Report in 2007, IPCC anticipated that (near) ice free conditions might occur by the end of this century. Since then, several studies have indicated this could be between 2030-2050, or even earlier.

We invited three experts to take part in the discussion: Judith Curry, chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology; Walt Meier, research scientist at the National Snow & Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colorado; and Ron Lindsay, Senior Principal Physicist at the Polar Science Center of the University of Washington in Seattle.

Future topics that will be discussed  include: climate sensitivity, sea level rise, urban heat island-effects, the value of comprehensive climate models, ocean heat storage, and the warming trend over the past few decades.

Our format
Each discussion will be kicked off by a short introduction written by the editorial staff, followed by a guest blog by two or more invited scientists. The scientists will start the discussion by responding to each other’s arguments. It is not the goal of Climate Dialogue to reach a consensus, but to stimulate the discussion and to make clear what the discussants agree or disagree on and why.
To round off the discussion on a particular topic, the Climate Dialogue editor will write a summary, describing the areas of agreement and disagreement between the discussants. The participants will be asked to approve this final article, the discussion between the experts on that topic will then be closed and the editorial board will open a new discussion on a different topic.

The public (including other climate scientists) is also free to comment, but for practical reasons these comments will be shown separately.

The project organization consists of an editorial staff of three people and an advisory board of seven people, all of whom are based in the Netherlands. The editorial staff is concerned with the day-to-day operation of researching topics, finding participants for the discussion and moderating the discussions between the experts. The main task of the advisory board is to guard the neutrality of the platform and to advise the editorial staff about its activities

Editorial Staff
Project leader is Rob van Dorland of the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI). Van Dorland is a senior scientist and climate advisor in the Climate Services section and is often operating at the interface between science and society.

The second member is Bart Strengers. He is a climate policy analyst and modeler in the IMAGE-project at the PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL) and has been involved in the discussion with climate skeptics for many years.

The third member is Marcel Crok, an investigative science writer, who published a critical book (in Dutch) about the climate debate.

Questions
We welcome comments on this blog and are happy to answer any questions regarding this project. You can send an email to info [at] climatedialogue [dot] org.

Postscript (Bart V):

(Disclaimer: I am involved in this initiative as a member of the advisory board)

I think ClimateDialogue is a unique project in both its organization (people with wildly different views are involved) and in its aim: Facilitating a public discussion between scientists with strongly differing opinions.

Discussion topics are chosen to be relevant and interesting to the general public as well as receiving scientific attention. Discussants are chosen to reflect different stances in the spectrum of scientific opinion, explicitly including ‘sceptical’ voices. Naturally, the ensuing discussion is not necessarily representative of the full spectrum of scientific discussion (painting it as such would likely lead to a ‘false balance’).

The idea is that the discussion can alleviate the polarization between ‘sceptics’ and ‘mainstreamers’ and provide some clarity in background of the (dis)agreements. Moreover, having scientists discuss their scientific disagreements in a public setting can go a long way to increase the public trust in science, which has suffered from the (imho incorrect) impression of being closed-minded. All in all, I think that ClimateDialogue provides a valuable service to both the public and the scientific debate. That doesn’t mean that it’s free of risks, but these are more in the framing and the perception than in the discussions itself. Naturally, the participation of good scientists is a necessary condition to make this experiment a success. Don’t hesitate to contact the editors (or me) if you fit the bill and are not afraid of a public debate!

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34 Responses to “Launching ClimateDialogue.org”

  1. magnus w Says:

    You are mistaken I think, the public hears what they want to hear and looking at this and using Curry it will be that scientists do not agree… and know what is happening (is Curry an expert on that area? I did not know). It will not increase the trust in science (where in EU is it low?) do you really think that the once reading blogs like WUWT and similar will change its mind just because of this?

  2. ontspan Says:

    This bit…

    “Obviously, there are many excellent blogs that facilitate discussions between climate experts, but as the climate debate is highly polarized and politicized, blog discussions between experts with opposing views are rare.”

    …made me think of this XKCD cartoon. I hope this project does better then just being another climate blog, and that it doesn’t contribute to further delay the urgently needed action to curtail carbon emissions.

  3. William M. Connolley Says:

    Good luck. My initial impression is at http://scienceblogs.com/stoat/2012/11/14/climatedialogue-org/

    Incidentally… your lead pic: is that Concordiaplatz?

  4. Eli Rabett Says:

    Much the same comment as Wm. IEHO you need to find a way of correcting those who state things as facts which are not so. Else you fall into the fangs of the Sky Dragons.

    There is all sorts of crazy out there, and providing a platform for it without imposing a reality check will be challenging, but is necessary.

  5. Bart Says:

    Magnus,
    Indeed many people hear what they want to hear. And of course those with very strong opinions will not be persuaded to change it. But there are also many people who are simply confused or looking for information on what scientist think. Trust in (climate) science, also in the EU, is lower than it think it should and could be, and lower than it was due to the CRU emails and the AR4 WG2 errors.

    William,
    Nice post! And yes, that’s Concordiaplatz (behind the Jungfraujoch); I spent a number of weeks there on measurement campaigns during my postdoc in Switzerland. Extremely cool.

    Eli,
    Moderation is now tightened to send more comments to the “off-topic” stream. But the moderators will not judge what is correct and what is incorrect (that’s too slippery a slope when trying to establish a dialogue). There are limits though: Skydragon-style nonsense for example should not be allowed; see eg the blog rules stating the following:
    “Basic science is taken as proven – This blog accepts the standard field of physics as proven. Arguments that depend on overturning standard physics, e.g. disproving quantum mechanics, are deemed not relevant, until such time as a significant part of the physics community has accepted that there is some merit to them.”

  6. Jim Bouldin Says:

    Good job Bart, as usual. Never easy to bring opposing sides into useful discussion.

  7. magnus w Says:

    Bart, why would they stay and read a highly technical debate that IMHO is not that good any way? Most ppl turn around as son as they see math…

  8. Jim Bouldin Says:

    If they turn around whenever they see math, then they won’t get very far and they shouldn’t be there in the first place.

    And I think the discussion has been excellent so far, and even if it hadn’t been, so what? Things like this take time, maybe a lot of time in some cases.

  9. thomaswfuller2 Says:

    I will be staying away so as not to inspire the usual trolls. Best of luck with this, Bart. It’s a good idea. (In fact, it was my idea, a few years ago, although I’m sure I’m not the only one who thought of it).

    I’ll still recommend making a list of what consensus and contrarian both agree on.

  10. Eli Rabett Says:

    Bart, congratulations on a good way of handling the peripheral and non responsive comments. (Even tho you put Eli there, it was a good decision).

    Best

  11. dhogaza Says:

    Moderation is now tightened to send more comments to the “off-topic” stream.

    It needs to be tighter. I think the non-expert comments should be in the unapproved state until after a moderator reviews them.

    Currently, for instance, there’s a small string of Max Anacker, Jim Cripwell, and similar “climate science is a hoax” types whose comments are being prominently displayed.

    Which means they’ll draw responses, which leads to thread hijacking around “CO2 doesn’t cause warming”, “there’s not been warming for 16 years”, “look! antarctic sea ice” and similar themes, which of course is exactly what the Cripwells of the world hope to do.

    It’s bad enough the Curry’s been invited to the dance, though it is good to see her “more snow in winter!” stuff counterbalanced with questions about the overall trend of decreasing snow cover in the NH during those months in which real cherries can actually be picked…

  12. Bart Says:

    Thanks Eli, but it’s not me making those decisions (I’m only in the advisory board, ie having no decision-making authority, even though I’m trying to be as involved as I can be).

    Tom, Thanks.

    Dhogaza,

    Comments are alreayd pre-moderated before they appear. I agree it could be tighter, but the judgment calls are very tricky. Off-topic comments (incl good comments on meta-level by eg Eli but also CAGW or conspiracy talk) are kept to maintain a high degree of transparency.

  13. dhogaza Says:

    Then how does this utter denial of science not end up in the OT bin? Is the “C” in “AGW” lets him off the hook, because it’s not defined in any quantitative manner?

    I base my opinion on empirical data; or in the case of CAGW the almost complete lack of any empirical data to support the conclusion that CAGW exists.

  14. Eli Rabett Says:

    HI,

    Really think the off topic section is a step forward.

    As to what to do, perhaps your mistake was rushing. It would have gone much better if you could have waited for Wadhams. Also stay away from hot buttons until the blog shakes out. Try and focus nationally.

  15. Bart Says:

    I agree with you Dhogaza, that (part of the) comment should have been declared of-topic.

    Eli, The start date had already been postponed a number of times, so at some point postponing it even further wasn’t in the books anymore.

  16. Maxwell Says:

    What utter rubbish. Your effort though well intended serves only to delay global response to the climate cataclysm we have now entered. We have crossed several tipping points already and are well on our way through a change in the state of the climate system to a world more similar to the ypresian of over 50 million years ago than to anything man has ever experienced.

  17. dhogaza Says:

    I think we’re seeing another problem here … Judith seems to be putting much more energy into the thread than Walt or Ron, which is allowing her to dominate the argument.

    Given the amount of energy Judity has put into promoting her denialist views over the last few years, and her transparent political motives, this is no surprise. As Crok said, certain other scientists were invited but are too busy to participate.

    This is going to be a problem your effort will face – the mainstream scientists are busy working. They’re not interested in the basic denialist claim collectively climate scientists are disingenuous at best, perhaps dishonest, and at worst defrauding the public.

    They, for the most part, are just busy working.

    Those like Judith (who holds the view that mainstream climate scientists range from being disingenuous to dishonest) seem to have endless energy to put into supporting their view. Look at Judith’s blog.

    You’ve given her a legitimate place at the table, and she’s smart enough to understand that shifting her energy from her own blog to your “stamped with scientific credibility” blog is a huge win in terms of her obvious desire to derail any near-term action to curb CO2 emisssions.

    The motivational space isn’t symmetrical between the two sides you are defining.

    And then, there’s the comment string, which is getting increasingly clogged by denialist claptrap by those who have answered the dog-whistle call. Those of us who are tired of repeatedly pointing out that yes, CO2 is a greenhouse gas despite your claims, yes, the recent trend is of warming, not cooling blah blah blah aren’t likely to play whack-a-mole over there.

    There’s just no point. They will just overwhelm by repeatedly posting the same ignorant stuff over and over.

  18. dhogaza Says:

    And of course, the fact that skeptics with relevant scientific credentials are thin on the ground means that you’ll be forced to continuously turn to the same sources, i.e. Curry and a handful of others.

    If I were working in the field and asked to provide a mainstream counterpoint … well, I’d find that extremely discouraging.

  19. willard (@nevaudit) Says:

    > Judith seems to be putting much more energy into the thread than Walt or Ron, which is allowing her to dominate the argument.

    I’m not sure about that.

    What I see is that Judy’s covering too much ground for her own sake, considering that the Internet is there for a long time and that interested readers can read between the lines.

    Meanwhile, please do notice how Marcel goes Pielke all the way down at the end.

  20. dhogaza Says:

    I’m not sure about that.

    I said “energy”, not “critical thinking” :)

  21. crackpot Says:

    It is good and reassuring to see the regulars go off limits about what is allowed at a discussion site intented to bring together pro and cons of CAGW. What dhogaza, eli are asking for is just censure of opinions dissenting with their beliefs. You are really making a good example of bridling opposing views. Several people come to my mind, and they were not the most pleasant people, to use an understatement. But, please, continue, with your zealous case. I really do not mind.

  22. SteveF Says:

    I think it’s quite a good idea myself. However, the quality of the debate will be much improved if comments that include the terms “warmist” and “CAGW” are not allowed. This is a simple yet effective way to help improve the signal to noise ratio. In specific terms it will mean not allowing Jim Cripwell to post, which will result in an immediate jump in comment standards.

    BTW, this sounds mildly snarky but I’m being completely serious. Moderate any comments with those terms and the site will be much improved.

  23. Bart Says:

    SteveF, fwiw, I completely agree with you.

  24. SteveF Says:

    Cool, let’s hope it happens.

    I hear that Tamsin Edwards will be discussing climate sensitivity in an upcoming discussion. Looking forward to that.

  25. Steven Earl Salmony Says:

    Calling sustainability journalists and advocates everywhere to investigate the ‘no man’s land’ of human population dynamics. A cascade of ecological events with unforeseen consequences is occurring around us in our planetary home. There are multiple causes. But human overpopulation of Earth is the prime factor.

    http://www.panearth.org/

    Climate scientists are speaking out. Where are the population scientists? Why are they not more vocal?

    The deliberate silence among population scientists with unfulfilled responsibilities to assume and duties to perform with regard to their skillful examination and careful reporting of extant research on “human population dynamics” cannot be excused by the recognition that such woefully inadequate behavior “exists in all professions”. There is much too much at stake. Scientists have to stand up and consciously speak out about what is true to them, according the ‘lights’ and scientific knowledge they possess.

    Solzhenitsyn reported, “One word of truth overcomes the world.” Could it be that for the lack of one word, one word by people in possession of truth, as their lights and science indicate ‘what is’, the world and life as we know it is being destroyed before our eyes? As the sages of old said, perhaps it is time, finally, now and here to “speak the truth as if you are a million voices, for your silence is killing the world.”

  26. thomaswfuller2 Says:

    Mr. Salmony, perhaps demographers don’t see evidence of the same problems that you do.

    Global population is expected to peak at about 9.5 billion some time mid-century and then start to fall.Absent Orwellian control of the public there is very little anyone can do to either stop progress toward that peak or the subsequent stabilization or fall.

    The impacts of this population movement are not uniform and are amenable to influence, mostly by making available technology and access to higher incomes. Many demographers are in fact active in the fight to make both available.

    Parenthetically, I hope those bemoaning the use of ‘CAGW’ etc. are willing to be equally vigilant about the slur ‘denier’ and its many variants.

  27. Bart Says:

    This is clearly off-topic.

  28. Paul Kelly Says:

    Is Hansen talking about ClimateDialogue.org here?

    Before arriving, I received a letter from the Dutch government inviting me to participate in a blog-based public discussion about the range of views on climate change and climate sensitivity, among a few scientists including contrarians, with no attempt to reach a consensus – the purpose being to expose the public to the “range of opinions” in what they described as “an exciting new way to move the climate debate forward.” This approach – pretending that the science is like a talk-show debate, giving equal weight to all opinions and “beliefs”, encouraging the public to misinterpret the skepticism that is inherent in good science, allowing even informed scientists to exhibit their proclivity to extensively cover their fannies with waffling and caveats — is designed by well-oiled coal-fired people who wish to demean science and redefine the matter as a public debate.

  29. Bart Verheggen Says:

    Yes, he is.

    I maintain that ClimDial could in principle fill a useful void in the publicly visible scientific discussion. But it is what the participants make of it; fewer strong mainstream voices will make the quality go downhill.

  30. oldfossil Says:

    I see very little debate here, only lots of kindergarten level name-calling and cut-and-paste of tired manifestos. Kudos for at least trying Bart but you’re wasting your time.

  31. Marco Says:

    Bart, is climatedialogue dead in the water? Inquiring minds like to know (James Annan has a post up).

  32. Bart Verheggen Says:

    No, it’s not. It’s been taking a temporary leave of absence, but it’ll be back.

  33. John Shaughnessy Says:

    Stop drinking the Kool AID……….! And start thinking about Ancient Geo Engineering……Like hello is everyone on this planet stupid enough to believe that the Pyramids are TOMBS………?
    Like Hello one more time for possible penetration into the dense minds of………Earthlings….The pyramids on the Giza plateau control the Hawaiian hot spot……Now why would a bunch of Highly intelligent beings want to control a Volcano…….? anyone.? yes you in the back.! what’s that you say….? Thats correct….! did you hear that people your not a stupid as you look down here after all…….The semi bright human in the back said to control temperatures by controlling ASH discharge into the atmosphere…………Very Good..Rabbit……! And how do we do this with Pyramids on the approximate same latitude of the Hawaiian Hot Spot on the other side of the planet…? yes, yes, spit it out son…….! By gravity control..! very good…..my son……very good…….By gravity control……Now how do you disable a pyramid that was set up to control the temperatures on Earth…….? right again you open them up and turn them into amusement parks……..So…….And how do we place the pyramids back on line……? yes, yes right again…..! We repair the damage CRAZY humans did to the Earths thermostats i.e. the Great Pyramids of Giza…………”Pyramid Gravity Force” the only answer to CLIMATE CHANGE…….The Ice Man Cometh………

  34. Quiet Waters Says:

    Thanks John, you made my day.

    Your link may be carrying the joke a bit far, amusing though it is.

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