Some Spicy Curry

By Keith Kloor | April 17, 2010 11:35 pm

**UPDATE: In the comment thread, Judith Curry elaborates that the “main point of my post was to provoke a switch in the dialogue (away from the witch hunt) to the problems with IPCC process and how this might be improved…”

**UPDATE: In numerous comments below, Judith Curry expounds on many of the controversial issues that she has raised in recent months. Specifically, see here, here, here, and here.

How fascinating: a weekend banner headline over at Climate Depot had linked to Roger Pielke Jr.’s post on the Oxburgh report, which, as he quotes from an LA Times story, found the CRU climate scientists “squeaky clean.” Yet Marc Morano, who rarely misses a spin-worthy soundbite, must have not read the comments at Roger’s post. For if he did, he would have come across this:

Given their selection of CRU research publications to investigate (see Bishop Hill), the Oxbourgh investigation has little credibility in my opinion.

That would be from none other than Judith Curry, the respected Georgia Institute of Technology climate scientist, whose  outspoken commentary on Climategate has put her at odds with many of her colleagues. (See here, here, and here, for Curry’s most recent and widely circulated essays on the issue of climate science credibility.) Then again, maybe Morano read her comment and saw this was the next sentence:

However, I still think it unlikely that actual scientific malfeasance is present in any of these papers: there is no malfeasance associated with sloppy record keeping, making shaky assumptions, and using inappropriate statistical methods in a published scientific journal article.

Even still, that’s quite a backhanded compliment thrown in, for good measure. But I’m nearly certain Morano must have missed Curry’s comment altogether (which is oddly cross-posted at Bishop Hill), because it includes this explosively worded charge against the IPCC:

The corruptions of the IPCC process, and the question of corruption (or at least inappropriate torquing) of the actual science by the IPCC process, is the key issue. The assessment process should filter out erroneous papers and provide a broader assessment of uncertainty; instead, we have seen evidence of IPCC lead authors pushing their own research results and writing papers to support an established narrative. I don’t see much hope for improving the IPCC process under its current leadership.

That’s such Morano chum! And from a leading climate scientist! I can tell you that the gaggle at Real Climate have already figured this out, if Morano hasn’t. Curry’s comment may be flying under his (and the media’s) radar, but it’s just starting to light up the comment thread over at RC. Even Gavin Schmidt has responded:

Anyone making accusations of corruption – especially in the light of the tsunami of baseless accusations against scientists that have been hitting the internet in the last few months – needs to be sure that they adequately document the evidence for their allegations. Absent that documentation, I see no reason to take them seriously. Casually throwing around such statements in comments on blog posts is not an appropriate course of action if they are meant to be credible.

It might well be that the media narrative on the Oxburgh report is already established and that Curry’s contrary assessment will gain no traction. (Climategate fatigue may be setting in, too.) Then again, if Andy Revkin or other journalists pick up on it, who will bear the wrath of the climate furies: the media or Curry? Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Judith Curry has gamely engaged her critics at RC over her recent IPCC and Oxburgh comments. After taking stock, Roger Pielke Jr. observes that Curry is getting “the Real Climate treatment for her troubles.”

  • JimR

    I applaud Dr Curry for speaking out on this issue. She has received quite a bit a criticism on certain blogs for daring to speak out about the real problems in climate science and with the IPCC. The typical RC hecklers have been out in force since her comments were posted there on RC.

    To me this shows how divisive this  issue has become. Anyone who dares break ranks and speak out about the problems that are out there, even in the name of science risks severe criticism. I feel we are a long way from having an overall agreement in climate science and with such divisiveness I have to wonder if  it can every happen?

  • Keith Kloor

    Actually, Curry gets heckled just as intensely from the other side, too, right? What this tells me, especially with respect to her view on the Oxburgh report, is that there’s no room for nuanced views.

    For a good example, read the comment thread at Roger’s Squeaky Clean post. Many of the skeptic readers can’t fathom Roger’s own nuanced take, as well. It’s a very interesting exchange, all in all.

  • bigcitylib

    Gavin’s right, she should dish on details if she wants to make those kinds of allegations.  And in any case, this:

    “…using inappropriate statistical methods in a published scientific journal article.”

    …is what Oxburgh specifically says the CRU scientists did NOT do.

  • kim

    Oh, please, bcl, why do you believe the self-blindered Oxburgh?  Surely you are smart enough to understand that he and his commission didn’t even look at the evidence of wrongdoing.

  • JamesG

    Sheer double standards again. Gavin has no trouble dishing out unsubstantiated smears on anyone. Tit for tat. As for bcl’s comment, nothing Oxburgh says in his totally inadequate and inconsequential review that had it’s terms of reference dictated by CRU themselves is even worth repeating. We can all read the emails for ourselves without a pastor to guide us. No enquiries that are even more blatantly orchestrated than the 5 enquiries that somehow found the Iraq war to be a jolly good show are needed or even wanted since it has come to the point that “official enquiry” and “whitewash” mean exactly the same to the UK public .

    If there is now such respect for enquiries by Schmidt and Mann then they should stop spinning the result of the Wegman enquiry and actually act on it’s recommendations.

  • Jason

    There are numerous heavily documented problems with research produced by CRU[*].

    The Oxburgh group had access to this information and then deliberately chose NOT to examine any of the questionable papers.

    Clearing CRU of the allegations against them requires:

    1. Specifically acknowledging the criticisms

    2. Analyzing the papers (and other representations) about which the criticisms have been made.

    3. Demonstrating, with specificity that the criticisms are baseless.

    In this case, a decision was made to _ignore_ the problems. Simply producing better documentation will hardly cure the problem. Frankly, given Gavin’s awareness of all this, his response here is flat out dishonest.

    [*]You can find a laundry list at CA. If you don’t want to even talk about CA, for whatever reason, you could interview respected experts who have made specific public criticisms of the methods employed. Korhola, von Storch, and many others would have been more than happy to point Oxburgh in the right direction had he simply picked up the phone to ask. He chose not to.

  • Joseph A Olson, PE

    Our dear Judith did a ‘faux debate’ …(interview juxtaposed with Mickey Mouse Mann to appear balanced)….under the cover title “After Climategate; Coming Clean About Global Warming” in the April 2010 issue of ‘Discover’ magazine.  My article “Non Science Nonsense” posted at Canada Free Press, Freemen Institute and exposes this first Discover mention of Climategate since the East Anglia Event Horizon occured over six months ago. 

    Judging from her reply when I emailed her a copy, I’d say Judith may be a ‘lost warmist’ who has awakened.  The entire April issue is an extended propoganda piece by the great Disney/ABC News mainstream manipulators.

  • Michael Tobis

    Curry’s points are worth discussing but her timing is execrable.

    Calling this “nuance” is wrong. It’s a red freaking herring. Bright cherry red. Herring.

    The problems with the field and with the IPCC and with the relationship between them are real enough. These are human institutions of great complexity and little precedent. Expecting them to be perfect or above reproach is absurd.

    This is quite exactly the worst imaginable time to be discussing them.

    This is the time to be discussing how malicious and consequential exaggerations of specific basically innocent people got so much attention and were made to carry so much weight. The press has much to answer for.

    Of course there are real problems! That is clear enough. It would be miraculous if there weren’t.

    Those real problems do not extend to malfeasance, fraud, hoax or deliberate misrepresentation on the part of the CRU or significantly to any other part of the field. That is the important fact for the present. Raising the real issues now of all times amounts to throwing up smokescreens to protect the press and the more seriously malevolent elements of the anti-science crowd at a time when they most emphatically do not deserve it.

  • mkep

    Michael Tobis
    How about for starters of deliberate misrepresentation the claim that CRU lead author put in AR4 that if internally generated ocean oscillations were put in the Michaels Mckitrick results became insignificant.  There was no reference to any study which showed this; no one has pointed to any such study; and Mckitrick has demonstrated that the substantive point is untrue.
    Now is as good a time as any to get things right before we mad costly policy mistakes.

  • kim

    Ooh, being a bit post normal, eh, MT?  What better time than now to bring up the real issues addressed by the commission and the even more real issues not addressed by the commission?  Remember, it’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up.

    Delay is just extending the cover-up.  Had you any tactical sense, you’d see the error of your head in the sand ways.



  • Keith Kloor


    I understand the timing of Judith’s latest comments are inconvenient. The timing is never good, no?

    As for that nuance that you describe as a “red herring,” well, what can I say, except that you’re helping me make my point.

  • DaveJR

    “Those real problems do not extend to malfeasance, fraud, hoax or deliberate misrepresentation on the part of the CRU”

    And Jones never tried to “Hide the decline” and noone ever tried to convince us that a “trick” was just a good way to handle data, rather than disappear inconvenient data. Where is the Wang station data?

    There have been many deliberate misrepresentations in the field of climate science, large and small. White lies, if you prefer, done for the best of intentions (because even if you’re wrong, the ends are for the greater good, right?). Designed to gloss over the fact that our limited and crude data and our overall understanding of long-term climate systems simply isn’t good enough to do anything more than armwave and hypothesise, never mind pretend to be able to predict the future in 50-100 years time.

    The only “inconvenient truth” is that our knowledge of climate  is simply not good enough and based on far too small a sample to support the public policy being based upon it. Catastrophic global warming is the Iraq war “dodgy dossier” on a “unprecidented” scale. “Sexed up” “facts” to sell an unpopular policy of war.

    “Raising the real issues now of all times ”

    What time is that? Maybe if climate scientists found the time to raise these “real issues” they wouldn’t have to resort to deliberate misrepresentation, or any of the other things you mentioned above, to pretend these issues do not exist. Doesn’t inspire confidence in policy makers or the public though, does it ;).

  • Steve Bloom

    Keith, I’m sure Michael appreciates this post’s clarification of your views after he went to the trouble of sort-of defending you in the prior post.  If you’d delayed the point might have been lost on him. 

    As for the naive Judy, there is a degree of encouragement in the fact that her attempts over the last several years to promote McIntyre to the rest of her department at GTech have resulted in bupkis.

    But anyway, science marches on.  I note with some amusement the just-published paper identifying a mechanism for colder Northern European winters (but not elsewhere, and not the summers) during the Maunder Minimum/Little Ice Age).  How I love the smell of Hockey Stick vindication in the morning. 

  • E Smith

    It turns out that the volcano ash forecasts come from a computer simulation at the Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre in London, which is part of the British Met Office, as is the CRU. It is a total disaster like their climate models.
    LOL !!

    However, German airlines Lufthansa and Air Berlin said the decision to close much of Europe’s airspace was not based on proper testing.

    The said that their aircraft showed no signs of damage after flying without passengers.
    “The decision to close the airspace was made exclusively as a result of data from a computer simulation at the Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre in London,” Air Berlin chief executive Joachim Hunold said.
    Not a scratch
    “Not one single weather balloon has been sent up to measure how much volcanic ash is in the air.”
    Lufthansa spokesman Klaus Walter added.
    “The flight ban, made on the basis just of computer calculations, is resulting in billion-high losses for the economy

  • John Carter

    Judy Curry is right in what she says, but she needs to go much further. That the temperature datasets are unreliable is just one small aspect of the clean up that needs to be done.
    It’s unfortunate that the Real Climate machine has no concept of what is right – only of what they want the world to believe, so anyone daring to express a different opinion will be slated and their careers ruined – it’s par for their course.
    RC needs to be shut down, immediately, and a new and impartial source of international climate science set up that can be seen to be clean and honest.
    As long as that source of poison continues to express its bias and propaganda, no real advances will be made.
    Oh, and Schmidt should stop using words like “Tsunami of baseless accusations” – even his best friends are having difficulty keeping a straight face.

  • Judith Curry

    Interesting comments, thanks to keith for his writeup on this. I also posted this at Bishop Hill because: a) I don’t think the skeptical energy is well used in a personal witch hunt; and b) the Bishop is the main focal point for issues related to UEA.

    But the main point of my post was to provoke a switch in the dialogue (away from the witch hunt) to the problems with IPCC process and how this might be improved for the coming AR5 and also to producing better data sets for the historical and paleoclimate records.  Both are very challenging issues, we need to get started thinking about this and discussing it.  How the blogosphere can influence the dialogue on these two topics remains to be seen, but we should give it a go.

  • bigcitylib

    Ms. Curry,

    And how does switching the dialogue from a witch hunt against CRU to a witch hunt against the IPCC constitute progress?   And, please, can you be more specific about what you mean re the “corruption of the IPCC” process. 

  • Keith Kloor


    Thanks for stopping by. And thanks for helping to trigger another provocative and (I hope) productive conversation.

  • JAE

    Dr. Curry is being very kind.  It is much more disgusting than she says, and most of the folks that watch this stuff know it.

  • Michael Tobis

    Dr. Curry, the existence of the witch hunt, and the cooperation of the press therein, is an extremely serious issue. By trying to “switch the dialog” you are acting to make the necessary re-examination of the whole process more difficult.

    While the legitimate complaints of the critics of the science really ought to be engaged in a civilized way, it is also necessary to draw the line and not tolerate treachery.

    Dr. Jones career and reputation have been seriously disrupted, ultimately for no reason other than that he was the victim of a crime, and was thereby revealed to have privately said what he thought about incoherent nonsense posing as scientific publications.

    That this would appear shocking to people incapable of telling good work from bad is not a basis for a serious prosecution or a revisiting of the whole of science. It is absolutely necessary for scientists to explain this, cogently and patiently.

    “Changing the subject” seems to fall under the idea that Keith is proposing in another thread, that environmental science only gets one “subject” at a time. This is nonsense. Jones deserves for the air to be cleared. We all deserve to be able to work in good faith without this ridiculous sword over our heads.

    By all means, let’s discuss IPCC and communication between scientists and the public. And it would certainly be good if we could do a better job of engaging all those people who seem interested. But let’s not “change the subject” just now.

    Some damage and injustice has been averted, but the situation has by no means been corrected. There is learning to be had from the CRU fiasco. It’s important.

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  • JimR

    Keith, after catching up on the day’s activity I think I’ll have to disagree on your reply #2 with Dr. Curry getting “the Real Climate treatment” as Roger phrased it. I don’t see it as a matter of “nuanced views”  but rather an inability to consider any other possibility the folks as RC. They display an absolute fury at what some see as Dr. Curry moving to the dark side.

    I don’t think it was Dr. Curry’s intention however the responses to her comments are an excellent example of the tribalism she speaks of. And at the moment one tribe seems to be on the war path against her for what they perceive to be blasphemy.

  • kim

    Michael, you are missing something terribly important here and that is Judith’s quote: “I no longer substitute the IPCC’s judgment for my own judgment in this matter”.

    The broken process at the IPCC has produced a bad judgment, a conclusion that man’s use of fossil fuel will necessarily create a warming climate catastrophe.  The flatness of the temperature curve for the last decade in the face of steadily rising CO2 levels has called this judgment into question, and the judgment is being found in error from process errors as well as from an insufficient understanding of climate.  And now the focus is on the CRU crew for their contribution to the flimsiness of the science(UHI incoherence and lost data) and the failure of process(corruption of the IPCC and the peer review mechanism).

    Were the globe still warming as expected, these grand failures could still be concealed.  But it’s not, and they cannot.  The failures are manifest.  You’ll see someday, Michael, of that I’m sure.

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  • willard

    Talking about corruption sure provokes a switch. A switch from a dialogue to another dialogue, we’ll have to see.  A dialogue between tribes, maybe?

  • Keith Kloor

    JimR (23):

    Yes, I sense that the rage is fed by a sense of betrayal, similar to what’s been directed at Monbiot, and which I discussed here.

    Willard (26)
    Nice. Just to clarify: are you referring to “two tribes” that are nominally allied on the AGW side? Assuming you are, well, intra-tribal warfare is a hallmark of human history. But I’m not sure that Judith Curry would identify herself as a member of any particular tribe, at this point.

  • JimR

    Keith, yes a sense of betrayal is an excellent way to describe what is happening. Skeptics tend to have differing views, with layman ranging from “it’s a hoax” to lukewarmers who question the models and feedbacks. Even scientists who are skeptical are willing to publicly disagree with each other and do so. 

    The AGW tribe is quite different, much more monolithic and dogmatic. They exhibit a much greater tribalism as shown recently by their treatment of Revkin, Monbiot and Curry and are unwilling to accept ANY questions or admit to ANY criticisms of climate science while turning personally (often quite ugly) against anyone who dares to not fully support them.

    In a time when public opinion seems to be moving against them I find this attitude odd and counter-productive. Do they really think that other climate scientists and journalists will tremble in fear and toe the line of AGW tribalism?

  • Keith Kloor

    JimR (28):

    Their may be range of skeptics, but based on the comment threads I read at some leading climate blogs (including Roger’s), the ‘hoaxers’ seem to be most visible and shrillest. And I think this partly explains (to some extent) the entrenched attitude over at RC.

    One of the things I’ve tried to get a handle on (with little success) is how that range you describe breaks down in numbers. Because maybe if the more tolerant and open-minded ones in the skeptic community were more visible–and chastised the excitable ones in their tribe–maybe that would go a long way towards  helping a more civil dialogue take place between all the ‘tribes.’

  • JimR

    Keith, I think the extremists are always the most visible. But what is troubling is that even those who are more tolerant and open minded are treated with the same disdain by the AGW tribe. It becomes hard to quantify the attitudes of those who are skeptical when ANY question or criticism no matter how reasonable is treated the same as  the extremist who claim it’s all a hoax. The AGW tribe attempts to characterize anyone who dares to disagree as a shill of the oil companies or a flat Earth anti-science type. There is no room for middle ground in the mind of these people as evidenced by the treatment of Dr. Curry.

    Perhaps if those in the AGW tribe who are more tolerant and open minded were willing to chastise their extreme tribe-mates with their with us or against us, never give an inch attitude a civil dialogue could take place. Because the way I see it now these people see civil dialogue as a betrayal to their beliefs.

  • willard


    There are lots of problems with the “tribal” meme.  It frames a dichotomy between members of tribes and non-members of tribes.  It also frames a dichotomy between non-rational people and rational people.  It (stealthily, if that was a word, or even a sound concept) promotes an individualistic and anti-establishment viewpoint, a viewpoint which is the basis of the libertarian myth, which are also disguised here as the Canons of Science.

    Try this experiment.  Start a conversation with someone, about any topic that needs some argumentation.  Then, tell that someone she or he or it should be thinking by her, him or itself, and not parrot some tribe’s meme.  Try to keep the conversation going: you should see that it’s quite tough to meta-analyze roles in a conversation and maintain an open dialog.

    Easy to compare proponents an established view to a tribe and, implicitely, contrarians to free-spirited people.  It might even be impossible to do otherwise, if one needs entertain a readership.  But once we start network-analyzing memes and frames and spins and torques and (de-)emphasis, there are no real outcast left, and all actors belong to at least one tribe.

    Hence I like your idea of the intra-tribal wars.  As we converge towards a globalized tribe of human beings, blog wars are wars between humans, to be opposed to the war we humans are waging against Nature.

  • Keith Kloor

    JimR (30):

    Point taken.

    Just curious, though: anyone of Curry’s stature rise to the occasion to take up the mantle of civility and open-mindedness on the skeptic side? Any scientists on that side go out on a limb like her, and essentially say, hey, let’s see if we can find some common ground and work from there?

    The way I see it, silence amounts to enabling certain behavior. So the more people that call out their own, the better, as far as I’m concerned.

  • Michael Tobis

    This “monolithic and dogmatic” stuff presumes that there is no science. If there actually is science, then the people who know the science have not just the right but the responsibility to tell people who are (based on current evidence) completely wrong that they are completely wrong.

    Nobody likes to hear from a cop giving them a speeding ticket, but sane people agree that there need to be traffic laws and along with them some enforcement. Nobody likes to hear from a scientific authority that they are telling a story that is wrong, but there is a necessity for scientific authority to exist.

    Now, there is the question of whether climate science is sufficiently advanced to have such authority.

    Many people these days don’t believe it. (But, well, they are wrong.) To those, I ask you to imagine for a moment that there were far less scientific ambiguity than you now think. Imagine that the understanding required to see this required a couple of years of study beyond basic undergraduate scientific training.

    How would you distinguish that case from the closed-mindedness, arrogance, dogmatism, etc. you perceive now?

    I call your attention to Jerry Steffens comment at RC (#404 on the linked article):

    “Steve Mosher’s comments are almost Kafkaesque; he appears to represent a group that believes that scientific matters can be decided in the same way that cases are settled in a courtroom, i.e., that the side that can argue most persuasively wins. What he doesn’t seem to fully grasp is that there is an underlying physical reality that is being discussed. Using his technique, a group of people in a speeding bus on a dark, rain-slick road might argue about whether or not the bridge up ahead has been washed out. Presumably, if those arguing against the “wash-out theory” win the debate by, say, undermining the credibility of those on the other side of the argument (perhaps two of them were seen to be improperly conferring in the restroom) then the passengers can rest easy.”

    This is exactly the problem.

    It is not rude, stubborn, or unreasonable to refuse to compromise on a question of fact. “Maybe the bridge will be out next week, so we should come back some other way.” You compromise on strategies; sometimes you even compromise on principles; you cannot compromise on facts. Sometimes you know stuff the other folks don’t know, and you have to say so whatever they end up thinking of you.

  • JimR

    Keith, I personally don’t feel skepticism is as organized as the AGW tribe.  Many prominent skeptics have asked for open dialog and debate only to be spit at with terms such as denialist.  Steve McIntyre suggested working with Caspar Ammann to outline their agreements and disagreements only to be rejected and the AGW tribe treats McIntyre as a demon. Pielke Sr and Jr aren’t really skeptics but are treated to the same venom for their areas of disagreement.

    From my perspective I feel skeptics would prefer open civil dialogue and debate but the AGW tribe will have none of it. From Gavin on down to the typical fanatic posters at RC the attempts by Dr. Curry’s at bridging the gap has been met with hostility. I believe Andy Revkin tried to open some dialogue and he too received nothing but hostility from the AGW tribe. Joe Romm is a perfect example of how popular the divisive, mean spirited  rhetoric has become among the AGW tribe.

    The extremists on both sides will always be out there, however it seems the majority of the AGW tribe is made up of extremists who will never agree to the most minor point or any attempt at common ground.

  • Judith Curry

    Keith, re the skeptics, I would say there is no real organization among them.  During the heyday of the oil funded libertarian think tanks and Karl Rove, there seemed to  be some well organized talking points; Marc Morano seems to be the current leader of this particular wing of the skeptics (with support from Chris Horner and Myron Ebell).  As far as i can tell, the academic and blogospheric skeptics don’t pay much attention to Morano.  The academic skeptics (e.g. Lindzen, Christy, Gray et al.) don’t agree with each other at all (note: the academic skeptic that I find to be most reasonable and open minded is John Christy).

    The forthcoming Heartland Conference is the closest thing to anything organized by the skeptics.  Apparently this is the first year there will be a significant blogging presence there, will be interesting to see what transpires.

    Some of the blogospheric skeptics (the more technical ones) seem to communicate with each other somewhat, but there is no monolithic cabal of blogospheric skeptics.  I have actually found the people who habituate the technical skeptical blogs and their proprietors to be much more open minded than most of the “warmist” blogs.

    In terms of having a reasoned dialogue on this topic, it is definitely challenging.  I remain astonished that my blogospheric comments on the general topic of climategate (which I view as reminding us of things that should be basic common sense) have been regarded as “news”

  • Keith Kloor

    While I love the blogging format, sometimes I wonder if blogs have made civil dialogue between various camps all but impossible. Think about the war of words that friends or family members can engage in–how magnified petty slights or perceived offenses become when two parties just communicate via email or letters. I experienced this in my own life with a relative. It was amazing how easy it was to just talk past one other. And the venom just worse and worse until we finally agreed to meet and hash things out. I swore after that I would never let something like that happen again.

    In a similar vein, I have wondered if this same dynamic is at work in the climate debate. With this in mind, last month I playfully suggested a representative panel discussion here (which included you). Nobody paid the idea any attention, so for all I know it was dismissed out of hand as ridiculous. Nonetheless, I’m increasingly of the mind that many of the primary antagonists will have to put aside their misgivings and get together–in person–and listen to one another. Maybe it would be best done out of public view. But at this stage, I really think this might need to happen to break through the hardening ill will.

  • Roger Pielke Jr.


    I think that your comment is right on — for some, civil dialogue on blogs is all but impossible.

    Case in point, Michael Tobis has been visiting my blog and engaging in a civil discussion related to this thread (here:

    Apparently he didn’t like how things were going so he goes to his blog and in classic passive-aggressive fashion puts up a nonsense post full of erros calling me a denier etc.

    Interestingly, at my blog Michael has asked why it is that so many people have such little respect for his community (a small subset of the climate science community) — I think that the answer lies closer to home than he thinks!

  • Michael Tobis

    The item RP Jr. refers to was due to a misunderstanding and a coincidence. The referenced article is updated to explain.

  • Steve Bloom

    Judy’s naive in the extreme if she thinks the oil-funded libertarian think tanks have somehow diminished.  Doubtless she also thinks the Heartland conferences have appeared via magical means. 

  • Judith Curry

    Well the blogosphere is certainly rough sport, but I think that without it, there would be even greater polarization.  The rise of the technical  “lukewarmer” blogs and the policy oriented blogs have substantially enriched the dialogue and have arguably influenced both sides.

    Re personal engagement, sometimes this works and other times it doesn’t, depending on the individuals. As an example of not working, the fairly regular debates between Kerry Emanuel, Bill Gray and others on hurricanes and global warming (at meetings of the American Meteorological Society) have ceased owing to the level of animosity. As a personal example of where personal engagement has worked to reduce animosity and promote productive dialogue, I will describe my experiences with the CEI. I have frequently mentioned CEI (along with Exxon-Mobil) in a negative light. After my first few posts in response to climategate that mentioned CEI in a negative light, a Georgia Tech alum that is friends with Fred Smith (president of CEI) encouraged us to have a dialogue. After some testy email exchanges, we developed some useful dialogue and both have a better understanding of the other side and have identified valid points that the other side is making. On a recent trip to DC I visited CEI and met Fred Smith and several others. So what has been accomplished? Improved understanding, a civil dialogue, and sense of being able to talk about “fouls” being committed by both sides towards promoting progress and fairness.

    In the blogosphere, the same things can happen: inflammation or productive dialogue. And which one is mostly in the eyes of the beholder. Many people think I am nuts for putting myself out there in blogosphere, and the focus on the nastiest and craziest responses. Probably the roughest sport I’ve encountered in the last 6 months has been the WUWT response to my building trust essay. This was my first post over at WUWT and most of the WUWT denizens were unfamiliar with me. Rather than worrying about the crazy and nasty posts, I was mainly gratified by the hundreds of personal emails I received (from “lurkers” on the blog) that were serious people with serious ideas and/or questions. So this post resulted in some small individual connections that were valuable. If I were to spend more time at WUWT (which I don’t currently have plans to do, but we’ll see), some familiarity and trust would gradually build. This has been my experience with Climateaudit; if I post there, the very critical or nasty posts will actually be criticized by CA regulars who have developed some respect for me (plus McIntyre heavily moderates the posts when I and other mainstream scientists are posting). So respectful communication and listening, whether in the blogosphere or in personal encounters, is really the key. In some ways this is easier in principle in the blogosphere, since you don’t have the immediacy of a personal encounter including the instantaneous emotions. On the other hand, the anonymity of the blogosphere makes it easier to say nasty and outrageous things. The key to useful blogospheric dialogue is a good moderator, and spending time at a blog so the denizens get to know you a bit.

    Steve Bloom, re the oil-funded libertarian think tanks, you are wrong.  I have it from a good source (Fred Smith, President of the CEI) that the oil company funding has dried up.  Re the Heartland Conference, they don’t seem to be very well funded since the registration fee is almost $500 per person (pretty much cost recovery).  The corporate and NGO funding for the skeptical side pales in comparison with funding that the enviro groups have. Do your homework.

  • Keith Kloor

    Judith (40):

    I take your point about the larger dialogue being enriched by multiple perspectives. It is easy to lose sight of that amidst all the flaming.

    I also applaud your bridge-building efforts. I’d like to say more but I have to dash off to teach a class. So because I have a very loose moderation policy (which perhaps I should rethink in light of your observations), here’s hoping that people treat your latest comment politely until I can swing back in a few hours with a more watchful eye.

  • willard

    I’d like to do that homework.  How do we proceed?

  • A C Osborn

    Judith, I know you had a bit of a rough ride at WWUT on your first visit, although nowhere near as rough as sceptics get elsewhere, you did get quite a bit of positive feedback as well.
    Now that the world can see that yours is an honest endevour to find a “middle way” I am sure that you would be welcomed on WWUT in the future.
    Yours was one of the highest responded posts on WWUT for quite a while and just goes to show the depth of interest on that site.
    However you do seem to have picked up some bad habits from WWUT, like critising the IPCC.
    Please keep up your good work, on both sides of the fence.

  • Marlowe Johnson

    Now I consider myself to be a fairly open-minded slow-to-judgement kind of guy, but on this issue I think that MT has the right of it.  Judith’s blogosphere activities of late have been very unhelpful of late. 

    I used to give her the benefit of the doubt for not calling Steve Mc and others on their mendacity and general nastiness as a necessary trade-off (in her mind) to fruitfully engage the broad range of septics/conspiracy theorists/deluded folks that inhabit CA/WUWT etc.  Like others I find the premise on which her effort is built to be naive in the extreme.  I say this as someone who has been following this debate (mostly lurking) since the mid-90s.

    The fact is that the people that operate those blogs are not by and large interested in truth seeking.  For most people this is fairly obvious and can be easily demonstrated (e.g. where is audit of Douglass et al?) By engaging with them she is conferring a degree of legitimacy on them that they do not deserve and for which her credibility among her peers will suffer.

    As MT noted earlier in this thread, Curry’s points are worth discussing but her timing is execrable.  Given her deafining silence in defending Jones and/or at least acknowledging the toxic effect of these kinds of witch-hunts, I’m less inclined to give her the benefit of the doubt and chalk things up to political naivite. 

    I still have no idea what her motives are, but perhaps it’s just a matter of ego and the pleasure that some people get self-identifying themselves as mavericks’ and not belonging to this or that ‘tribe’…

    p.s. Judy do you really believe that NGOs get more money than the FUD machine?  And are we supposed to take Fred Smith’s word for it (as objective as he of course is)?  Surely you jest!

  • Keith Kloor

    Marlowe (44):

    This notion that someone should shut up unless they have something “helpful” to say drives me batty. It totally reinforces Judith’s tribalist critique. As I said to Michael in a previous comment, there’s never a good time, is there? This  goes to the heart of Joe Romm’s rationale for pummeling people who dissent from his view of what is correct policy. And to be fair, he treats everyone the same. Remember how Romm said he wished Hansen would stop critiquing cap and trade, because it was so unhelpful. So when would the best time for Hansen to speak up: after the debate is over? Yeah, I guess he had “execrable” timing, too, right Marlowe?

    How open-minded can you possibly be if you’d prefer it that dissenters from your perspective practice a form of self-censorship?

  • Steve Bloom

    Homework is good, Judy, although taking Fred Smith’s word for that doesn’t qualify.  Looking at CEI’s site (as I do from time to time, that being homework), I don’t see any diminution of their climate efforts.  Small think tanks like CEI not being in a position to do a lot of unfunded advocacy, who do you suppose is paying?

    Of course most such funding isn’t in public view.  Recall e.g. that Pat Michaels resigned his UVA adjunct professorship not long ago rather than reveal his funding sources.   

    Re the Heartland conference, I have my doubts about how many attendees will be paying the full freight.  OTOH the relocation to Chicago may well be a sign of declining support due to the fact that these conferences haven’t turned out to be very credibility-enhancing for the denialists.

    “The corporate and NGO funding for the skeptical side pales in comparison with funding that the enviro groups have.”  Really?  Source for that claim?         

  • Keith Kloor

    Judith (40):

    Re the blogosphere/polarization concern, today’s column by David Brooks will interest you. He cites a new study that supports your take that the net positives outweigh the negatives.

    Myself, I’m ambivalent.

    Also, let me point out that the imaginary panel I proposed was made up of people who agree on the science underlying AGW. The intense disagreements relate to public policy and some scientific assertions made in support of policy. Lots of bad feelings over that generated in the blogosphere. So all I’m wondering is if the tenor of debate would be improved if all the individuals I named gathered in a room to hash things out. Maybe George Mitchell could broker the talks, instead of Revkin. :)

  • Judith Curry

    Marlowe, a few clarifications

    I have no particular interest in defending Jones, Mann et al.  While I don’t think they are guilty of formal scientific misconduct,  aspects of their behavior have been below the expected standards and desired professional behavior in my opinion.  And I frankly lack confidence in their temperature analyses, independently of whether or not there has been scientific misconduct.

    I absolutely disagree that the proprietors of the technical skeptical blogs are not open minded.  I can only speak for the ones that I have gotten to know somewhat, such as Steve McIntyre, Lucia Liljegren, Andrew Montford and a few others.  I frankly find them to be more polite and less nasty than many of the “warmist” bloggers.  Maybe you didn’t catch my (negative) review of Lindzen and Choi over on climateaudit?  Re Douglass et al., they have a new paper in the mill, i expect it will be widely discussed.

    I don’t care very much about credibility with my peers, if my peers are objecting to my attempts at open and honest dialogue on this topic.  I am too senior and sufficiently well established in my position that I don’t need any credibility from my peers.  So, my peers won’t elect me to the National Academy of Science or whatever?  Big deal, seems like that is about the worst they can do to me.  Clobber me in peer review?  So what, I can get funding from the private sector and publish on the blogs.  So I won’t easily be intimidated by my peers, or anyone else for that matter.   See, the reactions of the “warmists” to my activities have created a monster :)

    I have stated my motives time and again for getting involved in this discussion.  One element of scientific integrity is when to speak up vs when to stay silent.  The Georgia Tech students and alumni expected me to speak out on this issue, which is why i wrote my initial essay over at climateaudit.  At the beginning, i tried to limit my personal exposure on this and was very leery of getting misquoted by the media.  When others failed to speak up, I felt that I needed to step up to the plate.

    As to the “execrable” timing and unhelpfulness, i don’t know what this means.  In terms of naivete, its a charge I don’t particularly object to, but I’ve talked to a broad range of people, read widely, and taken a lot of lumps in the process.  So my “naivete” would be cured how?  I guess the problem is that i am a “moderate warmist” without a policy agenda.  My lack of a  policy agenda regarding CO2 mitigation means my focus is on worrying about the quality, integrity and uncertainty of the science than about saving the planet based on this highly uncertain scientific research.  I seem to lack the hubris of some of my peers in this regard.

    My so called maverick position is square in the middle,  how is being in the middle a maverick position?

    Re the funding behind the enviro groups vs the industry funded denial machine, yes to my knowledge the enviro groups are MUCH better funded.  It would be a worthwhile effort to tally all this up.

    So how has the “denial machine” stymied the AGW movement?    The AGW movement made the BIG mistake in thinking  that they were fighting another “big tobacco” war, and pointed their guns in the wrong direction.  While they were trying to shoot down the libertarian think tanks and their oil company funding sources, there was a very large group of bottom up grass roots skeptics in academia (including geologists, physicists, statisticians) and in the blogosphere.  By wasting time on a witch hunt trying to find oil company links to Lindzen, McIntyre, etc, they inadvertenly empowered the grass roots skeptical group in the blogosphere.

    Just because i’ve attended a few conferences and had some trips arranged by enviro advocacy groups doesn’t mean I’m in their pay and under their influence (i have been scrupulous in not taking any funds).  By the some token, if any of the skeptics attend the heartland conference or give a presentation at the Marshall Institute, this doesn’t mean they are in the pay of big oil.  By wasting so much energy on this kind of witch hunt, the climate change movement failed to effectively counter what was going on in the grass roots skeptical movement.

    So how do we proceed from here?  We need some open, rational discourse on a range of topics from openness and transparency in the science, improvements to the assessment process, a dialogue on an expanded range of policy options, the politics of climate science, improved communications, etc.

  • Marlowe Johnson


    As is often the case, our disagreement seems to stem from what issues are emphasized and which ones are left out.

    For Michael, myself and others, the central ‘story’ of climategate is one of the MSM behaving badly, a group of scientists being persectuted because their findings are inconvenient to some, and the crime that started it all left relatively unexamined.

    For Judith to mention none of this and instead harp on the failings of the IPCC is telling.  To be clear, I think that many of her criticisms have merit and given her stature they are very much worth paying attention to.  But failing to ALSO acknowledge the other issues that Michael has alluded to is a mistake IMO and not an unreasonable one to point out. I’m not asking for censorship; just a little more balance and context…

    As an aside, in my experience those invoking the ‘tribe’ meme usually fall prey to the same problem as those using the word ‘verbose’ :)


    I don’t really care if you have confidence in the state of paleo work since you’re expertise lies elsewhere. As to which bloggers are more polite I suppose we can only agree to disagree.

    I don’t think you’re ‘problem’ is that you’re a moderate warmist (what is that btw?).  When you say you have no policy agenda are you saying that you don’t care if we reduce GHGs or not? If so, then you’re very far from the ‘middle’ position! 

    Wrt to the FUD machine I’d suggest reading up on some of Myanna Lhasen’s work, Naomi Oreskes,  or Richard Littlemore (if you want a Canadian perspective).  Is the FUD machine a well-organized monolith? Of course not, just as their isn’t a well organized ‘warmist’ movement. 

    A few basic facts to clarify the situation.  Any meaninful AGW policy will increase the price of hydrocarbon energy sources.  Hydrocarbons are an integral part of the global economy.  Therefore, it is not unreasonable to expect considerable opposition to carbon policies.  One strategy is to undermine the science.  Whether or not such strategies have been effective is another matter; like Keith I’m somewhat ambivalent. But that doesn’t mean that there hasn’t been significant efforts to confuse the public. 

    Where I fundamentally disagree with you is wrt to the role of CA/WUWT and blogs of their ilk.  IMO they are quite clearly part of the FUD machine and deliberately so.  Does that mean that they work in a coordinated fashion with Morano? No, but it hardly matters.  Do individual egos also play a role? Absolutely. After all getting to go to all sorts of conferences around the world can’t help but make one feel good and important.

    As to your last points about where to proceed from here, I’m in full agreement with you on the science side but not so much on the policy/politics side of things.  ‘Expanded range of policy options’ is a motherhood statement; politics of climate science has been covered to death. finally on the improved communications issue I’m all ears…

  • Judith Curry

    Re the budgets for the enviro advocacy groups, see this link

    Re CEI, Fred Smith tells me they currently have an annual budget of $5M, about 25% of this is spend on climate related stuff, and nearly all of their funding currently comes from private donations.

    So I don’t have any reason to disbelieve this stuff, but would certainly appreciate it if anyone can check this info

  • Mark Bahner

    “Nobody likes to hear from a scientific authority that they are telling a story that is wrong, but there is a necessity for scientific authority to exist.”

    Why do you think “there is a necessity for scientific authority to exist”? 

  • Judith Curry

    Re the skeptical blogs, WUWT is difficult to assess.  The level of technical discourse is not  as high as at say CA and the Blackboard.  WUWT tackles a much broader and more eclectic range of topics than any of the other climate related blogs.  There is more emotion evident here than at many other blogs, and they seem more inclined to groupthink than some of the other technical blogs.   I have received emails from a number of Ph.D. scientists that hang out at WUWT, so at least some of their readership is pretty sophisticated.  Re the motives etc of Anthony Watts, I don’t know him personally at all.  But i have exchanged several emails with him and he seems genuinely interested in moving the dialogue forward.  I don’t think he would mind if i cite this quote from an email he sent me:

    “What is not happening is that people on the dark side of the force and people on the other side (take your pick on who’s in what position) are talking to each other. They are talking past each other.

    Here’s my take. Scientists are viewed as intellectual leaders, but they aren’t leading in this situation. To get past this, they’ll need to do something extraordinary. A game changer is needed. Otherwise it’s the worlds longest game of Monopoly.”

    So frankly i think i have a better understanding of Watts, McIntyre et al. then those of you making disparaging comments about them, since i’ve actually made an effort to listen to them and engage them in a conversation.  Do they have exceptionally open minds?  No.  But they truly do seem more open minded than most of the warmist bloggers.  Over at RC, they are commenting that we shouldn’t open our minds to garbage, but i am afraid the jury is still out on many of the issues that warmists have such high confidence in.  And when there is a significant level of uncertainty or misunderstanding, then we should actively engage with the skeptics to clarify the level of certainty and the nature of the uncertainties.  This is what the warmists should be doing, rather than slagging off on the skeptical bloggers.

  • Mark Bahner

    “To be clear, I think that many of her criticisms have merit and given her stature they are very much worth paying attention to.”

    Why do you think Judith Curry’s stature should influence whether her criticisms are “worth paying attention to” (particularly since you preface the statement by saying, “I think many of her criticisms have merit”)? 

  • Mark Bahner

    “A few basic facts to clarify the situation.  Any meaninful AGW policy will increase the price of hydrocarbon energy sources.”

    That is about as much a “fact” as that Chevy trucks are better than Ford trucks. 

  • Tim Lambert

    Judith, Fred Smith and the CEI’s style is to actively mislead rather than outright lie, so if they say that they’re not getting funded by oil companies, it probably means that they are now being funded by coal companies.

    The admission fees for the Heartland Conference would cover their costs, but last year there were more free admissions available than total attendance. They had both Watts and McIntyre there, so I’m not sure what you mean by saying that bloggers were not involved.

    While McIntyre and Watts appreciated your efforts at outreach towards them, I’m not aware of even the slightest shift in their positions as a result.

  • Mark Bahner

    "Judith, Fred Smith and the CEI’s style is to actively mislead rather than outright lie, so if they say that they’re not getting funded by oil companies, it probably means that they are now being funded by coal companies."

    According to Dr. Curry:  "Re CEI, Fred Smith tells me they currently have an annual budget of $5M, about 25% of this is spend on climate related stuff, and nearly all of their funding currently comes from private donations."

    Of that, what do you think is "actively misleading"?

  • Tim Lambert

    Mark, they’re a business. They’re not going to spend a major part of the income on something that doesn’t generate revenue. Possibly “nearly all” means 75% and 25% comes from coal interests. Possibly we’re talking about private donations from oil company executives.

  • willard

    Navigating through might be a good way to start the homework.  But it’s useless to evaluate the impact of the rising of media outlets like Fox News.  It would be interesting to have numbers for that kind of player, a player that can bring ACORN to the ground by false news.

    In the Freedom Action poster, we see Nature Conservancy.   It looks like an “enviro” group alright, but to show that it’s a player comparable to AEI requires something else than a poster.

    If the Pew Center is the eighth biggest enviro business, the ninth should be about 5% of the size of AEI.  Would it be possible to name more than eight right-wing think tank bigger than the Pew Center?

    In any case, that kind of research could help test an interesting hypothesis.  The more we talk about money, the more grassroot skepticism.  Let’s talk about money; let’s see more if more grassroot skepticism will grow.

  • Bart Verheggen

    Judith Curry,

    I’m all for building bridges with people who hold different opinions.
    I don’t think scientists and their supporters have a problem with taking criticism; they rather have a problem with being falsely accused (e.g. of fraud, data manipulation, misconduct, whatever). Such charges are routinely made at WUWT and to a lesser extent and in a more subtle way at CA (see examples of the latter here: ) Sometimes it’s less subtle (e.g. a headline under an image of Mike Mann saying “try not to puke”).

    Your use of the word “corruption” to describe the IPCC process was very strong. Many took offense to that, and rightly pointed out that it’s not a very fruitful way to build bridges to fellow climate scientists and their supporters.

    Then there’s the issue that in instances where critics may have a point, if they make wild exaggerations about the implications, and accuse others of all kinds of nasty things, the benefit of the doubt that he may gotten initially will quickly fade away (e.g. Jones provided McIntyre with data back in 2002, and McI rhetorically asks “what has changed?” that Jones ceased being so helpful in recent years.)

    In addition, I think people respond very negatively to the likes of McIntyre because of the huge influence bloggers like him are starting to have. Even if McI may have a point on details, most of his audience and the mainstream press gets away with a totally exaggerated and erronreous impression that the science is abysmal.

    In general, I don’t think ‘warmists’ are overconfident in the science. What ‘warmists’ like to point out, and rightly so imho, is that uncertainty is not the same as knowing nothing. That is the frequent fallacy that is at the heart of many disputes between different ‘camps’. Plus the very different attitudes towards risk.

    In the end, the disagreements have less to do with the science (and most definitely not with Siberian tree rings or whatever the blog controversy of the day is), but rather with risk perception and different levels of risk aversion.

  • Steve Bloom

    So, Judy, it turns out you have nothing to back up the assertions I challenged you on.  None of those enviro groups at your link are think tanks, BTW, and so aren’t comparable to CEI (which isn’t very large as think tanks go, for that matter).  They’re much more comparable to e.g. the American Petroleum Institute, the head of which makes close to $2 million (see page 12 here).    

    In the meantime, I see that Andy Weaver has come up with a suitable response to the crap the National Post continues to print.  I suspect we’ll be seeing more of this sort of thing. 

  • Brendan H

    JimR: “From my perspective I feel skeptics would prefer open civil dialogue and debate but the AGW tribe will have none of it.”
    I don’t agree. My impression from reading sceptical blogs and comments at media sites is that many sceptics are firmly convinced that climate change is a crock, the scientists cheats and lairs, and the science fraudulent, and would like nothing better than a naming and a shaming, or worse, of climate scientists and thier supporters.
    For example:
    “…Exaggerations by AGW alarmists in particular are so full of themselves. They really should be made either to prove their case beyond any reasonable doubt (which they haven’t as yet) or shut up. If they continue to spread their exaggerations they then should be charged with at least disturbing the peace, probably charged with fraud, and possibly put behind bars.”
    “The AGW hoax will never be exponsed en-mass untill the journalists and politicians who enabled it face prosecution for the fraud of the century.”
    “They are interviewing only the criminals and NO ONE else. This is the largest scientific hoax of all time and the media remains asleep.”
    I don’t offer these cites as a “gotcha”, nor am I claiming that warmers are angels. I merely highlight a puzzling aspect of climate scepticism: the insistence that climate sceptics are “civil” and “polite” while their opponents are foul-mouthed demagogues.
    The reality doesn’t support this assertion. There’s something else going on here. And since sceptics see the civility issue as important to the science, perhaps it’s worthwhile analysing this discrepancy between self-image and reality.

  • JimR

    Brendan (61), the extremists (on both sides) are the most outspoken. I’ve also seen calls for skeptics as well as oil and coal CEOs to be jailed and even put to death. Fanaticism runs both ways.

    Above Dr.  Curry talked about academic and technical blogosphere skeptics who I think are the most open minded and want civil dialogue and debate. There will always be the extremists but the basic skeptical position is that debate is needed and is currently being rejected.

    I’ve read many blogs over the past several years (mostly lurking). I used to be a regular reader of realclimate even though I didn’t always agree with them. After all it was “climate science from climate scientists” which was a good thing IMO. I stopped being a regular there a couple of years ago as they went on the attack instead of presenting the science by climate scientists. And they are playing to their audience who constantly pile on with insults and crude remarks. The value of their outreach evaporated as they began to please their tribe.

    I don’t think there is anything on the skeptical side to match the venom and ferocity of climateprogress and look how popular Romm’s site has become. The popularity of the attack style among the AGW tribe can not be disputed. Sure the political type skeptics are full of venom but their popularity is actually quite low versus the more technical skeptic blogs. You can find outrageous comments  by skeptics here and there but among the AGW tribe it has become the norm.

    And I have to wonder if this can change. As seen from Dr. Curry’s treatment if any on the AGW tribe were to reach out for open dialogue and debate that person would also quickly be on the receiving end of these attacks.

  • Steve Bloom

    Re #62:  In other words, JimR, it was those bad scientists who made you a denialist.  Now pull the other one, it’s got bells on.


  • Brendan H

    JimR: “I don’t think there is anything on the skeptical side to match the venom and ferocity of climateprogress and look how popular Romm’s site has become.”

    Try this thread, with its numerous breaches of Godwin’s Law.

    As for “academic and technical blogosphere skeptics”, they have their fair share of accusations of lying, cheating and fraud.

    But as I said in my previous post, in my view there’s something else going on with the climate sceptics’ beating of the civility issue. Two explanations spring to mind.

    The more innocuous one is that in the face of the overwhelming official consensus on climate change, climate sceptics want to portray themselves as the plucky, but humble and modest seekers of truth, latter-day Galileos. This conceit is harmless enough; we all need myths to live by.

    A more insidious explanation is that the call for civility attempts to use the moral issue as a hammer against the science, in that it implies that climate scientists are secretive, nasty people with something to hide.

    In other words, the call for “open civil dialogue and debate” is not a straightforward request, but rather a rhetorical device aimed at gaining brownie points before any debate has begun. By all means let’s have civil debate, but the call must run both ways.

  • JimR

    Brendan, while WUWT does seem to collect more extremists (and a large number of comments) I don’t think your example matches the venom of Romm’s site on a good day.  I rarely read the comments at WUWT simply because there are so many extremists, so much piling on. On Romm’s site the venom actually comes from Romm with many added insults from his regulars.

    Your ideas on civility are…. odd. You seem to feel that civility isn’t the norm and requests for civility must be for some sinister reason. Did you ever consider  that it is as simple as opening dialogue and debate on the issues? Calling everyone a denier and other name calling isn’t productive in the least for anyone. Judith Curry’s comments on realclimate are a good example. The entire discussion was about her, did she go to the dark side, what was her agenda, what are her qualifications, calling her naive and even questioned if the original comment was from Dr. Curry. Yet not one single person made as intelligent a comment as Keith Kloor above and Eureka! a bit of civil dialogue broke out here which I found to be interesting.

    I think Dr. Curry’s idea of bridging the gap is a good one and civility will be required to open a dialogue.

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  • willard

    JimR’s argument in a nutshell:

    1. Civility is required to open dialogue.
    2. Some contrarian blogs are more civilized.
    3. Some contrarian blogs are more open to dialog and debating with them is rejected.

    The reasoning has many shortcomings, of course.  For instance, JimR’s last comment seems to argue that the first premise is enough to get to the conclusion.  Agreeing about civility does not suffice.

    Civility is required, of course, at least when there is no collegiality, that is when you talk to other tribes.  Civility makes every participant feel as if they belong to the same tribe, as least for the sake of the discussion.

    But the main problem is that this position amounts to imply that:

    4. If there are no dialog, it’s mainly because warmists’ blogs are not open to dialog.

    which presupposes that:

    5. You need to have a dialog.

    I fail to see how discussing #4 can help.  Opening up dialog (#5, i.e. famous Moshpit’s “Free the debate”, which evolved to “Open the debate” since he’s selling out a book) might be necessary.  Nonetheless, we should understand that we are talking about a dialog between two different tribes: one in the establishment and one against it.  This gets political.  Consider the last time you witness an open political debate.

  • Keith Kloor

    Interesting exchange on civility (61-67, except for 63, who always has a way of inadvertently reinforcing his opponent’s point).

    Perhaps because I’ve been singed by the big daddy himself, I’m more inclined to agree with 64. But I really need to spend more time at the skeptic sites and their comment boards to form an informed opinion on this.

  • JimR

    Do you mean you are inclined to agree with 65?

  • Keith Kloor

    Ah, yes, good catch. I need more coffee.

  • Feet2theFire

    @ JimR (April 18th, 2010 at 4:39 am)

    “I applaud Dr Curry for speaking out on this issue. She has received quite a bit a criticism on certain blogs for daring to speak out about the real problems in climate science and with the IPCC. The typical RC hecklers have been out in force since her comments were posted there on RC.
    To me this shows how divisive this  issue has become. Anyone who dares break ranks and speak out about the problems that are out there, even in the name of science risks severe criticism. I feel we are a long way from having an overall agreement in climate science and with such divisiveness I have to wonder if  it can every happen?”

    (Forgive me for coming into this a week late.  Also, my comment here is without reading the many later comments, so if it is redundant, apologies to all…)

    That last paragraph, from what I have understood, has been the case for well over a decade, except for one factor.  That factor is that the skeptics were given no credence at all, so supposedly there was no “divisiveness,” but only one party line.  Anyone crossing that line was – as far as was visible for those who bothered to look – certainly risking severe criticism.

    Does no one remember how monolithic the “consensus” was?  How just the term “consensus” was intended to shut people up – and DID?  From what I understood in the 1990s and pretty much until Climategate, those who disagreed were marginalized by Wigley, Jones, Mann, Briffa, Schmidt and other principles connected with the IPCC, CRU, NASA, NOAA and the UK Met Office.  It was clearly risking one’s career to disagree.  I actually applaud those like Lindzen, Christy and George Taylor who crossed the line in spite of the risks.  And no one mentions the many scientists who couldn’t accept the politicization of the science in the IPCC summaries, and just chose to walk away quietly instead of drawing attention to it – which silence I always saw as the result of intimidation.  It was risky to leave, but riskier still to make waves.

    I totally agree with the main aims of environmentalists and those fighting for a cleaner, healthier, more sustainable world.  But I’ve long seen the “science” behind the “consensus” as being only suggestive, at best.  It is an issue that should have been debated 20 years ago, openly and honestly.  The politicization of the CO2 issue came from the “consensus” side, almost entirely, while the so-called skeptics have primarily been just asking for open scientific discourse.  The “consensus” advocates have only harmed their own cause with their tactics.  One of those tactics was freezing out those who didn’t agree with them sufficiently. 

    Until recently that worked, but it kept building a volcanic pressure chamber under the surface, and the Climategate emails were the vent that released all or most of  the pressure.  Since November the information about what was going on behind the scenes has been a scar on science, but in the end it will have been a healthy thing for science, bringing back some semblance of openness and integrity.

    As happens when one side has had everything its way for too long, when the dam bursts, that side scrambles to hide the facts, to “torque” the facts, and to discredit their opponents.  Because of their previous immunity from review or oversight, these three approaches are thought to be okay, since they are defending the status quo.  But if the status quo needs to be defended so stridently (some might say viciously), does that  not argue that even they know the science itself cannot stand on its own, as presented?  YES, there is much that suggests they are right.  But when there is much that argues otherwise (and that has not been given a proper forum yet), is it science to take one position and prevent the inclusion of the counter-evidence in the overall discussion?

    The IPCC/CRU/Mann side is – from all I have seen – the source of the divisiveness, with its setting up of a scientific world in which disagreement is disallowed.  The other side has only recently been given ANY credit in any of the media for having anything to add to the discussion.  ALL of the divisiveness has grown out of the tactics and policies and strategies of the IPCC/CRU/Mann side.  They claimed the high ground.  They stonewalled.  From the content of the emails that were not included in the Oxburgh Report they apparently DID engage in some “interesting” and iffy treatments of the data.  It is their own individual and coordinated actions that are coming back to haunt them.

    So, which is better, the docile “consensus” days, when only one side of the issue was allowed the light of day, or the current “divisive” situation in which both sides’ arguments are allowed to be heard?

    Of course the status quo side doesn’t want to share the dais with those who make waves.  That is the way of any status quo, which only wants docile compliance, and nothing to upset their applecart.

    Hegel and his dialectic are being played before our very eyes.  Thesis.  Antithesis.  Synthesis.

    What will be the synthesis?  When in the turbulent times, that is rarely clear.  The “thesis” side sees only divisiveness.  The “antithesis” side sees progress.  Science’s synthesis of all this will make science a better endeavor, overall.

  • David Holland

    Re Corruption of the IPCC Process.

    I think ethical standards are fairly evenly distributed through the professions and trades.   Not long ago we had a doctor take the British record for mass murder and some of our Members of Parliament are facing prison for false accounting.   I will not mention the clergy.  

    The problem in climate science and with the IPCC is the presumption that no one would ever think of cheating.   Because of that there is no independent auditing of the IPCC process and the government owners of it conduct no due diligence whatsoever. 

    Peer-review has been wrongly thought of as a QC standard.   This is a positive inducement to cheating.  IPCC Lead Authors promote their own work or that of their institution.   Review Editors who oversee the assessment are far from independent.

    Glaciergate  is easier to understand than the mischief in WGI.   A dodgy paper was cited for non scientific reasons.   Several Expert Reviewers spotted something odd and commented.   One them was a government that was in part paying for the Assessment Report.   The two Review Editors signed off the chapter without pointing out that the Lead Authors had ignored the comments.   

    According to IPCC rules the comments and responses are available to all Reviewers, but no Expert Reviewer and no Government Reviewer, before the AR4 Report was published, bothered to ask to see them and check that a sensible response was given to their comment.    The TSU, of course, did not rush to get these on the Internet before they asked the IPCC to accept their report.

    No government that had selected and paid for the Review Editors bothered to ask for and read their “written” reports which the IPCC rules require of them, before by acclamation they accepted the Report in the plenary session.

    So who do you blame if the Report has been corrupted?   Is the fault of those the did it or those who set up the IPCC  process and rules, pay for it all – and then let it happen?   I believe there are no poor troops only poor generals.

    As has been said, sunshine is the best disinfectant.   Since the governments will not watch was goes on in the IPCC process the public should be allowed to – and in Europe that is now the law as far as environmental matters are concerned.   AR5 must be contemporaneously transparent, so errors can be spotted before publication.  

    Glaciergate is embarrassing but AR4 Working Group One was more seriously flawed.  For a short explanation of why you can read the submissions to the UK Parliament Select Committee on Climategate at their written evidence page, which is covered by Parliamentary privilege.   

    Sir Muir Russell has declined to publish my more detailed  submission to the UEA enquiry because his lawyers think he might get sued.   Anyone that is willing to agree not to distribute or publish it and wishes to comment upon it and correct any errors in my analysis, will find my email address at the Bishop Hill web site.  

    David Holland

  • Brendan H

    JimR: “”¦while WUWT does seem to collect more extremists (and a large number of comments) I don’t think your example matches the venom of Romm’s site on a good day.”

    Now you’re shifting your argument. Your original claim was: “From my perspective I feel skeptics would prefer open civil dialogue and debate but the AGW tribe will have none of it.”

    Now you’re just arguing over who can throw the worst venom, so the point is moot. As you say above: “From my perspective”¦”. So we’ve agreed that climate blogs can be venomous, but the sting of comments often depends on the perspective of the viewer.

    That highlights my original assertion: There’s something else going on here. The claim that sceptics only want open and civil debate is, in my view, a type of many questions fallacy. The standard one is, “When did you stop beating your wife”, where the accusation of wife-beating is smuggled into the argument. The call for open and civil debate operates under the same logic.

    So we can bracket out “open and civil”. That leaves debate. Well, from what I’ve seen, there’s been plenty of climate debate across the various media, and the internet is awash with debate.

    What I suspect climate sceptics really want is for their views to be treated with respect, but again, that goes both ways and, of course, begs the question. Respect is won with good evidence and arguments.

  • JimR

    Brendan(73), no shifting of the argument. I said that I feel skeptics would prefer open civil dialogue and debate but the AGW tribe will have none of it.  I also acknowledged that there are extremists on both sides who are often the most outspoken and visible. The reference to Romm’s site was simply to show that venom spewed at skeptics and well meaning non-skeptics  (Kloor, Revkin, Curry, Monbiot to name a few) is extremely popular with the AGW tribe. It seems you prove the point further by repeatedly questioning the civility aspect as if it must be some kind of trick. I find this attitude strange to say the least. Vitriolic behavior is easy, intelligent rebuttal takes some thought. 

    I don’t agree that there has been plenty of climate debate. Certainly the media has recognized and reported on criticisms and the problems in climate science. But has there been actual debate on the issues by climate scientists? From my observations most climate scientists of the AGW tribe refuse to engage their critics so I don’t agree that there has been debate on the issues.

  • Brendan H

    JimR: “It seems you prove the point further by repeatedly questioning the civility aspect as if it must be some kind of trick.”

    I’m questioning this claim: “From my perspective I feel skeptics would prefer open civil dialogue and debate but the AGW tribe will have none of it.”

    I’m not questioning civility per se. My claim is that the call for civil debate as couched above is a rhetorical device aimed at establishing a prior moral superiority. The assumption is that the moral status will rub off onto the validity of the scientific claims.

    To test my claim, let’s rework the call for civility: scientific issues should be debated; debates should be conducted in an open, civil manner. Can we agree on that formulation?

  • JimR

    Brendan, your reworked call for civility is what I was said previously. My only intention was to express that scientific issues should be debated and the debates should be conducted in an open, civil format.  So yes, we agree.

  • Brendan H

    JimR: “Brendan, your reworked call for civility is what I was said previously.”

    In my book, accusing climate scientists of not wanting debate is not the same as agreeing that there should be open, civil debate. Otherwise, we agree.

  • RobertM

    Some of the participants in this great debate are coming from a slightly different culture, that of investment. It is illegal in many investment circles to solicit investors in your scheme without also mentioning the specific risks that may send it all horribly wrong. Obviously, Congress has not held themselves to any such requirement. That merely illustrates the natural temptation to skip this step, unless you are forced to follow the discipline. But it’s a good discipline. Some of the skeptics are trying to get the one side or the other to slow down, and understand and mention the risk that the other side might be right.

    Whenever the investment stakes get higher, disciplines become more important. I believe you are required to use professional statisticians in medical research circles, because if you get the numbers wrong, it may cost lives. The stakes here are high enough that there should be disciplines to deliberately include both sides. Don’t just invite it, require it.

    In the spirit of following my own principle, I should mention that this runs some risk of violating “keep the story simple.” But when the stakes are high, simple isn’t enough.

  • Boris

    “My so called maverick position is square in the middle,  how is being in the middle a maverick position?”

    It’s not very reassuring that you use seem to employ a common logical fallacy in your arguments. It seems like you are trying to build an Argument to Moderation fallacy. This is a common tactic by denialists of all stripes, and is usually hidden in such populist garb as “let’s have a debate” or “let’s compromise.” I’m not cazllling you a denialist personally, but this tactic is pretty common.

    Would science have been improved if scientists had engaged more with skeptics who claimed that smoking did not cause cancer? It’s not my intention to say that the “science is settled” or any such easily regurgitated pablum, just to illustrate that there are cases where “cooperation” between two sides results in a net loss for society and knowledge–and especially time. I don’t see any value at all in engaging with people like Fred Smith. He has proven over and over again that he will twist facts, morph his position and essentially use any rhetorical device at his disposal to advance his agenda. Suggesting that he be taken seriously as one end of a debate is hopelessly naive. Of course he will say reasonable things to you, because if you take him seriously then that improves his position. Even if you debated him and crushed him on every point, the fact that you engaged–and that fact alone–will be used to prop up more of the false nad misleading things he says.

    To conflate scientists like Mann with layman like Fred Smith is the first step toward legitimizing nonsense arguments. To criticize Mann for sloppiness and arrogance whilst ignoring the lies of people like Smith makes the problem even worse. You need only look at the AIDS denialists’ success in South Africa to see the toll that such legitimization of fringe, unprincipled voices can have on society.

  • Boris

    Another example of the “false middle” is the “lukewarmers” that you mention. Lukewarmers? It sounds like they are right in the middle–between warmists and denialists, right? Except that if you ask them what they think climate sensitivity is, they’ll say something like 1 or 1.5. Maybe 2. In terms of the science, that is a fringe view and it shouldn’t be represented as “more reasonable” or “in the middle.” They could certainly be right, but they are on the fringe.

  • Brendan H

    Boris:” “Lukewarmers? It sounds like they are right in the middle”“between warmists and denialists, right? Except that if you ask them what they think climate sensitivity is, they’ll say something like 1 or 1.5. Maybe 2.”

    Yes, because at these levels lukewarmers can argue that we don’t need new taxes. The dividing line between warmers and sceptics is in relation to the response to warming.

    That’s why lukewarmers are always careful to stay at the lower level of projected warming. If they could be sure that global warming did not imply new taxes, lukewarmers would be happy to entertain a wider range of temperature rises.

  • substanti8

    Keith Kloor and Marlowe Johnson referred to the “stature” of Judith Curry. I would have expected a scientist of stature to refrain from using derogatory Libertarian lingo like “warmist” ““ especially not ad nauseam ““ when referring to those who agree with the conclusions of virtually every scientific organization in the world.

    In a discussion about who funds libertarian think tanks, I would have expected a “scientist of stature” to base her defense of such organizations (40) on more than the assurances of the president of a libertarian think tank ““ especially in the wake of charging her fellow scientists with “corruption”.

    When a challenge for more substantial evidence was made (44), I would have expected a “scientist of stature” to offer more than additional claims by the same libertarian organization.

  • lucia

    <blockquote>Except that if you ask them what they think climate sensitivity is, they’ll say something like 1 or 1.5. Maybe 2.</blockquote>
    I’m a lukewarmer. I don’t say that. I’m pretty sure Mosher is a lukewarmer; he doesn’t say that.

    Making thing up and then providing a counter argument against the position you made up is called arguing a strawman.  For some reason, lots of people prefer to do that rather than engage the actual arguments put forward by the people with whom they disagree.

  • Marcel Kincaid

    “Skeptics” would prefer more “debate” whereas scientists prefer more science. Flat-earthers, UFOphiles, man-landed-on-the-moon-is-a-hoaxers, the-truth-about-the-twin-towersers, Creationists, etc. ad nauseam all want “more debate” — that is, they want equal (at least) standing for their views as for the conclusions of science.
    <i>My so called maverick position is square in the middle,  how is being in the middle a maverick position?</i>

    Yeah, someone who thinks only <i>one</i> tower was brought down by explosives, or that the earth is a hemisphere, couldn’t possibly have a maverick position.

    <i>Steve Bloom, re the oil-funded libertarian think tanks, you are wrong.  I have it from a good source (Fred Smith, President of the CEI) that the oil company funding has dried up.</i>

    You say that you say that you think for yourself rather than trust the IPCC, but you would trust Fred Smith on this? Because some friend introduced you and so you have sort of a personal relationship with him? Is your dictionary missing the word “gullible”? Even if the oil companies are no longer funding him, it is preposterous to think that their funding has dried up generally. You might want to glance at

  • Marcel Kincaid

    I feel skeptics would prefer open civil dialogue and debate but the AGW tribe will have none of it

    So what if you feel that? It merely reflects your tribal associations and your demonstrated degree of intellectual honesty.

    Science has standards for dialog and debate that are the source of its efficacy. If we followed the “skeptic”‘s standards, women would still be dying in childbirth while we “dialogued” over whether to wash our hands.


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Collide-a-Scape is an archived Discover blog. Keep up with Keith's current work at

About Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a NYC-based journalist, and an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. His work has appeared in Slate, Science, Discover, and the Washington Post magazine, among other outlets. From 2000 to 2008, he was a senior editor at Audubon Magazine. In 2008-2009, he was a Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism, in Boulder, where he studied how a changing environment (including climate change) influenced prehistoric societies in the U.S. Southwest. He covers a wide range of topics, from conservation biology and biotechnology to urban planning and archaeology.


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