Who's a Skeptic/Denier/Dissenter/Contrarian?

By Keith Kloor | November 20, 2010 3:43 pm

My struggle to distinguish between a “climate skeptic” and “climate denier” continues. In July, I sought some clarity on these terms, which triggered over 500 comments and little agreement on an acceptable distinction between the two labels.

That should come as no surprise. Do you know any climate skeptics who are fine with being called a climate denier? The term has some obvious baggage. Personally, I’ve resisted using “denier” because of the implied connotations. And while I recognize there is no one-size-fits-all category, I continue to use “climate skeptic” when referring to skeptic/contrarian-related positions, or persons associated with the skeptic wing of the debate.

But I have this nagging feeling that I’ve taken the easy way out, that I have been over-relying on “climate skeptic” as a blanket term, that it does not accurately reflect a broad spectrum of voices that includes the likes of  Richard Lindzen, Anthony Watts, John Christy and Christopher Monckton.

Still, in terms of general usage for shorthand purposes, people involved in the discourse seem to choose either “skeptic” or “denier.” These are the two terms I see most commonly used. To some degree, and in some quarters, they have become interchangeable–a blurring that strikes me as even more problematic than using one term as a catch-all.

So I recently turned to my journalism colleagues for some help. Sometimes I am part of an informal email group that includes a cross-section of science and environmental writers, along with a smattering of scientists, philosophers, and wonks.

On Friday, I asked the group the following two questions:

1) What is the difference between a climate skeptic and a climate denier?
2) Which term do you use as shorthand in your reporting/writing on climate change?

Those that responded have permitted me to reproduce their answers here. The responses also triggered a heated exchange that is likely to be covered by some of the participants in their own blogs. More on that in a minute.

Here are the unedited answers to my query from some of the journalists who responded:

Bryan Walsh, Time magazine:

I’ve generally used the term “climate skeptic,” in part because it seems more neutral as a descriptive. Nuance will be lost in any shorthand description but “climate denier” seems to pack a whole lot more judgment in a single word.

Bud Ward, editor of the Yale Forum on Climate Change & the Media:

This has become an age-old question, along with whether to call it global warming or climate change or …. and with no end in sight. Call them “skeptics” and we equate them to something the best scientists and best journalists are and need to be… skeptics.  So they co opt the term.  If you can’t qualify the use of “skeptics” earlier in an article with such a footnote — certainly not practical in all stories and all media — perhaps best to just put it in quotes or “air quotes” — “skeptics.”  Does that say it all though? Probably not.  Deniers has its own baggage — denying what exactly?  ALL of the underlying science — at least in as much as the climate is warming and humans unquestionably play a significant role in that warming?  Perhaps, but it’s fine to accept both of those points, based on ample and various streams of evidence, and yet be a denier on the proposed remedies (cap and trade, or tax, etc).  Anything even inadvertently hinting of the Holocaust — as in “denialist” — clearly is off-limits.  So it’s easy to rule out certain terms.  Where does that leave us?  What can we rule in?  I lean somewhat toward “contrarians” as being preferable to skeptics or deniers. Might too warrant some explanation, but to me it comes closer.  I’ve heard some favor “professional skeptics.”  Not bad, but for me “contrarians” may carry the least amount of baggage But the fact that we don’t yet know how best to soundbite the issue itself — global warming or climate change — or those most steadfastly opposed to taking it on… that’s at the root of the whole communications challenges we face with this issue. At the roots, mind you, with a huge and growing canopy spread out all above it.

Dan Fagin, Professor and Director of the Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program, New York University, Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute:

I like Bud’s “contrarian” idea. “Climate dissenters” is another good option, in my opinion. We need a word that indicates that their views are at variance from those of most of the people who know the most about the topic, but we also need a word that carries as little ideological baggage as possible. “Skeptics” is definitely the wrong choice, in my view, for the reasons Bud outlines.

Charles Petit, Knight Science Journalism Tracker:

There is some difference and a lot of overlap. A skeptic operates on doubt, at least ostensibly, which also is the fuel of scientific progress. A denier turns more to faith – faith that the world is just too big, that god is too just, that discredited ideas remain alive in some alternative universe, or something equally lean on data – to refuse to admit possibility that we’re moving the thermostat. There are better definitions I’m sure but those are what I select at this moment. I tend to use one or the other depending on how strongly I reacted to something from their combined camps. Outwardly reasonable in tone: skeptic. Just plain stupid and usually very angry and spewing insults: denier.

Andrew Revkin:

I’ve used skeptic before, sure, as in covering the gathering of 600 self proclaimed “skeptics” at one of the Heartland meetings. This piece is the closest I’ve come to describing the range of views and where the sense of a “them” exists.

There are certainly deniers in the mix — people who know one thing but say another consciously — but there’s no way I could justify using denier as a blanket term, given the variegated range of people who oppose restrictions on greenhouse gases or challenge aspects of climate science.

At one point in the email discussion, Roger Pielke Jr. dove in, objecting to the premise of my query:

Let’s call  them “yellow bellied sap suckers”! Whatever we call them, it should be clear that there is a “them” and there is an “us” and we should be sure to make clear that “their” views are illegitimate or profane, and “our” views are consensual and righteous.

I recommend jerseys for ther different teams, perhaps Chelsea jerseys for the bad guys and Arsenal jerseys for those with “us” (seriously, anyone thinking Chelsea will win the title is a denier for sure;-)

What an utterly insane conversation this is!

This triggered a pretty intense back and forth between a number of the participants, including myself, one climate scientist, David Roberts of Grist, John Fleck of the Albuquerque Journal, among several others.

My own response to Roger was said better by Dan Fagin:

Anyone who has ever wrestled with the imperative of communicating complexity concisely knows how important these issues are. Word choices matter. It would be “insane” not to think carefully about them.

But John Fleck agreed with Roger, writing:

I think as a journalist, in order to be useful to my readers, I have to use none of the terms. The fact that we have to have this discussion at all means the terms have no crisp meaning, but rather mean different things to different people.

If a word has the potential to mislead your readers, don’t use it. Use a descriptive phrase instead.

Tom Yulsman, co-director of the Center for Environmental Journalism at the University of Colorado, Boulder, who writes the CEJournal blog, offered perhaps the most contextual observation:

Concerning the use of the terms, being Jewish I’ve never liked the echo I hear when “denier” is used to describe someone who does not believe in AGW. That said, my dictionary defines “deny” as refusing to admit the truth or existence of something. And there is, well, no denying that there are some people who simply refuse to admit the basic physical truth about the effects of greenhouse gases on the climate system. So putting aside the connotations of a word (which may be good enough reason not to use it), why is simply discussing its use in the context of climate change “insane”? That seems a bit over the top.

Lastly, we label things all the time in public discourse: “libertarian,” “conservative,” “liberal,” “neo-conservative,” “environmentalist,” “conservationist,” etc. I think the issue isn’t whether we use a label but whether we have a clearly thought out and defensible rationale for using a particular word, and whether we provide the proper nuance and context when we do use it.

If labels short circuit thoughtfulness and civil discussion, then perhaps we need new ones. Otherwise, they can be helpful.

As I mentioned, there were considerable fireworks triggered by Roger’s objections, which I believe he will take up in full at his blog. (If I had to guess a title for his post, I would call it “Beware of Climate Labels.”) There were also a number of other excellent comments that I have not included here, but this post is already too long. I’m hoping that several of the participants, such as Tom Yulsman and John Fleck, will also write about our fascinating exchange at their respective blogs.

Meanwhile, I’d like to hear what readers think of the taxonomy.

UPDATE: Roger Pielke Jr. makes his argument here, and Tom Yulsman responds here.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: climate change, Journalism
  • Roddy Campbell

    Very interesting.
    Bud  Ward most explicitly separates policy and WG1 science:  “…. at least in as much as the climate is warming and humans unquestionably play a significant role in that warming?  Perhaps, but it’s fine to accept both of those points, based on ample and various streams of evidence, and yet be a denier on the proposed remedies (cap and trade, or tax, etc).” – where denier is used properly/sensiibly as in denying efficacy of a course of action.
    Roger’s intervention was the most entertaining.
    Fleck’s the most useful – use neither unless as part of a descriptive phrase.

  • http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com Roger Pielke Jr.

    I do not want to hijack Keith’s thread, so this is just a pointer to the follow on he mentioned:
    http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com/2010/11/groupthink-or-beware-of-climate-labels.html
    If you wish to discuss my post, please do so there not here.  Thanks Keith!

  • TimG

    If a journalist uses the term “denier” to describe sceptics then I know that journalist is a climate zealot and that any information provided by that journalist is hopelessly biased and ultimately useless.

    Now I am not a journalist but it seems to be that using terms which tell a large chunk of your potential audience that you should be ignored is a bad idea unless one has plans for a career as a pundit on MSNBC. 

     

  • http://www.yaleclimatemediaforum.org Bud Ward

    Keith: I think your reference to “the likes of  Richard Lindzen, Anthony Watts, John Christy and Christopher Monckton” is helpful as far as it goes.
    “As far as it goes” because it doesn’t include the large number of generally non-scientist [contrarians, skeptics, whatever] who frequently are found populating the inside-the-Beltway “think tanks” — libertarian, free-market, and so forth — or some of the politically conservative organizations (Heartland Institute, NCPA, more) and who often are highly vocal but may not themselves have scientific training or background.  These too fall into the broad category of skepticscontrarianswhatever and yet, with their political science orientations, are not “the likes of” those you mention. I don’t think they can be ignored in this discussion, as their volume can outweigh their sbustantive scientific credentials.  Thanks for initiating and trying to carry it forward.

  • http://collide-a-scape.com Keith Kloor

    Good point, Bud. I had thought to throw in George Will and a few others that you refer to from the think tanks, but I was trying to be concise.

    So thanks for the additional context.

  • Huge Difference

    Keith, this post emphasizes what I’ve suggested many times.

    All these journalists are basically incompetent in the science.

    Look at Petit’s answer.  It sounds reasonable, but when he gets right down to it, he labels a person one or the other depending on a gut feel, not anything objective.  And he has no similar pejorative terminology for someone arguing in favor of AGW.  Why aren’t there AGW empiricalists, and AGW preachers or AGW fanatics?  Is is unbiased, objective, neutral position actually a zero point and unbiased, objective, and neutral?

    Same with Bud Ward, editor of the Yale Forum on Climate Change & the Media, who will argue with you over the number of angels on the head of  a pin.  But where is his zero, neutral, objective, unbiased point?  “This has become an age-old question, along with whether to call it global warming or climate change or “¦. and with no end in sight. Call them “skeptics” and we equate them to something the best scientists and best journalists are and need to be”¦ skeptics.  So they co opt the term. ”

    These terms are bandied about because scientifically incompetent journalists need some to determine who their very responsible proxies should be.  The people who can tell you what you believe in to be considered a very responsible journalist.

    How can you use these words in your reporting, without discussing the quality of the underlying arguments and evidence, based on gut checks, and still claim to be neutral, objective, unbiased, and fact based?

  • Bob Koss

    Critic seems to cover the various skeptical positions better than most words.

  • http://www.hopkinson.net Simon Hopkinson

    An interesting exchange indeed. I’m with RPJ and Fleck. While I appreciate that there is a burden on journalists to be concise, I don’t think that this necessitates being simple. That would be quarrying the mountain down to the size of a Muhammed.

    You’re a wordsmith. Find a work-around that doesn’t perpetuate the falsehood that all those who challenge aspects of climate science – be they sceptics, deniers, politically motivated or scientifically objective, or any of the infinite variations between – can be described with one group term. If you can’t find a work-around, challenge yourself to discover why that is.

  • TimG

    The only two groups that are worth distinguishing are “climate change science critic” and “climate change policy critic”. 

    More of the think tanks are  “climate change policy critics” no matter what they happen to say about the science.

  • John

    There are some people, not scientists, who really do deny that doubling CO2 and other warming emissions are warming the earth. 

    There are many people, including many scientists, who are skeptical about climate models and their results and their inputs, but who are not skeptical that CO2 etc. causes warming.  But they think the uncertainty bands are quite large.

    Which leads us to the category that I would guess Roger Pielke Jr. is in, and I am in, which is that we are policy skeptics as a result of being skeptical about climate models and their inputs and outputs. 

    So I vote for policy skeptic as the best term for many of us.

  • Pascvaks

    Distinguishing the sides in a fight is helpful if the point is to distinguish.  Calling names is less helpful, it puts the author on one side or the other and s/he automatically writes off a portion of her/his audience (at that point and for the future as well.).  Always thought that Hollywood types were total fools to take sides on political or social positions that were dividing the country; and, for the most part, the same applied to journalists.  (Understand that some publishers WANT you to take sides –THEIR side.

  • Artifex

    Keith,

    I would suggest since terms like “skeptic”. “contrarians” and “denier” are defined in opposition to “something”, you damn well better clearly define the something that is the object of the opposition before you can even hope to define the skeptic.

    I suspect different groups are skeptical of different things. I can think of several different core types of opposition right off the top of of my head:

    1. The Republican/Conservative base sees a movement whose core is based in the idiology of their core opposition (Mann giving press conferences under the flag of the progressive movement is a great example) , they are skeptical of the motives of that opposition.

    2. A more libertarian viewpoint  sees a movement who wants to place new laws into effect and seems to have zero understanding of the law of unintended consequences and what they view as cargo cult economics. They are skeptical of the effects of the actions made towards stopping global warming.

    3. A set of outside technical elite, examine the problem and see scientists who won’t answer yes/no questions, reframe discussions to maximum political advantage, play games with their data. They are skeptical of climate science in general.

    4. A smaller set of technical outsiders and some insiders see the problem better than those in category 3. They understand that only parts and some individuals(groups) within climate science are rotten to the core. Why throw the baby out with the bath water ? They are skeptical of the work in specific subdisciplines and with specific individuals

    All four of these things are fundamentally different. Of course that won’t stop activist idiots from attempting to conflate them for political advantage.

  • Roddy Campbell

    TimG – Can you find an elegant way of separating WG1 and 2  in your “climate change science critic”?
    I find myself fairly uncritical of Wg1, and very critical of WG2.
     

  • http://rabett.blogspot.com Eli Rabett

    By putting things on a line you get a confused answer.  Try three dimensions
    Ideological – people at the extremes (libertarians, greens) will batten onto every piece of nonsense for example claiming there is no such thing as a greenhouse effect or that nukes will inevitably poison the world
    Expertise – it is useful to have a clue before offering an opinion.  This separates Lindzen, Pielke Sr., etc from the amateurs telling us that the moon is made of swiss cheese and the sun of iron.  From the experts, no matter where they are on the ideological spectrum you get something you might have to consider.  The divider then becomes how much they have tried to mislead in the past based on ideology.
    Amateur or pro – people need day jobs.  The “soft side of pro, is Roger Jr. and Joe.  The Far side is Morano, Monckton or Ebel.  People with no expertise, a lot of ideology and no day job.
    So, who would Eli call a denialist:  Mostly those with strong ideology and no expertise.  A certain cynicism obtains with the pros, esp. those with strong ideological issues who use climate disruption (or the lack thereof) as a wedge issue.

  • http://gryposaurus.wordpress.com/ grypo

    Using the “root” of deny is descriptive of a certain group.  This group is not only in denial of climate, it covers a broad range of political and religious  motivated denial.   You can read this if you want to know where I get my ideas from.

    http://eurpub.oxfordjournals.org/content/19/1/2.full

    I also blogged about my experience at WUWT regarding using this term in it’s scientific context.

    http://gryposaurus.wordpress.com/2010/09/29/denialism-what-is-it/

  • TimG

    #11 Roddy

    I have used CAGW (Catastrophic) and and AGW to distinguish between WG1 and WG2. I accept AGW as a sound theory but reject CAGW given the evidence that is currently available. 

  • hunter

    ‘denier’ is simply the AGW community’s ‘ni**er’. Your arrogance and intellectual hubris demonstrated by invoking ‘denier’ irt skeptics just shows how far from truth and integrity the AGW community actually is.
    Growing up in the South in the 1960′s I heard exactly this conversation regarding if it was OK to call blacks ‘ni**er’ by self-describer ‘sophisticated’ whites.
    What a bunch of disgusting excuses for intellectual honesty you are.
    ‘Skeptical’ is what we are. We are ‘skeptical’ of the idea that CO2 is causing a global climate disruption. We are skeptical of the scuses you true believers bought explaining away climategate.
    We are skeptical that so many journalists simply repeat AGW talking points. We are skeptical that climate scientists have not only discovered the silver bullet that is going to kill us, but also have the only cure.
    I would suggest that if you AGW believers were capable of any honest self-reflection, you would realize that it is you who are in denial. Just as a  white raised to be comfortable with racism in the old south was in denial as to the problem and their role in it.

  • Roddy Campbell

    Yes, I’ve used it too, but it’s blunt.  I’m more talking about the science of impacts being weak in general, and hence not reliable as a costing mechanism or policy tool.  eg old favourites like malaria.
    So I would class myself an IPCC impacts science sceptic/critic.

  • http://moregrumbinescience.blogspot.com/ Robert Grumbine

    http://moregrumbinescience.blogspot.com/2008/08/labelling-instead-of-thinking.html
    I’d prefer to see such labelling retired.  And at my blog, discourage use of ‘denier’.  And, given how it’s used for everything from people who deny that there’s a greenhouse effect to those, like me, who disagree with some technical portion of the consensus for technical reasons, ‘skeptic’.  But, for the same reasons, ‘warmist’/'believer’/'alarmist’ also are discouraged at my place.

  • Hector M.

    The opposite issue may also exist: what is the right term, for a skeptic, to call people who believe in the so called “consensus” view of climate change and climate policy? Orthodox? Establishment? Zealots? AGW cultists? True believers? Al-Goreish? Pick your choice (there may be many more).
    Once you put the question this way, one sees that there is not one that does not seems offensive or grossly inaccurate to all or some of the “believers”.
    To distinguish between the more technical “skeptics” and the non-technical “deniers” (provisional words for the sake of this discussion), one may think of the opposite: try to choose a word for serious scientists associated with the “consensus” view, and non-technical activists in the environmental movement. The latter are bound to believe anything that spells possible problems with the environment, the more catastrophic the better, and ready to take action (perhaps radical action) on it, without demanding much proof of the assertions involved; the former are technical types who deal with observations, models, measurements, and the rest of the stuff of science. They may be right or wrong, but they acknowledge the usual criteria of science to decide what is a good or bad scientific conclusion.
    There are, of course, scientists who double as enthusiastic activists, and by the same token there are some skeptical scientists who are also close to the right-wing political beliefs of many Beltway think tank “deniers”. This very fact challenges the idea that one can distinguish “science” and “non-science” in this discussion: scientists are also citizens and may have their political views too (distinguishing climate science and climate policy is one way to dodge this problem, as proposed by some in this thread, but an imperfect one). The problem with these “mixed” types is that their ardent political or ideological beliefs, and the practices and rules associated with it (groupthink, anything goes insofar as it strenghtens our “cause”, or whatever)  may tarnish their scientific work (even inadvertently).
    I have other ideas on this discussion but this is enough for now.

  • Hector M.

    Think the early 1600s. You have the “consensus” geocentric system, and the “heretic” systems of Copernicus, Brahe, Galilei or Kepler, all heretics contradicting each other and defying common sense (who would ignore that the Earth is firm and immobile under our feet, and heavens rotate around us every day?) and centuries-old scientific consensus (from Aristotle and Ptolomeus onwards). (You may ignore Aristarcus of Samos, an early Solar-centred fool quickly dismissed by scientific consensus).
    What the consensus types would call the heretics? Heretic? Crazy? Unbelievers? Solar cultists? Destroyers of Christendom?
    How would the new types call  the old timers? Ignorant? Epicycle-crazy? And how the Braheist would call the Keplerians, and vice versa?
    On the other hand, who would know at the time where the truth stands? At that time ptolemaic astronomical tables were (in many respects) as good as (or better than) the new-fangled solar-centred tables of the innovators. Many years would pass until the new views replaced the old “consensus” (to be challenged a mere century afterwards by the likes of Albert Einstein with even crazier, but ultimately accepted, cosmological theories).
    Now, is the “consensus” climate science more similar to Kepler or to Cardinal Bellarmino? And whom the skeptics resemble more? In general, in particular, in what respect?
     

  • Dean

    I think we’re all avoiding the 800 pound gorilla in this debate. As a climate journalist, or a journalist in general, is it your job to simply pass through what the people you’re reporting on say, and let viewers decide. Or are you required to make some judgements on issues that are objective? Is what people say the news, or does news have to actually be factual?

    If the latter, when what’s wrong with just using words like “wrong” and “right” or “accurate” and “inaccurate”.

    As an individual who participates in blogs, I will continue to use the word “denier” because it is an accurate description of some people in my opinion, and my opinion is all it is. I think others misuse the term, but that’s hardly a revelation. I don’t use it in the policy realm, and I don’t think people like Pielke and Curry are deniers. But there are many deniers out there and I intend to deny them the right to restrict the use of a descriptive work in the english language.

  • Dean

    PS – I consider RP Jr’s contribution highly ironic considering of his use of words like plagiarist and liar and authoritarian and others in application to many scientists and bloggers. If you don’t like the name-calling, I suggest you lead by example.

  • Hector M.

    Dean, would you say Steven McIntyre is a denier? What is he actually denying? If he is a denier to you, what should he do to stop being a denier? And exactly what is the difference between him and Judith Curry?

  • Typical Joseph

    I second Hector M’s assessment above.
    I for one immediately tune out from a person’s perspective, whether they are a journalist, blogger, or just someone in the comment section as soon as they use the term(s):
    -Denier
    -Denialist
    -Anti-Science
    -Confusionist
    -Disinformer
    -Warmistas
    - “George Soros” conspiracy theorizing
    -”Big Oil” conspiracy theorizing

    As Hector M has pointed out, this whole thing goes both ways. To paraphrase Mr Revkin above:
    “There are certainly some “climate crazies” in the mix but there’s no way I could justify using “climate-crazies” as a blanket term, given the variegated range of people who propose restrictions on greenhouse gases or tout aspects of climate science.”
    Reductionist terms help nobody and only serve to poison the conversation.  As per usual, Roger Pielke Jr is the sanest person in the room.

     

  • Keith Kloor

    Max Boykoff emailed to say this (my emphasis):

    You posed this question at the outset of your post: “Do you know any climate skeptics who are fine with being called a climate denier?”

    Apparently, Dick Lindzen is one answer.

    On WRKO AM in Boston on July 2, 2009, he had this exchange with Howie Carr: “Is it safe to describe you as a skeptic on the subject of quote-unquote global warming?” asked Carr at the top of his Chump line interview with Lindzen. “Maybe not, I actually am a denier”, replied Lindzen. “I actually think the evidence is pretty overwhelming that [global warming] is not the case and so I don’t think that is pure skepticism.”

  • http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com Andy Revkin

    Another approach, of course, is to include multiple-choice sections in sentences on climate debates, as here:
    http://j.mp/CatoClim
    …Here’s a copy of the e-mail invitation, which came from Patrick J. Michaels, a climatologist and veteran climate skeptic/denier/realist (depending on who’s providing the label) who works for Cato (and runs an “advocacy science consulting firm”)….

  • Dean

    “Now, is the “consensus” climate science more similar to Kepler or to Cardinal Bellarmino? And whom the skeptics resemble more? In general, in particular, in what respect?”

    It’s vastly different from both and the analogy, while widely attempted by many, is to me very weak. While some Greeks had believed in the earth-centered system, they had open minds and could well have changed their opinion given more information. The conflict at the time was between budding science and the Catholic Church of the day. I simple see virtually no analogy to today’s debate between a body of scientific knowledge that has accumulated over almost 200 years of _modern_ scientific effort, and those who disagree whether with plausible scientific complaints or nonsense.

    And to Hector – I never read McIntyre’s blog, so I’m not going to comment on him. And I’d rather define denier as a term by actions rather than drop names. Anybody who clings to “they predicted an ice age in the 1970′s” is a denier. I also consider those who say things like “climate is far too complex, we really don’t know anything about it” to be a different kind of denier, because they are denying the fruit of 200 years of study.

    Skeptics are people who disagree with a majority opinion and can provide plausible scientific reasoning for why they disagree.

  • Brad Johnson

    There are other words — zombies, hacks, liars, propagandists, pollution apologists, delayers, conspiracy theorists. Dean gets it right. The first-order challenge for journalists is to not let people lie in their articles.

  • TimG

    #28  Dean

    There were scientists that claimed human emissions were bringing an early ice age in the 1970s. People who point that out are hardly deniers even if they exagerrate the level of agreement among scientists at the time.

  • Atomic Hairdryer

    I hate labels. They’re so limiting when the debate is complex. As I understand it, a sceptic/denier is someone who denies the consensus. Whatever that may be, and whatever element of the wide range of science or policy issues that may be.

    People can agree that wasting fossil fuels is bad, but disagree on energy policy, yet disagreeing on policy can end up with the sceptic/denier lable.  We can agree CO2 causes warming, we can disagree (reasonably) wrt the amount of warming. Disagreeing gets you labelled. Climate scientists disagree with archaeologists and historians wrt previous climate change, like the MWP. Does that make the climate scientists deniers, or sceptics?

    We can also have fun with antonyms. Scientists are supposed to be sceptical, so the use of sceptic is occasionally ironic. Antonym is believer, which is equally unpopular with consensus followers. The same problem exists with trying to lable believers. What should they be called? Pro-AGW, warmists, believers, dedicated followers of fashion? Or for climate modellers, epicyclists? Deniers were sceptical of IPCC process. Believers denied the scepticism. IAC believed some of the deniers and made changes to IPCC processes. The believers were wrong, the sceptics right. Confusing huh?

    But sadly we still seem to feel the need to lable and group people with differing views and opinions and the context is often key with the lables being used as perjoratives or a way to put someone into the opposing camp. My most disliked is probably anti-science, when how can it be anti-science to question what is not understood, or appears contradictory? That goes back to the way the debate has been politicised and polarised, often with the help of the media and is why I dislike labelling. Same is true for politics. Being a denier means I’m apparently a right-wing fossil fuel shill when my political views are liberatian, conservative or even socialist depending on policy.

     

  • Hector M.

    Dean says: ” I never read McIntyre’s blog”. Well, Dean, you should. And Montford’s book as well, for good measure (The Hockey Stick Illusion). SMcI is not about “denying” anything, just asking technical questions about how a scientific conclusion (say, that 20th century warming is unprecedented in at least a millennium) was actually reached. A valid question, in my view, and (since I have read his blog often) I can attest it is always treated (by McIntyre) in a polite and strictly scientific way, if I’m allowed to say it. Crazy “deniers” appear among commenters in his blog, as they do elsewhere (if they are not moderated away), but many discussants are serious types with an evidently scientific-method approach.
    Skeptic is not one that denies scientific results. Skepticism is one of the bases of the scientific method: looking for flaws that may refute any theory or hypothesis.
    I am not myself a “denier” in any sense, and just as skeptical as any good scientist should be; I’m also a quite “progressive” or “left wing” type, if you like those epithets (though I don’t involve myself in politics usually), am not funded by anybody, and in this particular matter am only interested in the truth. So I do read the scientific literature itself, plus some important blogs centred on scientific discussion and admitting a diversity of views. Climate Audit is one of those, in my humble opinion. Refusing oneself exposure to dissenting views may not be the most scientific thing to do.

  • Hector M.

    Now, following the logic of Keith’s post, what do you call a type like Dean? Is he one of “us” or one of “them”? Is he a mainstream or fringe part of “us”, or is he a mainstream or fringe part of “them”? Taxonomy is hard on borderline regions.

  • David44

    Many good points all around, but as a journalist/blogger/author, why label people at all?  It seems it’s either corner cutting/shorthand/laziness or an attempt to prejudice the reader.

    Why not simply state who the person is, what their qualifications are, who/what they represent, what views they generally expound, and what is their opinion on the topic at hand?  You may consider all that a waste of time or effort, but if you don’t do so, you are injecting bias.  If the subject wouldn’t agree with the label, don’t use it.  Let the reader decide for her/himself how to view the person and the associated opinion.

    Oh dear, that’ll never create controversy or rile people up so as to sell more papers or get more hits or traffic your own prejudice will it?  I’m sure this radical idea must be blown off in every first year journalism class.  Sorry for the cynicism, but this discussion is all really about ascribing motives isn’t it?

  • Hector M.

    I wish to add that I fully agree with this sentence of Dean’s: “Skeptics are people who disagree with a majority opinion and can provide plausible scientific reasoning for why they disagree.” That’s the whole point. There are many of them (Judith Curry, Roger Pielke Jr and Steven McIntyre are examples, each in his/her way, and even Lindzen, who uses the word “denier” in a more technical way), and they have raised a lot of “plausible scientific reasoning for why they disagree”. Alas, they have been often branded as deniers, and word passed about not to read or respond to anything they write. The “orthodox” climate scientists doing this undoubtedly felt themselves as defenders of a worthy cause, brushing away any lingering doubt or question they may still have, and trying to avoid occasions for falling into temptation. Thus the climate of some parts  of climatology became somewhat religious, and dangerous for the health of scientific inquiry.

  • Gene

    David (33)

    I would agree that broadly categorizing positions is a shorthand, but I don’t think it’s fair to write it off to laziness or an attempt to prejudice.  Sometime’s it’s just more efficient to say “policy skeptic” than “person who accepts the basic premises of the science but who opposes or at least questions the appropriate policy response”.  We don’t want Keith contracting terminal carpal tunnel syndrome. <g>

    I do have to commend his looking for terminology that is descriptive, neutral, and reasonably accurate.  Lumping everyone who has any disagreement/question at all into the same bucket as the tinfoil hat brigade is just as chilling to dialog as hurling insults.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    Keith,

    I have read this old **Collide-a-Scape** thread and here is what I found:

    http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com/post/1649723856/i-prefer-contrarian

    http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com/post/1649725867/a-modest-proposal

    I am taking the liberty to refer my own comments to my own site, if you don’t mind.  The original source is mentioned.

    I have said some other stuff about labelling.  Not every post on my site has been labelled yet.

    ***

    In any case, I have two questions:

    1. Where is the philosopher’s take on this?

    2. Where is Jonathan Gilligan’s take on this?

  • David44

    Dean and Hector,

    “Skeptics are people who disagree with a majority opinion and can provide plausible scientific reasoning for why they disagree.”
    An opinion need not be of the majority to be a target of skepticism.  A skeptic of god would be questioning a majority (of the general population – at least in America) view; a skeptic of psychic prediction would not (I hope!)

  • David44

    Kieth,

    Your readers of all stripes might be interested to read the Skeptics Society’s view of skepticism:
    http://www.skeptic.com/about_us/

  • http://collide-a-scape.com Keith Kloor

    Brad (29):

    As you are one of the in-house, self-appointed truth-tellers at CAP, thanks for sharing your lexicon.

    Come back tomorrow, for a comparison of your truthiness versus other journalists who try to write articles that don’t pack quite as much judgment. Meanwhile, perhaps you can give me some examples of articles where journalists allowed people to lie?

  • Steven Sullivan

    Someone who habitually tells untruths that they *know* to be untrue, is reasonably called a liar.  Have American journalists ever employed that term in a straight news piece?


     

  • John

    Dean said:

    “PS ““ I consider RP Jr’s contribution highly ironic considering of his use of words like plagiarist and liar and authoritarian and others in application to many scientists and bloggers. If you don’t like the name-calling, I suggest you lead by example.”

    Wasn’t a RP Jr. case one in which people at the IPCC acknowledged his peer-reviewed articles which showed no increase in climate related damages after inflation and increases in coastal construction were factored in, and promised that the articles and findings would be included in the IPCC 2007 report?  And then such promises were not honored, and the papers not included and not discussed, while the idea that climate-related damages were increasing was given prominence?  If this recitation of fact from memory is correct, then it is correct that the IPCC officials who responded to RP Jr. were in fact lying.

    We need to separate calling people liars generally because we don’t like what they say (that’s the way politics works in this country, unfortunately, but science and journalism shouldn’t follow this path), from people who actually lie in demonstrable ways about important subjects.

  • laursaurus

    “Brad (29):

    As you are one of the in-house, self-appointed truth-tellers at CAP, thanks for sharing your lexicon.”
    Brad on CAP (linked above):

    An exclusive survey by Wonk Room’s Brad Johnson, with research support by Daily Kos blogger RL Miller, has identified the members of Congress that are on record challenging the scientific consensus:

    Click the map to see the 112th Congress climate deniers in each state.

    I clicked on my very blue state and was shocked that every one of the Republicans who were lucky enough to will an election are all in the pocket of Big Oil!
    Question for Brad:
    Are you related to, a current employee, or have any social, political, or financial ties to Anna Haynes?
    I smell a rat

  • http://collide-a-scape.com Keith Kloor

    Laurasaurus (43), I’d like to keep this thread focused as tightly as possible, so please don’t go fishing yourself.

    Steven (41):

    How would you know that someone knows they are telling a lie? More importantly, how would a journalist make that judgment–that the person supposedly lying knows he’s lying? Are we supposed to be mind readers, on top of everything else?

    Mind you, nothing prevents a reporter from calling a falsehood a falsehood, but calling someone a liar suggests the person is consciously lying.

    Back to the purpose of this post: instead of playing games like this, why don’t you offer your own suggestions for terms that we should use, preferably with examples.

     

  • LCarey

    Re David44″s #39 point regarding the Skeptic Society’s view of  what a skeptic is (and isn’t), perhaps we could consider the definition used by the Skeptic’s Dictionary for “climate change deniers” (their term, not mine):
    climate change deniers
    Climate change deniers are contrarians who challenge the evidence that human activities such as deforestation and human behaviors that result in more greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide are causing changes in our planet’s climate that may prove devastating and irreversible. Contrarians pose as skeptics, refusing to accept consensus conclusions in science on the ground that there is still some uncertainty. True skeptics raise specific doubts about specific claims and do not try to debunk a whole area of science by an occasional error or by the general lack of absolute certainty, which is unattainable in any area of science.
    http://skepdic.com/climatedeniers.html
    A rather concise summary in my view – and why (like Bud Ward) I would prefer “contrarian”, since it appears that a large number of self-appointed “skeptics” seem to be completely immune to having their views swayed by anything as irrelevant as scientific findings, and to commonly dismissing inconvenient findings by attacking the data and perhaps them moving on to attack the personal integrity of the scientits.

     

  • http://motls.blogspot.com/ LuboÅ¡ Motl

    Skeptic, dissenter, heretic, denier, and contrarian is the same person, commonly known as climate realist, a sane person, or someone who understands the basic facts about the weather and the climate.
    This sane person is called “contrarian” by the people who are not able to think with their own brains and who prefer to join mindless mobs instead. The same sane person is called “dissenter” by someone who wants to promote the AGW delusions to a totalitarian political movement that tries to suppress the dissent.
    People who believe the nonsense about a dangerous man-made climate change in the same way as the Islamic fundamentalists believe that Allah gives them 72 virgins, may prefer the term “heretic” for every sane person.
    The propagandists who want to influence listeners with the IQ of a pumpkin use the term “denier” for any climate realist because it leads the limited listeners to think that being sane is the same thing as denying the holocaust.
    Meanwhile, the term “denier” is also adopted by some skeptics themselves, including Richard Lindzen himself, because it makes it much more clear that there is no uncertainty about the basic question – whether we face a dangerous climate change. We clearly don’t, so claims that there exists evidence that we do have to be “denied” because this evidence doesn’t exist.
    The term “skeptic” is a general label that puts the same people in the same category with other people who don’t believe supernatural phenomena directing everyday events. But the term “skeptic” often sounds as an “agnostic”. Of course, the typical climate skeptics are not “agnostic” in the same way: they have usually very sharp and clear opinions.
    To summarize, the choice of the word says much more about the speaker than it does about the climate skeptic. ;-)

  • hunter

    Again, those who persist in using the word ‘denier’ are no different from the vile racists that populated so much of the US in days when ‘ni**er’ was acceptable.
    And for those who claim skeptics are ‘liars’, I would point out that your opinion on a matter is not the definition of ‘truth’.

  • RickA

    I have a problem with the “Denier” label.

    That is that a person such as myself, who agrees that CO2 causes warming, and that humans are adding CO2 to the atmosphere, but who doesn’t necessary buy into the consensus  number for the “amplification” factor – is still called a denier.

    I think that if we continue as we are, the world will warm around 1.2 degrees C by 2100.  That is the projection with no feedback at all.

    I am not convinced we have a good enough handle on the data for past temperature, and the various physical processes to know whether there is another 2 -4 degrees C of temperature increase in store by 2100 – due to feedback.

    Yet – I am lumped into the “denier” camp.

    There needs to be enough nuance in this debate to divide the world up into several groups:

    1) People who deny that it has warmed at all since the LIA;
    2) People who admit that it has warmed since the LIA, but don’t believe it will warm from here to 2100 (and beyond);
    3) People who believe that it will warm further to 2100 (and beyond) – but don’t buy the feedback number, and
    4) People who believe that it will warm further to 2100 and who also buy the feedback number.

    If you want to call #1 people deniers go ahead.

    I don’t think that denier is the proper term for #2 and #3 people (I consider myself to fall into the 3rd group).

    How about (tongue firmly in cheek):
    1) Denier,
    2) Status Quoist;
    3) Non-amplificationist, and
    4) Consensusist.

  • Sashka
  • Sashka

    That was a weirdly long string. You can cut it down:

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/time/08599203240500

  • laursaurus

    I prefer “Contrarian” because the term “skeptic” has been claimed by a “movement” with it’s own celebrities, conventions, literature, causes, etc. Because this group defines itself by its embrace of the scientific method and “pro-science,” a good portion of these self-proclaimed “skeptics” feel obligated to defending the actual scientists rather than actually apply the skeptical process to their work. They are just as ideologically attached to the term “skeptic” and don’t want to be confused with those “anti-scientist” types that question the scientific consensus. They truly believe it somehow is co-opting their preferred label.

    “Deniers” is judgmental and pejorative. I really appreciate knowing that journalists are putting some real thought into how to avoid the problems created by using cavalier labeling in their work. Lindzen might like being called a “denier”, but most contrarians really hate it.

  • http://ourchangingclimate.wordpress.com/ Bart Verheggen

    I think it’s pretty self evident that it’s useful to have a name for a group of people who have something in common. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with that. The problem comes when the name/label is used as a pejorative, but in heated arguments, that’s actually often the purpose (hence, “denier” and “alarmists” for example).

    I try to refrain from those words because they don’t contribute to a constructive dialogue, and have settled on “skeptic” in quotation marks (although contrarian fits the bill better in a lot of ways). The less tension/disagreement a term causes, the more useful it is in conversation.

  • David4

    Another Time article cited at the bottom of the one cited by Sashka is also worth a read.  It’s titled “A Bipartisan Energy Solution:  Nuclear Power”, by Joel Klein.
    http://www.time.com/time/politics/article/0,8599,2027941,00.html

    Keith -  I really wish you would start a serious conversation here on nuclear power, including the potential advantages of thorium over uranium.  It might be more productive in addressing the CO2 issue that an unending debate on what to label people (although I’m sure plenty of labels would be thrown around in such a conversation.) (;-)

  • http://www.cejournal.net Tom Yulsman

    Late to the party, as usual. But better that than never… Here’s my take: “Climate change ‘skeptic’ vs ‘denier’: call me INSANE!”

  • AMac

    I agree with Bart Verheggen, supra.  Using descriptors with pejorative connotations will lead to people feeling insulted and offended.  Sometimes that is inadvertant; other times it’s seen as a virtue by the person doing the labeling.  Examples of both, upthread.
    Many terms that describe “our team” imply that those on “the other side” lack some key virtue.  E.g, “skeptic” and “pro-science”.

    Eli Rabbett (#14) also makes a good overall point.  There aren’t simply two sides.  Rather, there are differences of interpretation and belief along multiple axes.

    A good starting point would be to ask, “will the people being described by this term feel insulted by its use?” (Of course, this being the internet, some folks really are [insert offensive term here], because they really do believe [insert vile, illogical doctrine here].)  Be that as it may, people who readily attach such labels to their opponents — I’ll call them “Inflamers” — will derail whatever constructive discussion that might have taken place.  Clearly, there are two types of Inflamers:  those who celebrate this approach, and those who sail under the false flag of “Dialogers”.

    Two more kludgy descriptors to add to the mix!

  • JeffN

    Well, is a denier someone who supports or opposes a plan to  blow $40 billion on a emissions reduction scheme that actually increases emissions and world hunger?
    http://af.reuters.com/article/energyOilNews/idAFLDE6AL0YT20101122?sp=true

  • http://gryposaurus.wordpress.com/ grypo

    Is hunter likening what the blacks went through in the 60′s in the US to what climate contrarians are going through now?  There’s a nice twist on reality that I’m sure black climate change skeptics could comment on.  Jeez.

  • John Whitman

    KK,

    The wealth of labels used by AGWers and non-AGWers alike to describe people with positions independent of the IPCC endorsed consensus climate science, well, those labels  just don’t matter. 

    “What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
     By any other name would smell as sweet”
    Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, 1600

    I recommend, however for gentlemanly discourse, that  insulting labels should be avoided by all parties.

    John

  • DeNihilst

    I think that maybe RPJ had it right, though he was probably kidding. I see so much of this world dominated by the sport ethic. “my team is better then your team”. It is drummed into us from a very young age.

    So like a put down of the other who does not support your team, these terms are just a reflection of that. All very immature in my view.

  • http://rabett.blogspot.com Eli Rabett

    John Mashey raises an appropriate question, why has the hockey stick, and the original MBH 98 and 99 papers attracted such consistent and virulent attacks.  His answer is that the hockey stick curve is iconic, easily understood and summarizing much information.

    The same is true of the term denialist (ok, Eli prefers that to denier, to the point of never using denier) which captures both the tactic and the professionalism of the attack on climate science.

    The strength of the description is captured by the pushback against it and the simultaneous search for an opposing description.  Warmist is weak, but the best the denialists have, CAWG lover requires an explanation.  Denialist does it all.

    Admittedly the denialists are good excellent at  getting the Village to clutch its pearls.

    Allow Eli a prequel, as Gerald North wrote to the Washington Post:
    ———————————————
    While we did find some of the methods used in Michael E. Mann’s original papers to be less cautious than some of our members might have used, we have not found any evidence that his results were incorrect or even out of line with other works published since his original papers.

    ———————————————-

  • http://hro001.wordpress.com Hilary Ostrov

    John Whitman #58:

    “I recommend, however for gentlemanly discourse, that  insulting labels should be avoided by all parties.”

    Well, if you are prepared to change gentlemanly discourse to the more gender-neutral civil discourse, I would wholeheartedly endorse your recommendation – even though I don’t entirely agree with your premise that the “labels just don’t matter” :-)

    Unfortunately, labels do matter – some can be enlightening, others damaging.  In a completely different context, historian Omer Bartov wrote, some years ago:

    “when you see [...] , a fascist, a bigot, or an anti-Semite, say what you see. If you want to justify it or excuse it away, describe accurately what it is that you are trying to excuse away. [...] The absence of clarity is the beginning of complicity”

    IMHO, there is a distinct absence of clarity in those labels we have seen most commonly bandied about.  This absence of clarity derives both from the result of parsing the most frequently used labels (i.e. “climate/climate change denier”) and from the conspicuous absence of any naming of the most contentious component: the alleged primary “culpability” (for want of a better word, at the moment) of human generated CO2.

    It is interesting to note that Tom Yulsman’s post on this issue includes the following:

    “Gavin Schmidt [...] had this to say: [...] how about “˜inactivists’ vs “˜activists’?”

    There is a certain amount of balanced neutrality inherent in such a suggested taxonomy.  But this gives rise to another conundrum: is it appropriate for a scientist (or even a science journalist for that matter) to take on the role of  advocate/activist?

    Having seen at least one scientist/activist in action quite recently, my answer would be definitely not.  But, YMMV.

  • Ed Forbes

    “…We need a word that indicates that their views are at variance from those of most of the people who know the most about the topic….”

    LoL….That is why JC is now labeled a  “denier” I guess. She did not use to be. Knows hardly anything about the subject now.  She must have forgotten a whole bunch of stuff over the last year  to have gone into “denial” / sarc off

  • Alex Heyworth

    Keith, you ended your post with exactly the right word. “Taxonomy”. No scientific debates have ever been more savage, vindictive and brutal than those between different schools of taxonomists.

  • http://www.examiner.com/x-9111-SF-Environmental-Policy-Examiner Tom Fuller

    Well, it’s been so long since I’ve been around I’ve forgotten what these threads are like.
    The real, root problem with denier is that it is not self-selected. It was bestowed by people consciously trying to connect those they despise with Holocaust Deniers. (It doesn’t really matter how often and how hard they try to show that there is a legitimate place for the term, which there probably is.)

    The term was forever corrupted by its initial usage, and the fact that it was characterized as hate-speech (lite) by those who were called by the term just spurred its usage to greater levels.

  • DeNihilst

    Eli, try DeNihilist, works for me.
    :) ~

  • John Whitman

    Hilary Ostrov ,

    First, my intent was that the fairer gentlemanly sex is of course also included in my original comment.  : )

    On labels, I see we do disagree.  Context matters when using a label, but the word used for the label itself is just a placeholder in a contextual matrix.  If we were to all voluntarily change the labels we call each other in climate science by just reversing the spelling of them (for example: ‘skeptic’ would become ‘citpeks’ and ‘denier’ would become ‘reined’) then the prima fascia pejorative  connotation of the labeling words themselves becomes neutralized; while the context of what the label means would remain the same.

    If I don’t agree with the IPCC consensus/settled science supporter then I would be a reined or citpeks.  : ) Kind of neutral, heh?

    On the other hand, if I don’t agree with the IPCC consensus/settled science supporter then I am called a denier or skeptic.  The prima fascia tones imputed by the historical significance of those two words themselves add only irrelevant baggage.

    The context is the same but the ‘valuation’ of the label is neutralized.

    Once again, I recommend, for gentlemanly discourse, that intentionally insulting labels should be avoided by all parties.

    John

  • Stuart Lynne

    A skeptic doesn’t believe the current arguments but is willing to change his mind if the facts (as he perceives them) change.
    A denier is unwilling to change his mind even in the face of incontrovertible evidence.
     

  • Francis

    Keith:
    Returning to an earlier post, the applicable question is not so much about us, your readers, as it is about yourself.  What kind of blog do you want to have?  Widely-read or more specialized?  Original reporting or commentary?  A broad spectrum of readers across the AGW spectrum or more narrow-cast?  Active moderation or passive?
    With regard to the relevance of the current debate, my personal view is that the best analogy to modern America is the Titanic, right as it is hitting the iceberg.  We can argue passionately about whether the boat “hit” the iceberg, or “grazed” it, or missed it altogether.  And all the passionate debates on the issue don’t matter at all; the boat is going to sink.
    Quite seriously for a moment, here’s a much better topic on which to base a series of posts: what will the world look like in 2060?  What are you planning to do to get it there? What do you think might be possible to avoid it?
    I see drought, devastated fisheries, and early signs of global multi-year famine.  But I’ll be 97 and likely dead.  What do you see?

  • dp

    i want to answer this well, forgive the length. about me: i’m best described as a combo of a campaigner & an unreliable witness, which is not redundant.

    this chat has been very useful to me. i me generally label only the most alarmingly disreputable people, and only jokingly, because i know from (horrible) experience that categorizing folks leads to prejudicial thinking.

    we do have our alignments, affinities, dependencies, obligations & so on, but paradigms do shift, sweeping underpinnings away. i used to believe in social adaptivity by choice; now i’m stuck w/ it because if i hardened my outlook my inner ‘climate crazy’ would surely be driven to suicide.

    ok haha that’s background.

    being a foxy spirit i tend to look at debates from the point-of-view of What’s Gonna Happen. (not formally, we’re inventing this.) for instance, in the obamacare debate, it was tragically just as easy to see that most americans want medical care to heal them w/o hocking them as it was to see that the healthy-wealthy option was off the table this time around. basically we’re too muddy on the question of who deserves the money to get what the majority wants.

    ok so that’s an example for comparison maybe.

    the ‘science skeptic’/'policy skeptic’ pair and the ‘activist’/'inactivist’ pair worked for me. i was already leaning toward two axes. hm hm hmm let’s make four (square) types on a science-policy grid: ‘curmudgeons,’ ‘capitalistas,’ ‘cynics,’ ‘champions’ — where capitalistas are trying to keep the science from eating ‘their’ lunch and cynics think the science is junk but the pay is good.

    the curmudgeons & capitalistas will of course say the champions are really cynics, and the dumber of the champions may tend to believe the capitalistas when they call themselves curmudgeons. the cynics abide.

    but seeing as i’m suddenly in the/a champion box i want to look from that perspective, and instead of giving science fiction half an axis i’d get more use from the axes ‘adaptation’ & ‘mitigation,’ or ‘how much will it hurt’ x ‘how much can we do.’

    so, four years ago when i started thinking hard on this i made up LMNOP, a terror-alert scale of biosphere disruption expectations — Lucky Mild Navigable Overwhelming Painful — where ‘Lucky’ (like the shopaholic expression) was aimed at the heartland institute’s claims of siberian real estate booms w/ tons of bonus flowers & ponies, right.

    anyway if we get into the adaptation-mitigation grid, obviously the A&minus;/M&minus; curmudgeon (“WE BE SCREWED DUDE”) is different from the science-policy curmudgeon, who i think ends up w/ the capitalistas in A+/M&minus;. our champions are probably A&minus;/M+ and the cynics might end up slightly into A+/M+ if it pays the bills. so let me make some new names for this grid.

    A+/M+ conqueror
    A&minus;/M+ cassandra
    A+/M&minus; cornucopian
    A&minus;/M&minus; curmudgeon

    um so do i have a binary, a box i put people who play down risks or the science’s integrity, personally i call them “opponents of aggressive carbon cuts” and i think they’re playing with fire.

  • http://www.skepticalscience.com Steven Sullivan

    Keith asks:
    “How would you know that someone knows they are telling a lie? ”

    Keith: Clearly people do lie sometimes.   Suppose the evidence was conclusively there — say, from a recording or document trail, or a self-admission — that a person was lying.  Would journalists describe that person as a liar?



     

  • http://www.skepticalscience.com Steven Sullivan

    btw, as per Pielke Jr.’s suggestion  “yellow bellied sap suckers” works for me as an alternative to ‘deniers’.
     

  • http://www.skepticalscience.com Steven Sullivan

    Hilary Ostrov wrote:
    “Unfortunately, labels do matter ““ some can be enlightening, others damaging. ”

    And calling the AR4 ‘the IPCC’s climate bible” as you do in a lead sentence do on your site, which sort of labeling would that be?

  • mondo

    What would you call a person who refuses to answer the question about how do you support the positive feedback assumptions that are required in the models to show that rising anthropogenic CO2 will lead to Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming (CAGW)?
    Are they skeptics?  Are they rational?  Might they be “deniers”?
     

  • Barry Woods

    How are we on ‘alarmists’?

    I ask this seriously, because if an IPCC lead author can use this term to describe Hansen, surely so can I without being automatically called a climate denier..

    I was at a presentation by the Walker Institute 2 weeks ago.

    Slides here:
    http://www.walker-institute.ac.uk/news/Arnell_public_lecture_2010-v4.pdf

    and Professor Arnold, who also contributed to the Stern report, said, when discussing some of the wilder claims of Greenpeace, 150,000 deaths ALLREADY by AGW, and 10:10′s 300,000 deaths by AGW allready, vs the walker institute, saying no deaths atibutable, but that we may get more extreme weather events, of the type of the 2oo3 heatwave, or Pakistan style floods, possible in the future.. 

    He did agree that this was alrmist and not helping in communicating the science, he also said, when question about some scientists being identifed as advocates, that Hansen was also alarmist with his pronouncements

    If Professor Arnold, IPCC author, 2,3, 4th reports, surrounded by colleagues who are also going to be involved in the 5th report can use’ alarmist’ to  describe people…

    surely, so can I..  

    http://www.realclimategate.org/2010/11/climate-connections-an-alarmist-in-the-houses-of-parliament/

    …without being automatically called a ‘climate change denier’

    from the above list of people in the article, I imagine Andrew Montford, is called a ‘climate denier’  by many for writing ‘The Hockey Stick Illusion’, yet Professor Judith Curry recommends that scientists read the book..

    Lindzens response was good: ref  ‘denier’, I  can’t find the exact quote at the moment

  • http://collide-a-scape.com Keith Kloor

    Steven (70):

    Perhaps an example of what you’re looking for would be this current piece in The New Yorker, calling out Glen Beck.

  • John Whitman

    Barry Woods,

    There are one Lindzen quote saying he prefers the label denier and two saying why he does like sketpic so much.

    First is from an early Oct 2010 BBC Radio interview with Dr. Lindzen.  Here are my personally transcribed notes from the radio interview.  Dr. Lindzen said (again my transcription), “Let me explain why I don’t like it [word skeptic].  You know to be skeptical assumes there is a strong presumptive case but you have your doubts.  I think we are dealing with a situation where there is not a strong presumptive case.  . . . [edit] . . . I actually like denier.  That’s closer than skeptic.  Realist is also not bad.”

    The second quote is from Dr. Lindzen’s written testimony for the US  House Subcommittee on Science and Technology hearing on “˜A Rational Discussion of Climate Change: the Science, the Evidence, the Response (November 17, 2010).  Dr. Lindzen, “Perhaps we should stop accepting the term, “˜skeptic.’ Skepticism implies doubts about a plausible proposition. Current global warming alarm hardly represents a plausible proposition. Twenty years of repetition and escalation of claims does not make it more plausible. Quite the contrary, the failure to improve the case over 20 years makes the case even less plausible as does the evidence from climategate and other instances of overt cheating.”


    Enjoy them.  I did.  : )

    John

  • John Whitman

    All,

    ERRATA of my John Whitman (#76) .  The correction is the first sentence which should read.
    There IS one Lindzen quote saying he prefers the label denier and two saying why he does  NOT like sketpic so much.

    Sorry, not enough coffee yet this morning, me thinks.

    John

  • AllenC

    Stuart Lynne Says:
    November 23rd, 2010 at 2:08 am
    “A denier is unwilling to change his mind even in the face of incontrovertible evidence.”

    Would that make a “true believer” in AGW by CO2 a denier??

  • Roddy Campbell

    Keith thank you for the Beck article – that was the show I saw in London which made me recant my naivete on your blog!

  • Barry Woods

    To further complicate things….

    Does it deopend on who is callin who, what..

    as an example,  Professor Arnell said that Moncton was saying alarmist things, and greenpeace.

    yet if Moncton said it, he would be a deniar?

  • Barry Woods

    I need an edit function, sorry ;)

    I might consider Judith Curry a Lukewarmer, yet others say shall we say, many other things !! 

    So it is all relative to the individual viewpoints, making labelling ultimatey not very useful.

  • AMac

    As a Dialoger, I am skeptical that constructive engagement with Inflamers is possible. It’s interesting to consider the range of objectives of the various Inflamers — are their own descriptions complete on this point?  I suspect that they aren’t:  rather, that there is a web of agendas ranging from the personal to the global.  (The thread following last month’s The Abolition Analogy touched on some of these issues.)
    Some of these agendas are stated explicitly — “We must take what steps we can, in order to avert adverse warming” and “We must avoid poorly-conceived actions that could trigger a second Great Depression“, as examples.
    Other agendas — “My stance on this issue demonstrates that I’m a better person than you” — rarely get a specific mention.  Except as a dig at an opponent, which can be telling, in itself.

  • http://collide-a-scape.com Keith Kloor

    Francis (68):

    I’m puzzled by why it matters to you what kind of blog I want to have. How is that related to this post? Why do you care so much about what kind of audience I might have in mind?  But since you are persistent…

    Every writer wants to be read by as many people as possible. Isn’t that a given? But I don’t strive to reach any one camp or demographic. If anything, I probably alienate the people I’m most inclined to have something in common with (in terms of politics and policy-related issues). So that’s a limiting factor right there.

    An ideal audience of mine would be comprised of intelligent, open-minded readers, not so overly beholden to an ideological and political camp. This blog is animated by an inquisitiveness that I wish could be informed by more reporting. But that is not to be so long as it remains an unpaid gig. So I pick and choose my spots. Hope this answers your questions.

  • Roddy Campbell

    Francis #68
    In 2060 “I see drought, devastated fisheries, and early signs of global multi-year famine.  But I’ll be 97 and likely dead.  What do you see?”
    I’ll be 100.  With the rate of advance of longevity, helped by that dratted thing called progress and dramatically increased agricultural yields, I might well be alive.  So that’s good, anyway.
    I guess that was a label missing from this post, the one that fits people who are absolutely and utterly convinced we are doomed.

  • http://rankexploits.com/musings/author/zeke/ Zeke Hausfather

    I’m rather partial to Gavin’s “activist” and “inactivist” distinction. It puts the focus on the primary ideological boogeyman for most folks (i.e. what if any action should be taken to respond to climate change) while leaving plenty of room in the middle for folks who are neither.

  • http://hro001.wordpress.com Hilary Ostrov

    Steven Sullivan #72:

    [I had written:]
    “Unfortunately, labels do matter ““ some can be enlightening, others damaging. “

    [Sullivan asks:]
    And calling the AR4 “˜the IPCC’s climate bible” as you do in a lead sentence do on your site, which sort of labeling would that be?

    Enlightening, of course :-)

  • AMac

    Zeke (#85) –
    “Activist” and “Inactivist” share a problem with most other pairs: one member of the set is pejorative.  “Active” could be contrasted with “Prudent,” perhaps.  Or “Idealist” with “Realist.”
    That way, a (possible, relative) virtue of each position is connoted by its moniker.

  • Steven Sullivan

    Keith, great timing; I read that New Yorker last night before seeing your reply, and I’m always glad to see Beck’s nonsense  called out.  I was asking for a ‘straight reporting’ story — news, not editorial.   Hertzberg’s essays are op-ed /commentary.  And even there, while Hertzberg  says Glen Beck is telling lies, he stops just short of labelling Beck a *liar*.    Such reluctance seems genteel to me.  Particularly when guys like Roger Ailes are called NPR reporters ‘Nazis’.

    Perhaps its time journalists called a spade a spade, and a liar a liar?




     

  • Steven Sullivan

    Or would that just be ‘insane’, to use the measured , thoughtful rhetoric of the press’ favorite honest broker?
     

  • Dean

    “I try to refrain from those words because they don’t contribute to a constructive dialogue”

    I wouldn’t use “denier” with somebody who I was trying to have a constructive dialog with, but it isn’t possible to have a constructive dialog with some people, and the label applies to some of them. Denier is really just a special case of an ideologue – somebody for whom the ideology is more important than the facts, and hence debating based on the facts is pointless.

  • RB

    How about: environmental alarmists and growth alarmists? Insults all around.. Or if we want to come down to the policy end of things: mitigationists and adaptationists. Kind of gets a bit too sweeping because they are overlapping groups, but I think those terms do not have pejorative connotations.




     

  • dp

    boo hoo hoo, i thought i WAS answering the question

    no ‘growth alarmists’ doesn’t work. to win the growth argument, the cornucopians have to assume away the economic costs of the ecological damage.

    as for ‘mitigationists’ & ‘adaptationists’ pls see comment #69, which is not obscene.

  • RB

    dp#92, I see you already got those two axes up there, with regards to alarmism, I propose sub-categories of decennialists, centennialists and millennialists.

     

  • RB

    BTW, one could be a ‘decennialist growth alarmist’ and ‘centennial agnostic’.
     

  • dp

    RB#93-94, the decennialist growth alarmist has the same problem, of this time needing to wish away the private saving/public spending accounting yo-yo in order to make green jobs & energy conservation savings have a net cost in an idle economy. it’s not that they wouldn’t have an argument, it’s that the other side has a different version of the same argument so it’s a poor identifier.

  • RB

    I think AGW-consensus-ites can score a tactical victory by labeling themselves as “emissions conservatives” and the skeptics as “emissions liberals.”

  • http://rabett.blogspot.com Eli Rabett

    A rather good post on this subject
    http://theidiottracker.blogspot.com/2010/09/between-science-and-hard-place.html
    ——————————————–
    There is a half-full glass here, which is that a number of people who clearly identify emotionally and politically with the denialist movement have taken major steps towards the scientific consensus in order to maintain their credibility. While sharing the denialosphere’s loathing of “activists” and its demonization of scientists like Hansen and Mann (whose unforgivable sin was to establish beyond a reasoned doubt that humans are causing a rapid and substantially unprecedented warming of the earth’s climate) the lukewarmers avoid three major pitfalls of denialism:

    1. They do not have to deny the basic physical laws which dictate that greenhouse gases cause warming.

    2. They do not have to refute the massive physical evidence that the climate is warming.

    3. They do not have to pretend that the vast majority of scientists who accept the theory of AGW are participating in a vast conspiracy to hide the truth about (1) and (2).

    The lukewarmist position also allows one to position oneself as a moderate threading the needle between two extremes.
    —————————————–
    anyone who hits 1 2 3 (and you know who you are) is clearly a denialist

  • http://nigguraths.wordpress.com Shub

    A strange discussion indeed.

    And Bud Ward has mixed up the terms denier and denialist.

    And I would like to see the “various streams of evidence” that establish that all the “climate change is man-made”.

    In order to be debating what term of abuse to use to labels on people, you’d have to know what these people are. I would suggest a two-month stint in ‘journalist method acting’ – try your level-best to be a denier -read only climatedepot-linked articles, go live in the WUWT comments sections, try getting in a few knocks at Realclimate. Try to girdle up your loins and read Delingpole or even better Richard North. Read the Climategate emails, and the denier canon.

    You might change your minds.

  • dp

    oh oh i know the name of that one, that’s called ‘stockholm syndrome’

  • Roddy Campbell

    ‘The economic costs of the ecological damage’, another thing to be worried about, oh dear.  The economic costs of loss of biodiversity.
    How about ‘worriers’?  People who deny the existence of a state where not all worries are worthy of worrying about?  People who still think the worst nuclear disaster ever killed a million people because they worried for so long that it had?  People who would apply the precautionary principle to crossing the road and cost the externalities of my loft extension.
    And yet, and yet, very often these same people bravely think we can solve global warming by inflating our tires better, locavorism, battery vehicles, windmills, blocking our eyes and ears to the developing world, and believing that we Brits can cut emissions by 80% by 2050 by passing an Act of Parliament.
    If I’m a Cornucopian, what is the right label for these terribly worried optimists?

  • dp

    on the doom-ish side i was thinking of ‘cassandras’ for (straw)people who preach mitigation exclusively, and ‘curmudgeons’ for people-types stocking underground larders for the apocalypse. if you’re a cornucopian.

  • http://amac1.blogspot.com/ AMac

    Eli Rabbett –
    You know who your climate-friends are (they comment at your blog, and link).  You know how to inspire them.
    You know who your climate-adversaries are.  Hopefully red meat (e.g. #97 and link) will rile them; it’s gratifying, entertaining, and more.
    Life is good.

  • Barry Woods

    97~

    your arguments are your own straw man…

    The issue has always been the majority of sceptics, including Lindzen, do not buy  the ‘strong’ positive feedbacks assumed in the climate models, to force temperature above the 1.0C  that the properties of CO2 suggest..

    To pretend that the sceptics, have been forced to move towards the consensus’ is a ridiculous misrepresentation.

    ‘established beyond doubt’  again laughable, given the context of the last year.

    ‘denialist movement’  please, stop listening to your own propaganda…

    I haven’t received a penny for this…

    http://www.realclimategate.org

    I was a lukewarmer a year ago

    Then again, who cares what any blogger thinks… myself included, along with the likes of eli, or deltoid or tobis.. we are just individual voices.

    the recession and the relaity that China are India will burn all their coal, will make the general public say, why ae qe destroying our own economies in the West, for a delusion of catastrophy..

    The public do notice, that the msm are suddenly running doom/gloom scare stories again… oh look, another climate conference – Cancun, the wwf  UNEP must be getting worried the gravy train is over, one last pr push to convince the world.

  • Marlowe Johnson

    +1 @97
    Amac,
    Would you agree that the Wegman affair is a bit of a watershed moment in the climate blogosphere to the extent that it is now quite clear that a sizable portion of the the contrarian camp can fairly be characterised as denialists?  I think you’ve said before that the facts are pretty clear (at least insofar as the plagiarism aspect is concerned) and yet we see no condemnation from the WUWT or CA crowd and nothing from Curry for that matter (which is interesting given her previous statements on the matter).   Where is the intellectual consistency :) ?

    Speaking of which, the link provided by Eli raises some very good points about the intellectual inconsistency of lukewarmers, as the impacts that are to be expected from a sensitivity value of 1.5 are still very likely to be bad.  In which case, the intellectually consistent perspective from a lukewarmer that possessed even a modicum of risk aversion and/or concern for future generations would be a position that pushed for much greater mitigation policies than are currently tossed around.  Instead we get proposals for $5 carbon tax and pixie dust prayers.

    This is the appropriate end for one end of the spectrum.  Since this post is about labels,  I think it’s more appropriate to call lukewarmers climate Pollyannas, since I would suggest that in most cases it is their attitudes about risk rather than their understanding of the science that informs their position (Lindzen and Curry being possible exceptions).

    On the other end of the spectrum you have climate Cassandras, who accept the consensus position (i.e. S=3C) and are much more risk averse and concerned about future impacts.   At this end, most people are again characterized by their attitudes about risk, rather than their understanding of the science .  However, there are of course many, many more people who are technically qualified to assess the climate science in this camp.

    Which brings me to my next question.  If you are a lukewarmer, why? is it because of your attitudes about risk or is it because of your understanding of the science.  If it’s the latter, then what sort of expertise do you possess that allows you to take what is clearly a minority position?

     

  • Marlowe Johnson

    oh and welcome back Tom.  Never say never eh? :)

  • http://rabett.blogspot.com Eli Rabett

    Barry, go read the article at the link and also part 2.  Take someone whose central estimate is 1.5 C.  They have to assign an uncertainty to this +/- something.  The problems are twofold, for any reasonable value of the positive going uncertainty, they get into oh nos territory very quickly.  In the case of those who deny there will be a water vapor feedback, they are essentially placing infinite confidence in their denial or if their confidence is less (and there is a lot of observational and physics based reasoning for it) they rapidly have to become Cassandras.  Negative going uncertainty is really strongly limited by physics and observations  so there you have to become a type 1 or type 2 denialist.

    1. They do not have to deny the basic physical laws which dictate that greenhouse gases cause warming.
    2. They do not have to refute the massive physical evidence that the climate is warming.

  • Shub

    A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.

  • AMac

    Marlowe Johnson (#104) –

    > Would you agree that the Wegman affair is a bit of a watershed moment in the climate blogosphere…

    Yes.  As DeepClimate and John Mashey highlighted, Prof. Wegman and his co-authors exhibited Bad Behavior in the way that they wrote the Wegman Report.  To be fair, it’s still nominally alleged plagiarism pending their rebuttal, but the case for substantial plagiarism looks very strong indeed at this point.
    (I’ll submit this, and see how the paragraph spacing looks today!  More in a bit…)

  • RB

    @104, the Wegman episode highlights something not very different from things such as “listen to what Pat Michaels has to say, not where he gets his money from”.  I think Emerson’s statement about consistency is better applied for something like Keynes’ “when the facts change I change my mind”, not to hypocrisy.
     

  • http://www.hopkinson.net Simon Hopkinson

    I’ll agree with AMac that, as things stand now it appears that there are some reasons for concern regarding the Wegman submission to congress.

    I mean.. what would be the point in disagreeing?

    So we don’t have Wegman’s response yet, true, so we don’t have at the minimum the two sides of the story, but we know that Wegman will be responding and reasonably it would be stupid to jump to conclusions. Preliminary impressions, sure, but conclusions? Really not.

    But it’s interesting, isn’t it Marlowe, how quickly you latch on to DC and Mashey’s assertions, even given the conspiracy theory and innuendo style they’re written, and how readily you DO presume in the interim that their conclusions ARE conclusive proof of something nefarious and subversive.

    And yet you’re simultaneously incapable of recognising the failings of the several whitewash enquiries, the problematic methodologies employed by Mann (which will not be directly exonerated, incidentally, no matter what findings are regarding Wegman. That would be illogical and reaching), the scientifically/academically dangerous preoccupation of Jones and the team to obfuscate, conceal and break British law, and the prima facie evidence of intent to subvert academic mechanisms for maintaining scientific integrity through peer review.

    Interesting it is how, having seen for myself an apparent inability in you to recognise or acknowledge wrongdoing, suddenly you’ve developed exactly that ability now that the subject is Wegman rather than Mann or Jones, Briffa or Overpeck.

    Interesting indeed. Interesting, but not really unexpected.

  • AMac

    Marlowe Johnson (#104), continuing from my #107 –

    > …to the extent that it is now quite clear that a sizable portion of the the contrarian camp can fairly be characterised as denialists? …

    See remarks upthread by me and others about pejorative labels.  As pro-AGW-Consensus commenter Dean usefully said (#90), “I wouldn’t use ‘denier’ with somebody who I was trying to have a constructive dialog with.”
    The climate discussion reminds me more and more of the Abortion Wars in the U.S.:  Pro-Lifers versus Pro-Choicers.  Advocates on each side were eager for debate – but only on their preferred terms.  It has proven to be possible to have an across-the-chasm constructive discussion on that general subject–but it’s difficult, and rare.

    For most people who feel strongly about Abortion, I don’t think “constructive” debate is a particularly valuable proposition.  They already know what they think. They already know that their arguments aren’t going to cause their adversaries to change their minds.

    Of course, these folks have other reasons for debating the issue — or they wouldn’t do it.  Not being a mind reader, I couldn’t say what those are, for any given individual.  I don’t underestimate the value of participation as a “social signal” to friends and allies.  “Here I am, standing up for what’s right, fighting the good fight.”

    Anyway, back to your comment.  Clearly, WUWT and CA have taken their stand on Wegman.  McIntyre scored some points, I thought — YMMV — though tu quoque is rarely a compelling riposte, if ever.  Curry, I dunno.  Obviously, Wegman et al’s glaring shortcomings don’t falsify its findings.  From what I can tell, most of ones that refer to the statistics of the early “hockey stick” studies are probably correct.  But the plagiarism etc. should rob the WR of its authority, and I think it has done so. Thus, it cannot and does not contribute anything to a resolution of that rancorous debate. IMO.

    As far as your critique of “the intellectually consistent perspective from a lukewarmer”, you make some good points.  They aren’t novel, though.  Basically:  for reasons outlined earlier in this comment, I’m not obliged to defend my own thinking on the subject (e.g.), and have lost interest in doing so, in a forum where pejoratives like “Idiot Tracker” and “pixie dust prayers” are considered to be reasonable discourse. 

    Now, if someone wants to tell me something new about the Tiljander proxies, they can be as uncivil as they please…
     

  • RB

    Amac,
    Part of the problem may be that science has been placed on a lofty pedestal, else one could conclude that the field of ultrafast optics is broken as well. Not that it excuses the politics and personalities behind the peer review process, but if there hadn’t been similar issues in the past, there wouldn’t be statements out there such as “science advances one funeral at a time.”

     

  • Marlowe Johnson

    @110
    What evidence could Wegman possibly offer at this point in his defense? His children were being held ransom by Barton?  As others have pointed out the plagiarism charge is the least problematic aspect of the report but it is the easiest one for the public to understand and the most obvious.  But apparently you don’t think so.  Which makes me wonder about your reading skills. Seriously.

    Instead you want to make this about Mann again.  Do i think Mann made a methodological error in his paper 12 years ago? Yep, as this has been shown by several other studies. Did it make a material difference to the conclusions of the paper.  No.  Again as shown by other studies.  Are millenial multiproxy studies the end all and be all for climate science. No.  Is there a campaign to harrass climate scientists in the name of citizen science? yes.  Should climate scientists strive to be as open as possible with their data and methods? Yes.  Is progress being make on that front. yes; silver linings to be found it seems. did Phil Jones behave badly? Probably.  Was he provoked.  Most definitely. Do climate contrarians have a credible, coherent explanation for a zero-low climate sensitivity value. No.

    Excepf for the last statement, I would argue that none of the above really matters in the grand scheme of things as it relates to climate change science or climate policy.  they are useful distractions to keep people from thinking about/discussing the important issues.

  • Marlowe Johnson

    @111
    You aren’t obliged to do anything :)   But as you seem to be fairly reasonable fellow and a lukewarmer, I was curious to hear how you justify (in your own words) your position.

    Btw I was using the term denialist in the unloaded sense refered to @67.  I think your point about the problem with some of these labels having perjorative-opposite qualities is a good one.  which is why i like the pollyana/cassandra label as they minimize this dynamic.

    finally, I’m not well versed on the Tjillander issue but will keep an eye out for papers that discuss it.  If Mann’s 08′ paper has the serious flaws that you seem to think it does then surely someone will point it out (e.g. Hubyers, Zorita, Von Storch, etc.).

  • http://www.hopkinson.net Simon Hopkinson

    Marlowe, as I said, your “take” on the behaviours of individuals is extremely selective and your recollection of the chronology, though extremely well-established and damning for the Team, is extraordinarily distorted.

    Mashey and DC both have a conspiratorial flare which severely undermines reading of the case they try to make, and DC’s assertions seem often to twist logic far beyond breaking point. I don’t know what evidence Wegman will offer in his defence, but that doesn’t mean that we should not wait to hear his defence.

    If asking for data and methodologies can be regarded as provocation then yes, Jones was provoked. How very sad is that? That merely asking for the materials required to replicate his results is tantamount to provocation!? But like I said, your recollection of the chronology and amplitude of sceptics’ interactions with the CRU is twisted, and you’re hooked on the idea that the 61 (not vexatious, according to the ICO) FOI requests for confidentiality agreements preceded Jones’ misbehaviour. It did not, at all, as history attests, just as history proves that Jones’ appeal to delete emails relating to AR4 did not precede Holland’s FOI for that same information.

    The scientifically sceptical don’t need a coherent explanation for a zero-to-low climate sensitivity value, because that IS the null hypothesis. The case for a high climate sensitivity to a doubling of CO2, proffered by climate advocates, remains an unsubstantiated and untested hypothesis with no scientific integrity. The burden of proof remains wholly in the court of climate science.

  • Marlowe Johnson

    “The scientifically sceptical don’t need a coherent explanation for a zero-to-low climate sensitivity value, because that IS the null hypothesis.”

    is that your final anwser :D ?

  • AMac

    RB (#112) –

    Thanks for the link to that infamous tale; I noticed that Trebino himself weighed in, in the comments.

    Marlowe Johnson (#115) –

    Thanks for the follow-up.  As far as my position as a lukewarmer, there’s two aspects. (1) The Science, and (2) the Policy.  As far as the latter, I think there are major flaws with almost all of the ‘consensus’ ideas.  Many people are naive.  Full-tilt boogie on nuclear power to replace coal would be one initiative that would kind-of work… no sale, there.  Michael Tobis’s gloomy musings on policy are along the lines of what I’d be thinking, if I accepted his premises. 

    On the science itself, I think that the evidence of century-long warming is very strong; the broader context of it is not.  Basic mechanisms of AGW (e.g. RTE) are clear; feedbacks are not.

    The standards for “science” in applied contexts (e.g. drug or device approval, new jetliner certification, new bridge design) are much higher than they are for pure academic pursuits.  Recent history is littered with examples where the academic-level scientific story seemed to be a compelling basis for policy — and then it turned out that the science wasn’t as clear-cut as it had appeared.

    Many Pro-AGW-Consensus scientists behave zealously, in the passionate belief that their work is sufficiently complete and correct to offer powerful guidance as to how humanity must behave.  I don’t doubt their sincerity.  But there are aspects of the debate that make me wonder whether their assessments are as compelling as they seem to be to those who ascribe to the Consensus.

  • Marlowe Johnson

    Amac,

    Actually some jurisdictions are using nuclear+renewables+gas to replace (see here for example).  But I would agree more generally that getting the policies which mainstream science suggests are required on to the table politically is very difficult at the moment. However being optimistic or pessimistic about the prospects of successful climate policy is neither here nor there IMO, or rather it’s a discussion that is best left to those with expertise in political science rather than climate science.

    What I’m more interested in, is why you subscribe to a view of climate sensitivity that is clearly a minority view within the community of people that are most qualified to understand the issue.  Do you see what I’m getting at?

    Wrt to the science

  • dp

    AMac#117: “Full-tilt boogie on nuclear power to replace coal would be one initiative that would kind-of work”

    rough numbers. there are roughly 330 GW of coal power to replace in the USA.

    when should we aim to completely replace that capacity with nuclear? i would like them gone tomorrow but for the sake of respectful argument, when. 2050 is too long to leave those operating, coal should be our first priority. 2020 would involve wartime retooling of the economy.

    i’ll use 2035 as the due date.

    25 years to build 330 GW of nuclear capacity. let’s make them 1.25 GW facilities. we’d need about 250 of them.

    so we’d have to open 10 every year! plus some, to replace troubled units.

    at a cost, using $6 billion per GW, in the neighborhood of $2 trillion.

    so far we’ve built about 100, for about 100 GW of capacity, in 50 years of commercial nukes. we finished about 60 in the busiest 20 years of building, or 3/year.

    http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/nuclear/page/analysis/nuclearpower.html

  • http://www.hopkinson.net Simon Hopkinson

    Marlowe: I don’t have any answers, only questions! :D

    But all the evidence I’ve ever seen suggests that the earth is given to significant natural variability and that the earth is resiliently self-correcting. Even if you throw huge meteorites at it, pop a few big volcanoes or whatever else. To make a case that CO2 – a tiny fraction of the atmosphere, of which mankind has in relative terms contributed a tiny fraction – is the earth’s temperature “control knob” is going to need far more compelling evidence than has been offered so far.

  • AMac

    Marlowe Johnson (#118) –

    Agree with the distinction between climate science and policy.  At least in the sense that you give here. People’s biases do spill over from one to the other, I fear.  Except for you and me, of course… and I’m not so sure about you!  As the saying goes.

    As far as my view of climate sensitivity, I am agnostic–I just don’t know.  I’m prone to accepting the consensus wisdom of scientists on science-related topics that I don’t know much about.  The dogmatism (as I see it, YMMV of course) of the climate science community causes me to make an exception in this case.  Defending things that are obviously wrong… e.g. the use of the Tiljander proxies, the behavior shown by the Climategate emails and elsewhere… is a great way to diminish one’s credibility.

    In an alternate world, scientist/activists wouldn’t have become so enamored of the Oreskes “Merchants of Doubt” narrative, and wouldn’t have come to believe things like “anyone who disagrees with me is either a Knave or a Fool”, and wouldn’t end up practicing the “wartime virtues”.  Such as placing team loyalty and other qualities above curiosity and intellectual integrity. (To be clear, these are shorthand summaries of what I see, not attempts at accurately paraphrasing what people actually have said.) 

    Would that world’s Consensus view be the same as the actual one of this world’s 2010?  I don’t know.   I’d likely be supporting it, though.  Rightly or wrongly.

  • AMac

    dp #119,

    Your numbers sound about right to me.  In the context of the history of nuclear power — the 3/year rate is not the result of a sustained effort — they tell me that such a program could be accomplished.  If it was a priority.

    By the way, my utility (Mid-Atlantic U.S.) gets about 1/3 of its electricity from nukes.  It’s the cheapest significant source of wholesale power, 5 cents or so per kWh, IIRC.  That’s informative as to feasibility.

  • RB

    Simon #120 – let me clarify what you are trying to say. Are you trying to say that despite a meteorite supposedly causing the extinction of the dinosaurs, life on Earth did not vanish and despite 4000ppm CO2 and PETM conditions, Earth eventually corrected and that a trace gas like CO2 is unlikely to be having a significant greenhouse effect?

  • RB

    Also, that such conditions on Earth are relevant to the AGW policy discussion?
     

  • dp

    AMac#122,

    it looks like 5¢/kWh is outside the range of recent estimates for new capacity. what i’m googling up says prices run from 9¢ to over 20¢ per kWh, depending on capital cost assumptions. ugly-ugly for planners.

    double trouble. investors have had cold feet toward nukes for a while and obviously we are in the midst of one of the great cold feet spells of all-time (not from ocean behavior or chemical pollution, but intimately linked to the overall climate action debate).

    the non-fossil energy biz fits in my ‘cynics’ box on the science-policy chart. they represent a national problem: happy to be paid, but with fairly weak incentives to making sure we hit our overall cost targets, and thus our carbon targets. very clearly investors are now punishing the nuclear industry for its long history of cost problems, only some of  which are external.

  • http://www.hopkinson.net Simon Hopkinson

    RB, what I am saying is that I don’t profess to hold answers, I only have questions. I make observations and I garner impressions.

    The given CO2 “answer” to 20th century warming is not compelling, and those who propose it lack integrity/credibility – either due to their involvement or their complicity in the undermining of the Scientific Method in climate science and their embrace of postnormal science by consensus of opinion. High climate sensitivity to a doubling of CO2 is widely disputed, even among climate scientists, and there is far stronger correlation between political/ideological advocacy science and climate catastrophism than there is between CO2 and global mean temperature (whatever the hell that really is).

    What the historical record appears to me to indicate is that the earth’s equilibrium self-stabilises, no matter what external (unnatural or uncommon/extra-terrestrial) forces are exerted upon it. To overturn the presumption that what has gone before will not come to pass again, a more compelling argument than the CO2 argument needs to be made.

  • http://www.hopkinson.net Simon Hopkinson

    Sorry.. “the presumption that what has gone before WILL come to pass again”. Rephrasing in edit introduces errors.

  • RB

    Simon,
    The issue is one of quantification. When you say “high climate sensitivity” is widely disputed, it is indeed true that Annan, for instance, thinks that it is extremely unlikely that sensitivity could be more than 6C per doubling. When you say “earth self-stabilises”, would it be fair to say that you think that timescales of decades/centuries/millions of years are all equivalent? David Archer postulates that over millennial timescales, silicate weathering regulates atmospheric CO2 concentrations – do you consider that “self-stabilization” relevant to the policy discussion?

  • http://www.hopkinson.net Simon Hopkinson

    RB, I’m a world away from the policy side of global warming. I support R&D into new energies, I don’t support wind or solar, I do support nuclear. Tentatively (.. I campaigned with CND all my teens). I not only don’t subscribe to unwarranted CAGW fear-mongering, I am angered by it (in rather the same way my ex wife used to pee me off, trying to manipulate) and, to cut a REALLY long story short, I just don’t bloody trust the climate science elite as far as I can throw a fit, because I’ve been given every reason NOT to, by them.

  • http://www.hopkinson.net Simon Hopkinson

    RB, what Annan believes regarding climate sensitivity is almost wholly gnostic in origination. It’s his imagination. It has to be, since everyone accepts that nobody actually understands cloud feedback or even formation. What I believe, or what Schmidt or Annan, or Jones or even Briffa, with regard to climate sensitivity to a doubling of CO2 is no more based in science than is Mormonism, being based wholly in hypothetical assumptions manifested in GCMs. So, given the WTFness of climate sensitivity, one really has to ask.. what policy discussion?

  • AMac

    dp #125 –

    > it looks like 5¢/kWh is outside the range of recent estimates for new [nuclear] capacity. what i’m googling up says prices run from 9¢ to over 20¢ per kWh, depending on capital cost assumptions.

    Again, those numbers sounds about right to me.  1970s technology accomplishes ~5c/kWh, while 2000′s will get you 20c… hmmm.  There’s a story behind that reverse-Moore’s-Law, I suspect. 

    It’s largely a question of risk.  The risk of proliferation plus the risk of TMI/Chernobyl/China Syndrome, versus the benefit of a climate-stabilization effect.  The larger that benefit loomed, the greater the will would be to change the parts of the equation that make nuclear unattractive to investors.  Most of those factors are mutable.

    As well, 20 cents per baseline kWh sounds pretty awful, I agree.  Until you look with a critical eye at wind.  Perhaps solar, too.

    (Disclaimer:  I am not expert in this area, so take my views with a grain of salt.)

  • RB

    Simon,
    Actually, at this point, I’m not too interested in policy either although I do indulge myself, but I was just trying to make a point, my opinion of course, that the statement “earth is resilient or that it self-stabilizes as evidenced by its past history” is not a good argument against AGW mitigation policy.

  • Steven Sullivan

    Amac:
    “As far as my view of climate sensitivity, I am agnostic”“I just don’t know.  I’m prone to accepting the consensus wisdom of scientists on science-related topics that I don’t know much about.  The dogmatism (as I see it, YMMV of course) of the climate science community causes me to make an exception in this case.  Defending things that are obviously wrong”¦ e.g. the use of the Tiljander proxies, the behavior shown by the Climategate emails and elsewhere”¦ is a great way to diminish one’s credibility.”

    Did you read the Idiot Tracker post that Eli linked to?   What ‘climate science community dogmatism’ yields IPCC tables that include (along with more ‘consensus’ estimates) central estimates for sensitivity to CO2 doubling that are between 1 and 1.5?  What kind of ‘dogma’ encompasses presenting those data on par with the rest?  Wouldn’t dogma rather seek to exclude it?

    And as for the rest of what you wrote, of course, when considering the ethics of climate science  Tiljander.  Which is not to say Tiljander.    Because as we know Tiljander.  Moreover, Tiljander.    Tiljander. Tiljander.  Oh, and btw, Climategate Tiljander.


    Your narrative there left out a hefty portion of the history, dating back to the 80s, of more or less ideological attempts to undermine the idea that AGW is real, and later, that AGW is important.  Jones et al (and McIntyre et al. for that matter)  weren’t operating in a contextual vacuum when the ‘auditing’ got intense.  That’s the real world, not an alternate one.






     

  • Marlowe Johnson

    @130
    do you not see the logical inconsistency in your position? on the one hand you say that you’re not an expert.  On the other, you say that the experts are wrong!  I’m sorry, I really don’t know how to politely say this, but

    ” It’s his imagination. It has to be, since everyone accepts that nobody actually understands cloud feedback or even formation. What I believe, or what Schmidt or Annan, or Jones or even Briffa, with regard to climate sensitivity to a doubling of CO2 is no more based in science than is Mormonism, being based wholly in hypothetical assumptions manifested in GCMs.”

    puts you in the tin-foil hat category.  AMac’s position of climate science agnosticisism is much more defensible (and understandable).  Just because you perceive ‘bad’ behaviour doesn’t mean that  knowledge of climate science is close to nil.  You don’t have the qualifications to make that judgment.  One does not follow from the other. And in some ways that is the logical error that far too many skeptics make.  they see ‘bad’ behaviour and then conclude that scientists must be hiding something.  or even worse. they don’t know anything and are making things up to scare people as part of an eco-krypto-fascist plot…

    It seems to me that the reasonable (intellectually honest) position for a layman is that the vast majority of the subject matter experts haven’t got it wrong, and no they aren’t part of a global conspiracy.  so when they say we have a problem, the discussion should move to options to deal with it.  do nothing is an option. do a little and hope for miracles is another. do a lot and hope that others join in is yet another.  these are the kinds of choices your doctor gives you.  questioning climate science for 99% of the population is equivalent to telling your doctor that he doesn’t know how to do his job because he tells you that you have a problem (insert alcohol/tobacco/love of double-downs here).

    @131
    Keep in mind that the Price-Anderson Act limits liability for nukes, in essence socializing the risks associated with Weitzman-type events.  One of the difficulties around discussions about electricity is differentiating between baseload and peaking power.  when you throw in transmission infrastructure things start to get really messy.   so it’s not just an issue of fossil vs renewable or nukes vs coal.  Regardless of policy on climate change the future on the electricity front will change much in the same way that transportation will.  energy sources will be increasingly diversified.  the days of one fuel source dominating the mix are numbered.  it’s not a question of if, but when non-fossil sources dominate across our all sectors of our economies.

    the trillion dollar question of course is whether or not we’ll make that transition quickly enough to avoid waterworld scenarios in 2300…

    p.s. thanks for the exchanges AMac.  very interesting.

  • AMac

    Steven Sullivan #133 –

    >  Did you read the Idiot Tracker post that Eli linked to?

    Yes, I re-read it. I agree with the point that those aspects of that post (and the IPCC) that are not dogmatic, are not reflective of dogmatism in climate science.  If follows from that that there are worse instances of dogmatism than are exhibited by climatology in its present state.

    > Tiljander Tiljander…

    As I think you recognize, the issue isn’t Tiljander per se.  There are other instances of Pro-AGW Consensus scientists and advocates valuing the “wartime virtues” (e.g. team loyalty, focusing on outcome more than process) over scientific virtues (e.g. intellectual rigor and curiosity).  Mann08′s use of the three (not four) uncalibratable Tiljander data series (not proxies) happens to be particularly easy for scientifically-literate lay people to grasp, and doesn’t require any sophisticated statistics or maths.  Fortunately or unfortunately, this makes the conduct of the defenders of the use of Tiljander in Mann08 evaluable, as well.

    The correct solution is also the obvious one:  if and when mistakes are made, acknowledge them and correct them.

    > Your narrative there left out a hefty portion of the history…

    Yes, it was a blog comment

    The problem with Merchants of Doubt isn’t that it’s wrong, it’s that it is incomplete. The “solutions” that MoD buy-in suggests are bad for climate science itself — e.g. Tiljander — and bad for climate science’s relationship with the broader public.  IMO.

  • dp

    probably a quadrillion dollar question, in terms of what people buy between now & 2050

    AMac#131: well there’s not much doubt the energy efficiency is the thing to chase first. clearly cheaper than the rest. after that it gets to practicalities & preferences, as usual. who knows what any energy tech will cost in 2030, when decarbonization is the rule? nobody human, that’s for sure.

  • AMac

    dp #136 — Yes, not much downside to low-hanging efficiency fruits, which still exist (though of course they get rarer as programs progress).  Enjoyed trading thoughts with you.
    Marlowe Johnson, thanks for the exchange too.  Keith, apologies for pulling the tail of the thread off-topic, at least to an extent.

  • http://www.hopkinson.net Simon Hopkinson

    Okay, Marlowe, so you’re saying that Annan’s ~6 degree – which is a bit wilder even than the IPCC’s – is substantiated.. how? I’m looking at climate model runs coming up with these figures, and climate scientists siding with their model results. I’m not seeing what would generally be accepted as traditional science. I’m not seeing these hypotheses  tested, I’m seeing them played out, and I’m seeing scientists either being confused about what constitutes evidence, or fooling themselves into believing that climate models – despite all their abysmal failings, their known and unknown unknowns – are “doing science”. They’re not, Marlowe, and it is an abuse of our history of scientific discovery to assert that they are.

    And that fundamentally is the problem, Marlowe. Climate scientists don’t DISCOVER science, they INVENT it. And then they reinforce their inventions with consensus – not scientific consensus in the traditional scientific sense but consensus of opinion; a signatory consensus. That’s not a consensus of scientific fact, it’s a consensus of rumour, or of hear-tell.

    I haven’t asserted any world-domination conspiracy theory, Marlowe. That’s you projecting because you’re on the defensive. Call my view tin-foil-hattery if you will, Marlowe, but deriding me won’t enhance the integrity of climate science and it won’t impact the overwhelming evidence of group-think, circular reasoning or lack of scientific basis for the necessary claims of dangerous warming, tipping points or catastrophic weather as a purported result of increases in anthropogenic CO2.

    But of course you want us to accept your argument from authority, no matter how shoddy it is, so we can finally skip the science and move on to the juicy stuff.. policy. That’s because it’s the policy that’s driving climate and environmental sciences, and all this discussion about how the science is insufficiently robust is interfering with what’s really desirable to advocacy scientists.

    What would be intellectually honest would be to acknowledge that, whether they will or not in the future, right now climate scientists simply don’t know enough about forces and feedbacks in the system to assert, with ANY of the necessary certainty, what the anthropogenic effects on the climate actually ARE. Belief aside, advocacy aside, ideology aside, it’s time the science was performed according to the age-old, time-tested scientific method, with mechanisms in place to prevent – or AT LEAST reduce – the possibility of what’s gone on in climate science from happening again.

  • RB

    Simon,
    You don’t seem to be familiar with the literature on Annan’s sensitivity estimates.  Here’s the abstract:
    Climate sensitivity has been subjectively estimated to be likely to lie in the range of 1.5-4.5C, and this uncertainty contributes a substantial part of the total uncertainty in climate change projections over the coming cen-
    tury. Objective observationally-based estimates have so far failed to improve on this upper bound, with many estimates even suggesting a significant probability of climate sensitivity exceeding 6C. In this paper, we show how it is possible to greatly reduce this uncertainty by using Bayes’ Theorem to combine several independent lines of evidence. Based on some conservative assumptions regarding the value of independent estimates, we conclude that climate sensitivity is very unlikely (< 5% probability) to exceed 4.5 C. We
    cannot assign a significant probability to climate sensitivity exceeding 6C without making what appear to be wholly unrealistic exaggerations about the uncertainties involved. This represents a significant lowering of the previously estimated bound.


     

  • http://www.hopkinson.net Simon Hopkinson

    RB, you’re correct. I haven’t read Annan’s sensitivity literature. I misread your reference to Annan and 6 degrees, assuming incorrectly that 6 degrees was his upper limit guestimate.

    re your #132: My principle concern with CO2 mitigation policy is nothing to do with the earth’s equilibrium – as I’ve expressed hereabouts before – it is that it’s untenable in the real world (CO2 mitigation must be genuinely global or it will fail physically), and even if it were, it’s assured to be punishing for the poorer in our societies and entire nations of poorer people worldwide. None of the maths adds up to an effective strategy for reducing anthropogenic contributions to atmospheric CO2. That, of course, would all be assuming that CO2 mitigation itself were scientifically justified, which I’m afraid to say I’m just not remotely convinced it is.

  • RB

    Simon,
    I share your view that CO2 mitigation needs a global policy to be practical and for the same reason, I don’t think nuclear is an effective alternative because developed countries cutting out coal will only make this an even cheaper source for developing countries relative to any other alternative. I remembe reading that the rest of the world will make up lost U.S. demand in five years. Therefore, it seems that arguing for a global nuclear policy also needs an organization that can bring about global coordination. In the absence of any alternatives to date, it seems hard to argue for any global energy policy while also simultaneously arguing against U.N. involvement, although one could make the case that the U.S., India and China should first hammer out an agreement if mitigation was found necessary.
     

  • Barry Woods

    2. They do not have to refute the massive physical evidence that the climate is warming.

    Eli, please…

    coming out of an ice age…..

    had a look at HadCru lately?

    Did you get to here the joke about russian physicists were making bets about cooling with their western climate science counterparts, and were expecting to clean up in a few years..

    ie when the Hadcrut trend from 2000 becomes ‘statistically’  (magic clmate science word) signifcantly cooling? for the 21st century.

    Seriously though:

    I was at a meeting the other week, front row, in the reserved seats for friends and guests of the Walker Instititute….(at my old University)

    If Professor Arnell, says that Hansens and others statement are alarmist, and the hollywood catastrophy doom scenarios (al gore got a mention) is not helping…

    (even a slide where he talks about this, vs realities of the extreme diffculty of regional predictions)

    ie
    green peace, 150000 deaths this year man made climate change

    10:10 campaign 300000 deaths a year man made climate change.

    Walker institute, NONE, just we may see more extreme events of a nature that cause deaths in the future, nothing attributable..

    Why can’t I say the same thing, or ask similar questions, in other arenas, without getting called a ‘climate change deniar’.

    I asked why don’t the scientists knock back the alarmism that is just made up. 

    the response is they don’t want to be seen lobbying? 

    Which is bizarre, they are advicing the UK government, Arnell was involved in the Stern report as well.  Why do they not want to CORRECT the alarmism of the green groups, which they AGREE is alarmist….

    Reading University  and the Walker institute, have a nuber of people in the next IPCC report, Professor Arnell is a lead author againn (2,3 and 4th reports allready)

    To my mind in the past (think IPCC) is because the lobby groups wild claims  have helped drive policy… (inconvenient truth, but one example)

    They cannot have it both ways…

    As I was sitting next to the co editor of the 2001 IPCC ‘ Hockey Stick’ Synthesis report, (my friend, and my lift for the evening) I was on my very best behaviour…

    Arnell in his lecture of course agreed that the 2.0C figure was a totally politically driven figure

    I am sceptical because of the behaviour of the Greenpeace’s of the world and 10:10′s they have done immense damage to ‘science’ 

    This member of the public, at least, does not buy their alarmism, is angry at being called a ‘deniar’ by some very scientificaly ignorant ‘activists’  and I do not understand why the scientists do not correct them.
    Slides of the Lecture:
    http://www.walker-institute.ac.uk/news/Arnell_public_lecture_2010-v4.pdf

    Climate experts from the University of Reading’s Walker Institute involved in IPCC 5th Assessment Report
    http://www.reading.ac.uk/about/newsandevents/releases/PR286195.aspx

  • Barry Woods

    I f you have a look at slide 4 ( a nice hockey stick composition)

    Entitled:  it is Now the Warmest for a 1000 years..
    Northern Hemisphere temperature reconstructions:

    which I would say, so what?

    does anyone think there might be a bit of  ‘hide the decline’ going on  ;)

  • http://gryposaurus.wordpress.com/ grypo

    Simon:

    “And that fundamentally is the problem, Marlowe. Climate scientists don’t DISCOVER science, they INVENT it. And then they reinforce their inventions with consensus ““ not scientific consensus in the traditional scientific sense but consensus of opinion; a signatory consensus. That’s not a consensus of scientific fact, it’s a consensus of rumour, or of hear-tell.”

    There are several lines of evidence that lead scientists to the figure of climate sensitivity.  It is based on recent  understanding of observed forcings and feedbacks.  It is based on past observation of forcings and feedbacks.  It is based on modelling analysis.  It is based on looking at inter-decadal solar cycles. Reaction to several volcanic eruptions in recent history.   Ocean temperature changes.  But I’m sure you know all this already, it is your contention that the feedbacks do not add up enough to cause a problem, or that we don’t know enough already to act, or that zero sensitivity is a null hypothesis (which I don’t understand considering the evidence to the contrary).

    It is agreed upon by all skeptics that CO2 will warm the atmosphere 1.2C per doubling.  If the feedbacks are zero or negative, how do you explain your comment:

    “But all the evidence I’ve ever seen suggests that the earth is given to significant natural variability and that the earth is resiliently self-correcting. ”  ???

    If the climate is sensitive to changes to radiative balance, the feedbacks happen independent of the root cause.  The feedbacks do not care if is CO2 that warms the surface 1.2 degrees or if it is the sun.  Without a sensitive climate, the MWP does not happen.  Without a sensitive climate, we do not escape an ice age, or go into one.  There is no such thing as “self-correcting”, there is only response to forcings and feedbacks.

    So my question is, “if you believe the past evidence regarding the climate as being ‘self-correcting’ how do you explain that this evidence also suggests positive feedbacks to warming that bring the sensitivity number at least above 2C, but at the same time, you claim that sensitivity is zero as a null hypothesis?”

  • http://www.hopkinson.net Simon Hopkinson

    grypo, thank you for responding. Firstly, can you point me to the “several lines of evidence” that give the figure of climate sensitivity, because as far as I can figure out, the “evidence” is computer-modelled. That is to say that that evidence is not actually evidence in the scientific sense. Also please point me to the lines of evidence that include and accurately account for cloud feedbacks.

    Also, please could you point me to where “it is written” (shamen-style if necessary) that “it is agreed upon by all skeptics that CO2 will warm the atmosphere 1.2C per doubling”. That’s a very precise number and it doesn’t fit with anything so certain as you describe.

    I’m not sure what it is that you want me to explain with regard to my statement regarding natural variability. Natural variability and self-stabilisation are not mutually exclusive. Natural variability happens on annual, decadal, multi-decadal, centennial, millennial… natural variability is clearly in the system, and so are self-stabilising mechanisms which result in climatic oscillations rather than planetary disintegration, atmospheric dissipation or whatever else tipping points might induce.

    As to your last question, the pivotal phrase missing from your question – and perhaps this is where the question spirals off into irrelevance is “CO2″. The null hypothesis is that, on balance, climate sensitivity to increases in CO2 contributions of the levels introduced by mankind, is zero.

    This is my point regarding scientific discovery versus scientific invention. In order to support the untested hypotheses of AGW, other untested climate hypotheses are created – frequently in computer model simulations. These AGW hypotheses serve as circular mutual support for each other but, being dependent on model simulations, are not subjected to rigorous scientific testing (i.e. the application of Scientific Method). This is invention, not discovery.

  • http://www.hopkinson.net Simon Hopkinson

    Gah. Oh, for an edit button. Before you get all giddy, the null hypothesis should read: “On balance, climate sensitivity to increases in CO2 contributions of the levels introduced by mankind, is low.”

    Sceptics agree that there is likely to be a warming of the climate, but that the warming will not be high. The correct null hypothesis to climate science’s alarmism is therefore that sensitivity is low.

  • Marlowe Johnson

    Simon,

    the onus isn’t on us to enlighten you.  It’s on you to refute the ipcc, the 20 or so national academies of science, etc.  sorry but appeals to null hypothesis don’t wash…

  • Alex Harvey

    Keith,
    Not long ago you rebuked me for playing the man, not the argument (my comments about what I regarded as Michael Lemonick’s junk science journalism in SciAm w/r/t Judith Curry).
    Is it not hypocritical for you now to start a thread about who deserves to be called a ‘skeptic’ and who deserves to be called a ‘denier’?
    RP Jr seems to have hit this one nicely on the head.
    Cheers, Alex

  • http://www.hopkinson.net Simon Hopkinson

    Marlowe, you’re so wrong. Once the IPCC and the 20 or so group-thinking signatory consensus appeal-to-authority academies challenge the null hypothesis, THEN the onus would be on me to enlighten you. THAT is how science is supposed to work. So we wait.

  • http://collide-a-scape.com Keith Kloor

    Alex,

    Apples and oranges. IMO, Roger is dead wrong on this, which I tried to convince him of in our email thread and over at his site. Here’s Tom Yulsman’s abbreviated response at Roger’s, which says it well:

    “I don’t think a conversation among journalists who are agonizing over the proper use of particular words is “insane”. That is a gross exaggeration. And I also don’t believe that when we consider the use of terms such as “skeptic” or “denier” that our real motive is to make a distinction between “us” and “them” “” and delegitimize anyone who has any doubts about AGW. Certainly, no responsible and knowledgeable journalist I know is in that game.

    Nonetheless, there are real problems with these labels. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer either.”

  • http://nigguraths.wordpress.com Shub

    KK
    You guys are missing the point. Roger is dead right on this. You know and recognize your own motivations and therefore know/think he is wrong.

    That is not what Roger is pointing out.

    What he is saying is, by indulging in such classification and terminology use, you are buying into what your own motives are opposite to.

     

  • http://gryposaurus.wordpress.com/ grypo

    I put the titles of the studies instead of links in this post as to not cause this post to get thrown into spam.  I understand you can’t read them all, because it’s a lot and there are paywall issues on some, but use google scholar to get the information, abstracts, or full studies.



    Simon:  “Firstly, can you point me to the “several lines of evidence” that give the figure of climate sensitivity, because as far as I can figure out, the “evidence” is computer-modelled. ”



    Past:



    Deriving global climate sensitivity from palaeoclimate reconstructions — MARTIN I. HOFFERT* & CURT COVEY”



    The ice-core record: climate sensitivity and future greenhouse warming — C. LORIUS, J. JOUZEL, D. RAYNAUD, J. HANSEN & H. LE TREUT



    Aerosol radiative forcing and climate sensitivity deduced from the Last Glacial Maximum to Holocene transition — Petr Chylek



    Carbon dioxide forcing alone insufficient to explain Palaeocene”“Eocene Thermal Maximum warming — Richard E. Zeebe




    Ocean:



    An Observationally Based Estimate of the Climate Sensitivity — J. M. GREGORY



    Solar Cycle:



    Solar-Cycle Warming at the Earth’s Surface and an Observational Determination of Climate Sensitivity — Tung



    Volcanoes:



    Effect of climate sensitivity on the response to volcanic forcing  – Wigley



    Summaries:



    The equilibrium sensitivity of the Earth’s temperature to radiation changes  –  Knutti and Hegerl



    How sensitive is the World’s Climate — Hansen



    Simon:  “Also, please could you point me to where “it is written” (shamen-style if necessary) that “it is agreed upon by all skeptics that CO2 will warm the atmosphere 1.2C per doubling”



    This number is generated from the most simple radiative forcing per doubling equation and accepted by everyone as the “no-feedbacks” number for CO2 forcing.  Radiative Forcing = 5.35 ln(540 CO3/270 CO2 orig).  5.35 is taken from the latest (Myhre 1998) and most conservative atmospheric line-by-line calculation of trace gases.  The natural logarithm of 2 (CO2/Co2orig) is 0.67.  Multiplied by 5.35 is 3.7 watts per square meter and converted to degrees is 1.2 degrees.  This has small error bars of about 7%.


    Simon: “I’m not sure what it is that you want me to explain with regard to my statement regarding natural variability. Natural variability and self-stabilisation are not mutually exclusive. Natural variability happens on annual, decadal, multi-decadal, centennial, millennial”¦ natural variability is clearly in the system, and so are self-stabilising mechanisms which result in climatic oscillations rather than planetary disintegration, atmospheric dissipation or whatever else tipping points might induce.”



    Natural variability within the system is one thing and then there are outside factors, most notably, solar, whether it be orbital tilt or increased TSI, and man, by increasing the GHG content of the atmosphere.  The internal factors are irrelevant in this conversation, as the long term (AMO/PDO) and short term (ENSO) are merely balances of energy.  We know less about 1500 years changes within the stable Holocene.  But what we do know is of much more importance.  We know that outside factors change the balance of energy within the system, and we know this leads to temperature change.  We know that these changes have been drastic at times.  We know that the atmosphere has had a high CO2 content during warm periods.  So if we know the changes are there and detectable, and we know that CO2 has an effect on temperature, how do we explain a low feedback number.  The feedbacks do not care what raised the temperature.  They just happen.  Feedbacks do not ‘self-correct’, they only respond to forcing.  The warmer and longer and more spatially significant the MWP is, it leads to a higher feedback number.



    Simon: “This is my point regarding scientific discovery versus scientific invention. In order to support the untested hypotheses of AGW, other untested climate hypotheses are created ““ frequently in computer model simulations. These AGW hypotheses serve as circular mutual support for each other but, being dependent on model simulations, are not subjected to rigorous scientific testing (i.e. the application of Scientific Method). This is invention, not discovery.”



    No, it is our best available science.  It is much more robust than what you are describing.   Couching everything as deficient knowledge doesn’t at all change what we do know.  It creates mathematical uncertainty (in most cases).  But that is the real issue.  At what point are skeptics satisfied and at what point do we really take the risk v uncertainty equations seriously.  I’ve come to except that others aren’t going to see that equation the same way as I do.  I don’t let it upset me anymore.  But what I will say, is that the science will likely not be able to give us answers where all uncertainty is erased to the point where will know unequivocally what the future holds to make perfect decisions with.  If that is how it plays out then the only way we will know will be if see it for ourselves, or less gloomy, we understand, but because of the CO2 cycle, it is too late.  Even then, I’m sure people will still blame it on something else, no matter to what precision science predicts the outcomes.  This is the unfortunate position that most people who want change find themselves in.

  • Keith Kloor

    Shub,

    Sorry, you’re totally missing it, yourself. Roger has conflated two things. He’s not even acknowledging that we all use shorthand for classification purposes, as I pointed out on his blog. All I’ve done is ask to clarify the terms that are in common currency.

    Your argument–and Roger’s–is akin to saying that we can’t have a conversation about what “liberal” or “conservative” means because it encourages use of labels.

  • http://nigguraths.wordpress.com Shub

    No, that is now what I am arguing. Let us take an example: When you call someone a conservative or liberal, you are not automatically denigrating them, right? It is just a tag.

    What if I start pointing out – some of these liberals actually do not adhere to any liberal principles, so I am going to call them… hmmm… “liberals”…?

    That is what Bud Ward did. “The skeptics are not deserving of their own position” – that is the underlying judgement. That is the delegitimization that is going on.

    I am not going to argue that, do delegitimize your opponents is by itself an evil thing. Sometimes you just give up and that is the only thing left. In normal human conversations, circular, tired debates often end this way.

    In the AGW debate, the conversation began this way. There are reasons for this.

    In the AGW debate, the first question that is thrown at you is – “you are not qualified enough to question or harbor your reservations, but you are welcome to believe us. ”

    Your initial questions certainly were framed simply enough, but the discussion did not proceed so. Someone had to point it out.

  • http://nigguraths.wordpress.com Shub

    Lots of small typos. Please excuse the mess.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    Shub,

    Do you happen by any chance to have an opinion on vaccines that resemble Maher’s on that other thread?   I’d like to know if Maher makes sense, but I am not a medecine-man.

     

  • http://amac1.blogspot.com/ AMac

    Willard (#156) –

    In the 1990′s, I worked with a PhD biologist from Russia when he came to the U.S. (he’s since made substantial contributions in molecular/cell biology).  When I met him, his kids were unvaccinated:  his work had brought him close enough to vaccine production (as it was done in Russia in the late ’80s/early ’90s) for him to believe that the risks outweighed the benefits.

    Shortly after moving to the West, he got his kids caught up on the standard pediatrician-recommended vaccination schedule.

    This is a “FWIW” story, of course.  If one accepts it, it shows the limits of the “denialist” explanation, and the idea that there must be simple right-wrong dicotomy.  People with expert-level knowledge can have a view that is both nuanced and rational.

    Whether “nuanced” or “rational” applies to Maher’s views, I don’t know.

  • http://amac1.blogspot.com/ AMac

    By the way, using two “linefeed” returns between paragraphs returns the spacing in my #157, supra.  “Linefeed” being Shift-Return.  Two “linefeeds” follow this paragraph –

    One “return” follows this one –
    Two “returns” follow this one –

    In case that helps others with formatting.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    AMac,

    Thanks for your FWIW story.  I read all Keith’s links, and my personal impression is that Maher started out as a crank in 2005.  He seems to have remained a crank until october 2009.  I surmised he had to face some harsh criticisms, for his long post from November 2009 makes him look a lot better than beforehand.   At least he learned something out of the episode, even if it might not be about vaccines.

    PS: My kids get all the vaccines we are being told they need, btw.  We all got the H1N1.  Everybody working with the public should, imho, including Maher.

  • http://nigguraths.wordpress.com Shub

    Why do you want to know what I think about vaccines?
    To be honest, I have no opinion about vaccines.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    Because you’re a medecine-man, and because I’ve heard it through the grapevines.  Want me to search for it?

    Here you go:

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/2010/10/06/when-history-fades/

  • http://collide-a-scape.com Keith Kloor

    Willard, I think you meant this one for Shub to read.

  • http://nigguraths.wordpress.com Shub

    I did not really follow what Bill Maher thinks about vaccines. I just read his ‘controversy’ post.

    I am curious to know what you heard through the grapevine. :) . (Are you referring to that post?). The stuff that I posted about vaccination in the post is not really an opinion – it is an understood facet of public health. Vaccination strategies change during different phases of infectious disease.


     

  • laursaurus

    Vaccination strategies change during different phases of infectious disease.
    Shub,

    This statement is so vague and sweeping. What are you talking about?

    I was one of the unlucky victims of swine flu last October. I had dutifully gotten myself and my kids the season flu shot in September with plans to get H1N1 as soon as it became available (which I think wasn’t until late November). One of my kids brought it home, spread it our family and several of his playmates  over the course of a few days. It was horrible! I could easily imagine how it could be potentially fatal for some people.

    If you remember the beginning of the swine flu outbreak, we were bombarded by the media to frequently wash our hands, stay home if feeling sick, etc. because that was our only option until the vaccine was ready. Some people did die. I really think that public awareness is how we averted a pandemic. But people quickly forget, especially when it turned out to be no big deal. Now that the annual flu shots contain H1N1 we have a much more effective strategy against a possible pandemic.People are no longer paying such close attention to hand washing, so that’s why it’s important to get the shot. Believe me, it’s totally worth $35 not to get that crud! I ran a fever of 102 and it took about 2 weeks to get over it. My kids bounced back after a few days, fortunately.

    Along time ago, I didn’t think flu shots were necessary. But once I started getting vaccinated annually, I hardly even catch a cold (knock on wood). Until last year, that is. The first year, I had a little reaction. But looking back, it could have been psychological, and was certainly nothing as debilitating as getting the actual disease. Maybe you don’t care about old people, but babies frequently require hospitalization and/or die. That is actually what a “pure” immune system is; one that hasn’t been activated yet.The only mechanism for building up your immune system is to activate it by getting sick or receiving an attenuated dose (“killed” virus or the protein molecule from the actual pathogen).

    Seriously, this distrust of modern medicine and innuendo about Big Pharma is crazy conspiracy thinking. People aren’t exactly motivated by money when they choose a career in healthcare. Even doctors must endure brutal training and go into debt to get just get through medical school. Then spend another couple years in residency. Pharmaceutical companies don’t really make much of a profit for manufacturing vaccines. You don’t see TV commercials urging you to ask your doctor about getting the brand new super-duper flu vaccine for 2010.

    Maybe the drugstores make a few bucks, but it’s possible to get one for free or very cheap through your county’s public health department.

    We have all the data from the CDC freely available and are encouraged to review it. As new information becomes available we improve our understanding of the science and adjust our approach for the best results.

  • http://www.hopkinson.net Simon Hopkinson


    grypo, as has been said before, just stating the names of studies without offering links or summaries is not responding to questions. So I picked off your first one:

    MARTIN I. HOFFERT & CURT COVEY
    This analysis has issues. It is full of uncertainties and doesn’t take into account other aerosols released with CO2. Add those in and what happens to the 2.3K figure?


    Also, I can’t see how your 1.2 degree/doubling “no feedbacks” figure is representative of the sceptical position. Who argues that there are no feedbacks? Nobody I know! What is in dispute is the extent of feedbacks, positive and negative. Surely you can’t be pulling this with a straight face!?

    “We know that the atmosphere has had a high CO2 content during warm periods.  So if we know the changes are there and detectable, and we know that CO2 has an effect on temperature, how do we explain a low feedback number.”

    Cum hoc ergo propter hoc. The correlation between temperature change and CO2 concentration is poor at best anyway, as evidenced in the 20th century, but even if it were good correlation, contrary to your assertion, this would not establish a causal relationship between CO2 and temperature.
     

  • Shub

    “Vaccination strategies change during different phases of infectious disease.
    This statement is so vague and sweeping. What are you talking about?”

    I was referring to my earlier post (KK referred to in 162, as did willard). Please refer to the post.

    The United States is a country where a good proportion of the population finishes high school, and a high proportion of the population undertakes higher education. Infectious disease burden is quite low. Knowledge of benefit to society from technology is high, perhaps even subconscious, but resistance and skepticism to claims from authority are high as well. Vaccination strategies have to take these factors into account.

    Even in low-income developing countries, resistance to vaccination drives is found in communities with prior high rates of vaccination and low disease burden (among other things). The reasons are analogous.

  • http://gryposaurus.wordpress.com/ grypo

    Simon:  “grypo, as has been said before, just stating the names of studies without offering links or summaries is not responding to questions.”

    Your question was asking me to point out the multiple lines of evidence besides the models for estimating climate sensitivity.  Listing out the names of the studies that use other methods to estimate climate sensitivity is a way answering that question.  If you want further questions answered, please ask.

    Simon:  “This analysis has issues.”

    All analyses have issues.  This is why when multiple lines of evidence lead to the same conclusions using different methods; it becomes accepted within the literature as a consensus of evidence.   This method does not use aerosol forcing from fossil fuel burning because it is climate sensitivity estimate that includes all forcing from the time frame that is studied.

    Simon: “It is full of uncertainties and doesn’t take into account other aerosols released with CO2. Add those in and what happens to the 2.3K figure?”

    It is irrelevant to climate sensitivity of CO2.  Aerosol forcing is relevant as another forcing upon the climate that is figured as cooling forcing when examining attribution to temperature.    Read IPCC WG1 Section 9.4.1.4 for details on this.

    Simon:   “Also, I can’t see how your 1.2 degree/doubling “no feedbacks” figure is representative of the sceptical position. Who argues that there are no feedbacks? Nobody I know! What is in dispute is the extent of feedbacks, positive and negative. Surely you can’t be pulling this with a straight face!?”

    The 1.2 was used because you contend that climate sensitivity = “The null hypothesis is that, on balance, climate sensitivity to increases in CO2 contributions of the levels introduced by mankind is zero.”  For this to be true, the combination of feedbacks would need to be -1.2C.  Then I went on to discuss how looking at the past, it would suggest that the response to increased temperature is to increase positive feedbacks.  Now, as far as my straight face, I can assure you, yes, I can ask these questions and make statements in full confidence.  The skeptical position on low climate sensitivity very much is that feedbacks equal at least -.4 to 1C.  There is no evidence to suggest that number.  On the other hand, there are multiple lines of evidence using vastly different methods that suggest a positive number of feedbacks that bring the sensitivity number to above 2C and somewhat constrained around 4.5C.  Considering that we know CO2 warms at a rate of 1.2C per doubling, we’ve found with high confidence that feedbacks have added to the temperature in the past, why would low climate sensitivity be a null hypothesis?

    Simon:  “The correlation between temperature change and CO2 concentration is poor at best anyway, as evidenced in the 20th century, but even if it were good correlation, contrary to your assertion, this would not establish a causal relationship between CO2 and temperature.”

    Not sure why you would use the 20th century as an example for you argument, but that’s beside the point.  The correlation between emissions release and temperature is based in physics and mathematics.   I don’t need a thermometer to know that GHG will eventually increase temperature.

    Let’s drill it down more.  The CO2 with feedbacks equation looks like this:

    Change in temp = 1.2 / (1 – feedbacks).

    The most important feedbacks are water vapor (+.6), albedo (+.1), lapse rate (-.3), and clouds.   The most up to date satellite data suggest cloud feedback is +.15 with and a 75 percent certainty range.  Put these numbers into the equation as feedbacks and you get 2.7 with errors bars that bring a range of 2 – 4 C.   In order to bring that number down to zero to one would mean that cloud feedback would need to be around -.45 or more.  That would be a fairly large difference, right?

    But here I am continuing to make my point and basically arguing with myself, being asked to disprove a phony null hypothesis.  How about you come up with a hypothesis that feedbacks equal -.2 to -1C and then back that up with evidence of the cloud data that differs so much from our known data or show me a study of  a past time period where climate sensitivity was found to be outside the accepted range.

  • Jay M.

    Simon #8 – “You’re a wordsmith. Find a work-around that doesn’t perpetuate the falsehood that all those who challenge aspects of climate science ““ be they sceptics, deniers, politically motivated or scientifically objective, or any of the infinite variations between ““ can be described with one group term.”
    Sorry to be late to the party, but back to the original question: I’m inclined to agree with Simon. Rather than use loaded terms such as “denier,” why not use neutral terms such as “convinced” and “unconvinced,” then let the person’s own remarks/ arguments speak to whether or not they’re rational in their views? And the best test for rationality (whether the person is convinced or unconvinced) is to ask, “What would it take for you to change your mind about global warming?” The answer to that question should tell you more than any label.
     

  • http://www.hopkinson.net Simon Hopkinson

    “Your question was asking me to point out the multiple lines of evidence besides the models for estimating climate sensitivity.  Listing out the names of the studies that use other methods to estimate climate sensitivity is a way answering that question.”

    Would be fine, but you listed a couple of studies, the first of which was so appallingly disconnected from reality to be entertaining to consume, and then just named a few names. A veritible toplist of infamous ideological advocates. Compelling? Not so much.

    Your response relies on reductionism to make its points. I’m pretty confident that even you don’t think that the climate science behind the AGW hypotheses is as simple as the case you present. But more fundamentally, when the discussion about catastrophic warming – yanno, the stuff that requires immediate action to head off terrible consequences of man’s activities – is challenged, you retreat to simple AGW hypotheses. You don’t make your case, you make a different case. AGW and CAGW are very different. It’s no wonder that the warmists object to the term CAGW. Without that term, warmists would continue to be able to confuse prophecies of catastrophe with basic AGW science.

    As I said before, sceptics acknowledge and agree that increases in CO2 will result in warming. There is much debate about the extent of the warming, and the 1.2C figure is not representative of that body of opinion. The debate is about the catastrophic nature of the warming. The science implying that the warming will be catastrophic is conspicuous by its absence, and to the extent that there is scientific theory implying potentially catastrophic effects, that loosely-based science is dwarfed by its implicit uncertainties.

    So then, the null hypothesis relates to the purported catastrophes as a result of AGW, which would be required to justify the policymaking you advocate – whether mitigation or adaptation. The null hypothesis is that the effect of anthropogenic CO2 will not have catastrophic effect.

  • JohnB

    Simon, every sceptic I know of accepts the 1-1.2 degrees for a doubling of CO2.

    One could reasonably argue that 1.2 degrees is actually the null hypothesis since the effect of doubling cannot be zero.

    Whether sceptic or warmer you have to use the 1.2 as a starting point since this is the “no feedback” position. Only after this can you start worrying about feedbacks and adding them in.

    AFAIK, the radiative forcing equations work for all concentrations of CO2 and not just for doubling. If I’m wrong, or stuff up the maths (quite probable) can someone please correct me.

    Using grypos equation from 151 we have
    RF= 5.35 x ln(390/270)
    390/270=1.44
    ln of 1.44 is .365
    So 5.35 x .365 = 1.953 W/M-1
    Using grypos conversion factor above of .324 we get the answer that temperature change due to CO2 increase since circa 1850 without feedbacks would be about .63 degrees C.

    This figure isn’t too far off the actual observed warming and is one of the reasons thatI’m at a loss as to why 2.4 degrees or higher could be expected.

    Since the effect of increasing the CO2 is reducing logarithmically, the feedbacks had better start setting in soon.

    Just to repeat. I’ve seen the RF equations before, but never worked them. If I’ve stuffed up could someone please correct with the right figure for temp increase sans feedbacks for the 270-390 change in CO2.

    I think I’m roughly right because IIRC it’s the line of reasoning that I’ve heard Dr. Lindzen use.

  • http://www.hopkinson.net Simon Hopkinson

    JohnB, the point where I’ve fallen down here is the starting point for doubling CO2. A doubling of CO2 from pre-industrial levels is different from a doubling of CO2 levels today, since CO2′s effect on temperature is logarithmic. I blame late nights and domestic stress. I stand by the thrust of my argument, however, that the case for policy depends entirely on the C in CAGW, which is ideologically value-driven and not scientifically substantiated.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    There is an interesting comment by Jim Cripwell on Judith Curry’s blog, in answer to Tom Fuller’s question about some showing of credibility:

    > Not me. CAGW has absolutely ruined science. It needs to be completely obliterated. In a previous post, Judith referred to a war between the proponents of CAGW and the skeptics. I believe it is war, and the only thing we skeptiocs can accept, is unconditional surrender from the proponents of CAGW.
    Source: http://judithcurry.com/2010/12/01/skeptical-discussion/#comment-17290

    I’m not sure if this 1-1.2 degrees for a doubling of CO2 matters much for Cripwell.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    Not credibility, but flexibility.   At least, Fuller’s question was about showing flexibility.

  • http://gryposaurus.wordpress.com/ grypo

    JohnB,

    The .63 hasn’t been felt completely yet due to the absorption of heat energy by the ocean.  When that is felt over time, the feedbacks react to the rise in temperature.  This is why we use large timescales to determine temperature.  It is impossible at this point to determine exactly when we will experience the symptoms of the natural imbalance of heat energy.


    Simon,

    My “reductionism” is to provide a base of understanding for what the science evidence is telling us.  But that is not my case for action on the climate issue.  This was a conversation about sensitivity, so I felt it necessary to give the bottom to top case for the numbers.  The numbers are provided by paleo-climate (past), observation (present), and future (models), with numbers constrained by past, as observation being above 1.5C, at least, and lower than 4.5 C.

    Your comment about the scientists who conducted the “disconnected from reality” studies is an odd one, usually used to relieve the pressure of actually having to read what they say and wonder why it is that they are advocating certain CO2 reductions, but that is another argument that I’ll never be able to dissuade you from, so I won’t bother.

    The important point is your last post:

    “I stand by the thrust of my argument, however, that the case for policy depends entirely on the C in CAGW, which is ideologically value-driven and not scientifically substantiated.”


    and it gets to my personal argument about climate action.  There is very good scientific evidence to show that the symptoms of imbalanced planet will cause change, no matter if it is natural or not.   The evidence suggests that man made CO2 will cause this imbalance.  These changes have an effect.  These symptoms cause externalities on third parties.  Unless these problems are paid for by the parties involved in the initial exchange, the third party pays the economic price.  If a company leaks poison into a lake and it kills the fish, the local fishermen and local economy pay the price.  These are externalities, that, if not paid for, creates a market that is not free, but dominated.  If a company wants to leak another poison into the river, and science determines that this will likely create damage to the ecosystem and hurt the fishermen, the farmers, the grocers, etc, the collective populous can use the rule of law to prevent this from infringing upon their freedom with fines, taxes, punitive tort.  What we are doing is allowing our consumption based economy to rule our law, and creating a huge machine that  exports externalities while a smaller population dominates and advances their own freedom.  So the “C” of CAGW, while a matter of value, yes of course, is a measurable quantity.  The world does not have to end to create global wheat panic that effects a few billion people.   I may sit nicely, but my country’s over consumption of energy is likely causing temperatures to rise in higher elevations, which causes glaciers that people depend on for run off to disappear.  We all share the atmosphere, if we are going to change it, we need to pay for it.  This is environmental free market theory going back over 100 years and continued with Austrian economics and brought to America by Murry Rothbard.  This is libertarianism, or what is was before it co-opted by corporate consumption culture.

    So to sum up — yes, the ‘C’ is value driven, but measurable within reason by science in assessing risk,  and any laws proceeding that will be based on those values, but what laws aren’t?

  • http://www.hopkinson.net Simon Hopkinson

    willard, it’s this conflation of AGW and CAGW that you do so well. Jim may be wholly accepting of the physics of AGW (science) while refusing to entertain assertions of CAGW fearmongery by its proponents (ideologists).

    The gap between AGW and CAGW can be measured on scales of uncertainty, scientific substantiation and rationality. At the AGW end, there is little uncertainty and much to substantiate the theory scientifically. At the CAGW end, there is a great deal of uncertainty associated with the hypotheses and an unsettling amount of ideology and fearmongery. At the AGW end there is somewhere between no and minimal policy implication regarding mitigation while at the CAGW end  there would be a great deal.

    Adaptation scales differently from mitigation, but still is heavily dependent on the C in CAGW and not simply AGW theory. Both mitigation and adaptation depend too heavily on value judgement and the emotive and not enough on (and indeed increasingly to the exclusion of) physical science.

  • http://www.hopkinson.net Simon Hopkinson

    grypo, regarding your comment to JohnB: you’re referring to the “missing heat”, and you’re stating in a certain way something which is not certain but is hypothesised and presumed to be true. This is you misrepresenting the current lack of knowledge (and “it’s a travesty” that you do).

    Your reductionism – I won’t presume motive, so to put it simply – oversimplifies a complex scenario and in so doing creates an illusion of certainty which is present in your simplification but which is lacking in the complex scenario it purports to explain.

    You at least concede that the case regarding catastrophic effects of climate change is value-driven, which I think is an important first step, but implicit in your case is that it is underpinned by well-established science supporting catastrophic scenarios. This I challenge. In order to make that case scientifically, you have to go beyond AGW physics and make a case for high climate sensitivity. As I’ve pointed out before, and as has been conceded many times reluctantly by climate scientists, there are inherent gaps and uncertainties in our scientific understanding of climate sensitivity which are prohibitively significant.

    While I don’t at all have a problem with making assessments and decisions based on careful risk analysis , I have an enormous issue with the act of concealing uncertainties in the science in order to build and enhance the case for policy direction. It is an abuse of the scientific method, it is harmful to the integrity of sciences generally, and potentially terminal for environmental sciences. For the record, though I’ve said it many times before, I don’t see this as a good thing.

  • http://gryposaurus.wordpress.com/ grypo

    The theoretical nature of the oceans absorbing heat is not an uncertainty.  This would be you overstating uncertainty using a specific case where heat has entered the planetary system and hasn’t left, meaning just because we can’t measure it with current technology, it doesn’t it magically disappear where we don’t need to account for it when assessing future risk.  That would be a travesty.



    “This I challenge. In order to make that case scientifically, you have to go beyond AGW physics and make a case for high climate sensitivity. ”



    There is a good case for high sensitivity, if you consider 3C high.  What is high?  And the more important question when discussing litigation action is what the imbalance does to the environment, the symptoms produced, and therefore the economic reality.  This is a measurable effect using constrained temperature rise with science and economics.



    The idea that the laws we make will be based on values is not a concession.  It’s just how laws are made.   I stand by the science when it says that the sensitivity is X, the cooling effects are X, and X  -X is the constrained temperature rise, and X is the probable pH level rise, etc.  My”‘values” are that economic and humanitarian externalities should be paid for.  It is my “values” that lead me to the conclusion that we change course of action.  Not changing is also an action.  Since the science is very much tilted toward my argument, it is up to people who want to continue to very likely cause externalities by human CO2 emissions to make the case why they should be able to decide for the rest of us, based on their “values”.

  • http://www.hopkinson.net Simon Hopkinson

    There is no uncertainty about whether a theory exists to explain the presence of heat which is apparently cleverly hiding from instruments, but if it isn’t measurable, if it isn’t demonstrable, and if it isn’t explainable, whatever you think it is, it isn’t science, it’s ethereal.

    There are many other things to take issue with, but I’m time-limited today because I have to go and help dig some friends out of their house. Quite a lot of global warming has been falling over the last week or 2, and more is expected.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    Simon Hopkinson,

    We already had this conversation before.  You’re the one who finds interest in this CAGW epithet, not me.   Here are some previous posts about that:

    http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com/tagged/about-cagw
    http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com/tagged/about-labelling

    Yes, Simon Hopkinson, you’re labelling right now.  You’ve not identified the position you wish to criticize, you simply handwave toward an undeterminate amount of people and armwave to a position that you’re never really defined.  This is labelling alright.

    If the C is not science and AGW is science, putting the two together makes little  sense to me.  Let’s wonder why this epithet is still in use, and by whom.

    ***
    But since you kindly asks about Jim Cripwell, here is his position regarding AGW:

    > I dont believe that this 1 C for a doubling of CO2 with no feedbacks has any basis in physics. It is a purely hypothetical and meaningless number which has never been measured.

    Source: http://judithcurry.com/2010/12/02/best-of-the-greenhouse/#comment-17822

    Surprising, isn’t it?

  • http://gryposaurus.wordpress.com/ grypo

    Simon:

    There is no uncertainty about whether a theory exists to explain the presence of heat which is apparently cleverly hiding from instruments, but if it isn’t measurable, if it isn’t demonstrable, and if it isn’t explainable, whatever you think it is, it isn’t science, it’s ethereal.


    The main point to JohnB was that we haven’t felt the extra energy yet because 90% of energy is absorbed by the ocean.   This is another point, like 1.2 C no-feedbacks for CO2 doubling, that no legitimate skeptic questions.  The other point you brought up about the “missing heat” is something different.  It is not “ethereal” to discuss why after 2003 there is energy missing from the budget.  One possibility is deep ocean convection, which we know happens and was detailed in a recent paper, accounting for some warming in abysmal depths below 4000m.  Another possibility is that it actually did escape to space, or it is still in the atmosphere as heat energy, just not detectable by our current instrumentation.  However you would like to classify it, be it “ethereal” or “cleverly hiding”, that IS science.  This is something that has been on the radar since 2005 when Peilke Sr. brought it up.   If there is any cleverness being used here, it would be in how you use your language.

  • http://www.hopkinson.net Simon Hopkinson

    You say that C is not science and AGW is science. On this I agree with you. Where I am at odds is that C and AGW are frequently put together by “alarmists” using conflation to justify fears of C with the science of AGW. This is the issue raised by “deniarrrs” like me. But since I’m a liberal and a “deniarrr”, I guess the gist of KK’s blog “When Liberals are “Deniers” suggests that I’m the climate-equivalent of a Self-Hating Jew.

    Since the problem you have seems to be a failure in me to identify the position I wish to criticise, let me be very specific. I’m critical of the misrepresentation of scientific evidence and concealment of scientific uncertainties for the purpose of broadly manipulating and coercing the public and instigating societal change through, among other things, fear-mongery, specifically for ideologically motivated reasons. Let me say yet again, for the record, that I would find that behaviour insufferable no matter from which partisan group it came.

    But seriously, willard, this isn’t actually labelling. Labelling in the context of climate science is ad hominem – “deniarrr”, “alarmist”, etc. – Though you likely detect vitriolic overtones frequently in what I write, fundamentally my objection is not the sociopolitical ideology, it is that I object to people lying to get what they want. If you really want the minutiae of the cause/origination of my strident attitude towards this behaviour, I’ll simply say “bad marriage”.

  • http://www.hopkinson.net Simon Hopkinson

    grypo, my point regarding the energy budget is that, until we know where the missing heat is, every assertion is speculation. In this sense it is literally ethereal. We don’t know where the heat is, and we don’t know that the suggestion that it is deep in the ocean has greater merit than the suggestion that it escaped into space undetected.

    I have no issue with postulation, but I have an issue with misrepresenting presumption as conclusion, and I have an issue with taking that presumptive conclusion and founding fresh hypothesis or deriving further conclusions on it. That, as I’ve said before, is unscientific because it is invention rather than discovery.

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Collide-a-Scape is a wide-ranging blog forum that explores issues at the nexus of science, culture and society.

About Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a NYC-based journalist, a senior editor at Cosmos magazine, and 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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