Q&A With Steve Andrew, the Orlando Science Policy Examiner

By Chris Mooney | July 11, 2009 11:44 am

We did a Q&A about the book here that should be of interest to some. I’m going to skip the science-religion stuff, but here are some other important parts of the exchange:

Chris pointed out here that climate change denier extraordinaire Marc Morano may be dead wrong, but he’s articulate, well funded, and there’s no one on the science side that competes with him. What specifically can be done to change that?

It’s simple: Things won’t change until the world of science invests in creating counter-Moranos. There are many talented and extremely young intelligent people in science today who could fill that role, but there is little training available for them, and even less of a career trajectory for them to get there.

Generally, young scientists have been exposed to a very traditional academic menu of courses, when instead it would behoove us to offer more interdisciplinary and media skills to those who are asking for it. And that’s not just to create counter-Moranos; it’s fundamentally necessary to address an imbalance in the academic pipeline today.

Just consider: The last assessment by the National Postdoctoral Association reported that only 7% of those who earn a PhD in science will someday achieve tenured faculty status. Not everyone studying science is interested in that, but the reality is that there simply aren’t enough positions in academia for all the scientists that the system is currently producing. Meanwhile, at the very same time, we need better science communicators, better teachers, and more outreach people who are really good at taking science out into our society.

So the answer is simple: We’ve got to offer today’s young scientists more ways to get to very different careers from the standard academic one. And then we will have our counter-Moranos, as well as many scientists engaged in other important tasks to reconnect science and society.

This is, of course, a central theme of the book–giving young scientists avenues to use their already existent talent and energy to engage with the rest of society.

We also talked about the problem of science on blogs:

You say in the book the bloggers can’t save us, what do you mean?

In 2008, the Project for Excellence in Journalism found that for ever five hours of cable news, you’ll encounter about one minute’s worth of coverage devoted to science and technology. At the same time, newspapers around the country are killing their science beat and firing their science reporters.

The chief thing filling the vacuum are science blogs, which have become simultaneously the best and worst sources of science information. It’s very difficult for many people to access expensive subscription-only scientific journals unless they’re in academia.

Blogs do discuss what’s being published on the front lines of science, but people who write about science on blogs generally only reach an audience that is already interested in reading about…science on blogs. But that’s not America—and that doesn’t bridge the divide.

Indeed, what’s available on “science” blogs also includes awful misrepresentations and distortions of the truth, which have fueled the modern anti-vaccination movement, anti-evolutionists, and most notably, climate change denialism. In fact, the latest Internet poll to determine the “Best Science Blog” awarded one such site the award based on public vote.

There is no doubt that blogging has tremendous positives–we do it after all–but it’s also not a silver bullet solution to the challenges of improving science communication.

You can read the full Q&A here.

Comments (43)

  1. SLC

    Re Marc Marano

    The way to counter a phony like Mr. Marano is to realize that his approach is identical to that used by Duane Gish when the latter engages in debates about evolution, infamously known as the Gish Gallop. Like Gish, Marano has a series of talking points but really has no understanding of the subject matter. When Ken Miller debated Gish, he read everything that he could find that the latter had written and got transcripts and, when available, video clips of Gish in action. Thus, he was fully prepared to counteract the Gish Gallop with short talking points of his own which demonstrated the emptiness of Gishs’ claims. The same approach has to be used against Marano. What is needed, then, is the climate change equivalent to Prof. Miller.

  2. Chris Mooney

    Couldn’t agree more about the virtues of Ken Miller, SLC. And to some extent agree here–but Miller’s job is not to eternally refute Duane Gish, he’s up to other things, and rightfully so. We’re talking about people whose job it is to do this kind of work.

  3. Ben Nelson

    Only 7% reach tenure, but how many become adjunct profs? In America, and now in Canada the casualization of labor (including academic labor) is absolutely ridiculous. You mentioned before that not many folks have regular encounters “with scientists”. It is at least possible that this is because the institution of science in America, while being fairly good at patting the heads of a sovereign set of lucky luminaries, is not otherwise in a healthy state.

    God knows where we’d find, on top of this problem, the means of training luminaries to be media liaisons.

  4. Chris Mooney

    Ben,
    Well, we answer that in the book….

  5. Ben Nelson

    Any word on when it’ll be available in Canada?

  6. Roald A

    I’d think the most effective anti-Moranos on the planet would be IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri and Al Gore, if only they would come out with a statement declaring, “Yes we have carefully examined reports from skeptic scientists and we have personally met with many of them. To assure the world of our thoroughness, we have shown in our widely distributed documents ‘A’, ‘B’, and ‘C’ how we proved our conclusions and completely disproved theirs, and to further solidify our case, in document ‘C’ we show irrefutable evidence of how unethical influence from fossil fuel industries ‘X’, ‘Y’ and ‘Z’ actually prompted easily understood errors “E’, ‘F’ and ‘G’ in the skeptics’ science reports.”

    Why on Earth haven’t they taken those steps? Of course they don’t want to waste time swatting at flies, but when they declare the debate over without showing how the skeptics are wiped out, it doesn’t look like they don’t want to swat flies, the public thinks it looks like they can’t disprove the skeptics!

  7. Chris Mooney

    Canada? Hmm. I don’t know off hand. I know you can get it on Kindle right now. Actually, it looks like it is available from Amazon.ca
    http://www.amazon.ca/exec/obidos/ASIN/0465013058/

  8. Jon

    It’s simple: Things won’t change until the world of science invests in creating counter-Moranos.

    This is where the scientific materialist philistines can do a lot of damage. If we have a bunch of “counter Moranos” who don’t hold to the liberal tradition of respect for conscience, then they’re sitting ducks for the right wing culture warriors.

  9. Peter Beattie

    Chris, let me try and get this straight. The question by Steven Andrew was, “What specifically can be done to change that?” Your answer:

    [T]here simply aren’t enough positions in academia for all the scientists that the system is currently producing. Meanwhile, at the very same time, we need better science communicators, better teachers, and more outreach people who are really good at taking science out into our society.

    So, what we need is a) more jobs in academia for scientists, especially those you primarily want to be communicators, and b) better outreach to the public. I’m sorry, but those are not solutions, that’s just a rephrasing of the problem. In any case, the question was what specifically could be done. So the question is: How exactly do you propose to communicate better, to improve education, and to reach larger portions of the public? And what kinds of things would you recommend we communicate?

  10. John Kwok

    @ Roald A -

    I respectfully disagree. We need scientists who are excellent researchers and excellent communicators. James Hansen of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies is among the best qualified to offer excellent commentary to the public with respect to our understanding of climate change, but he isn’t the only one. There are others out there too.

  11. While he is not a climate expert, I can think of Michael Shermer as a worthy opponent to Marc Morano.

  12. While James Hansen is the world’s preeminent expert on climate change, he does not always understand politics or economics and is brutally honest. While this honesty is appreciated, people like him unfortunately won’t appear very effective in debates with those like Morano. We need someone who is more suave. Here is a recent profile of Hansen from the New Yorker.

    http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/06/29/090629fa_fact_kolbert

  13. IPCC Chairman Pachauri is effective and very knowledgeable but in some ways he is an idealist. I listened to him last week at the 59th meeting of Nobel Laureates in Lindau, Germany and he needs to add a little more publicly appealing meat on his utterances. For instance he thinks that after Copenhagen people worldwide will vote governments out if they don’t support climate change. I remain skeptical, and hope I will be proven wrong.

  14. John Kwok

    @ Curious Wavefunction -

    I wouldn’t underestimate Hansen. I heard him speak twice at WSF last month on the necessity to act on climate change now and to promote renewed American interest in nuclear power (as a means of reducing drastically our carbon footprint) and he seemed quite sensible in two panel discussions moderated by journalists.

  15. Marion Delgado

    Not to go all Washington Consensus heretical, but the plain facts are that people are at least half again as productive in the industrialized world than they were in the 1970s. Nonetheless, their wages are stagnant, and while electronics technology appliances have gone down in real terms, some things like education, books, housing, etc. have gone up faster than average inflation and even most 2-earner households are doing more work (housework and away from home) than they were in the 1970s.

    Some things have a vastly inflated value – newsprint is insane: it should be replaced with corticized hemp paper, but bizarre laws and monopolies prevent it; furthermore, it’s far less necessary than it once was but it rises in cost faster than general inflation.

    In general, capital in the form of physical plant is less necessary but custom, law, and barriers to entry prevent people from bypassing it. Access to natural resources is more important than ever, and more locked up than ever.

    The unscientific nature OF the Washington Consensus masks something very similar to the interlocking Divine Right of Kings and Infallibility of the Church in the Middle Ages. If the industrialized world had some kind of breakup of the richest resource holdings the way a few Third World nations did, the monopolies, etc., I believe we would all be working fewer hours and consuming fewer resources for the same outputs.

    If that became the case, people could pursue a vocation/avocation and support themselves at the same time. If we had 20-hr work weeks, todays amateurs could become rigorously familar enough with science to contribute in a modest way and become semi-pro advocates. Consider the Physician’s Assistant programs, and the increased duties and capabilities of nurses nowadays as parallels to what’s possible.

    I find it distressing that people who chafe at really modest constraints on objectivity in areas that don’t affect everyone meekly accept endless steel-plated boundaries around inquiry in things like access to resources, wealth, capital, etc. and incomes and distribution networks and so on.

    I would recommend http://www.paecon.net to anyone. Market fundies love to pretend their global warming denialism is skepticism, but that site represents genuine skepticism on their home turf.

    (end digression)

  16. What needs to be done? Scientists need to be better educated, in a “well rounded” sense of the word. Based on my own personal experiences more time should be devoted to items such as management (personnel), finance (budgeting), and writing (grant and scientific*). If more time was spent ensuring graduate students and postdocs received proper training, as opposed to being seen as cheap labor, it may go part of the way of dealing with the problems we’re seeing. Along with that and more directly to the point, communication in the public sector, should also be considered. Of course, it seems like this is a good area to be handled by the National Academy and other science foundations who have the time and resources to handle quacks such as this. If they opened up such positions, not only would that open up more alternative careers for scientists (because not everyone wants to go to academia) but it would open up the very type of career paths that could be used to combat the quacks.

    *Dr. George Gopen of Duke University has written the excellent document Scientific Writing from the Reader’s Perspective.

  17. Correction to the above. The above mentioned document is actually called The Science of Scientific Writing a copy of which can be found here. His workshops are often titled Scientific Writing from the Reader’s Perspective, and the NIH actually has his workshop on videocast (~13 hours total) here.

  18. I find Hansen’s emphasis on nuclear power encouraging (I am glad he has finally started talking about it) but people like him also need to talk about economic solutions. Climate change is now largely an economic problem and those who speak in its favor need to consider economic models put forward to manage it, such as the discounting models advocated by Yale economist William Nordhaus.

  19. Erasmussimo

    There’s an important asymmetry we need to be aware of: it’s much easier to spread lies than to tell the truth. That’s because truth is complicated and lies are simple — and people prefer simple answers to complicated ones. As Mark Twain is reputed to have said: “A lie can run around the world before the truth can tie its shoelaces.”

    A good example of the problem is Al Gore’s movie “An Inconvenient Truth”. On the one hand, it certainly presents a more honest picture of the truth than Mr. Morano does. On the other hand, we all know that Mr. Gore cut a few corners in order to squeeze the basic story into the format. Mr. Gore wasn’t deliberately dishonest in the way that Mr. Morano is deliberately dishonest. But packaging scientific truth into sound bites requires a certain amount simplification. And that runs afoul of a fundamental more of the scientific community.

    Science people love to engage in “fine point one-upsmanship”. If Scientist A claims X, then Scientist B just has to step forward and point out that it’s really X + deltaX. Then Scientist C snootily notes that it’s really X + deltaX but deltaY. And so on ad infinitum. The fact is, X is pretty damn close to the truth to start with. But somehow the science community — not just scientists but the people on the sidelines — revel in this one-upsmanship. I strongly suggest that any scientific statement be evaluated in terms of its intended audience. If Al Gore tells the public “At present rates, CO2 emissions could double in 50 years”, perhaps we should just leave well enough alone.

    Unfortunately, there remain some nasty gotchas in all this. Suppose, for example, that Al Gore declares that global temperatures could rise by 5ºC by the end of this century. That’s a very frightening possibility, one that will surely get people off their duffs. But it’s not the most probable number. Is it fair and proper that Mr. Gore present a plausible but less likely value? Or should we present the dangerous value BECAUSE it’s a serious possibility? There’s no good answer to these questions.

    One thing we can be certain about is this: when the public is so ignorant of science that we have to worry about the least misleading version of the truth to present, then we’re missing the real problem, which is the ignorance of the public. The real point we should be making is a second-order point: that the climate change issue has enormous significance to our society yet our citizens are not able to understand the issues. Ergo, if our democracy is to survive, we MUST elevate our standards of scientific education.

    Which I believe was the whole point of your book in the first place! ;-)

  20. MadScientist

    @SLC: That sort of work countering Morano is already done on sites such as ‘RealClimate’.

    Now back to the post in general: Morano makes his money by talking up legislators (and anyone else who might matter) to convince them to act on the interests of his clients. At the moment he has decided that global warming denialism is a fantastic money making opportunity. There are companies which would gladly spend tens of millions per year to stave off any action which may result in hundreds of millions of $ in the short term. Some companies I am aware of are quite happy to spend such money and take the stand that they will fight and win or else die – they actually make no plans for success if/when legislators get tough on CO2 control. So a Morano counterpart would be someone paid to talk legislators into adopting measures to control CO2. Since many large corporations in the fuel and energy business have conflicting interests, I don’t see how they can fund any single person to do the lobbying whereas on Morano’s side anyone who simply wants to maintain the status quo need only throw money at Morano and not bother to instruct him on specific points. I think the closest to a counter to Morano at the moment is Al Gore, but you can bet he’d be immediately dismissed by most GOP members due to his political affiliations and especially since he is a constant target for people like Morano.

  21. stmichrick

    All of you Global Warmists would be better served if you bailed on the mythology NOW and went with your central motivation…to consolidate power and resources for a FAIRER planet. That is more consistent and honest with what Obama is selling and would save you some humiliation as scientific facts emerge. Your suppression of argument on the topic can’t last forever. The momentum towards socialism shows more promise.

    In case you haven’t noticed, the Earth has been cooling recently.

  22. SLC

    Re stmichrick

    I see that another troll from phony baloney Moranos’ web site has arrived. Mr. stmichrick repeats the big lie that the earth is cooling, based on cherry picking the data. Josef Goebbels, the father of the big lie would be proud.

  23. Ben Nelson

    Stmichrick, justify yourself by naming the mean global temperature circa 1950 and for 2010. Estimations are fine.

  24. MrCannuckistan

    Wow… you people need to listen to yourselves. A guy posts a website that is simply a collection of articles that show the dissenting point of view and you see him as the anti-Christ. As Roald A says, just lay down the facts in plain language for all to see. Take the tough questions from Morano, Carter or Cristy and explain them away in a fair an honest way that doesn’t skirt the issue or dismiss hinconvenient facts.

    The other problem with Morano is he plays on people’s senses. We are having a cool summer this year and he emphasizes that. When people see all this news in one spot it paints a picture that contradicts all the previous warnings. Here’s a prime example. An article in the BBC says Peru is experiencing an early arrival of intense cold. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/8146995.stm Experts blamed climate change (formerly global warming). Experts need to connect the dots between CO2 and it’s warming effect due to the green house theory and the unusuall and somtimes intense cold being experienced around the globe. IMHO, it’s only then that the general public will understand.

    MrC

  25. John Thorpe

    It is wonderful to watch you warmers tie yourselves in knots trying to justify your positions with some truly ludicrous statements: “It is easier to peddle lies than the truth”, “Acedemics aren’t trained to get their point over”…. weak isn’t the word, pathetic would be more like it.

    Fact is if Morano is such a lier is would be very easy to uncover him, but because nobody has found the definitive link between CO2 and climate (at least a link that is more than negligible) it is impossible to do that so you resort to personal attacks. As for great communicators on your side: Al Gore (won’t debate, presentations riddled with scientific errors), James Hansen (246 ft sea level rise, coal trains of death, constant tinkering with temperature data sets) – if these are the best presenters of what you claim to be “settled science” then no wonder the majority of the general public think they are being hoodwinked by people looking for a new way to a fast buck.

    The credit crunch may have ended the banking scam but the climate scam rolls on and on. How many frozen children in how many countries does it take before you all move on to your next environmental scare?

  26. SLC

    Re John Thrope

    The only people looking for a fast buck are phonies like Marc Morano who are shills for the energy companies. If folks like James Hanson were looking to make a fast buck, they would be joining the deniers and collecting millions from Exxon et al.

  27. Brian Carter

    So much chin-stroking analysis and thoughtful reflection on the rhetoric. But where’s the science? Science is black and white, with no soul and no mercy. The scientific method is the crucible in which only fact can emerge. This is why the AGW hypothesis, creationism and all other religious beliefs can never be put to the test.

  28. John Thorpe

    Put your mud catapult away and sit down for a little history lesson. If you don’t feel humble after this you want to get over yourselves!

    In some ways, I applaud the sense of urgency that accompanies the perceived need to do something to affect climate change. The need is there in more ways than you presently know. But the means could be another matter entirely. The Akkadian Empire under Sargon (2,300-2,200 BC), mankind’s first empire ever, succumbed to climate change that happened rather suddenly. A 300 year long period of drought struck this nascent civilization and toppled what turned out to be only a 100 year empire. The Old Kingdom of Egypt and the Harappans of the Indus Valley suffered a similar fate 4,200 years ago, succumbing to an abrupt drought that ended those civilizations, with Egyptians “forced to commit unheard of atrocities such as eating their own children and violating the sacred sanctity of their own dead (Fekri Hassan, 2001)”. The Mayans had pretty much the same luck with three periods of extreme drought at 810, 860 and 910 AD. Sadly just two years after the last drought which saw 95% of the Mayan population gone, wet years returned to the Yucatan. A reconstruction from fossil algae in sediments from Drought Lake in North Dakota of the past 2000 years found that dry conditions were far and away the rule in the High Plains, with the Dust Bowl conditions of the 1930’s one of the lesser dry spikes found in the record. Half of the warming that brought us out of the last ice age (the Wisconsin) occurred in less than a decade.

    There were 24 Dansgaard-Oeschger oscillations between this interglacial, the Holocene, the interglacial in which all of human civilization has occurred, and the last one, the Eemian, in which the first fossils of Homo sapiens are to be found. D-O osillations average 1,500 years, and have the same characteristic sawtooth temperature shape that the major ice-age/interglacials do, a sudden, dramatic, reliable, and seemingly unavoidable rise of between 8-10C on average, taking from only a few years to mere decades then a shaky period of warmth (less than interglacial warmth), followed by a steep descent back into ice age conditions. Each D-O oscillation is slightly colder than the previous one through about seven oscillations; then there is an especially long, cold interval, followed by an especially large, abrupt warming up to 16C. During the latter parts of the especially cold intervals, armadas of icebergs are rafted across the North Atlantic (Heinrich events) their passage recorded reliably by the deep ocean sediment cores which capture the telltale signature of these events in dropstones and detritus melted out of them. We know with absolute certainty that these events happen, with evidence of D-O oscillations extending back some 680 million years. We do not know yet precisely what causes them. What we do know is that the past 6 interglacials (dating back to the Mid Pleistocene Transition) have lasted roughly half of a precessional cycle, or 11,500 years, which just happens to be the current age of the Holocene. What we know is that N65 latitude insolation values are very close now to what they were at the close of the Eemian. What we also know is that GHGs seem to have played only a spectator role to all of these natural transitions, with temperature changes leading GHG concentrations by a considerable margin of time. What we do not know is if anthropogenic sourced GHGs can trigger a climate change event. What we do know is that earth’s climate is bimodal, cold (90%) and warm (10%), with the transition times (such as at the end of an interglacial) well known from proxy records to be quite sensitive to forcings we do not yet understand, and the forcings we have identified seemingly incapable of producing the responses we see in the paleoclimate record. Including the recent paleoclimate record.

    The climb out from the Last Glacial Maximum of the Wisconsin ice age (called Termination 1 with sea level bottoming out about 121 meters, ~397 feet, below present) into the Holocene is studded with the Younger Dryas, a 1,300 year near instantaneous return to ice age conditions. “Briefly, the data indicate that cooling into the Younger Dryas occurred in a few prominent decade(s)-long steps, whereas warming at the end of it occurred primarily in one especially large step of about 8°C in about 10 years and was accompanied by a doubling of snow accumulation in 3 years; most of the accumulation-rate change occurred in 1 year (National Research Council, 2002)”. Almost as suddenly we came out of it: “Taylor et al. (1997) found that most of the change in most indicators occurred in one step over about 5 years at the end of the Younger Dryas, although additional steps of similar length but much smaller magnitude preceded and followed the main step, spanning a total of about 50 years (NRC, 2002)”.

    Termination 1 began with what is referred to as Melt Water Pulse 1a (mwp-1a) centered at about 14,680 years ago which resulted in a 24 meter rise (about 78 feet) in sea level believed to have occurred at the rate of 4.5 cm (about 2 inches) a year. It was followed around 12,260 years ago by MWP-1b with a 28 meter (about 92 feet) rise nearer 5 cm per year. Recent model results predict that sea level is currently rising at 32cm/100 years. With natural rises clocked at 5cm/yr (or 500cm/century) we, (meaning us) have a lot of hard work ahead of us if we hope to trump mother nature’s most recent finest result.

    Between 6,000 and 7,000 years ago, a period known to geologists and paleoclimatologists as the Holocene Climate Optimum, sea levels peaked about 6 meters (about 20 feet) higher than today (some say 70 meters), and during the Eemian Optimum, some 20 meters (about 60 feet) higher than today. During the seven post MPT ice ages, sea levels dropped some 100 or more meters below present, the water tied up in the miles thick ice sheets that have spread in North America as far south as Kansas. These are just some of the facts of the abrupt climate changes which we, as Homo sapiens, have experienced. General Circulation Models, of which the IPCC references 23, have yet to reproduce a single known abrupt paleoclimate change fed with the proxy data. The latest GCM models produce predictions based on a variety of input data and complex equations which few of us would understand. But for all the complexity and investment, they are just predictions.

    Belief in, and acting as a result of, such predictions has opened up what may be the first chapter in faith-based science. Understanding the history of climate change provides a factual understanding of far more alarming climate changes that have actually happened, with sea level changes and temperature shifts that dramatically overshadow any faith-based prediction you have yet heard.

    What might be quite ironic is that if GHG predicted global warming is in fact real, and, at half of a precessional cycle, we are near to the cliff of the next natural shift to an ice age, we may find ourselves needing to generate as much GHGs as possible to ease our transition into the next ice age. So as I said at the beginning, doing something about climate change is not necessarily a bad thing. Doing the right thing might actually be quite another. The ice ages and associated interglacials are well known to be paced by the eccentricity, obliquity and precession cycles in earth’s rickety orbit. These we will do nothing about. D-O oscillations show strong evidence of being tied to the 1,500 year cycle of solar output, something we cannot change.

    So be ever thoughtful of both facts and predictions before leaping to a conclusion. It was in fact a LEAP that terminated the last interglacial, the cold Late Eemian Aridity Pulse which lasted 468 years and ended with a precipitous drop into the Wisconsin ice age. And yes, we were indeed there. We had been on the stage as our stone-age selves about the same length of time during that interglacial that our civilizations have been during this one.

    Meanwhile, enjoy the interglacial!

  29. John Kwok

    @ Brian -

    Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) can and has been put into the test. We have, moreover, an excellent record of Earth’s paleoclimatic history for approximately the last 50 million years. According to what I have seen briefly, the evidence for Anthropogenic Global Warming is quite clear and conclusive, and that is why I would trust more James Hansen’s climate model research over those who contend that AGW doesn’t exist.

  30. Mac

    It looks like Global Warming has been postponed by RealClimate.org

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/07/warminginterrupted-much-ado-about-natural-variability/

    If natural variability can over-ride man-made global warming to this extent then the predicted visions of impending global catastrophe are simply and overly alarmist. This “now-its-on, now-its-off” scientific take on global warming plays right into the hands of people like Marc Morano. More and more people will now be convinced that AGW is fakery.

  31. D Johnson

    SLC, can’t you see how vacuous such ad hominem arguments are. The evidence mounts that global warming is running well below IPCC reported model projections for the initial portion of this century, even when natural natural climate variability is accounted for. A strong case is being made that the sensitivity to anthropogenic CO2 has been overestimated. What if we undertake draconian measures to reduce CO2 emissions, cause severe economic disruption, and then find that the actual rate of warming is only a fraction of 1 DEG C per century, rather than the 2.5 or more the IPCC says is likely? We’ll have paid an enormous price for little or no gain. And the big losers won’t be the Exxon’s of the world, but humanity. We shouldn’t be claiming that the science is settled, when it clearly isn’t by a long shot, and to contend that it is, is a political rather than a scientific argument.

    Incidentally, I don’t work for an energy company, I believe in evolution, I worked on the Apollo program so I believe the moon landings were real. You’ll have to find a different ad hominem for me. I’m sure you’ll find one.

  32. SLC

    Re John Thorpe

    Mr. Thorpe provides a very interesting discussion. How about giving us a reference or a link to where it was obtained.

    Re D. Johnson

    Would Mr. Johnson care to provide a link to his claim that the predicted average warming is less then that predicted by the climate models. I have seen other articles indicating that the exact opposite is occurring, namely the the models are underestimating the observed warming trends.

    Mr. Johnson says he worked on the Apollo program. In what way does that make him qualified to pontificate on climate? I have a PhD in elementary particle physics which in no way, shape, form, or regard qualifies me to pontificate on climate.,

    I really get a laugh out of accusations of ad hominem attacks. Apparently, pointing out that most of the loudest critics of the theory of global warming, such as the Heartland Institute and the George Marshall Foundation have conflicts of interest and the Mr. Morano was formerly a hatchet man for Senator Inhofe and the Rethuglican Campaign Committee in 2004 where he worked on the Swift Boaters campaign, is considered an ad hominem attack by Mr. Johnson. When one gets into the pen with the pigs, one may expect to emerge with a coating of mud.

  33. D Johnson

    Re SLC

    “Would Mr. Johnson care to provide a link to his claim that the predicted average warming is less then that predicted by the climate models.”

    Just one example:

    http://rankexploits.com/musings/2009/hadley-may-anomaly-rose-0002c-from-april/

    There are many others. Of course you will dismiss Lucia’s blog with an ad hominem attack, not based on what her analysis shows. In fact, she’s a “Lukewarmer” who thinks that a degree of warming is likely, but maintains objectivity about what the data is showing.

    I’m guessing the contrary example you’re thinking of is that of Rahmstorf et al, who did selective smoothing and centering, and compared to the older TAR rather than the more recent AR4, apparently to get a more favorable result.

    “Mr. Johnson says he worked on the Apollo program. In what way does that make him qualified to pontificate on climate? I have a PhD in elementary particle physics which in no way, shape, form, or regard qualifies me to pontificate on climate.”

    My Apollo experience supports my belief that the moon landings occurred, and that I’m not a “moon landing denier”, an ad hominem that Al Gore recently used in an attempt to discredit AGW skeptics. Apparently, since you say you are unqualified to pontificate on climate, your only recourse is ad hominem attacks. Perhaps you could make better use of your PhD.

    Your last paragraph contains nothing but ad hominem attacks. You attack the person (or organization) without a single mention or even consideration of the issues at hand.

  34. John Kwok

    @ DJohnson -

    While I don’t agree with your position, I must concede that you are well within your rights to challenge SLC. In the past SLC has demonstrated that he’s a male chauvinist pig (Having stated more than once that Sheril Kirshenbaum – among others – is “hot”.) whose primary criterion for judging women is their physical appearance (not whether they have sufficient intelligence) and for still repeating rather salacious ad hominem attacks on me. For someone who claims to possess a Ph. D. degree in elementary particle physics, he claims not to know the work of eminent Harvard University physicist Lisa Randall – who works on high energy particle physics as a CERN researcher – who was quite possibly the physicist whose work was most cited in the professional scientific literature between 2000 and 2006.

  35. SLC

    Re D. Johnson

    I would appreciate it if Mr. Johnson would inform us as to what the question of the moon landings have to do with the issues of global climate change, evolution, HIV/;AIDS, etc The clowns who question the moon landings are nutcases, not to be taken seriously. Again, the fact that Mr. Johnson was employed on the Apollo program does not provide any evidence of competence in the area of climate change. If Mr. Gore equated global climate change deniers to moon landing deniers, he is full of prunes.

    However, it is a fact that many global warming deniers are also deniers of other issues. For instance, Roy Parsons is a young earth creationist. Anthony Watts is a CFCs/ozone depletion denialist. Fred Singer is a cigarette smoking/lung cancer denialist, as well as a CFCs/ozone depletion denialist. The global warming denialists at the Discovery Institute also deny evolution, HIV/AIDS, and, in the person of John West, the Holocaust.

  36. D Johnson

    Re: SLC

    You’ve added nothing of value to this discussion, and certainly nothing worthy of my further comment.

  37. Brian Carter

    Mr. Kwok,

    Regarding AGW being put to the test, I must respectfully point out that the GCM models failed to predict the recent decade or so of cooling clearly evident in UAH (et al) satellite data. The prediction of warming in the mid troposphere of the tropics has also failed to materialize.

    The rythmic fluctuations of the AMO, PDO, ENSO and solar cycles do explain this cooling.

    The most fighteneing thing about Dr. Hansen is this quote from his home page “The hardest part is trying to influence the nature of the measurements obtained, so that the key information can be obtained”.

    “to influence the nature of the measurements,…” is a highly dubious methodology.

  38. John Kwok

    @ Brian Carter -

    A number of prominent paleoclimatologists, beginning with the University of Virginia’s William F. Ruddiman (For most of his career he was associated with Columbia University’s Lamont – Doherty Earth Observatory), have contended that anthropogenic global warming began with the onsent of widespread human agriculture as far back as 8.000 years ago, based on Antarctic ice core data, noting that substantial increases in methane and carbon dioxide are seen first within these ice cores between 8,000 and 5,000 years ago. That trend has only accelerated substantially with the advent of the Industrial Revolution in Western Europe.

    The evidence you provided is merely a short-term decrease. What is more important, however, is the extensive data that has been collected reaffirming the fact of global warming as the consequence of increasing methane, carbon dioxide, and other “greenhouse” gases being emitted into Earth’s atmosphere due to anthropogenic activities.

  39. SLC, the material shared with you by John Thorpe was originally from an anonymous comment in reply to an article on my blog:

    http://peacelegacy.org/articles/global-warming-precautionary-principle-backfires

    Cheers.

  40. Brian Carter

    The human population 8,000 years ago was ~5,000,000 Fortunatey, the last glacial period had ended a few thousand years earlier, greatly expanding newly habitable latitudes.

    The limited agriculture you’re refering to was 100% organic and natural at a time when most of the human population were still hunter gatherers. Claiming to see a signal in the data seems quite incredible. I think that would be a very tough sell outside the culture of like minded peers.

    The “short term decrease” seems to have off-set the short term increase blamed on humans, all of which is within observed natural variations.

  41. Steve

    Brian – Agreed. Tough sell that agriculture from 8000 years ago began a general warming trend. However, not too long ago, I read an interesting article by a professor from the University of Minnesota or Wisconsin (can’t remember which). As an AGW supporter, he made this very same point that land use changes, not fossil fuel burning, was the major source of increased CO2. And he had data supporting his position. Too bad it never got picked up. Just goes to show that even an AGW supporter can get blackballed if you don’t follow the “fossil fuel is the root of all global warming” mantra.

  42. Brian Carter

    An intellectual exercise with some numbers;

    If you start with the premise that only 25% of the earths surface is dry land,
    then assume that less than half of that is arrable due to deserts, arctic and mountains,
    and assume that humans tilled 10% of all arable land, (think even today it’s far less)
    that woud imply that using 0.625% of the earths’ surface for agriculture, influences global climate.

    I think my assumptions were quite generous. At that, it still seems like quite a stretch.

    Thank you Steve. It’s shame when otherwise brilliant minds become too focused on proving an idea and lose objectivity.

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About Chris Mooney

Chris is a science and political journalist and commentator and the author of three books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science--dubbed "a landmark in contemporary political reporting" by Salon.com and a "well-researched, closely argued and amply referenced indictment of the right wing's assault on science and scientists" by Scientific American--Storm World, and Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum. They also write "The Intersection" blog together for Discover blogs. For a longer bio and contact information, see here.

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