False Balance in Matthew Nisbet's Climate Shift Report

By Chris Mooney | April 21, 2011 9:10 am

It’s quite the irony. In his contrarian report entitled “Climate Shift”–a report Joe Romm and Robert Brulle have seriously challenged–Matthew Nisbet claims that falsely “balanced” coverage of climate change is no longer a problem. Huh. Then in chapter 4 of the report, Nisbet goes on to provide falsely “balanced” coverage of an issue I happen to know a lot about:

During the Bush administration, many scientists mobilized in response to what they perceived as attempts by the administration to control the public statements of government scientists and to interfere with the conclusions of government reports. This debate received heavy attention at science-related blogs, from science journalists and via several top-selling books.

Here Nisbet is referring to me–although not by name. But note the language: “many scientists mobilized in response to what they perceived as attempts by the administration to control the public statements….” Actually, all these things were extensively documented (see below). There is no “perceived”; these are facts. Why is Nisbet applying phony balance to them?

Nisbet then proceeds to discuss the alleged biases of scientists in classic balance-as-bias fashion:

Among AAAS members who had heard of the claims, ideology was strongly associated with evaluations of the allegations. On this matter, 57 percent of conservative AAAS members said the claims were true, compared with 87 percent of moderates and 97 percent of liberals. Those answering true were also asked whether the Bush administration engaged in greater levels of political interference than past administrations, with 68 percent of conservatives answering in the affirmative, compared with 88 percent of moderates and 96 percent of liberals.

Again, Nisbet seems highly uninterested in the truth of these allegations. That perceptions as to their veracity varies by politics isn’t surprising–far more surprising is that nearly 70 percent of conservative scientists thought the Bush administration set a new record for interferences with science. Go conservative scientists! After Kerry Emanuel’s recent showing before Congress, you guys are my heroes.

In any case, the allegations were true, and were proved to be true, repeatedly and in a multitude of ways. That includes journalistic investigations, by several great reporters at the New York Times and Washington Post. It includes multiple surveys of agency scientists by the Union of Concerned Scientists. Most of all, it includes several official agency Inspector General reports (links are to NASA and DOI)–none cited or mentioned by Nisbet. These aren’t “claims.”

Nisbet continues:

The difference in awareness and perception of political interference is likely reinforced by diverging patterns and attention to science-related blogs, outlets where the Bush allegations were frequently discussed and lamented. Among strong liberal members of AAAS, a combined 50 percent say they read science blogs often or occasionally, compared with 37 percent of conservative members.

These allegations weren’t confined to blogs. They were all over the national, mainstream media; some even predated the birth of science blogging as we now know it. They were covered repeatedly in the Washington Post and the New York Times over the entirety of the Bush administration. Sometimes these were cover stories; sometimes the allegations appeared in editorials and columns. They were also all over scientific publications like Science and Nature, and frequently editorialized about in these venues. This is “likely” a primary place where scientists as a group would have learned about them. Indeed, Nisbet is studying members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, publisher of Science, which every member receives, regardless of political views.

Another place scientists would have learned about the allegations is from…conversations with fellow scientists, who experienced these things firsthand, some of whom even became whistleblowers–like NOAA’s Tom Knutson, who even had the courage to testify before Congress about what had happened to him. “There have been instances where my ability to communicate with the national media has been hindered or interfered with….” But of course, that’s just his opinion, right?

The claim about blogs, then, is just…strange. The bigger point is that without any evaluation of the substance of what happened, Nisbet  nevertheless seems confident enough to claim that scientists’ partisanship and liberal biases led them to believe…the truth. A truth that even most conservative scientists accepted, apparently. That’s the real revelation in the data–nearly, but not quite, obscured by false balance.

Comments (92)

  1. Chris,

    As we wrote together in the April, 2007 paper at Science, the challenge in making progress on debates like climate change is to understand how complex events and issues are subjectively perceived by way of an interaction between political identity and selective information sources.

    In the report and in Chapter 4, I extensively cite work by the sociologists McCright, Dunlap and others on the efforts by conservative think tanks, leaders and the Bush administration to undermine scientific evidence, to distort independent research, and to manipulate the media.

    I have written and studied this process in my own work and we spent more than a year on the road giving talks about this. We also published an op-ed at the Washington Post describing this problem.

    The point in looking at the AAAS data is to explore how as a community of people concerned about climate change, our own political identity shapes who and what we attribute for blame. This is a central part of the framing process.

    We tend to focus the predominant amount of our attention and time on conservatives and Republicans, a focus that you reinforce through your own writing and blogging. Yet this is just one factor among many contributing to societal inaction.

    It is important to understand and track the influence of conservatives without becoming obsessed and preoccupied with their efforts to the point that we fail to engage in critical self-reflection, calling members of our community who address other factors “contrarians” for doing so and seeking to undermine their own independent, academic research through blog-driven suppression, intimidation and manipulation.

    As my AU colleague Lauren Feldman, an expert on selective information and perception notes about the findings relative to the AAAS members and awareness of the Bush administration claims, the strong direct, positive correlation in the data between ideology and hearing “a lot” about the claims is evidence of selective information searching and attention, regardless of the objective merit of the claims. [Btw, “claims” is how it is termed in the Pew survey question and therefore discussed in that section of the report.]

    Look at the difference in the data, for example, between awareness of Bush interference by strong liberal members of AAAS and moderates, much less the comparison with conservatives. Why are strong liberals much more likely to say they had heard a lot about these claims more so than moderates? Or alternatively, look at perceived seriousness of climate change and look at the difference between strong liberal members and moderates.

    http://climateshiftproject.org/report/climate-shift-clear-vision-for-the-next-decade-of-public-debate/#ideology-and-perceptions-of-climate-change

    The claims about the Bush administration are real and they are serious. However, our liberal identity — in combination with the narratives told by admired leaders and popular commentators — has focused our attention on these types of claims, leaving many other real, potentially more relevant forces under-examined to the point that they become taboo to even discuss.

    It’s time to acknowledge and understand our own tendency as a community to engage in motivated reasoning, to critically reflect on a full range of factors including our own mistakes, and to get beyond telling for the 500th time a narrative about the “war on science.”

  2. Don

    Those scientists are just like the religious, their values are nothing but subjective and biased, says Nisbet. It’s all bias, all the way down. Just different kinds of bias, it is. If not conservative, then liberal. Any other sorts of bias? What kinds of bias does it take to read Nisbet? What-me-worry bias? Panglossian bias? Ingenue bias? I’m-above-it-all bias? In this world of rampant bias, only Nisbet is unbiased.

  3. Chris Mooney

    “seeking to undermine their own independent, academic research through blog-driven suppression, intimidation and manipulation”? come on. this is what i’m doing by critiquing parts of your report that i find weak?

    I have repeatedly done just what you are suggesting is needed, by looking at other causes, and by calling for introspection within science, e.g., my “Do Scientists Understand the Public” report.

    but what I have not done is forge a narrative about biased, politicized scientists, as your report does.

  4. John

    Nisbet’s report essentially says you did a bad job Chris. It was your job to communicate these things. Your communication effort failed, and Nisbet’s outed you for having the same if not more resources than the fossil fuel lobby.

    Unfortunately for Nisbet, he’s about to get burned at the warmist stake for heresy. See how Chris Mooney is here lighting torches already.

  5. laserboy

    John, are you Nibet’s other reader?

  6. Chris,

    I am referring to Romm’s efforts as an overt attempt to distort, manipulate, intimidate and suppress the independent research I spent five months working as someone who cares deeply about making progress on climate change and is trying to use the best social scientific tools available, my training, and expertise to inform decisions and dialogue.

    Romm is doing the same stuff you criticized Bush and Republicans of doing. I know that you have worked for the Center for American Progress in the past, and may still work for the Center, but you should not cite Romm as an objective, credible critique of the report.

    His intentions are very clear. As I detail in the report, CAP spends $20 million a year on communication, influence and opposition research. Romm is a main cog in this communication machine who is paid to be a professional political operative, using his blog as bludgeon against anything and anyone he disagrees with or finds threatening.

    I welcome a substantive, reflective dialogue with you on the merits of the report as we have started. Please however leave Romm out of this. I also welcome a chance to meet up for a beer or go for a run to discuss, as we used to do all the time.

    –Matt

  7. John,

    That is not a fair critique. Chris has compellingly described the role of Republicans, I am arguing for looking beyond this single narrative.

  8. Chris Mooney

    I don’t work for the Center for American Progress though I used to write for its Science Progress site. That ended last year.

    Romm provided a very strong critique but I don’t see why it should be disregarded.

    I don’t think spending differences actually matter much. I think ideology does. But what bothers me about your report is its treatment of scientists, who may have their flaws and foibles, but they are not at all the partisan ideologues you depict. When it comes to climate change and political interferences with science, they have not only evaluated the issues very closely, but they have gone far beyond their own comfort zones (scientists generally are terrified of “advocacy”) because they believed that they had to.

  9. Marion Delgado

    Chris:

    This is excellent and moreso because it’s succinct.

  10. John

    Nisbet,

    I’ll assume this is the real Nisbet I’m talking to. If my summary was not your opinion, then I retract the assertion and submit it as my own, and not yours.

    Unfortunately Mr. Nisbet, you are about to receive the Judith Curry treatment. You have supplied the enemy with a substantial new defense against claims of Chris that Deniers outspent the Warmists.

    I’m actually quite shocked they let you publish this at all. I firmly expect that most media sources will remove this report as soon as they realize how detrimental it is to the Warmist cause.

    Brulle is already on the media circuit this morning trying to minimize his involvement. Romme is on full attack dog mode. The Guardian has also run a hit piece on your report Mr. Nesbit.

    Welcome to the Dark Side Mr. Nesbit.

  11. Chris,

    AAAS members, the public, and the other social groups were asked the same questions about partisanship and identity by Pew.

    The report looks for the first time at the differences in how the public, AAAS members, and these other social groups place themselves on these questions about partisan and ideological identity. With moderate or independent the mid-point on these scales, more than half of AAAS members put themselves to the left of the mid-point.

    You could argue that AAAS members, because of their unique status as scientists or science-related professionals, are immune to the influence of ideology on their perceptions. But that is not held up in the data. As non-specialists in climate science — liberals, moderates, and conservatives within AAAS — on average view the reality and seriousness of climate change differentially. They also differentially attend to and accept claims about politicization.

    Moreover, everything we know about public opinion generally and about how perceptions are formed within social groups suggests that groups with a strongly one-sided political identity engage in strong levels of motivated reasoning, as the results described show.

    Our one-sided political identity also likely serves as a veil that colors our perceptions of the complexities of climate politics and what should be done.

    As I review in the conclusion to the Chapter section, past research suggests across types of groups — including scientists — that political identity and commitment to an issue leads individuals for example overestimate the impact of a media message (i.e. false balance, Climategate), to differentially blame some factors while ignoring other factors (i.e. the economy, policy dependent nature of perceptions), and to perceive even favorable news coverage as hostile to their cause.

    These same factors means that we also tend to call “contrarian” or criticize those members of our community who disagree on conventionally accepted policy paths like cap and trade or who call attention to other barriers to action than the dominant narrative about conservatives. This has happened to others and it is at the root of the intimidation, distortion, and suppression that Romm has engaged in against me, as well as the fact that this is what he is paid full time to do, even if it means attacking a fellow progressive.

  12. TTT

    Leave it to a sociologist to see a group of scientific experts all agreeing on scientific facts, and then look right past the facts they agree on in order to cluck over how suspicious it is that they all agree so much.

    If you’re going to try to make the point that people only identified Bush-era distortions of science as such because of their own ideological groupthink, and that those are just their “views” instead of empirical reality, you can’t very well bristle at being called a “contrarian.” Though if that term bothers you, I can think of others to use that are far more apt, and shorter.

    You’ve clearly framed this as a “shift” in climate discussions and want it very, very badly to do just that–but if the only way to effect such a shift is to portray facts as simply “views,” and to leave analysis of the opposition’s nonstop lie machine for volume II (if you ever get around to it), and to analyze lobbying expenditures through number-juggling yoga exercises that would put Bialystok & Bloom to shame, it really calls into question whether the “shift” is legitimate or worthwhile. So far it looks more like a publicity stunt, on the same caliber as Superfreakonomics saying that solar panels actually raise the global temperature because they’re black…. even though they aren’t and they don’t.

    Here’s my counter-theory: The environmentalists are basically right about everything, and have been for over 40 years, and every year more dilettante journalists and non-scientist academics grow more bored by it and more easily swayed by novel claims, no matter how shoddy, incomplete, or uselessly hypothetical.

  13. Dark Tent

    I would urge people to actually read what Romm wrote because he and Robert Brulle actually analyze the numbers that Nisbet gives in his report (strange as that may seem).

    A big problem in this case (as I see it, at least) is that Nisbet’s paper did not go through the ordinary scientific peer review/publication process before it was released to (on?) the public.

    Some people like to bash peer review, but even with its “flaws” (some of which are overblown), peer review serves a very important role.

    At a bare minimum, the extra pairs of eyes — and brains — keep scientists from making stupid mistakes and/or claims that can’t be supported by the data.

    There is simply no legitimate reason why any scientist would NOT submit to the normal peer review/journal publication process.

    PS sending the paper around to few handpicked people does not count (one of whom actually removed his name, in this case)

  14. John

    …and TTT throws the second torch on the Nesbit burning.

  15. Chris Mooney

    It would be idiotic to argue that AAAS members are immune to selective exposure, motivated reasoning, etc–to *some* extent. However, scientists also have a variety of practices that mitigate against that; theoretically, scientists (and journalists, and academics) are supposed to be the best trained at resisting these kinds of problems. But here is how you present it:

    “AAAS members are as ideologically like-minded as evangelical church members and substantially more partisan. Only black church members exhibit a stronger partisan lean than AAAS members and only Fox News viewers, Mormon Church members and Tea Party members exhibit a stronger ideological lean.”

    Yeah. AAAS members are also scientists, with a variety of field specific practices, and these are scientific or science related topics we’re talking about. To suggest that they make up their minds about them in the way evangelical church members do is simply incredible.

  16. TTT

    No, John, it’s you who wants him torched, so you can construct a narrative of false martyrdom around him. You want your side to win just by showing up, so you snivel about how correcting Nisbet’s gross mathematical errors or intellectual laziness is just so MEAN! All the poor abused victims of the establishment can unite for a self-pity-party in their castle in the air.

    As for Nisbet’s claim of scientific “partisans”–when one of the two parties has as its foundational planks that the Earth is only 6,000 years old, that sexual orientation is a choice, and that human activities have no environmental impact whatsoever, the “partisanship” of scientists becomes about as meaningful as their determination to not eat burning chunks of broken glass. Why don’t you disparage the scientific community for being so SUSPICIOUSLY BIASED against eating burning chunks of broken glass, huh? Why are they so BIASED against good, normal, burning-broken-glass-eating Americans?

  17. Dark Tent

    “AAAS members are as ideologically like-minded as evangelical church members and substantially more partisan. Only black church members exhibit a stronger partisan lean than AAAS members and only Fox News viewers, Mormon Church members and Tea Party members exhibit a stronger ideological lean.”

    I suspect that claim would not have made it through ordinary (or even extra-ordinary) peer review.

    “black church members”??!

    Are we supposed to take this seriously?

  18. John

    Chris,

    You said:

    “To suggest (AAAS members) make up their minds about them in the way evangelical church members do is simply incredible.”

    Yet that is exactly what the data illustrates.

    Chris you seem to want to have it both ways. Your defining narrative here has always been that Conservatives make bad climate decisions because they are partisan, but Liberals make good climate decisions because they’re Scientific, not partisan.

    Now its more of the same. Evangelicals are hopeless victims of group think, but Scientists with the same agreement percentages are all making individual thoughtful decisions, completely free of influence.

    When you make statements like this, it shows you are a poor choice for communicating science, because you are so far inside the echo chamber, you can’t tell how biased this sounds from the outside.

  19. Jon

    I don’t think spending differences actually matter much.

    30 second commercials, think tanks, attracting talent to your cause, the ability to organize without worrying too much about fundraising–just to name a few things–all take money.

    Irving Kristol once said:

    We say, repeatedly, that ideas have consequences, which is true but what we have in mind are complex, thoughtful, and well-articulated ideas. What we so easily overlook is the fact that simple ideas, allied to passion and organization, also have consequences.

    From what I’ve read, Kristol spent an awful lot of time in boardrooms. Would he have done that if money didn’t matter? I’d say it certainly helps with the “organization” he mentions above.

  20. TTT

    I would urge people to actually read what Romm wrote because he and Robert Brulle actually analyze the numbers that Nisbet gives in his report (strange as that may seem)

    Following that link:

    Nisbet counted the entire lobbying budget on all issues from every corporation in the U.S. Climate Action Partnership — $152.7 million. If you find this impossible to believe, go to Table 1.9 (p. 19), where he totals up the lobbying for corporations like GE ($26.4 million), ConocoPhillips ($18.1 million), and British Petroleum ($16.0 million). Nisbet also counted the entire lobbying budget on all issues from “other major companies and organizations that lobbied on cap and trade and were publicly supportive of the legislation” (Table 1.10, p. 20) — $64.1 million. This includes the entire lobbying budget of Bank of America, WalMart, and American Electric Power

    ………..I really don’t know what to say. Nisbet counted THE ENTIRE LOBBYING BUDGET FOR WAL-MART AND GENERAL ELECTRIC as being money in environmentalists’ pockets. I’m trying to find any good-faith explanation and so far have failed. It really does look more like an attempt at deliberate instigation or even revenge. It certainly isn’t a real academic report.

  21. Chris,

    Members of AAAS like scientists generally, are for the most part not trained in areas of the social sciences like communication or public opinion research, science policy or social studies of science, nor do they apply social science theories and methods on a daily or even periodic bias to discern relative patterns among the complex politics, realities, and distortions of the climate change debate.

    The immediate echo chamber acclaim of Romm’s efforts at suppression, distortion, and intimidation are examples of this type of motivated reasoning at play.

    Scientists are trained to move beyond their own biases in conducting *scientific research* in their fields and the norms of science help correct for bias in research.

    But when it comes to making sense of politics, they are prone to the same biases as everyone else, even more so given the one sided ideological nature of the organizations and communities within which they work and the selective narratives they receive from ideologically congenial blogs and media sources.

    I am not criticizing scientists and those working in science-related fields for this tendency. This is simply how it is. As social animals perceiving the complexities of the world beyond basic questions of science or within their own specialties, scientists are just like everyone else.

    All I am arguing is that as a community we need to accept this reality, be aware of it, and seek actions that try to correct for own biases that might lead to mis-steps and false diagnosis.

    For example, I suggest that as science organizations look to train scientists in communication, that far more attention needs to be paid to the fact that as a community we tend to view the world very differently politically from those we are trying to engage. In these trainings, we should also address the full range of barriers to public engagement, rather than over-emphasizing the role of conservatives and Republicans.

  22. Bobito

    @11 The environmentalists are basically right about everything, and have been for over 40 years

    This is exactly what Nisbet is talking about. This is not an effective way to change people’s minds. Case in point:

    We were told for years that “all the warming is due to CO2″. That was a compelling argument when CO2 and temperatures were rising at the same time. But when the warming trend leveled off a few years ago, it gives “denialists” the ability to say “look at that, they were wrong about CO2, so all of this must be a hoax”.

    Does the fact that the warming has leveled off mean that CO2 does not cause warming – NO. But does it give your “opponent” ammunition to deny your claims – YES

  23. Chris Mooney

    ” In these trainings, we should also address the full range of barriers to public engagement, rather than over-emphasizing the role of conservatives and Republicans.”

    well duh. i don’t know any trainings that tell scientists that the barriers are conservatives and Republicans. rather, all these trainings try to get scientists to remove their assumptions and see the world through different eyes. that is fundamental.

    i also get that hard scientists often don’t know enough social science. i see it all the time.

    what i don’t get is why scientists reasoning on global warming, or on whether the bush administration interfered with science, are going to reason like Tea Party members or evangelical church members. I don’t see anything in what we know about selective exposure or motivated reasoning that suggests that will be the case.

  24. John

    @TTT

    I think Nesbit did a great job of stating exactly what you are implying he did not.

    From the Article, directly below the table you reference:

    ——-
    “With the exception of the figures for the environmental groups, this comparison of lobbying expenditures across coalitions should not be interpreted as reflecting the actual amounts spent on cap and trade legislation. Instead, in the aggregate, these totals are representative of the capacity for power and influence that each side could apply in 2009. Through their work building coalitions and alliances, the environmental groups were able to forge a network of organizations that spent a combined $229 million on lobbying across all issues. In comparison, the network of prominent opponents of cap and trade legislation spent $272 million lobbying across all issues. These figures represent a dramatically reduced power difference compared with past legislative debates over climate change.”
    ——-

    So the scales are weighted in BOTH directions, aren’t they? Both sides have had their total lobbying expenditure tallied, not just one side. It may not be overly accurate, but its fair to both sides.

  25. Chris,

    The data is clear related to the variance within the AAAS data that selective attention and acceptance of the Bush claims by ideology has occurred. Note difference in views between liberals and moderates.

    But consider other aspects of politics. AAAS members like Tea Party members are not likely to believe that Obama’s efforts are part of a socialist plan for a government takeover of free enterprise, since this argument does not fit with their political outlook. But based on ideology they are likely prone to believe that the Koch brothers, for example, are far more strategic and covert than centrist philanthropists supporting climate action and therefore are differentially responsible for societal inaction. See Chapter 3 that addresses this topic in detail.

    http://climateshiftproject.org/report/climate-shift-clear-vision-for-the-next-decade-of-public-debate/#chapter-2

  26. John,

    That’s exactly right. And here’s the follow up:

    If environmental groups are now saying that the heavy investment they put into forming USCAP and partnering with corporations was for naught, then they should come forward and fully disclose the exact role and resources these corporate partners devoted to the cap and trade battle. This would help inform decision-making as to whether relying on corporate partners is a reliable strategy for the future. If corporate partners cannot be relied on, then it suggests that a big omnibus solution bill like cap and trade (i.e. a legislative battle on the scale with health care reform) may not be possible and instead other policy paths need to be taken.

  27. TTT

    The immediate echo chamber acclaim of Romm’s efforts at suppression, distortion, and intimidation are examples of this type of motivated reasoning at play.

    Cite one falsehood from Romm. You haven’t engaged with his on-point critiques at all–or those from anybody else, including Chris. It’s all just labeled and dismissed, which is terrible communications strategy.

    John:
    Both sides have had their total lobbying expenditure tallied, not just one side. It may not be overly accurate, but its fair to both sides.

    That would make for a fittingly pathetic epitaph for this nonreport.

    Except that on an issue that boils down to scientifically accurate versus scientifically inaccurate claims, any inaccuracy is biased in favor of those who are already inaccurate–all the moreso when it comes to fundamental questions of “who is more powerful.” Nisbet’s operative sentences–“capacity for power and influence… environmental groups lobbying across all issues”–are clear frames around totally false and misleading premises. You have to rubbish the whole thing and start over, because cloaked somewhere in that worthless muddle of a nongraph, next to unimaginable tens of millions of uninvolved and irrelevant dollars in GE’s vaults, is the REAL spending budget of ideological kamikaze organizations devoted entirely to denial, distortion, defamation, and delay. And as has been pointed out repeatedly, that’s kind of the whole point. Of course when you pile on everybody else’s money that never even entered into the equation, their own expenditures look less significant, just like when you deliberately leave out Fox News, Fox News looks less significant. It’s a bug, not a feature.

  28. John

    @Chris

    You said:
    “what i don’t get is why scientists reasoning on global warming, or on whether the bush administration interfered with science, are going to reason like Tea Party members or evangelical church members. I don’t see anything in what we know about selective exposure or motivated reasoning that suggests that will be the case.”

    —-

    What us Tea Party members don’t get is why Scientists and/or Journalists think your powers of reason are any different than our powers of reason.

    I don’t see anything in what we know about selective exposure or motivated reasoning to suggest that it will NOT be the case.

    Show me a study that says scientists make unbiased political decisions, and I’ll show you a study that says they all vote Democratic.

  29. John

    @TTT

    Joe Romm is an assassin. His job is to kill the careers of scientists and journalists who cross the warmist line. Today he’s shooting at Nesbit. Tomorrow he’ll be shooting at someone else, maybe Judith Curry again.

  30. Jon

    What us Tea Party members don’t get is why Scientists and/or Journalists think your powers of reason are any different than our powers of reason.

    Mark Lilla (who actually started his career as something of a conservative):

    Many Americans, a vocal and varied segment of the public at large, have now convinced themselves that educated elites—politicians, bureaucrats, reporters, but also doctors, scientists, even schoolteachers—are controlling our lives. And they want them to stop. They say they are tired of being told what counts as news or what they should think about global warming; tired of being told what their children should be taught, how much of their paychecks they get to keep, whether to insure themselves, which medicines they can have, where they can build their homes, which guns they can buy, when they have to wear seatbelts and helmets, whether they can talk on the phone while driving, which foods they can eat, how much soda they can drink…the list is long…

    A new strain of populism is metastasizing before our eyes, [appealing to] …individuals convinced that they can do everything themselves if they are only left alone, and that others are conspiring to keep them from doing just that.

  31. Does the fact that the warming has leveled off mean that CO2 does not cause warming

    It might be worth answering that question if your “fact” was actually true. However, the Earth has continued to heat up steadily at a rate of about 2 degrees C per century for the whole of the last 30 years. It has only leveled off in the delusions of climate “skeptics”.

    http://www.giss.nasa.gov/research/news/20110113/509796main_GISS_annual_temperature_anomalies_running.gif

    Your statement that scientists claim that “all the warming is due to CO2″, is also a lie. And I’m going to guess that you’ve never considered it a compelling argument, despite your suggestion otherwise.

  32. NewYorkJ

    Reading Nisbet’s comment #6, it appears he’s doing the same thing he claims (without evidence) others are doing: dismissing Romm’s critique not on the merits of his argument, but because of personal reasons, or his perceived partisanship. Using this approach, Nisbet can conveniently dismiss any critique of his work. The irony is that Romm’s critique, along with Brulle’s and Mooney’s, are all substantive. The responses to them have been at best dodgy and at worst vacuous.

    And John (#29), every scientist or journalist I know of who “crosses the warmist line” still has a career. In fact, they are usually rewarded in various ways. Romm must not be doing his job. So spare us the victim bully routine.

  33. Terry

    Amazing amount of pushback against a guy whose basic argument is “We need to stop wasting energy attacking conservatives and get back to using energy attacking climate change”. His report may have flaws, but isn’t the basic premise worth exploring? I guess people just really like attacking conservatives in the environmentalist movement…

    Actually it probably more has to do with the ‘war’ narrative that speaks to humans so well. In the long run, we are all tribal creatures. The Environmentalist tribe needs an enemy that is clearly defined just as much as any other tribe members do. Demonizing guys like the Koch brothers (who used to be attacked by the Right when social freedoms were on the national consciousness but are now attacked by the Left when economic freedoms are on the national consciousness) is easier to do than convincing people to sacrifice some significant measure of personal prosperity to ensure the a tiny tiny tiny fraction of prosperity for the entire planet.

    Besides, demonizing the enemy is great way to recruit others to your cause because in the long run, most people don’t care about being right or wrong, they care about winning.

  34. TTT

    @29: Joe Romm is an assassin. His job is to kill the careers of scientists and journalists who cross the warmist line.

    Anything that can be killed just by pointing out errors of fact would deserve it.

    But this is just more of the ego-driven, personality-driven, anti-evidentiary mindset that tells us global warming isn’t real because Al Gore is fat. Not only have you not countered Romm’s critiques, you haven’t even bothered to DENY them. It doesn’t matter what math errors Romm points out, because the ideologically impure can never be right. Down that path lies Conservapedia.

  35. Bobito

    @31 – Nice job missing the point / underscoring my point…
    The trend has leveled off over the past few years, just as the link you provided shows. Yes, this is most likely a pause and temperatures will continue to rise, but to say the trend hasn’t leveled over the past few years is wrong. And, with that, gives a “delusional climate skeptic” reason to question how that can be possible when CO2 continues to rise.

    If you were to reply to my comment with something like “Yes, the warming trend has paused, but when you look at the long term trend the pause is negligible.” a reasonable person would only be able to agree with you.

    You also were incorrect with “Your statement that scientists claim”. I said “We were told”. In the context of this thread, I see where you could get to me asserting that we were told by scientists, but it isn’t what I said. I was just stating the narrative of hard core denialists and why the narrative of AGW believers must be carefully considered. Don’t give the other side ammunition.

    Ammunition is exactly what your reply to my comment was…

  36. Trent1492

    @Bobito.

    The fact is that the warming trend has not paused. You are making a false statement of fact.

    ..but to say the trend hasn’t leveled over the past few years is wrong.

    Are you aware how climate trends are determined? Hint: It is not done by looking at the past few years which are among the hottest on the instrument record. Now here is fact: every decade since the 70’s has been hotter than the prior one.

  37. Tom Scharf

    What is clear is that climate science has become highly politicized. Denying this is refusing to accept reality.

    If this scientific area was open to all views, then Judith Curry would not be demonized for stepping off the reservation. All she did was question the certainty of future predictions made by the IPCC, which are certainly up for debate scientifically. The modelers do not make claims their predictions are reliable….yet if a scientist actually says this out loud, it damages the credibility of the consensus…and the attack dogs are let loose as an example to other scientists.

    Go read her blog and try to find any statements that justify her treatment. judithcurry.com. The term heretic is used a lot with her name.

    Even Phil Jones made statements in the Climategate e-mails that he would be ostracized if he “admitted” that global temperatures had leveled off. Why would he think this?

    The general public has lost trust in climate science. Arrogant and demeaning statements about Republicans furthers the divide of half of the public. Like it or not, you need us, and until you accept this reality, your gaols will not be achieved.

  38. TTT

    Amazing amount of pushback against a guy whose basic argument is “We need to stop wasting energy attacking conservatives and get back to using energy attacking climate change”

    That’s what he gets for making elementary errors of fact and impugning the motives of people with greater understanding and experience than himself. Here again we see the Lomborg approach: “He’s on your side–you can tell because he says so!–so just ignore how he gets everything wrong and constantly attacks you.”

    But I’ll bite. Can you recommend a way to pass climate change legislation that DOESN’T involve lobbying or media outreach? Because both of those require facing highly organized and unrelenting opposition, and apparently we aren’t allowed to talk about that anymore. The “don’t say Candyman’s name 5 times” school of thought.

    Oh, and the “Judith Curry” meme at work in this thread is overdone to the point of being suspicious.

  39. John

    @TTT

    I don’t need to debunk Romm anymore than I need to debunk Marc Morano and Climatedepot.com

    Nobody listens to Romm who isn’t already a member of the Climate Club. Joe Romm alienates far more people than he has ever influenced positively.

    Many major news organisations have published Nesbits paper. None save Chris here are paying any attention to the usual Romm spin-doctoring coutner-attack.

  40. Bobito

    @36 – Yup, I’m aware and am not questioning it. Read what I wrote, not what you think I was trying to say.
    While I have done research and understand the information, the average denialists has not…

  41. Jon

    What is clear is that climate science has become highly politicized…

    But by who?

  42. Trent1492

    @Tom Scharf,

    All she did was question the certainty of future predictions made by the IPCC,..

    This is of course blatantly untrue. She has accused fellow climate researchers of malfeasance without a hint of evidence.

    Go read her blog and try to find any statements that justify her treatment. judithcurry.com.

    Here is a whole web page with links to the source of quotes that at the very least demonstrate some rather bizarre statements by Dr. Curry. Now that I have answered your query it is my turn.

    You said, “The term heretic is used a lot with her name.” The only people whom I see using the word heretic are the scientifically illiterate who simply mouth memes they have no clue about. Disagree with this assessment? Then show what science
    bloggers who are pro science have called her a heretic. I want a primary source not a quote attributed. Link to the page. Go ahead I will wait.

  43. John

    @Trent1492

    You said:
    “Then show what science bloggers who are pro science have called her a heretic. I want a primary source not a quote attributed. Link to the page. Go ahead I will wait.”

    Climate Heretic: Judith Curry Turns on Her Colleagues

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=climate-heretic

    I shall assume that Scientific American is “pro-science” enough for you.

  44. TTT

    @39: Romm must be really scary if you can’t even stand to read him enough to show how he’s wrong.

    Many major news organisations have published Nesbits paper. None save Chris here are paying any attention to the usual Romm spin-doctoring coutner-attack.

    Yes, this is a perfect genetic clone of the Easterbrook / Lomborg scam: “Our guy went to print first, that means we win! No backsies! No backsies! Why are you still acting like you can respond to him?! You’re so mean!”

  45. Trent1492

    John Says: I shall assume that Scientific American is “pro-science” enough for you.

    Sure it is. Now did you read the article? It is hostile but I think the title is meant as a dig of at the the anti-science illiterates who speak constantly of the “Church of Global Warming. Now he said the term is “used a lot”. How about multiple citations from scientist?

  46. Trent1492

    John Says: I don’t need to debunk Romm anymore than I need to debunk Marc Morano and Climatedepot.com

    Shorter John: I do not need any stinking facts.

  47. John

    @TTT

    It has nothing to do with who goes to print first. Nesbit has credibility, while Romm does not.

  48. Mike H

    Anything that can be killed just by pointing out errors of fact would deserve it.

    If that were the case Joe Romm’s career would be deader than a stegosaurus!

    TTT = Joe Romm sockpuppet

  49. Jon

    John: Nesbit has credibility, while Romm does not.

    OK, John has spoken, that settles it!

    John, what do you think, Sarah Palin or Donald Trump?

  50. John

    @Trent1492

    ——-
    First you said:
    “Then show what sciencebloggers who are pro science have called her a heretic. I want a primary source not a quote attributed. Link to the page. Go ahead I will wait.”

    I provided you with a link from Scientific American, a very “pro science” site.

    ——-

    Now you say:
    “Now he said the term is “used a lot”. How about multiple citations from scientist?”

    I’ve got a better idea. Google “curry, heretic” like I did and you will find “a lot” of examples.

  51. John

    @50 (Jon)

    You said:
    “John, what do you think, Sarah Palin or Donald Trump?”

    I think this blog is about Science Communication, and you are trying to imply i’m guilty of something by associating me with someone who has “toxic” opinions to the progressive left.

  52. Trent1492

    @John,

    I ’ve got a better idea. Google “curry, heretic” like I did and you will find “a lot” of examples.

    Hold it. You think it is up to me to prove your assertions that a lot of scientist have Judith Curry a heretic? Burden of evidence: Your doing it wrong. Come on John this should not be so hard after all there is “a lot” out there. What is the matter, facts go your tongue?

  53. Terry

    @TTT:

    But I’ll bite. Can you recommend a way to pass climate change legislation that DOESN’T involve lobbying or media outreach? Because both of those require facing highly organized and unrelenting opposition, and apparently we aren’t allowed to talk about that anymore.

    Hate to tell you this, but the Environmentalist movement is also highly organized and unrelenting. They just happen to match your narrative. I’m suggesting nothing about avoiding lobbying and media outreach either. What I’m suggesting is that there are more reasons THAN the highly organized opposition to climate change legislation as to why we have no climate change legislation. First of all, there is a lack of support from the populous. I will be grouped with Lomborg now because I’ll tell you that I believe in the science of climate change (which doesn’t matter to the science one iota) and I don’t support climate change legislation.

    My take is thus. No matter what you do, there are consequences, including doing nothing. The consequences of global warming, to me, do not outweigh the consequences of reducing freedom and depressing the economy. We can take steps that alter the economy without depressing the economy and change behavior without reducing freedom, but all of those steps will take time and will be have unforeseen consequences. The real problem though is that it IS NOT LIKELY TO HAPPEN. Cap and trade likely won’t pass and if it does, it’ll end up hurting some polluting industry, who will move out of the country to somewhere where there are no expensive laws and then they will pollute there, and not just that, they will pollute all those other chemicals that they clean up now because at that point who cares right? If the US didn’t release Carbon AT ALL, it wouldn’t matter because other countries do. Treaties won’t pass easily and even if they do, violations of treaty will just lead to suffering in war or trade embargo. Foreign laws will face the same obstacles as the US unless they are in developing economies, in which case, they face worse obstacles. Only despotism can pass laws without facing the market, and they will then violate the laws as soon as it suits them. So in the end, why bother with all that?

    Why not focus on greatest freedom (both economic and social), lobby for social change without trying to shove it down people’s throats, which as been much more effective than legal change in the US. And finally, focus on being the entrepreneurs who make green technologies work. Be green champions, not green thugs.

    In any case, my two cents are over.

  54. John

    @53 – Trent1492

    You said:
    “Hold it. You think it is up to me to prove your assertions that a lot of scientist have Judith Curry a heretic? ”

    Its not my assertion Trent, its the assertion of the poster of comment #37.

    Whoever’s assertion it is, google does a great job of proving it.

  55. @35 Nice job missing the point / underscoring my point

    If the point is that you don’t understand basic statistics, then I think you’re underscoring my point quite well.

    The trend has leveled off over the past few years, just as the link you provided shows.

    I don’t know what you think a trend is. Maybe you think it has something to do with squinting your eyes and guessing. In any case, the link doesn’t show anything of the sort. What it shows is a steady increase in temperatures that has continued unabated for the last several decades.

    Try plotting up some trends yourself. Don’t forget to add error bars ( that’s the part skeptics usually skip ). The only trend that is even slightly negative is a 5 year trend and it has an uncertainty of plus or minus 5 C per century ( in other words, it’s perfectly consistent with the 30 year trend of 1.6). Before you insist that I’ve proven your point, again, you should know that the 4 year trend is 1.6, the 3 year trend is 2.9, the 2 year trend is 9.5 and the 6 year trend is 0.6. There is a reason scientists don’t use short term trends when discussing the climate and it’s scientific nonsense to describe the trend as leveling off “over the past few years”.

    You also were incorrect with “Your statement that scientists claim”. I said “We were told”.

    Told by whom? Maybe you could provide a link to back up your claim. Then maybe you can explain why what they tell you has any bearing on your belief in climate science.

  56. Somite

    May be I am missing the point here but shouldn’t we be discussing the published peer review data on climate change, or any other issue, rather than scientists polls? After all that is the idea of peer review, to attempt to minimize ideological or professional bias.

  57. Trent1492

    John Says: Its not my assertion Trent.

    Trent Says: Oh, I see you only vouch for the assertion and argue for its it truthiness. My bad.

    John Says: Whoever’s assertion it is, google does a great job of proving it.

    Trent Says: The funny thing here is that you refuse to provide evidence for this assertion that scientist say a lot of times that Judith Curry is a heretic. Not once have you and fellow ignorati bothered to provide evidence for this assertion. What scientist John? Name that person. Why is it that you and your fellow ideologues can not do this?

  58. TTT

    @54: Actually Terry, those are all good points pertinent to the larger discussion here. If anything, I’d say you were more mistaken in giving Nisbet the benefit of the doubt than you are in saying that climate change legislation is economically unwise and politically impossible. I wouldn’t group you with Lomborg–you’re actually closer to, well, myself.

  59. Chris Mooney

    So to conclude what I take from this thread–the point on the Bush administration is not really contested. I’m not surprised at all that scientists differentially attended to or accepted claims about that administration based on their political views, but the fact is that the claims were validated, and most scientists in your sample (of the AAAS) accepted him. If anything, I find the degree of acceptance among conservative scientists surprising.

    Second, the general views of AAAS members. Of course human beings have biases. I would expect liberal scientists to have attended more to anti-Bush news stories, to believe them more easily, etc. I also believe that scientists reason in a motivated way to defend pet theories — this is why sometimes we need paradigm shifts. This is what Kuhn talked about.

    However, what I don’t accept is the validity of the comparisons between scientists, evangelicals, and Tea Partiers *with respect to* how they think about scientific topics in particular (which are the topics that are of course at issue here). I’m not saying anyone is capable of being 100 percent unbiased but I am saying that scientists evaluate scientific claims, and also claims about expertise, using the norms of their profession, precisely because they have neural circuits for doing so laid down by many years of experience. Which the other groups don’t have.

    And so scientists can be liberal overall (which just makes them like academics in general), and have their biases and blind spots, and yet also have methodologies that they apply in their realms of knowledge. What bothers me about Nisbet’s report is the lack of any nuance about this–and basically presenting the matter in a way that is going to fuel uninformed attacks on scientists.

    Also, if we are really talking about social science, then Nisbet should further acknowledge that there’s a lot of published evidence suggesting that liberals and conservatives (in aggregate) may have different personalities/psychologies/moral systems, and this in turn may lead to approaching information differently in some cases. We’ve had many discussions about this on the blog.

    Finally, I want to add that contrarianism can also be an ideology, in my view–we see it all the time among center-left journalists, for instance, and center-right ones–and can lead to selective use of information. Because it requires one to write a “pox on both houses” script that makes the contrarian seem wise and everyone else blundering.

  60. All this talk about biased scientists and the false equivalency between their views and those of the religious or tea party members reminds me of one fundamental problem for Nisbet (and his acolytes) articulated best by Stephen Colbert: REALITY HAS A WELL KNOWN LIBERAL BIAS!! If you can’t handle that, all you’re left with is truthiness!

    As Chris points out, that the Bush administration interfered with the communication of climate science is a fact; that the survey shows fewer conservative than liberal AAAS members were worked up about this interference may reflect the power of truthiness. More interestingly, the power of a scientific mindset in overcoming bias can be seen, as Chris again points out, in the finding that a majority (if smaller) of conservative scientists were nevertheless able to overcome their ideological bias to reach the conclusion that the Bush administration engaged in record levels of political interference! Now isn’t THAT more interesting than that more liberals reached that conclusion (duh!)?

  61. The fundamental problem here is that Nisbet is a lousy sociologist. He’s treating different social group as if they differed simply because their opinions differed when what makes a scientist a scientist is internalizing the values of objectivity and respect for evidence to a degree far beyond what lay people do. His mistake is similar to the belief, very prevalent in bars, that cultured people are people who claim to like high art when the real marker of being cultured is actually liking high art. You’re not a music lover because you go to the opera. You go to the opera because you are a music lover. Faking it is obviously common but also the easily detected sign of being a poseur. Similarly, one does not become a scientist by using a lot of big words and wearing the rhetorical equivalent of a lab coat on AM radio, though a host of right-wing commentators engage in just this sort of mummery as they practice on the simplicity of their listeners. Limbaugh and Glenn Beck remind me a bit of the way that the Kingfish used to snow Andy Brown, though I think that Mr. Stevens knew what he was doing while our Conservatives seem to have succeeded in duping themselves.

    Naturally, the fact that the scientists act differently than the non-scientists doesn’t mean that they are always right. Indeed, one of the things that distinguishes them from the ideologues is that when they turn out to be wrong, they are much less surprised.

  62. Tom Scharf

    @43 Trent492

    Here is a Scientific American article: “Climate Heretic: Judith Curry Turns on Her Colleagues”

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=climate-heretic

    I see from a scan of the comments this has already been hashed out though.

    Her scientific standing on relevant aspects of climate science, specifically uncertainty, is clearly laid out in her posts, and the comments are quite relevant, intellectually strong, and unusually non-hostile for this subject area.

    There is no doubt her and Gavin are not on the best of terms, although I find it mostly humorous. I think the fact that someone has created a website devoted to her “denialist chum” only proves my point.

    Fair warning to all scientists, step off the reservation and you will get the Judith Curry treatment. This is a very toxic scientific environment for a scientist to push back against the “consensus”. This is truly anti-science behavior.

    Anyhow, relevant to this post, was the point that the partisanship and group think in climate science has apparently resulted in science not being allowed to proceed in the usual manner.

  63. Riki

    Tom – Just want to point out, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Lemonick.

    That is a statement from a journalist, not a scientist. On top of that, it is tongue-in-cheek. It’s less like he’s pointing his finger with rage in his eyes, and more like he’s using hyperbole to describe how she felt. Headlines are made to grab attention, and words like “heretic” do that.

  64. Bobito

    @56 – Jinchi

    I’m not sure why you are arguing with me, I’m not the one you need to convince. I’m trying to point out that if you are not careful with your arguments, your points can be easily discredited; thus, emboldening your “enemy” in there position. And all you’ve done is provide more examples. As follows:

    I said “The trend has leveled off over the past few years”
    In arguing “that I don’t know what a trend is” you said “the only trend that is even slightly negative is a 5 year trend”
    I don’t think you know what “few” means, I would put 5 within the definition of “a few”.

    Trend is set by the scale. What you are doing is saying that the only scale that matters is the one that proves AGW. Thus proving my point that if you are not careful with your words they can be easily used by denialists against your cause. A denialist can choose the last few years, or the last 125,000 years as the scale and say it’s not warming and be 100% correct.

    “Told by whom? Maybe you could provide a link to back up your claim.”
    First off, are you saying that some of the current warming is due to other causes. Like what? Natural climate variation? Above average UV output from the sun? Invalid temperature records? If it’s not all about CO2 / human induced global warming, then what’s the point of the debate?
    See what I mean by easily turned around and used to fortify ones position on the other side?

    Secondly, here you go:
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/article516033.ece
    “The present trend of warmer sea temperatures, which have risen by an average of half a degree Celsius (0.9F) over the past 40 years, can be explained only if greenhouse gas emissions are responsible, new research has revealed.”

    http://www.scidev.net/en/climate-change-and-energy/policy-briefs/the-evidence-for-human-induced-climate-change.html
    “most of the warming observed over the past 50 years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations”

    http://www.treehugger.com/files/2010/06/97-percent-scientists-man-causing-climate-change.php
    “climate scientists accept the evidence for global warming as well as the case that human activities are the principal cause of it.”

    Now, before you reply with “but you said all the warming” in #22. Note that I pointed out in #35 that I was using the denialist’s narrative. That narrative will tend to talk in absolutes. Just like the narrative on the pro AGW side…

    These two competing narratives do nothing to help us towards a solution. Wouldn’t you agree?

  65. Nullius in Verba

    Interesting discussion! The same thing happened with Judith Curry – and it’s easy to see why so few scientists are willing to break ranks and say what they think when this is the treatment they can expect. While such attacks do no doubt discourage people from straying from the party line, it doesn’t exactly enhance the credibility of the resulting ‘consensus’.

    #65, Did you notice the sleight from “levelled off” to “negative trend”? I found it amusing.
    The real problem that leads to arguments like Jinchi’s though is that the word “trend” is not clearly defined, so equivocation is possible. Statistically, there’s not necessarily any evidence that there is any trend. It might all be noise.

  66. Sorbet

    One thing I have to agree with is the fact that Joe Romm has turned into an intolerant, partisan, biased climate change fundamentalist bully who routinely deletes dissenting comments on his blog. It’s unfortunate and shameful since a long time back Romm was an admirable ally in the climate change battle. But now he will label almost anyone who has a contrarian viewpoint as a “crackpot” or right-wing Republican who is either immoral or does not understand science or both. I have pretty much lost every bit of respect I had about him before. If you want to have a respectful debate about climate change, Romm is the last person you should debate with. He has turned into the New Atheist version of climate change proponents.

  67. Barry

    bobbito @22: “We were told for years that “all the warming is due to CO2″. That was a compelling argument when CO2 and temperatures were rising at the same time. But when the warming trend leveled off a few years ago, it gives “denialists” the ability to say “look at that, they were wrong about CO2, so all of this must be a hoax”.”

    Um, it hasn’t. You’re repeating old, stale propaganda.

  68. Jon

    CM: Finally, I want to add that contrarianism can also be an ideology…

    Also known as Broderism, which is a well known path for careerists in our national pundit establishment…

  69. @Bobito 65 I don’t think you know what “few” means, I would put 5 within the definition of “a few”.

    So are the numbers 2,3 and 4 and as I pointed out above, all of those trends are not only positive, but considerably so. In fact every trend is positive except for the 5 year trend, which is only low because 2005 is currently the hottest year on record. What you are doing is called cherry picking. You’re taking a single data point that supports your hypothesis and ignoring the 30 others that refute it.

    There is a single trend that is even slightly negative. And that trend has an standard deviation of plus or minus several degrees C. If you want to get specific, given a long term trend of 2 C per century, we expect that any 5 year trend will fall somewhere between -3 and + 7. The current 5 year trend is well within that limit. Take the 5 year trend again next January and you will discover that it is again significantly positive. You cannot claim temperatures have “leveled off” on that basis.

    Trend is set by the scale. What you are doing is saying that the only scale that matters is the one that proves AGW.

    This goes to your false claim that scientists think all warming is caused by CO2. Climatologists are well aware that short term trends are dominated by natural effects. That’s why they don’t use them to predict long term warming due to CO2 and that’s why your ridiculous argument about the warming “leveling off” is not only false, but it would be entirely beside the point even if it had been true.

    First off, are you saying that some of the current warming is due to other causes.

    And here again you’re losing track of the distinction between “the past few years” and the long term over which natural background variations tend to cancel out.

    That narrative will tend to talk in absolutes. Just like the narrative on the pro AGW side…

    Note the quotes from your own references:

    “over the past 40 years”, “over the past 50 years”, not to mention the qualifiers, “most”, “is likely” and “principle cause”. This is not the absolute narrative you keep complaining about.

    The narrative from the climate community is backed up by thousands of studies published in the scientific literature and it is only absolute in the strawman version pushed by the denialist camp.

  70. Bryson Brown

    A few points occur to me– not that those they’re addressed to here are likely to get the point:

    1. Using the word ‘heretic’ when talking about Judith Curry is a journalistic trope, not part of some kind of scientific auto da fe. It’s more often used positively than negatively, since of course only heretics can be trusted when the scientific community isn’t telling the right what they want to hear. And the substance of the critiques that Gavin and others have directed at her is ignored, despite her obvious distortions and outlandish claims.

    2. What’s a ‘trend’ depends on the timescales of the system and its variability– since climate is average weather, and the averages in question are only stable on decadal to multi-decadal scales, a 5-year ‘trend’ is not informative. Longer run trends are significant because they can’t occur without real changes in the energy contained in the climate system– and we have good physical reasons, ranging from elementary properties of CO2 and CH4 etc to sophisticated models of the atmosphere and climate system, to regard increased GHGs as a major force in altering the energy balance.

    3. Nisbett’s defense here is laughably weak– he’s adopting exactly the cognitive strategy he attributes (on absurdly weak evidence) to scientists: ignore the substance — Romm’s analysis of the numbers and Mooney’s points that even Nisbett’s own figures show most conservative scientists recognized the Bush administration’s unprecedented interventions in scientific communications and that despite being imperfect human beings, scientists are trained to approach their discipline in ways that focus on evidence instead of ideology — and keep talking (like a crazed post-modernist holding forth over the fifth round) about how it’s all ‘tribal’ politics all the way down.

    4. If there’s no reality that anyone’s observing and responding to that should constrain or even be part of the discussion, if it’s illegitimate to insist on accurate figures and basic facts about the sequence of events, then we are in a lot of trouble– we can keep on babbling as long as we like, but nature doesn’t give a damn about what we say: crop failures, floods and wildfires, rising sea levels and more will go on (and go on getting worse) regardless of this frothy mix of self-congratulatory ignorance and increasingly desperate efforts to bring about some change of course.

  71. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    Trend is set by the scale. What you are doing is saying that the only scale that matters is the one that proves AGW.

    This goes to your false claim that scientists think all warming is caused by CO2. Climatologists are well aware that short term trends are dominated by natural effects. That’s why they don’t use them to predict long term warming due to CO2 and that’s why your ridiculous argument about the warming “leveling off” is not only false, but it would be entirely beside the point even if it had been true.

    Besides that, it is an insidious claim that is not relevant to science.

    – As for the scale, it is of course shored up by the successful tests of AGW. (Attribution now certain to more than 2 sigma – much better than an individual diagnosis at, say, a hospital – and trending to 3 sigma “beyond reasonable doubt”, perhaps in time for the next IPCC summary of all climate science.) The test is in the pudding.

    – You don’t “prove” science. That is a theological idea on things and not relevant to, well, anything in real life. You can’t “prove” things correct.

    You can test if they are incorrect however. Empirically you test if something works or not. If you can’t tell what is wrong, you can’t tell what is right – eventually you converge on the remaining correct theory.

    [Which is why Kuhn must be wrong btw. How do you define “paradigm shift” in relation to such a process and its wholesale rejection of incorrect theory as opposed to piecemeal replacement? You can’t – the paradigm if any is the science method at large and it can’t be shifted unless it stops working. At which point it isn’t a paradigm anymore.]

    – And if there are other relevant scales, they would be found by setting up and testing competing theories that predicts all what AGW successfully predict. (See attribution above.)

    But there are no such theories, nor is it at this point remotely likely that one would appear – too much interdependent data. For better or worse, scientists have found that AGW is the only game in town.

  72. John

    One thing I fail to understand is why Chris Mooney choose to focus the majority of his blog post on the least interesting and controversial parts of the report, and choose to ignore the main point.

    Nobody outside the Climate Community cares at all if Bush muzzled a few scientists, in their opinion. The Climate Narrative was shoved down our throats for years. If any of the scientists were muzzled by Bush, it doesn’t seem to matter in the long run. We got the message.

    Chris, why do you chase down this distraction of scientists with bruised egos, and completely ignore the major implication of the report, that environmentalist were NOT outspent?

    Chris, is it because if we are to believe the playing field was level all along, that it would remove one of the excuses for your “side” to have lost? Does it point the finger at you Chris?

  73. Susan Anderson

    a couple of notes:

    Recently I was taken aback to see an accusation that the IPCC is a world organization dedicated to eugenics. This would have been ignorable if it didn’t get a lot of “votes”. Increasingly, this is the kind of argument we are seeing. Just as people are now openly approving Joe McCarthy’s tactics.

    This kind of know-nothing attitude is now worn like a badge of honor.

    Treating this is as “he said she said” situation is not fair to the truth. Truth is easily defeated, because it is honest and careful.

    Not altogether off topic, and hopefully providing a bit of cognitive dissonance, from the latest New Yorker profile, “The Possibilian” (David Eagleman studies time and neuroscience, fascinating), on religion:

    “…. Science had taught him to be skeptical of cosmic certainties, he told me. From the unfathomed complexity of brain tissue—“essentially an alien computational material”—to the mystery of dark matter, we know too little about our own minds and the universe around us to insist on strict atheism, he said. “And we know far too much to commit to a particular religious story.” Why not revel in the alternatives? Why not imagine ourselves …. any of a thousand other possibilities, and then test those ideas against the available evidence? “Part of the scientific temperament is this tolerance for holding multiple hypotheses in mind at the same time,” he said. “As Voltaire said, uncertainty is an uncomfortable position. But certainty is an absurd one.”

    “…. “I’m not saying here is the answer,” he told me. “I’m just celebrating the vastness of our ignorance.””
    http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/04/25/110425fa_fact_bilger?currentPage=all

    Why not revel in the alternatives, indeed!! Note especially the comments about how scientists think and their openness. This is the missing element in the fake skeptic movement.

  74. Mr. Nisbet,

    In your report, you used all sorts of biasing and slanted language and just plain misrepresented the data.

    Now you are trying to wiggle out of it.

    To me, it looks like you sold your soul. Good luck with that.

    Sincerely,

    Tenney Naumer

  75. I suspect that evangelical church members are actually pretty good at evaluating issues related to their own areas of personal expertise, even if the results conflict with their political biases.

    Scientists evaluating science would be the same or even better in the sense that they understand the math and the reasoning processes even in more distant fields of science from their own.

    IOW, not an apples to apples comparison.

  76. Eli wants to know if it is common practices for an author to select and pay reviewers? If so, how much is customary and how much was paid this time. Will Nesbit release his proposal and budget???

  77. TTT

    I wonder if the Crowing Curry Cultists will ever realize that Nisbet is not a scientist, and thus his being criticized–oh no, no, somebody CRITICIZED him!–doesn’t represent some sort of sinister freeze-out of the scientific career he never had.

    Also:

    @John: Chris, why do you chase down this distraction of scientists with bruised egos, and completely ignore the major implication of the report, that environmentalist were NOT outspent?

    He didn’t ignore Nisbet’s falsehood on that issue. He specifically called out Nisbet for that precise falsehood at least twice in this thread, and many other people have pointed it out here too. Environmentalists WERE outspent. Nisbet just failed math. Welcome to two days ago.

  78. Matt, Romm blew you out of the water on his analysis of your “squishness’ with lobbying and related $$. Seems like some major credibility issues.

  79. Susan Anderson

    Equating funding for real stuff – research, satellites, probes, collection, etc. – with lobbying money is an old contrarian trick. Fake as always.

    It appears they have also adopted the label “bully”. It was too good to lose, wasn’t it. The bullies in this case are Luntz, the fossil fuel behemoths, and their tricky maze of think tanks and partisan promotions. The Inhofe Senate website has been a good place to find these propaganda tricks hiding in plain sight.

    Joe Romm is outraged, and rightly so. But he backs up his claims with facts and expertise. Repeating labels over and over creates an alternative description so people don’t have to look at the alternative information.

    I have no personal animus towards any of these guys, but when someone placed in authority starts to spout this line of country, we can all see where they’ve been. You can run but you cannot hide.

  80. John

    The media is still reporting Nisbet’s report as the truth. Even the NY Times isn’t buying the Romm / Mooney smear campaign.

  81. TTT

    @86: yeah, like they reported on Iraqi WMDs as truth. This is at least the 3rd time that you’ve used “who spoke first / who got to speak longest” as a stand-in for accuracy. It is sophomoric and cowardly.

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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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