Citizen (Climate) Science at a Crossroads

In an effort to turn this blog into a pluralistic forum, you will on occasion see spotlighted contributions from individual commenters and excerpts of exchanges between readers.

Over the weekend, the who started this ruckus post has triggered an interesting thread on, among other things, the value of citizen scientists.  Part of the discussion has keyed on how to determine if citizens are engaging with climate science sincerely or as politically/ideologically motivated actors. Another strong theme of the thread, as Judith Curry observed, is the contentious issue of “trusted sources” for citizen climate scientists.

I recognize this is a murky area to tread, which is why I thought that Jonathan Gilligan, an Associate Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Vanderbilt University, helped shed some light with his contributions to the thread. (Gilligan is also the Associate Director of Research at the Vanderbilt Climate Change Research Network.) Below is one of his comments (slightly modified for new readers) that I thought deserved to be taken up more in full.

From Jonathan Gilligan:

I see two separate problems here: Establishing good faith and sincerity and establishing competence.

Good faith: Too many scientists have been discouraged by seeing the same people repeat the same disingenuous objections, first to the CFC-ozone connection and later to AGW, long after the objection was debunked. People are much more likely to take the time and effort to engage in a dialog if they feel the other side is willing to listen with an open mind and consider that it might be wrong (this problem runs both ways in these controversies, but it would be a mistake to set the bar for open-mindedness by mainstream scientists so high as to require that they be prepared to jettison decades of solid empirical and theoretical work on the basis of a new revelation by someone with little track record; more on this below).

One source of trouble is the tendency to stereotype or judge people by association: just because many people in the past have argued disingenuously about anthropogenic global warming (AGW) doesn’t mean a new interlocutor with similar opinions will do so, but it’s human nature to jump to that conclusion.

The water is poisoned badly at this point, and there is a real need for some way that sincere people in the scientific community and the general public can demonstrate their good will to one another.

The second problem is establishing competence. Scientists in certain fields regularly receive communications (often accompanied by lengthy diatribes) from sincere citizen-scientists purporting to refute special relativity, quantum complementarity, the second law of thermodynamics, and so forth. These days, proposals for carbon sequestration and clean energy are on the rise in my mailbox, including schemes to harvest unlimited free energy from magnetic monopoles or the quantum zero-point field. Sometimes it’s easy to fire off a quick email pointing out the flaw in the argument, but sometimes the correspondent has a lengthy tract with lots of mathematics and it’s not worth the hours it would take to find and explain the flaw.

Amateurs can also provide genuine insight and even advances, but when the signal to noise ratio is very low, it doesn’t pay off to sort through it all, hoping for a pony.

One thing sociologists of science have identified that separates earnest but misguided outsiders from competent practitioners is tacit knowledge””the unwritten practical good sense you pick up working side by side with a master. This is what graduate training or apprenticeships confer that simply reading books and journal papers cannot.

People who lack appropriate tacit knowledge often can’t figure out the context in which to put a single piece of research, the judgment to determine the quality of a new publication, and so forth. As Harry Collins and Robert Evans point out, “it can be shown that what is found in the literature, if read by someone with no contact with the core-groups of scientists who actually carry out the research in disputed areas, can give a false impression of the content of the science as well as the level of certainty. Many of the papers in the professional literature are never read so if one wants to gain something even approximating to a rough version of agreed scientific knowledge from published sources one has first to know what to read and what not to read; this requires social contact with the expert community.” (Collins & Evans, infra, p. 22)

A good example of this can be found in Thabo Mbeki’s attempt to do a sort of citizen-science regarding AIDS by reading and assessing primary research literature on his own. His lack of tacit knowledge led Mbeki to seize on a few papers by outlier scientists, rejecting the connection between HIV and AIDS and judging that drug-safety testing showed that AZT was a poison rather than a useful antiretroviral drug, albeit with serious side effects. This confusion underlay Mbeki’s decision not to provide AZT prophylaxis to babies born to HIV-positive mothers, a decision that cost tens of thousands of lives.

Sociologist Harry Collins has conducted extensive empirical studies of scientific expertise and the acquisition and transmission of tacit knowledge. In his slim and very readable book with Robert Evans, Rethinking Expertise (U. Chicago, 2007, 160 pp.) he lays out a taxonomy of both expertise to use skills and expertise to judge others’ expertise (what Collins and Evans call “meta-expertise”).

The book is well worth reading for questions of how to figure out what makes someone an expert and different ways that people figure out how to establish someone else’s degree of expertise.

Two important things for this discussion are the observation that there are other ways to acquire the tacit knowledge necessary to understand complex technical science (Collins’s prime example is gravitational wave physics) without actually being a practicing scientist and that even within the scientific community, scientists often lack the direct expertise to judge one another’s competence, but use what the authors call “referred expertise” to judge scientists in other fields they are not themselves qualified to practice.

Collins and Evans conclude with a discussion of how all this might apply to interactions between citizens and scientists regarding politically contentious issues, such as vaccine safety, genetically modified (GM) crops, and global warming.

Collins and Evans hold out hope that members of the public can indeed acquire enough tacit knowledge through informal pathways (it would be very interesting to study how interactions on science blogs function at transmitting tacit knowledge from experts to layfolk) to understand and judge complex scientific questions, but that we should not romanticize this ability. Often (he offers the example of public rejection of mainstream scientific results on GM food safety) as a case where supporters of citizen science have judged that “the public “¦ are well informed about scientific advance and “¦ highly sophisticated in their thinking on the issues. “¦ [T]he public are ahead of many scientists and policy advisors in their instinctive feeling for a need to act in a precautionary way,” when in fact the public are generally confused and misinformed about the science.

Collins and Evans contrast this to the role of the ACT-UP citizen activist group in the 1980s at making sophisticated and useful contributions to the testing of early anti-HIV therapies. The way ACT-UP overcame Robert Gallo’s initial dismissive treatment and won his attention and respect is perhaps a good positive example of how to proceed here (see also, S. Epstein, “The Construction of Lay Expertise: AIDS Activism and the Forging of Credibility in the Refort of Clinical Trials.” 20 Sci. Tech. Hum. Val., 408 (1995)).

One problem with establishing competence is the asymmetry between experts and layfolks. We often use three attributes to judge expertise in others when we don’t have time or expertise to go through their work in detail: credentials, experience, and track record. For judging mainstream scientists, we can use all three but for judging citizen scientists, credentials and experience are absent and it’s hard to figure out what an amateur’s track record is.

If we believe in populist democratic governance, as opposed to rule by technocratic elites, better integration of citizens and scientists will be necessary. However, doing this is very difficult, and we should not oversimplify or romanticize the ability of outsiders to understand, judge, and contribute to research at the boundaries of knowledge.

207 Responses to “Citizen (Climate) Science at a Crossroads”

  1. Pascvaks says:

    Not only can “scientists” be instrumental in helping to educate the public by discussions of their studies on your blog, or their own or others, but the volume, frequency, and tenor of the “noise” of citizens to the “science”of climate is a valuable indicator to the scientist of the job that he/she and the politician sales force are doing selling this year’s “new” model to the ever skeptical public.

  2. AMac says:

    Keith,
     
    It might be helpful to pull a few of the on-point comments subsequent to the Jonathan Gilligan contribution (#119) that you repost here.  As far as the issues Prof. Gilligan raises, my own Best-Of list from that thread would include the following.
     
    147  Bart Verheggen
    161  Tom Fuller
    173  William Newman
    177  Colin Davidson
    204  TomFP
    206  Judith Curry
    215  Judith Curry
    217  Michael Larkin
     
    FWIW.

  3. I have had a bone to pick with Keith Kloor, but if his journalism attracts a whole thread of sustantive comments like this one from Jonathan Gilligan, Kloor must be doing something very right.  Cheers!

  4. Keith Kloor says:

    AMac, thanks for the suggestion. That’s an excellent thread and those are great comments which people should reference if they choose. But I’m also looking to explore the points raised by Jonathan in more depth, if possible.  Hence the fresh look at his pos here.

  5. People who lack appropriate tacit knowledge often can’t figure out the context in which to put a single piece of research, the judgment to determine the quality of a new publication, and so forth.”

    Yes.

    This one observation is a big fraction of the problem facing any science bearing inconvenient truths in a nutshell.

    People who see themselves as serious critics of teh science argue on the basis of the literature. But the literature is a formalism; the real conversation takes place informally, and the emergence of scientific truth is an informal and social process. This is very much contrary to the picture that is painted for undergraduates taking introductory classes in physics or chemistry. Such education vaguely implies a formality to the process without really describing it.

    To democratize science we have to democratize the conversation. In a science where the number of people interested suddenly swamps the number of people competent to convey it, new mechanisms are necessary. Raw data is only the beginning.

    Are new media up to the task? I think they might be, but the mechanisms need to be explored. Meanwhile, the old methods of science need to be respected. Those methods are clubby and appear disrespectful to outsiders. This is not out of any cynical motive but out of necessity. Nobody knows how to conduct science anonymously.

    In scientific fields where amateurs contribute, they contribute observations: botany, ornithology, astronomy. In climate, amateurs are attempting to compete in matters of interpretation as opposed to matters of observation. This is a much more difficult ambition. It’s a very interesting prospect, indeed an inspiring one. I hope it eventually works out.

    However, to the extent that it derails crucial and time-critical public decision-making it’s an awfully awkward movement. Is it a coincidence that this extremely ambitious citizen science movement appears to emerge just in the spot where it could most effectively derail the use of expertise in informing policy?  I rather doubt that. Therefore, attending to these larger ambitions, no matter how sincerely held by some, without paying attention to the larger and enormously important context in which they appear, is a very serious practical error.

  6. Paul Kelly says:

    What about the citizens who are not  scientists, but will bear the brunt or benefits of future policy? How do we determine what is the most accurate science, what goals does that science demand and what is the best way to reach those goals?

  7. John Fleck says:

    Paul –
    We have well-established societal methods by which societies have tried to “determine what is the most accurate science” – government-funded research institutions, National Academies, expert panels of a variety of sorts. That process has come to relatively consistent conclusions with respect to climate change. The problem – and this can be seen consistently across domains other than climate science – is what happens when that institutional expertise presents conclusions that conflict with values and interests of some segment of society. That is the point at which outlier science, of the type Gilligan argues is easy for amateurs to embrace without understanding its context, can come to dominate the discussion.

  8. Jonathan Gilligan says:

    Michael (#5): your distinction between providing raw observations and interpretation is very useful.

    There are in fact citizen-scientist programs of gathering observations relevant to climate change: Project Bud Burst, Icewatch Canada, etc.

    You’re exactly right that integrating citizens into theory, analysis, and interpretation would be very different, and quite a challenge.

    I share the concerns in your last paragraph about derailing rather than contributing; this is one reason why the big about establishing good faith is so important as well as establishing competence.

    But as I see it (others have made this point long before me, including <a href="Roger Pielke, Jr. and Daniel Sarewitz) we’ve had all the scientific certainty we need to make good policy on climate change for 10 years or more, and delaying policy to do more research would be a huge mistake.

    What’s holding up climate policy is not lack of scientific knowledge or certainty, but lack of public engagement with what we already know. Making the computer models more sophisticated or improving the precision with which we know what surface temperatures in Siberia were 1000 years ago would not change the policy frontier.

    So to my mind, job number 1 for people who see anthropogenic climate change primarily as a policy problem, rather than a really cool research question in pure earth science, is to talk about the uncertainties, the range of possibilities (some of which I find truly horrifying), and making decisions about uncertain risks. Martin Weitzman is one of the trailblazers in this direction.

    The tough thing with this is that decades of solid empirical psychology and economics demonstrate that people (both the general public and also experts) generally have a terrible track record of making good decisions about uncertain risks, as we see from both the lack of flood insurance among so many victims in the recent spate of floods and the failure of so many sophisticated institutional investors to anticipate the consequences of a plateau or decline in real estate prices.

    This is where more research on how to clearly and effectively communicate about uncertain risks (whether we’re talking about insurance, investments, or climate change) and better application of what’s already known about risk communication might help a lot. Fortunately, this is an area that’s emphasized in a number of recent National Academy reports as well as the US Global Change Research Program.

    But now I’m talking policy and politics; and when I’m talking politics, I’m one voter out of a couple of hundred million and none of my scientific training makes me any more important than anyone else.

  9. Artifex says:

    John Fleck says:
     
    We have well-established societal methods by which societies have tried to “determine what is the most accurate science” ““ government-funded research institutions, National Academies, expert panels of a variety of sorts.

    Honestly, I really can’t think of too many other cases in which society has been reordered based on the “most accurate science”. I think we are on relatively new ground here for better or worse.

    The closest analog I can think of is the Eugenics movement of the early 20th century which was based on the best “consensus science” of the time. How did that work out ?

  10. Judith Curry says:

    Jonathan,
    Your statement is spot on: “What’s holding up climate policy is not lack of scientific knowledge or certainty, but lack of public engagement with what we already know.”

    Action requires political will, and the active engagement of the citizenry in discussing this topic on blogs and engaging in citizen science activities can only help build political will in the long run (if not the short run).  Using social computing has tremendous potential here, but mostly unrealized at present.

  11. Jonathan Gilligan says:

    Paul Kelly (#6): Those are extremely important questions. I don’t have simple answers, but it’s something that a lot of people are thinking very hard about.

    Here’s a link to the text of a public lecture I gave five years ago in which I explored (but did not really answer) questions similar to yours: “Democracy in the Age of Science: Trust, Numeracy, and the Voice of the People” I post this not to toot my own horn, but because it might be useful to you (it’s short, too: six and a half pages)

    I’ll caution that since this is the text of a lecture I did not write it up formally, as I would for publication, with clear footnotes to all the sources from which I got ideas. In addition to the sources I mention directly in the text, I drew heavily on ideas from Robert Dahl’s On Democracy and How Democratic is the American Constitution?, Albert O. Hirschman’s The Rhetoric of Reaction, Harvey Brooks’s “The Resolution of Technically Intensive Public Policy Disputes,” Robert Park’s Voodoo Science, Stephen Breyer’s Breaking the Vicious Circle, Sheila Jasanoff’s The Fifth Branch: Science Advisers as Policymakers, and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s sermon, “Paul’s Letter to American Christians.”

    The takeaway message from my lecture is that scientists should draw clear distinctions between what we know with great certainty and what we’re pretty uncertain about; we should recognize that our political views can indeed bias our assessment of uncertain scientific questions; we should understand our limitations and be humble. The public should understand that although scientists can be wrong, we’re generally doing things in good faith. And finally, we need more civil conversation and less mud-slinging.

    Another treatment of similar questions—much longer and much more practical and empirically based than my more philosophical treatment—is Tom Dietz and Paul Stern’s Public Participation in Environmental Assessment and Decision Making (National Academy Press, 2008, 322 pp.). You can read the full text on line free at the link.

  12. Jonathan Gilligan says:

    Artifex (#9): “Honestly, I really can’t think of too many other cases in which society has been reordered based on the ‘most accurate science.’ ”
     
    I can think of Bretton Woods, which remade the whole world’s economy on the basis of the consensus of economic science (which was a heck of a lot more uncertain than today’s climate science), and it seemed to go pretty well.
     
    <i>Brown v. Board of Education</i> was also based in large part on consensus science (psychology) that separate-but-equal education was psychologically harmful to black children.

  13. Artifex says:

    Jonathan (#12). Hmmm, I think my own bias is showing here.

    While I might have my issues with some specific elements of climate science as it stands, It is still a scientific discipline. My current concerns are more about specific individuals and work that has chosen to embrace the subjective, activist viewpoint rather than the objective, scientific viewpoint. Let’s make no mistake, the vast majority of this work is solid, objective and a credit to honest physics.

    Now I agree that Bretton Woods did change the world, but to call it science …. well, that’s a pretty major stretch. In fact, economics is where I fear climate science is headed in my worst nightmares. These guys have raised ignoring real world data that doesn’t agree with their predisposed conclusions to an absolute art form.

    As for Brown v. Board, isn’t that law ? That’s sort of the polar opposite of science isn’t it ? Reality is what you can argue it. Most definitely not where I would like to see science go.

    After thinking a bit more I have more cases where scientific consensus effected major changes within society as mandated by the state. So here’s my rundown:

    Vaccination => Controversy minimal, effects almost definitely good
    Banning of CFCs => Controversy small, effects almost definitely good
    Banning of DDT => Controversy small, effects debatable but probably more good than bad.
    Eugenics => Controversy small (at the time, not so small now), effects very bad
    Emission controls => Larger controversy, initial effects good, later effects more debatable (maybe too complex to know). What was once a scientific concern (health) has been politically captured.

    An interesting list to be sure. Some of these start as scientific reorder and end as political. I suspect that for better or worse, CO2 regulation will proceed much like other emissions control regulation.

  14. For me, as someone ‘in’ science but far outside *climate* science, one of Judith Curry’s best posts (I think it was here, if not perhaps it was on CA)  was her insider take on the relative ‘place’ of various well-known names — Mann, Jones, Schneider , etc — in the climate science firmament.  She also named names that are rarely mentioned in the blogs, but who she thinks belong in any roll call of top climate science researchers.
     
    In the real world this is the sort of information I’d  glean from scientists outside my field, if I was trying to evaluate claims.   It’s a stand-in for citation/impact factor analysis.
     
    (And ideally I’d want this sort of feedback from several researchers in the ‘foreign’ science, not just one.)
     
     
     
     
     
     

  15. Keith Kloor says:

    Artifex (13):

    Your case description of the vaccine example perplexes me. My understanding is that the “effects” of vaccination are well beyond “almost definitely good” to case closed. And yet there remains a surprisingly resilient controversy over this that a sizable (and highly intelligent) segment continues to buy into.

    This is off-topic, sorry, but I feel compelled to point this out.  Otherwise, I think your larger observation is an interesting one: the scientific giving way to the political.

  16. Jonathan Gilligan says:

    Artifex (#13): Brown was indeed a matter of law, but a question the court focused on was whether there was scientific evidence that children were harmed by segregation. The decision emphasized the importance of psychological research in answering this question.
     
    Compare this to Mass. v. EPA, which was a also matter of law and, like Brown, one where the scientific question whether GHG emissions might cause harm to Massachusetts was central.
     
    I agree that climate policy will be shaped much more by economics than by climate science, largely because everyone will want to talk about the cost of reducing emissions. Economics is a very useful tool so long as we don’t exaggerate its power. Where it goes off the rails is in much the same place climate science has trouble: when people demand excessively precise predictions about the future.
     
    Economic models are much less accurate and certain than climate models, so I suspect that we’d do better to use economics less as a quantitative tool to perform detailed benefit-cost comparisons than as a qualitative tool to help us understand the constraints that affect different policy choices and to help us craft flexible policies, to which we could most easily make course corrections as we learn more along the way. But I’m not an economist, so take this with a liberal dose of salt.
     
    Regarding agency capture on emissions controls, how do you account for John D. Graham’s assessment, in his <a href=”http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/inforeg/2003_cost-ben_final_rpt.pdf”>2003 report to Congress</a> on the benefits and costs of federal regulations that the benefits of emissions controls were many times their costs (for air pollution regulations enacted between 1992 and 2002, he reported costs of $18-21 billion per year and benefits of $118-177 billion per year; see table 3 on p. 9 and see also detailed accounting on pp, 87-113)? Graham has a long track record of opposing inefficient regulations and his tenure at OIRA showed no sign whatsoever that I can discern of capture by pro-regulatory interests.

  17. Michael Larkin says:

    #5 Michael Tobis:
     
    “However, to the extent that it derails crucial and time-critical public decision-making it’s an awfully awkward movement. Is it a coincidence that this extremely ambitious citizen science movement appears to emerge just in the spot where it could most effectively derail the use of expertise in informing policy?”
     
    Here I am, a nobody, wanting to see some kind of better engagement between the climate establishment and Joe six-pack with a science degree, and all of a sudden, I’m getting this feeling that you think what I’m really trying to do is derail public decision-making.
     
    It seems a shortish step from this kind of thing to accusing people of being oil-shills, deniers, and all the rest.
     
    First things first: why would action be needed urgently? Why isn’t one of the options actually to do nothing at the moment because the uncertainties might be too great? Do we actually know what to do, any way? Who is to say that if something is happening, it is going to be bad? What is to say that anthropogenic influences are aren’t actually trivial?
     
    I don’t have answers, but speaking in train metaphors, I don’t want others whose sense of certainty and foreboding could be wrong railroading us into unwise policy decisions that could in the end prove costly and ineffective, perhaps actually counterproductive.
     
    #10 Judith Curry:
     
    ‘Your statement is spot on: “What’s holding up climate policy is not lack of scientific knowledge or certainty, but lack of public engagement with what we already know.”’
     
    I’m unsure what you mean. Is it that you accept lack of knowledge and certainty in the science, which would be consistent with your opinions about the science not being settled, expressed elsewhere? In which case, what we know being inadequate, should we acknowledge that and formulate policy accordingly (which could imply no, or relatively minor, steps being taken)?
     
    On the other hand, are you implying that we know enough to take major steps? If so, I can’t reconcile that with what you’ve said earlier.
     
    Public engagement would in my view involve people having confidence in the science, the scientists and the policy makers, and I don’t think that is currently there (if anything, I think it’s waning). I agree that that being the case, since this an issue of immense public concern, the first step is to get the public on side.
     
    That said, I don’t think that’s simply a case of re-spinning messages that have already failed and arouse much public suspicion. The “engagement” is mostly, as I see it, about addressing key issues such as the concern about the usefulness and applicability of climate models, the accuracy of climate data and the validity of how that is manipulated, the need for openness and transparency, the inclusion of contrarian views… and so on.
     
    I’m sure there are some who might want to be “citizen scientists”, and could contribute, for example, with data collection and analysis (some of the people at CA, especially Steve McIntyre, of course, are strong statisticians, and statistics appears to be a weakness in the climate science community). In fact, they’ve already tried to do that, haven’t they? But look at the resistance Steve M, and Anthony Watts with his surface station data, have encountered. It’s not looking good, is it?
     
    What the majority of people want, I suspect, is not to formulate theory or interpret it, but to be presented the current state of knowledge accurately and honestly (warts and all), and to be able to assure themselves of that through free dialogue. And until they are, they won’t simply roll over and play ball. There has to be sincerity in the mix. As long as I detect the remotest whiff of insincerity, obfuscation or half-truth, I am going to remain an agnostic, and at some stage may even become a diehard sceptic.
     
    Many if not all of us have our own particular areas of expertise and “tacit knowledge” (ask mothers, who tacitly come to know immense amounts about how to nurture their offspring). That might not be in climate science, but we do know whereof is being spoken. We also know in the depths of our being that sometimes, despite that, we have been wrong and arrogant and didn’t listen to something someone said simply because we regarded ourselves as superior to them in understanding. And we may have associated ourselves with a clique of like-minded others who served to bolster our egos (and their own, of course) in self-aggrandising feedback loops.
     
    Simply saying to ourselves or others that the great unwashed out there (poor dears, poor amateurs, poor citizen scientists) can simply have no conception of the great truths WE know isn’t going to cut the mustard with those not inside our tight band of brothers. Do not underestimate the ability of Joe Sixpack to smell a rat that insiders may, effectively, have blinded themselves to.
     
    Corny as it sounds, only truth and sincerity will cut the mustard. People can pontificate all day, but if they are being deceitful or (possibly more likely) self-deceitful, they aren’t going to persuade independent minds of anything.
     
    If an exercise in “citizen science” is merely a ploy, a sop for the masses, it will not work. Still less will disguised attempts at indulging in a little judicious post-normal science (an oxymoron if ever there was one).

  18. Judith Curry says:

    Michael Larkin,  I think yours is a very accurate portrayal of the situation.  My call for engaging citizen scientists includes openness and transparency and better understanding and communication of the uncertainties.  I agree that the “trust issue” is huge.  My rebuilding trust essay was unfortunately viewed at WUWT as lessons to the mainstream in how to better spin this and fool the masses;  that is not at all what I meant.  Over on the ruckus thread, my comments #265, #273 state how i view the level of uncertainty and what we should do about it.  The uncertainty isn’t going to go away; we need to come up with a range of plans and then assess their cost/loss against various climate change scenarios, this would give us a knowledge basis for making decisions given the uncertainty.

  19.  
    Jonathan Gilligan sums it up perfectly:

    “What’s holding up climate policy is not lack of scientific knowledge or certainty, but lack of public engagement with what we already know. Making the computer models more sophisticated or improving the precision with which we know what surface temperatures in Siberia were 1000 years ago would not change the policy frontier.”

    I’m glad to see Judithy Curry agree with this statement as well. It is much in line with what I wrote at the preceding thread about John Daly: “Focusing on them (the relatively well known aspects of the science) creates a world of relative certainty, at least as to the thrust and direction of policy.”
     
    It does highlight an uncomfortable catch 22 regarding how scientists should communicate to the public: On the one hand we are told to put the uncertainties in the spotlight (to still the scientific hunger of citizen scientists), on the other hand the policy relevance of those uncertainties are rather small in the current situation and arguably even counter productive (as they provide an easy scapegoat for inaction) and in engaging with large parts of the public a focus on uncertainty risks that the message comes across as “we don’t know anything” since the public has a very different perception of the concept of uncertainty than scientists have.

  20. JamesG says:

    Let’s be honest, the establishment can’t even include dissenting viewpoints from Christie, Lindzen, Spencer all of whom have real data & analyses that says the assumed, hypothetical CO2 sensitivity is far too high. The only response to them has been that the majority disagree or that the data is wrong or just plain ignoring them: No actual scientific argument has yet been presented. So if they can’t incorporate the legitimate dissenting viewpoints of credentialed, respected climate researchers then how on earth are amateurs to be brought in?
     
    The ‘uncertainty versus action’ argument is a red herring – politicians have actually been persuaded for some time of the case for action. However the “political will” stops exactly at the point where everyone realizes just how difficult the job actually is. Reality bites! Hence Rudd coming in in a blaze of eco glory then doing nothing, Obama appointing Holdren, Chu and Lubchenko who collectively do nothing, Sarko blaming the Chinese, etc.
     
    So how about ignoring the science for a bit and thinking about just how to achieve this magical feat of massive CO2 reduction without doing far more harm than good. That means thinking a bit deeper than just how many degrees or how much ppm we ideally want to see. When you do that then you might understand the viewpoint of people who ask for the scientific case to be properly audited, rather than just assuming they7 are all fossil-fuel funded.
     
    Artifex must have ignored Africa in his assessment of harm from the DDT ban. I’m sure that was entirely accidental but he should ask some of the doctors in Zambia what they think.

  21. Steve Fitzpatrick says:

    Bar Verheggen,
    “the policy relevance of those uncertainties are rather small in the current situation and arguably even counter productive (as they provide an easy scapegoat for inaction) and in engaging with large parts of the public a focus on uncertainty risks that the message comes across as “we don’t know anything”.

    I have seen on multiple threads (at multiple blog sites, including you own of course) that you consistently argue, as above, that no additional understanding nor lesser uncertainty is needed to justify immediate public action of CO2 emissions reductions.

    I want to point out to you that this is not really a technical (or scientific, if you prefer) argument at all, it is the result of your *personal* political viewpoint, and your *personal* evaluation of acceptability of costs, risks, and uncertainty.  I think it is important for you to understand that there are lots of technically trained people of good will who do *not* agree that draconian action is justified based on the current level of scientific understanding of climate.  This is more a political/philosophical disagreement than a scientific one.

    What I find a bit of a surprising is that you (and many others who strongly advocate immediate action) seem to think that many people are reluctant to embrace substantial and immediate public action because the science has not been adequately communicated.  I assure you the real problem is not lack of communication of the science.  Quite the contrary: the more that I have learned about climate science over the past 4 years, the LESS inclined I have become to support immediate draconian action and the MORE inclined I am to insist on substantially improved understanding and substantially reduced uncertainty before taking draconian action.

    Now I understand that some may dismiss the desire for more understanding and certainty as only a weak excuse for delay offered by “bad people”.  This is worse than simply wrong; it is wrong and insulting, and will only galvanize those who disagree with your desire for immediate action.   The climate science community would be wise to honestly and openly  address uncertainty in the public debate; the desire to hide/discount uncertainty has only caused climate science to lose credibility with the public.  I am astonished you seem to suggest that avoiding discussion of uncertainty is a prudent course.  More importantly, it crucial for climate scientists to address the kinds of substantive technical issues that seem to me to be never really addressed.  I will be happy to give you a list of what I see as substantive unanswered issues if you are interested.
     

  22. Keith Kloor says:

    JamesG (20):
    You make some excellent points that I intend to explore in future posts. For example you write: The “˜uncertainty versus action’ argument is a red herring ““ politicians have actually been persuaded for some time of the case for action. However the “political will” stops exactly at the point where everyone realizes just how difficult the job actually is.

    One need look no further than the recurring (and rote) calls to replace fossil fuels with clean energy, which Jon Stewart recently spoofed in a hilarious bit that could also make you weep. (I link to RPJ because I like the title of his post.)

    You also write: So how about ignoring the science for a bit and thinking about just how to achieve this magical feat of massive CO2 reduction without doing far more harm than good.
    That made me think of this comment I read at RC last night: Jim, the problem is that there has been a twinning of science and policy ““ to the detriment of all.

    (I happen to think that this comment–do read its entirety–struck a nerve over at RC because I see it recently prompted a second response from them.)

    Lastly, I thought Paul Kelly over at Bart’s site diagnosed things pretty aptly: C02 is a symptom. Burning fossil fuel is the disease. Stop the burning and the CO2 takes care of itself. Therefore, action should be based on what best replaces or eliminates the need for fossil. Success should be measured by how much fossil use is reduced both as a percentage of the energy portfolio and in absolute terms. A subtle difference? Perhaps. One positive is it would put Lord Monckton types out of business in the blink of an eye.

    The problem is, we don’t have realistic solution to wipe out the “disease.” Calls for a change in societal behavior (cutting back on consumption and emissions) are laughably at odds with reality, as Paul Kelly observes at the end of that same comment: Yes, there sure was a lot of urgency shown in Copenhagen among the jet planes, luxury hotels, fine dining and fleets of limousines.

    [Jonathan Gilligan, are addressing this disconnect at your research center?]

    Which leads me to think that these guys are offering the best and most realistic path out of this thicket.

  23. bigcitylib says:

    Yeah, but Gates and Co. are offering what pretty much everyone else not in the “courage to do nothing” camp are offering–more money for research and a price on carbon (whether cap and trade or a carbon tax).  What’s so special or different about them in your mind?

  24. JamesG says:

    BCL
    Shell, BP and Exxon, Chevron have offering up more money than Gates & Co and much earlier too! I’ve no idea why but presumably if there is an alternative they’ll be buying them out! I’ve a feeling Shell and BP were actually persuaded though. I’ve seen a lot of progress in diverse areas from the private sector. I’m not that sure government has to do anything more than tax concessions, cutting red tape. and avoiding the special interest groups (eg nuclear lobby).
     
    If Gates gets fast reactors to work then that’ll be something but it’s not going to be quick…

  25. willard says:

    Bart,
     
    The catch 22 is worse than you portray it.  As soon as the debate looks a scientific one, the PR game is lost.  That is, whatever the outcome of the discussion, the policy issue has been shifted to an absurd scientific debate.  (As if science was settled by debate!)  The result of the scientific endeavour does not matter at all.  Libertarians, to take an example of those who like to put forward this kind of argument, will always prefer to debate on scientific nits than on political values.
     
    Steve Fitzpatrick’s comment in#21 examplifies this very well.  In fact, he seems to forget that the arguments he is putting forward is not scientific at all.  (To see that, consider the importance of the “draconian” epithet, and where it is scientifically defined.)  So his argument undermines his very point, as he’s making a political point anyway.
     
    You should also note that telling scientists to focus on scientific issues, insteand of voicing their political concerns, conflates what they do as a day job and what they do as citizens.  It creates a false dillemma, as the two activites are not incompatible and never really compete.  And it is also condescending, as it basically says that scientists should stay in their labs and let the politically enlightened ones decide as to what to do, or not.
     

  26. Keith Kloor says:

    Bigcitylib (23):

    The President’s Oval Office address last week should serve as wake up call to you. Surely you read all the hand-wringing post-mortems from your fellow climate advocates about Obama’s obvious reluctance to talk about climate change, much less mention anything about carbon caps or carbon taxes. Did he not send a big enough message with that speech?

    So back to that NYT article I previously linked to (emphasis added):

    Mr. Gates said in an interview that drastic changes were needed in the way the United States produced and consumed energy to assure its security and to begin to address climate change. He endorsed the administration’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050, but said that was not possible with today’s technology or politics.

    “Among all the swirl of different ideas of how to raise the money and how to regulate carbon,” he said, “there is no way either in this country or internationally you’re going to come close to meeting an 80 percent reduction unless you have an immense breakthrough.”

    He said that the only way to find such disruptive new technology was to pour large sums of money at the problem, with the clear understanding that any number of ventures would fail before the eureka moment arrived.

    IMHO, that’s a real world perspective that needs to sink in on a much deeper level among climate advocates.

  27. Marlowe Johnson says:

    Keith he also said:
    ” the nation must put a price on carbon emissions, but does not endorse a single method like a tax or a cap-and-trade scheme. “There are many paths,” Mr. Gates said, “but there are problems on every single path. What you need is a strategy that identifies those blocks “” whether it is science, economics or regulation “” and breaks through them.”
     
    So to BCL’s point how is what Gates et al proposing any different than any of the other bills that have gone through the system?
     
     

  28. Keith Kloor says:

    Marlowe (27):

    It appears that Gates is not banking on the political process (or today’s technology) to achieve what he supports in theory (2050 targets, etc). That’s the take-home message that should be even more apparent after Obama’s speech last week.

    Denial of this reality does not help your cause. That’s my point.

  29. bigcitylib says:

    #26, whatever message Obama sent with his speech, almost everyone, Gates and Co. included, are saying 1) Pursue technological innovation, and 2) price carbon (as, perhaps, one means of funding 1)). So again, it isn’t obvious that they are saying anything outside of what you might call “the economic consensus”.
    Of course, one can argue over emphasis, and there may be a few people who would lean on 1) exclusively, but I think most (including folks like Tol and Pielke Jr.) would insist on both planks being part of the solution.

    The problem with a 1) alone strategy, other than how do you pay for it, is that, while the imposition of a carbon tax would probably work to change behavior at least a little bit, you might pour billions into research and find that no technological innovation is forthcoming, that there is no “Eureka moment”.  In which case you’ve accomplished nothing and wasted alot of time.

  30. Kooiti Masuda says:

    I think that the concept of “interactional expertise” of Collins and Evans is important. Interactional experts share considerable parts of tacit knowledge with contributory experts (experts in the ordinary sense) of a certain field of speciality.  It is difficult to for a person to become a contributory experts of multiple fields of science, or of science as well as of journalism.  But it is hopeful to have many interactional experts who can make apt comments and interpretations. Perhaps we should shift education to that direction. <a href=”http://d.hatena.ne.jp/masudako/20100214/1266154755″>Here</a> is a summary of what I read in the book.

  31. Marlowe Johnson says:

    Keith,
    I’ve long been instrument agnostic (i.e. C&T vs. tax) and supported increased public R&D, but as noted earlier a big question is who pays for it.
     
    Intellectual masterbation about what constitutes the most efficient policy is less interesting to me than what actually has a chance of surviving the political process.  In that sense I’m sympathetic with the RPJr and the Breakthrough folks.
    BUT any strategy that doesn’t at some point include caps and/or carbon taxes is doomed to fail if one measures success along the lines of avoiding  2 degrees C or more.
     
    The question then, is why would appeals to Manhattan style spending be more likely to succeed politically than existing mitigation proposals in the U.S.?
     
    On a final note, I think it’s worth pointing out that the politics at the regional level in the U.S. are significantly different than the federal level (e.g. WCI, WGA, REGGI) and that stalled action in the latter forum does not necessarily mean that all is lost at the regional level.

  32. JamesG says:

    The high oil price of and the economic slump changed behaviour more than any fuel tax ever will, accompanied with a lot of misery. So we now know exactly what overly high fuel prices cause.
    But I’ve never seen any problem with a small carbon tax (eg 4c a litre) and directing that to research or subsidies. Fuel taxes aren’t anything new, so why does every politician make such a fuss about the difficulties of imposing this new tax on top of all the others? I can only imagine it’s political posturing. Apart from which there are a lot of venture capitalists involved in green research and a lot of energy companies too. To assume nothing is happening just because of  Copenhagen is just not the truth.

  33. Marlowe Johnson says:

    JamesG,
    I’ve been equally puzzled.  A $15/tCO2e works out to about 11 cents per gallon.  This is the short-term (pre-2020) central estimate for the going rate of credits under most U.S.  C&T proposals (due in part to the inclusion of plenty of offsets).
     
     
     

  34. Steve Fitzpatrick says:

    willard #25,
    I think you may have missed what I was trying to say.  There is a connection between the certainty/level of understanding in climate science and the level of support for public action to reduce CO2 emissions.  If there really were no uncertainty, and the consequences of warming from CO2 were exactly known, then the question of public action would indeed be a purely political one: people would either support (or not) specific actions based on their personal evaluation of costs and benefits.  That there is substantial technical uncertainty means that the support for public action is most certainly not just a political question; there remains a technical/scientific component.  There are a lot of people (including me!) who’s support for specific public actions is conditional on reduced uncertainty/better scientific understanding of climate.   That you do not like this does not mean that it is not true.
     

  35. Keith Kloor says:

    Marlow, BCL:

    Just to be clear: I’m not suggesting the political process be abandoned. In fact, David Roberts probably has it right with this analysis, in terms of getting on some trajectory. I understand the need to build some momentum, so that more concrete political action can be taken when the political environment will allow it at some indeterminate time in the future.

    That said, I think BCL underplays the emphasis aspect of this debate. So far, much of the “intellectual masturbation” (to borrow Marlowe’s term) has centered on this notion that Americans and developingdeveloped world citizens are going to have to drastically change their lifestyles to reduce emissions.

    Aint gonna happen (Jonathan Gilligan, correct me if I’m wrong on this score, but please don’t point to recycling or littering campaigns.) Do I think we can all lead more environmentally sustainable lives? Absolutely, that’s why I’m doing my part by living in a small energy-efficient apt in an urban, pedestrian-friendly landscape. And I’ve consciously reduced my airtravel.

    Now here’s where Thomas Friedman and Al Gore can lead by example, because they promote this we-all-have-do-our part-to-save-the-world schtick. Instead, we see TF flying around the world twice a week to talk to Turkish taxi drivers and Al Gore doing what Al Gore does. (I’m also envious of their castles.)

    So give me a break with the sustainability lifestyle lecturing. But here’s the thing: they don’t have to be hypocrites if we can find cleaner, greenhouse-gas free fuels to power airplanes and heat swimming pools. And so I don’t begrudge them their high-consumption habits (only the preaching to others about not consuming).

    And it seems the best way to get to that fossil-fuel free world is to mount the kind of campaign that Gates et al are pushing for. Yes, money is the issue, so that’s where the debate should pivot to eventually and elected leaders like Obama should lead, by making the case to the public that massive federal investment in clean energy R & D needs to happen. That’s the case that has to be made.

    And I respectfully submit that climate change need not be the main rationale in that that campaign. (Sorry, Bart.) I tend to believe you can make a strong national security argument, by educating the public about the new great geopolitical energy game now afoot.

    This race against China and others to nail down the last of the world’s fossil fuel reserves should be talked about more. IMHO, that competition is not going to have a happy ending unless we figure out a way around it with a technological breakthrough.

  36. Marlowe Johnson says:

    Keith I’m in fierce agreement with you and am glad to see you’re link to DR’s post over at Grist.

  37. Paul Kelly says:

    The certainty required for popular support of policies is proportionate to the perceived pain. Punitive carbon pricing needs a lot, tax incentives not so much.
    Communication and public engagement certainly would be better if those like Judy, Jonathan and Bart were the spokespersons for the science. For better or worse, that position is now occupied by Gore, Hansen and Romm.  They present a worst case scenario with absolute certainty and show contempt for anyone daring to disagree.
     

  38. Paul Kelly says:

    “…if one measures success along the lines of avoiding  2 degrees C or more.” (Marlowe Johnson#31)
    Whatever the policy, climate is an inadequate measure of success.  Temperature is not linear nor is it evenly distributed. The 2 degree C success point can be attained by simply maintaining the instrumental record trend.
    We are, this century, in a period of relatively stable temperature anomaly that mainstream climatologists say could last another 10 or 20 years.  If that happens, anything we do, including nothing, would be measured a success.

  39. mondo says:

    It seems to me that Steve Fitzpatrick has it exactly right. 

    What has happened over the past few years is that the public has indeed been educated about climate science.   They have come to see that the more scary scenarios that they have been pummelled with are not in fact credible (Hockey Stick, An Inconvenient Truth, the IPCC reports).   There is much uncertainty particularly about feedback mechanisms.  There is little actual proof that anthropogenic CO2 emissions are creating CAGW.  There are credible scientists challenging “the consensus”.  The science is most certainly not settled. 

    Interested citizens understand that the climate system is extraordinarily complex, and highly variable even on a day to day basis.  It is common where we live to experience temperature ranges across one day from -7 deg C up to 27 deg C.   Warming of 1 or 2 degrees C over a 100 years doesn’t seem that scary. 

    We see misinformation about sea level rise, with public pronouncements by supposedly credible scientific sources never mentioning factors such as land subsidence that causes differing rates of observed sea level rise in different places.    

    Interested citizens have been able to observe the obvious hypocrisy of Al Gore and his friends; the acknowledgement of exaggeration by Al Gore, Stephen Schneider and various others (the end justifies the means); the fact that the “adjustments” to the temperature record are always in the direction of making it worse; the ignoring of UHI effects which are evident to any citizen with a thermometer in his car; and the appalling way in which sceptics like Steve McIntyre have been treated (as revealed by The Hockey Stick Illusion). 

    Intelligent citizens have seen through the very weak arguments of those warning about CAGW, and the links to green extremism.  And of course Climategate has revealed the cynical efforts of some climate scientists to manipulate/manage the message.  

    It is not surprising that the average citizen is turning his/her attention to issues that concern them much more directly such as the financial crisis, mortgage difficulties, house repossessions and the like. 

  40. Keith Kloor says:

    Mondo,

    You make numerous vague assumptions about what the “public” and “intelligent citizens” are thinking about climate science.

    What you write may reflect how a subset of skeptics think, but I doubt it can be transferred over this nebulous public described in  your comment.

    For example, you claim at the end: It is not surprising that the average citizen is turning his/her attention to issues that concern them much more directly such as the financial crisis, mortgage difficulties, house repossessions and the like.

    Actually, the general public’s attention (at least in the U.S.) was already focused pretty exclusively on those things (e.g., economic matters), which is also a pretty big reason why it’s quite hard to get “average” citizens to think much about climate change in the first place

  41. willard says:

    Steve Fitzpatrick,
     
    Both the uncertainties and the certainties might lead us to conclude for public action.  So that makes the connection between public action and the level of understanding a trivial one.  That there are people (including you!) whose support for specific public actions is conditional on better scientific understanding of climate simply shows that such is life: bad arguments are easier to spread than to combat.
     
     
    There is no need to talk about the purity of a political decision.   The main reason is that there is nothing that is “purely political”.  Yet another false dillemma.
     
    Armwaving uncertainty, level of understanding, or what not without any real decision-theorical speaking terms, and to coatrack all this armwaving on a thread trying to speak about the establishment of authority, will have to stop, sooner or later.

  42. Kooiti Masuda says:

    James Hansen in “Storm of My Grandchildren” and Stephen Schneider in “Science as a Contact Sport” are quite different.  I regret that both Philip Kitcher in “Science” and Roger Pielke Jr. in “Nature” put these two in the same box. I agree with Paul Kelly that Hansen presents a worst case scenario.  I do not agree with mondo on the allegation that Schneider exaggerates.

  43. Steve Fitzpatrick says:

    Willard:
     
    Please watch this play out over the next several years.  No matter how condescending you are in your arguments, you will never make reasonable people of good will agree to actions which they believe to be contrary to the best interests of humanity.
     
    Count on it.
     

  44. Jonathan Gilligan says:

    Michael (#17) and willard (#25):
    Willard: I agree that scientists should voice their opinions about policy and politics, but should do so in their role as voters, not with any special authority due to their scientific knowledge. All I want to see is for us to be clear which hat we’re wearing when we speak.
     
    Michael: I, at least, am not calling for spin—for using propaganda to lead the public in a direction it doesn’t want to go—but for really changing the nature of the discussion. In our role as scientists, experts can present information to the public and to policymakers with authority: there is settled science: people are causing greenhouse gases to build up in the atmosphere and this will cause the planet to heat up. And there are things we know less certainly: what will the specific effects of this be and how long it will take those effects to occur (e.g., even if we know that that Greenland ice sheet will totally melt, it matters whether this will happen in 300 years or 3000 years).
     
    Scientists and engineers can also explain choices about how to respond, and the ranges of possible consequences to different choices.
     
    Then, having provided this information, we have to respect the public’s right to make its own choice what to do with the information. If the public, understanding the science decently well, says it doesn’t want to do anything about climate change, those of us who disagree with that choice must live with that, although we’re free to continue to try to change minds.
     
    My view is that the current mode of discourse, where lots of people (not all of them scientists) try to tell the public, “you have to do what I want you to do whether you want to or not because of global warming.” This is simply not effective politics. Attempts to use similar tactics to fight obesity (“You must stop eating triple-bacon cheeseburgers or you’ll die of cancer, diabetes, or heart disease”) or to balance the budget (“You must accept huge cuts in Medicare and other government programs or the economy will melt down in a runaway inflationary spiral and gold will be the only stable medium of exchange”) have accomplished little or nothing. (Credit where it’s due: the Break Through folks really developed this line of thought)
     
    I’m not saying, as the Break Through crowd do, that we shouldn’t talk about the dangers of climate change, or that we should completely decouple energy policy from climate change. I’m saying that we (scientists) should present the information and then respectfully allow the public and its elected representatives to decide what they want to do with it.
     
    As members of the public, scientists should participate enthusiastically in those political discussions, but as peers with everyone else, and without claiming extra authority.

  45. willard says:

    We can generalize Steve Fitzpatrick’s (futurological) Argument, while quantifying more properly the subject:
     
    (SPA)  Some people has never, are never and will never agree to measures they see as contrary to the best interests of humanity.
     
    That these people consider themselves or are considered reasonable and good willed is simply irrelevant, as far as the argument goes.  For the sake of discussion, that is another matter, but let’s stick to the argument itself.
     
    What is relevant, nonetheless, is to pay due dilligence to what is begin referred as the Best Interests of Humanity.  What kind of beast is that?  How do we access knowledge about that beast?  These are tough questions that haunted utilitarian philosophers since the beginnings of their doctrine.
     
    But the most potent argument is Steve Universal Solvent: what is the level of understanding of the Best Interests of Humanity?  Can the people state the uncertainties underlying these interests?  Tough questions people should ask themselves.
     
    As one might speculate, appealing to unvertainty or level of understanding is always possible.  No wonder every thread nowadays as a comment or two asking for explicit uncertainty management.  Skeptical arguments have the general form: a proponent claims A; the opponent asks if A is certain.  So this solvent question describes pretty well skepticism.
     

  46. bigcitylib says:

    Keith #35 and others, the problem with a trojan horse approach to climate change policy is, if its in fact an approach to climate change policy, then you are lying to people.  Just as the Trojan Horse was a deception on the part of the Greeks.  I think I’ve seen alot of words spilled here recently calling for transparency on the part of climate change “activists” ; how do you square that with open discussion re decieving people on climate policy.  

    Folks like Morano, when they hear an argument about decarbonization for national security purposes, already scream trojan horse.  You are basically admitting they’re right.
     

  47. EEB says:

    …but it would be a mistake to set the bar for open-mindedness by mainstream scientists so high as to require that they be prepared to jettison decades of solid empirical and theoretical work on the basis of a new revelation by someone with little track record…

    Wasn’t MBH98 a new revelation by someone with little track record that jettisoned decades of solid empirical and theoretical work?

  48. DeNihilist says:

    Dr. Jonathan @ 44, you have hit the nail on the head! I have nothing to add.

    Thanx!!!!!

  49. Steve Fitzpatrick says:

    Willard #45,
    Truly disconnected from reality.
     
    There is no need to appeal to “universal solvent” or anything else so complicate.  There is nothing complicated going on here.  People either think climate science (and its predictions) are credible, or they do not.  A substantial number today think it is not.  You can declare them incompetent to draw that conclusion if you wish, but they will most surely not agree with you.  Your task, if you want to advance your professed objectives, is to address the reasons that they have doubts about climate science and its predictions.  My expectation is that you are not up to the task, but I hope you will prove me wrong with comments that actually address the issue at hand: how do climate scientists address this doubt?  Everything else you talk about is irrelevant obfuscation.

  50. #47 EEB: “Wasn’t MBH98 a new revelation by someone with little track record that jettisoned decades of solid empirical and theoretical work?”

    No. It was the first published global millenial reconstruction. There was nothing prior to overturn except for a doodle that H H Lamb (the founder of CRU, by the way) did on a napkin once which was included in the first IPCC report.

  51. Jonathan Gilligan says:

    As the discussion moves into policy, emissions taxes, and cap and trade, I’d like to plug some of my own work (actually, it’s mostly work of my colleagues to which I was fortunate to add some value).
     
    Economic incentives, such as emissions taxes or rebates for installing energy-efficient appliances) are not very effective on their own. A review of past behavioral research on energy efficiency and public health finds that financial incentives are important, especially for big-ticket items, such as fuel-efficient cars and energy-efficient appliances, but many people do not buy these things even when rebates combined with reduced energy costs would produce net savings for the consumer.
     
    We find that many more people will choose energy-conserving options when an effective program combines incentives with three other measures: Marketing is necessary because people must know about an opportunity in order to take advantage of it. People must be able to get the information they need easily, in a useful and convenient form, and when they need it. And it must be convenient to take the action and receive the incentive. A rebate delivered at the point of sale is much more effective than one which requires the consumer to save receipts, fill out forms, and mail them in; and a programmable thermostat is more effective than having to remember to manually adjust the thermostat two or three times a day.
     
    As Keith says (#35), people are unlikely to accept radical changes in their lives for the sake of energy conservation or emissions reduction, but we have calculated a reasonably achievable emissions reduction based on empirical studies of people’s choices.
     
    For our calculation, we looked only at actions people can take without making big changes to their lives (e.g., we don’t assume that people will trade their SUVs for Priuses, but we do consider that they might buy an SUV with above-average fuel efficiency next time they buy a vehicle), and that use technology that’s currently in wide use (e.g., heat-pump water heaters are currently available and incredibly efficient, but we didn’t consider them because they must be custom ordered and installed, not bought off the shelf at a home-improvement store).
     
    We made what we judged to be reasonable empirically based estimates of how many people are likely to take an action in response to a well-designed program: we didn’t assume that everyone would choose emissions-reducing actions; we didn’t even assume that everyone who would save money by taking those actions would do so. We drew on the results of past experiments and programs to promote energy efficiency and public health to estimate the number likely to actually adopt emissions-reducing actions.
     
    In the end, we estimate (and be clear: this is a crude estimate, not a rigorous prediction, but we tried to be conservative in our assumptions and estimates) that within 10 years, a campaign to promote voluntary measures to conserve energy, improve energy efficiency, and reduce emissions could reduce CO2 emissions from the US individual and household sector by about 20%, which would reduce total national emissions by about 7.4%.  Many, although not all, of the measures would produce net economic savings for consumers, even without financial incentives. However, we did not attempt to estimate total costs or savings, much less perform a cost-benefit analysis.
     
    Reducing US emissions by 7.4% in 10 years would be a good first step, but would not remotely get us to where we’d need to be over the next 40 years if we wanted to stabilize atmospheric CO2 in the neighborhood of 550 ppm. Other, much more ambitious programs would also have to proceed in parallel, but our proposal to forcefully promote voluntary conservation measures would have the advantages that it could be implemented quickly and simply, with no new taxes, red tape, or large bureaucracies.
     
    We focused on the individual and household sector because it’s the largest sector of CO2 emissions in the US: depending whose estimate you look at, between 35 and 40 percent of all US CO2 emissions are due to fuel consumed in the home, for personal travel, or to generate electricity consumed in the home (this estimate only considers energy consumed in the home or in private travel and does not include the indirect emissions associated with manufacturing and transporting goods used in the home).
     
    Similar measures may also prove effective in the commercial and industrial sectors: there is evidence that these sectors also fail to take all the energy-conservation measures that would produce net savings. For instance, in 2000 the city of Edmonton Alberta implemented a program to train drivers of city vehicles to drive in a more fuel-efficient manner. This program cost $29,000 (US equivalent) per year and quickly reduced fuel consumption in the city fleet by 10%, for annual savings of more than $110,000 (US) and reducing annual CO2 emissions by 310 metric tons. Many businesses may have similar opportunities to save money while reducing emissions.
     
    No plausible estimate of the potential to conserve energy at low cost comes close to reducing emissions enough to stabilize at 550 ppm, so if we want to achieve this goal, other much more ambitious measures would need to be pursued in parallel. But unlike many other measures, campaigns to promote voluntary conservation could be rolled out almost immediately and without facing many of the political obstacles that more intrusive measures would encounter.
     
    People wanting to read more on this can visit my collaboration’s web site, behavioralwedge.msu.edu/, read this paper (targeted toward the general, non-specialist, reader), or read this, this, or this (recent policy-oriented papers).

  52. JamesG says:

    BCL
    There’s a huge differerence between deceiving people and finding common ground. But surely you can’t imagine that talking blithely about 7m of sea level rise or totally speculative tipping points being reached in 10 years is not deceiving people. Clearly some people think the latter is a white lie or a “good lie”.
     

  53. Judith Curry says:

    Jonathan #44, very well said.  The IPCC scientists have become so postnormal that they can’t envision separating the science from the policy, and think that the “cap” follows logically and imperatively from the science.  And they don’t even realize what they are doing, they think they are just doing the science.  RP Jr calls this stealth advocacy.  Whatever it is, its damaging the science and trivializing the policy options, to the detriment of both.

  54. I gree with Jonathan and Judith that scientists should try to separate when they talk science vs when they make a personal policy opinion. Hansen and Schneider adhere to making this distinction very carefully I find.

    I wrote about these different roles of scientists here.

    I find it perfectly legitimate, even desirable, that scientists, just as medical professionals, share their knowledge about risks with those who need to know. If the patient or the public has a skewed perception of the risk, it would be right of the (climate or medical)professional to remedy said misunderstanding.

    Of course everyone is free to chose their preferred way of action. But if they rationalize that decision by twisting the science around so that it fits their pre-conceived choice, the scientist/doctors can very well point out where the argument fails. E.g. by saying:

    “You’re mistaken. Unabated CO2 emissions will very likely cause substantial climate change, with serious consequences. So you should decide your course of action based on this knowledge. If you don’t care about these risks, that is your perogative. However I do. Please find yourself another planet to experiment on.”

  55. Gavin says:

    #53 That is just a strawman argument. Where in the IPCC reports is there any evidence of such an attitude? Arguing against caricatures is not moving anything forward.

  56. Jonathan Gilligan says:

    Bsrt (#54): “Of course everyone is free to chose their preferred way of action. But if they rationalize that decision by twisting the science around so that it fits their pre-conceived choice, the scientist/doctors can very well point out where the argument fails.”
     
    Very important and well-stated. This is similar to a problem I’ve heard of from some oncologists I know who believe strongly in supporting patients making their own treatment choices, but who also have to deal with patients who come in with false beliefs about various therapies, which they base on things they’ve read on the internet or from a random or selective reading of fringe parts of the peer-reviewed medical literature. The doctor’s goal becomes educating the patient to be able to make an informed decision, at which point he or she will support the informed decision.
     
    I generally share your assessment of Schneider and Hansen. Schneider is also to be praised for emphasizing ranges of uncertainty and for being very clear about the distinction between settled and unsettled science. No one’s perfect, and Schneider’s latest paper falls short of this, but if we look at the big picture, he’s a good example of someone moving between many different roles and being very clear which one he’s speaking in.

  57. Barry Woods says:

    Judith may I direct you to another challenge to climate scientists.

    comment 381#
    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/2010/06/18/who-started-this-ruckus-anyway/

    and a positive ‘sceptical’ to CAGW suggestion how to improve ‘climate science to everyones benefit
    comment 374#

  58. willard says:

    > Your task, if you want to advance your professed objectives, is to address the reasons that they have doubts about climate science and its predictions.
     
    Indeed, and there is where the Universal Solvent is useful.  Playing the Universal Solvent Game is easy to play:
     
    – Pick a thread, any thread.
    – Take a scientific claim, any claim.
    – Ask how certain that claim really is.
    – If someone provides a reference, ask how credible that reference really is.
    – I someone tells you this is a Universal Solvent, tell him he’s disconnected from reality.

  59. Steve Fitzpatrick says:

    willard #58,
    Once again, you did not address the issue.
    The lack of public support for immediate and substantial action to reduce CO2 emissions is well known, and that lack of support is at least in part due to honest doubts about the certainty and accuracy of projections for future warming.  Dismissing those doubts as invalid or irrelevant (or making references to ‘universal solvent’ as a means to dismiss them) is not going to make them disappear, and I suspect will only cast additional doubt on climate science.
     
    I wonder, are you a practicing scientist, or is your background in some non-technical field?

  60. Steve Fitzpatrick says:

    Bart #54,
     
    Everything you wrote made sense up to:
    Please find yourself another planet to experiment on.”

    I hope you recognize that you have no more right to this planet than anybody else.

  61. willard says:

    Steve Fitzpatrick,
     
    The lack of public support for immediate and substantial action to reduce CO2 emissions might be well known to you, but not to me.  Please tell me your studies about that.  Oh, and don’t forget to state your uncertainty margins.  I am very concerned about that claim you just made.
     
    See how easy it is to “show valid concerns” regarding a claim made on the Internet.  That does not mean this is illegitimate, on the contrary.  This kind of questioning is (at least in principle) at the root of any scientific inquiry.  This kind of questioning is also (at least in principle) at the basis of the constitution of a free society.
     
    That said, this kind of questioning simply can’t be taken as an argument in any kind practical reasoning.  That is, using this right to question anything and everything cannot be taken to show that we don’t know enough to take action.  We never know enough to take action.  Taking action always takes precedence: just imagine how you can make economical decisions, if you need to rely on the sole proofs of econometrical theorems.
     
    There is simply no way to tell what would be considered a good level of understanding or a small enough margin of uncertainty.  There can only be ad hoc criteria there, based on conclusions made by authorities in a particular scientific field.  To believe that society does not rely on authorities is simply bogus.  Anyone who doubt that should remind me the main ideas of the proof behind Fermat’s or Poincaré’s theorems.  To believe that the authorities should reach an unanimous decision is another epistemological fantasy.   That there are still people who believes that “raising concerns” about uncertainty is an argument that PROVES we should wait is simply not a good way to reason in practice.
     
    Not only this is not a good way to reason in practice, it is a way to distract from what is meant to be discussed.  Here, the topic of the thread is about how people claim and evaluate expertise.  But I believe every thread here made by Keith lately has at least one comment regarding levels of understanding or uncertainty margins.  You simply take a claim, ask for level of understanding, and since we are not dealing with formal intricacies, we can “raise concerns”.
     
    Maybe Bart says this in a politer way here:
    http://rankexploits.com/musings/2010/musing-on-reconstructions-response-to-bart-at-keiths/comment-page-3/#comment-46143
     
    ***
     
    There are two main reasons why it’s tough to sell the need for action.  First, collectively, we don’t know exactly what to do yet.  Second, collectively, we don’t know exactly how to say it to gain a momentum.  I am talking about momentum, for there might be no way to gain a consensual agreement between agents that hold conflicting values or preferences.  This, in fact, has been proved, under certain (albeit debatable) conditions for rationality.
     
    All in all, however hard it is to persuade ourselves to take actions, actions will be taken.  That’s the way humans solve problems.  Humans don’t solve problems by sticking to Internet threads showing “valid” concerns, whatever the concept of validity means in this particular context.

  62. Jonathan Gilligan says:

    Eli Rabett has posted a proposal to open the IPCC process up to informed commentary from the public.
     

  63. EEB says:

    #50 MT

    There was nothing prior to overturn except for a doodle that H H Lamb (the founder of CRU, by the way) did on a napkin once which was included in the first IPCC report.

    I wasn’t aware that even a napkin doodle would qualify as a peer-reviewed publication at the IPCC. That certainly explains a lot, though.

  64. Judith Curry says:


    To #55
     
    My reference was to the “IPCC crowd”, not the IPCC report (although there are numerous examples of this in the WGII report). Examples of what I mean by the IPCC crowd are lead authors and others higher up the food chain, the group of scientists signing various petitions, declarations etc
    “¢ the 2007 Bali Declaration , used in the recent PNAS credibility paper:
     
    “The prime goal of this new regime must be to limit global warming to no more than 2ºC above the pre-industrial temperature, a limit that has already been formally adopted by the European Union and a number of other countries.
    Based on current scientific understanding, this requires that global greenhouse gas emissions need to be reduced by at least 50% below their 1990 levels by the year 2050. In the long run, greenhouse gas concentrations need to be stabilised at a level well below 450 ppm (parts per million; measured in CO2-equivalent concentration). In order to stay below 2ºC, global emissions must peak and decline in the next 10 to 15 years, so there is no time to lose.
    As scientists, we urge the negotiators to reach an agreement that takes these targets as a minimum requirement for a fair and effective global climate agreement.”

    “¢ From the Copenhagen Diagnosis, written by 26 former IPCC lead authors:
    To stabilize climate, a decarbonized global society ““ with near-zero emissions of CO2 and other long-lived greenhouse gases ““ needs to be reached well within this century. More specifically, the average annual per-capita emissions will have to shrink to well under 1 metric ton CO2 by 2050. This is 80-95% below the per-capita emissions in developed nations in 2000.”
    “¢ Numerous public statements advocating for policies by Pachauri
    “¢ Etc etc.

    Susan Solomon is the only person with some high rank in the IPCC organization that I can think of that has been vocally resisting this.
    From #53

  65. Steve Fitzpatrick says:

    Judith Curry:
    “From #53”
    Very funny.

  66. Steve Fitzpatrick says:

    willard #61:
    “The lack of public support for immediate and substantial action to reduce CO2 emissions might be well known to you, but not to me.  Please tell me your studies about that.”
    I initially assumed this was a rhetorical rather than serious question, but just in case, how about:  Expert credibility in climate change, William R. L. Anderegga,1, James W. Prallb, Jacob Haroldc, and Stephen H. Schneidera,d,1


    published yesterday, where the authors say “Nonetheless, substantial and growing public doubt remains about the anthropogenic cause and scientific agreement about the role of
    anthropogenic greenhouse gases in climate change (4, 5).”
     
    Please feel free to look up these authors citations (4,5) in the original article.  In addition, many widely publicized opinion poll results support the above claim of “substantial and growing public doubt”.  A google search should generate lot of hits describing the trends in pubic opinion on this subject in a number of countries.  Based on this information, I think is is clear that a substantial fraction of the public has serious doubts about the predictions of substantial future warming.
     
    You go on to say: “There is simply no way to tell what would be considered a good level of understanding or a small enough margin of uncertainty.  There can only be ad hoc criteria there, based on conclusions made by authorities in a particular scientific field.”  Well, there is no need to argue with the first sentence, that is part and parcel of most any pubic policy which involves uncertainty.  It is the reference to “authorities in a particular scientific field”, that I think suspect… it is in fact an appeal to authority.  The “authorities” can and should provide technical information, but that information needs to be as fee as possible of contamination with policy choices.  One of the many reasons people doubt the dire predictions of climate science is that those dire predictions always come packaged with an agenda of specific policy choices. (See Judith Curry’s comment above to #55, AKA Gavin, where she lays out the problem in some detail.)  Lots of people want (in fact, insist on) receiving scientific data about climate without value judgments added by “scientific authorities”, especially if  those value judgments appear in the form of exaggerated confidence and/or an emphasis on worst case scenarios.  These are at best well intention but unprincipled deceptions, and at worst simply disingenuous.
     
    You then say “I am talking about momentum, for there might be no way to gain a consensual agreement between agents that hold conflicting values or preferences.”   I am not certain what you mean by “agents”, but I assume this refers to people.   I find the word “momentum” a bit troubling, because it suggests you think a specific policy agenda should be forced on the public, rather than broadly agreed to.   Of course you will never get 100% agreement on public policy (on any subject!).  But 100% agreement is not what is needed.  What is needed are policy choices which can gather a reasonable consensus.  Most actions commonly advocated by “AGW activists” are broadly rejected by a large plurality, if not a majority, of voters.   They are rejected because many people are simply not convinced of the accuracy of dire predictions of warming.
     
    Many policies that would reduce CO2 emissions would likely draw broad support today; they are not controversial (R. Pielke Jr. and others talk about these policies frequently).  Are they going to lead to draconian reductions in CO2 emissions? No, but they would reduce emissions significantly.  In parallel, the level of understanding in climate science needs to improve, and the confidence with which predictions of future warming can be made substantially increased.  Each substantive improvement in the science will make gathering a political consensus more likely…. if, that is, the level of projected warming and the consequences of that warming are considered worth the cost of mitigation.

  67. DeNihilist says:

    OK, now it is getting scary. If the rabbitt is saying that the public should have a voice, then the end is nigh!

    🙂

  68. Steve F,

    The last sentence (in my comment 54) is a bit crass, admittedly. Read the linked post for context. The point is, in contrast to health issues (as Jonathan Gilligan also expanded on), with climate change the negative consequences of your (in-)actions are for others to bear (rather than yourself).
    So what that means is that in deciding your course of action, you should bear in mind that you have no more right to this planet than others (as you rightly state). And thus (normative statement follows:) that you should take the consequences of your (in-)actions on other people into account when deciding your course of action.

    That is the crucial point where the analogy with health issues breaks down (whereas up to that point the analogy is spot on imho).

    Hope that makes things clearer of what I was trying to say.

  69. Gavin says:

    #64 I assume that you are not arguing that scientists shouldn’t be  allowed to voice there opinion about the international negotiations on climate change. However, you seem to imply that the very act of making a public statement on policy implies that scientists “can’t distinguish policy from science”?  That makes no sense at all.
    As one of the signers of the Bali letter, let me assure you that I am very aware of the difference, as I assume most of the other signers are. How is this ‘stealth advocacy’? what is stealth about it?

    The scientists signing these letters are concerned about the consequences of rising emissions of CO2 and were supporting the temperature ‘guard rail’  that politicians have coalesced around. In order to meet those targets, the science says that we need  to reduce emissions by a lot relatively soon. Note that the statement does *not* specify any particular policy mechanism.

    This is not the same as declaring that science determines policy, but rather that, given a policy goal, science can help inform what is required.

    Scientists have as much right as anyone to voice their opinion on policy goals. Your equating of that to a failure to know what they are doing does you no credit.

  70. Steve Fitzpatrick says:

    Bart #68,
    Thanks for your clarification.
    Of course thoughtful people should (and I believe usually do) consider the consequences of their actions on others.  I would add that this consideration should apply to all actions, whether as simple as driving too fast on a public road, or as complicated as passing laws to regulate the use by others of fossil fuels.  All of our actions can, and unfortunately often do, have negative unintended consequences.  When the scope of a proposed action is large, the potential for negative (unintended) consequences is proportionally large as well.   In the case of laws that would significantly impact the entire world economy, I think that much caution is called for.
     
    The implementation of laws regulating fossil fuel use would be politically contentious under any circumstances, even if there were no uncertainty about the consequences of higher CO2 concentrations, because people have significantly different personal views of the relative importance/economic value of those consequences.  I believe the existence of substantial uncertainty in climate science shifts the balance of political views towards inaction, as does the widely held perception (correct or not) that the science has been influenced too much by politics.
     
    The best way gather a political consensus for substantially reduced fossil fuel use is to have better science, with lower uncertainty, and which is as free as possible of political influence.
     
     
     

  71. Steve Fitzpatrick says:

    Gavin #69,
    “The scientists signing these letters are concerned about the consequences of rising emissions of CO2 and were supporting the temperature “˜guard rail’  that politicians have coalesced around.”

    It is the support for a particular target (for maximum acceptable temperature rise or for maximum acceptable atmospheric CO2 concentration) which is inherently an advocacy position.   It is very different to say “We believe the consequences of X PPM CO2 will be Y over Z years” than to say “We believe the atmospheric concentration of CO2 should never rise above X”, or “We believe a temperature rise of Y must not be allowed to happen”.  Those later statements are in fact policy statements.

  72. Steve F,

    You wrote:
    “The implementation of laws regulating fossil fuel use would be politically contentious under any circumstances, even if there were no uncertainty about the consequences of higher CO2 concentrations, because people have significantly different personal views of the relative importance/economic value of those consequences.”

    Exactly. Why then are many people, who have a different personal view on what road is best to take, so intent on inflating the scientific uncertainty, discredit the scientists, attack the science, or otherwise shy away from voicing their discontent with other potential roads, and instead go after the science?

  73. Judith Curry says:

    #64    Scientists are of course free to voice their opinions about whatever.  But signing a doc like Bali is an advocacy statement.  Such statements detract from the public credibility of climate science, as the public thinks that the scientists’ politics and policy preference is influencing their science.  And hence docs like the IPCC assessment reports become analogous to legal briefs (designed to persuade) rather than a legal memo (objective assessment of the situation).
     
    From #64

  74. Steve Fitzpatrick says:

    Bart #72,
    I do not try to “inflate the scientific uncertainty”, nor I do not try to “discredit scientists” (heck, I am one, as is my wife, as is one of my sons).  Perhaps some people do these things, but I do not.  I do not “attack the science” except to the extent that I try to critically examine that science for internal consistency and for external consistency with what I understand about how the world works in general.  I honestly find much reason to have serious doubt, and I am by no means alone.
     
    I am in no position to insist that climate scientists engage people like me in a technical discussion, but I am certain that meaningful technical discussions could only help form a consensus.  I am also certain that dismissing the kinds of technical doubts that many people have by declaring them incompetent to understand the complexity involved, or worse, by saying that it is simply not worthwhile to engage them, is 100% counterproductive, and will only reduce the chance of forming a political consensus.

  75. AMac says:

    Bart, you wrote in #72,
     
    — begin quote —
    Why then are many people, who have a different personal view on what road is best to take, so intent on inflating the scientific uncertainty, discredit the scientists, attack the science, or otherwise shy away from voicing their discontent with other potential roads, and instead go after the science?
    — end quote —
     
    Pursuant to Steve Fitzpatrick’s comment (#74), is it your opinion that the challenges that have been made to the use of the Tiljander proxies by Mann08 are an example of  inflating the scientific uncertainty, discrediting the scientists, and attacking the science?
     
    The June 16th C-a-s thread “The Main Hindrance to Dialogue (and Detente) ” kicked off with A-list climate scientist and blogger Gavin Schmidt making essentially those claims about my actions in writing that Prof. Mann and co-authors used those proxies in error.  Michael Tobis has offered broadly similar opinions.
     
    I hope this is a thorny issue for most climate scientists who subscribe to the AGW Consensus (the “CE” perspective).  It seems to me that the Gavin/MT stance implies that, in practice, most questioning of the methods and conclusions of peer-reviewed articles by “citizen-scientists” should be out-of-bounds.
     
    That is, questioning of articles that support the AGW Consensus.

  76. Judith,

    What I don’t understand is why people won’t conclude, much more logically in my view, that the science is influencing the scientists’ politics and policy preference.

    That makes a lot of sense to me; the converse does not. Why would I want the worlds’ nations to work towards keeping global avg temp below 2 degrees if ?

  77. Sorry, pushed the button too quickly.

    Why would I want the worlds’ nations to work towards keeping global avg temp below 2 degrees if  it wasn’t for what the science is telling us?

  78. Gavin says:

    #73 “Signing a doc like the Bali Statement is an advocacy position”
     
    Of course it is. Who said otherwise? Your statement seems to imply that no scientist can make any such statement without it tarnishing the ‘scientific process’ – this is nonsense, and equivalent to declaring that if a scientist declares a policy preference they can’t be a real scientist.
     
    Your conflation of such statements with the IPCC report is just very odd. My concerns derive from what I have learned and read about the science and my set of personal values that lead me not to want to risk the impacts of ‘business as usual’. You might have a different set of values, as is your right.
     
    Each scientist has to come to their own decision about how much of their personal policy preferences to disclose and how to disclose them. In that respect, Jim Hansen and Susan Solomon represent two extremes – but whether people disclose their preferences or not, they still have them, and pretending we are all automata with no opinions is simply a fiction.
     
    What is really ‘stealth advocacy’, is pretending to be completely apolitical and implying that anyone with an opinion can’t be doing real science. That would be a very real attempt at an unjustified delegitimization (word of the day) of people whose views are disagreed with.  (People’s views on science can be legitimately ‘delegitimized’ based on the fact they don’t know what they are talking about – and a couple of recent examples spring to mind – but that is a whole other topic).
     
    #76 indeed.
     

  79. Judith Curry says:

    #78, look at the table of scientists in the PNAS paper.  Check the AR4 authors to see how many of them have signed advocacy statements.  A large number.   The IPCC is supposed to be policy neutral.  No one will perceive the IPCC to be policy neutral if a large number of the people writing the IPCC are policy advocates.

  80. Steve Fitzpatrick says:

    Bart #77,
    Woa!
    Lets suppose that we knew for certain that an increase of 3C would lead to the loss of ice mass in Greenland and Antarctica sufficient to raise sea levels by 8 meters over 2000 years.   The cost of that sea level rise over 2000 years may or may not generate a political consensus for immediate expenditures to reduce or eliminate that rise.
     
    Science can (and should!)  inform about the risk/probability of consequences for a 2C rise, but science does not dictate the economic value people must assign to those consequences.  That you want the worlds’ nations to work toward keeping the global average temperature increase below 2C (versus  pre-industrial temperatures) tells us about how your personal values and priorities are applied to the projections from climate science.

  81. Steve Fitzpatrick says:

    Judith and Gavin,
     
    Thank you both for your comments.
     

  82. Gavin says:

    #79 I have no idea how you can conflate an assessment (say) of the climate sensitivity, or the trend in temperature over the last 100 years, or the radiative impact of a CO2 molecule or an aerosol particle, with a statement about what do about increasing emissions in the future.
     
    Your prescription would have the bizarre consequence of increasingly reducing the number of qualified scientists assessing a problem in direct proportion to the seriousness and obviousness of that problem. Taking your position to extremes, if everyone agreed that an asteroid was going to hit the Earth and that something should be done, no-one would be able to write the report describing the options!
     
    You have values and political opinions, and yet I am sure you manage to do your science without them intruding into your analysis.  Do you assume you are unique in that ability?
     
    How for instance has my opinion on the target schedule for CO2 emission cuts affected my documentation of the GISS climate model (Schmidt et al, 2006), or my team’s explorations of the 8.2 kyr event (Legrande et al, 2006), or our results concerning the isotopic fingerprints of paleo-climate change (Schmidt et al, 2007)? Or are these papers ‘clean’ because I wrote them before signing the Bali declaration?
     
    The simple fact of the matter is that concern about the future rise in emissions is extremely widespread in the climate science community, and by implying that anyone who has a public opinion is unqualified to contribute to an assessment, you are supporting a political litmus test for entry into the science process that I find extremely disturbing.
     
    The solution to the existence of individual biases (which exist regardless of how many letters have been signed), are the multiple levels of review and collaborations across many people and voices.  You don’t get rid of biases by pretending they don’t exist.

  83. Steve Fitzpatrick says:

    Gavin #82,
    “The solution to the existence of individual biases (which exist regardless of how many letters have been signed), are the multiple levels of review and collaborations across many people and voices.  You don’t get rid of biases by pretending they don’t exist.”
    Absolutely correct.  I’m just not certain how wide a range of political POV exists among the people involved in those reviews and collaborations.

  84. Steve F, I agree with what you wrote in 80. My point (77) was in response to Judith Curry suggesting that someone’s political views may be perceieved as affecting their science. That doesn’t make any sense to me, because I can see no logical reason to favour eg a two degree target for any other reason that the science.

    I am not saying that the science prescribes that target; as you and Gavin (and myself) have al said: Views regarding what future trajectory to embark on depend on the science AND on one’s values.

    Gavin made some very pertinent points here. Whether one signed or didn’t sign an activist statement should not be used to oust people. No blacklisting.

  85. Amac,

    I have no opinion on Tiljander other than that it would be ridiculous to claim that it has any relevance to which kind of future emissions you’d find acceptable.

  86. Steve Fitzpatrick says:

    Bart #84,
    “Gavin made some very pertinent points here. Whether one signed or didn’t sign an activist statement should not be used to oust people. No blacklisting.”
    I agree.  But I hope you can appreciate that (as Gavin said), “The simple fact of the matter is that concern about the future rise in emissions is extremely widespread in the climate science community” implies that nearly everyone in climate science has drawn similar conclusions.
     
    And since, as you say, “Views regarding what future trajectory to embark on depend on the science AND on one’s values”, I must conclude that most people who work in climate science share a common set of values.  I suspect strongly that those values differ quite a bit from my own, which is why I  invest time trying to better understand climate science.
     
    Please understand that I am not singling out climate scientists because of the particular political POV that seems to dominate the field.  If climate science were dominated by people that held strongly conservative political views, then this would also be (for me) a cause for some concern; it is political uniformity that is the concern.
     
    I do not doubt that climate scientists do their honest best to not allow political bias to influence their work; but neither do I doubt that climate scientists are human beings, and like all of us, are therefore sometimes subject to bias, in spite of their best efforts.  If there are few or none with a substantially different political POV (and a different set of biases!) involved in the “review and collaborations” that Gavin talks about, then those reviews and collaborations may not be as effective as we might hope.

  87. AMac says:

    Bart,
     
    Thanks for the cordial response at #85 to my question posed at #75.

  88. #73  JC:
    “No one will perceive the IPCC to be policy neutral if a large number of the people writing the IPCC are policy advocates.”:
     
    You haven’t refuted what Gavin and Bart pointed out — that policy preference (which you elided with ‘politics’ earlier — I saw what you did there)  can *derive from* consideration of the scientific data.
     
    If ‘everyone’ reflexively assumes the influence is wholly in the other direction then perhaps we need to educate the public better?   For starters, we could try to wean them of the childish idea that scientists must be Vulcans.
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     

  89. Judith Curry says:

    To think that policy derives from consideration of the scientific data reflects a complete misunderstanding of the policy process and supports the point i originally  made in #53.
     
    Lets take Jim Hansen as an example.  He is an explicit policy advocate because he has strong personal convictions on the topic, has made the effort to learn about the policy process, has explored a number of different policy options, and has developed some thoughtful policy recommendations.  They differ substantially from the mainstream UNFCC/IPCC policy recommendations, he is not doing groupthink policy advocacy.  Jim Hansen is also smart enough to know that his science will be viewed as biased because of his advocacy.  Hence he does not insinuate himself into major roles in assessments.  He takes extra care to make all of his models, data, etc. publicly available so that his work can be scrutinized, audited whatever.  He doesn’t whine when he is attacked politically, he understands that this is part of the price he pays for his advocacy.  He doesn’t sign the petitions, like Bali etc.  Why?  I’ve never asked him, but possibly because he might think these groupthink exercises are pointless and ineffective, damaging the credibility of the scientists to no good purpose.
     
    Compare and contrast this with the larger groups of “we are just scientists” who sign all these advocacy petitions, then claim they aren’t advocating (at least gavin admits that they comprise advocacy).  Then they whine when they are attacked politically and are expected to make their data, methods, models publicly available. And they whine when no one takes them seriously anymore, and respond by yet further letters and petitions, and attempts to dismiss the opinions of certain scientists (like the PNAS exercise).  Don’t like being attacked politically?  Then don’t make public statements about policy and don’t sign petitions and group statements intended to influence policy makers.
     
    In summary, advocacy is ok, but if you are going to do it, have a good reason for doing it and learn something about policy first.  And be prepared to pay the price in terms of political attacks.  Big boy pants please, as Lucia would say.

  90. Barry Woods says:

    The advocacy petitions are used to silence any debate.

    I personally have come up against -when asking questions –
    “the 2500 scientists say” response to my question.
     
    ie weight of ‘voice of authority’ numbers, basically saying to me,  shut up, rather than actually deal/answer the question.

    When the climategate story broke – a couple of weeks later. 
    A round robin consensus email saying the science was robust asking people to sign it, went to climate researchers associated with the Met Office in the UK, John Houghton previous leader, Napier a former WWF (major CAGW advocate) chief now in charge – the Met office is part of the Hadley Tyndall UK Goverment, CRU agw consensus.

    Paul Dennis University Of East Anglia – would not sign it saying ‘Science is Not by Consensus’ – ie next door to Phil Jones.

    He was instanly thought to be the ‘whistleblower/hacker/leaker’ and subject to police investigation, including a specialist unit dealing with terorist type crime (previously used on similar type issues with extremist animal right activists – threats/violence)

    I know of 2 people personally on that consensus email list.

    I also KNOW they have NOT EVER looked at the contents of FOIA2009.zip, nor any emails, or Harry_read_me.txt, or The Rules of the Game.pdf, etc)  to this day. 

    So how they could sign this, given the allegations, I just do not understand.  There were reports that some reseacher’s said they  felt subtle pressure to sign (ie met office = government funding  basically) ie why would you not sign?

    A comment below from The Telegraph: (judith gets a mention in the first comment there)
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/environment/climatechange/7845662/Climate-change-sceptic-scientists-less-prominent-and-authoritative.html

    telegraph commentor:
    “Let’s see what Mike Hulme, Professor of Climate Change in the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia, Executive Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, member of the IPCC Task Group on Climate Scenarios for Impacts Assessment and co-Manager of the IPCC Data Distribution Centre for climate scenario information for the Third Assessment Report (TAR) of the IPCC, etc. etc. etc. has to say about “The Consensus”:

    “Without a careful explanation about what it means, this drive for consensus can leave the IPCC vulnerable to outside criticism. Claims such as “˜2,500 of the world’s leading scientists have reached a consensus that human activities are having a significant influence on the climate’ are disingenuous. That particular consensus judgement, as are many others in the IPCC reports, is reached by only a few dozen experts in the specific field of detection and attribution studies

    So it’s not “all scientists”, it’s not even “2,500 scientists, it’s “A few dozen scientists”, at the core CO2 argument, the rest are around the periphery.

    IE  AGW is assumed to be the cause in their studies, they are investigating the effect, on whatever, artic ice, bird migration patternrainforest shrinkage, etc,etc,etc

  91. Gavin says:

    #89 Could you please state to whom this is addressed? Because these are just a repeat of the strawman arguments you made before.
     
    “To think that policy derives from consideration of the scientific data reflects a complete misunderstanding of the policy process”
    Who are you arguing with? My statement was that my policy preferences are derived both from my scientific knowledge *and* my values.
     
    Your characterisation of Jim is odd. Are political positions to be more respected because they are unique? If one concludes that you agree with a mainstream point of view that is declared to be groupthink, while if you disagree you are ‘thoughtful’. Perhaps you could consider the possibility that a mainstream position is thoughtful too? As for the reasons why he takes the actions he does, your imagination does you credit.
     
    And again with the strawmen: “the larger groups of “we are just scientists” who sign all these advocacy petitions” – who are these people who then “whine” about being attacked? People are being attacked completely unjustifiably – Inhofe’s “17 international climate criminals” list is a darn sight closer to McCarthyism than anything else being discussed here.  Oh, and how about that CEI lawsuit business – that’s ok I suppose because I signed a letter? Please get a little bit serious here.
     
    As for the rest of your comment, I have no idea who you are discussing, or why you have gone on such a patronising and out-of-context rant. You claim to want to move forward and make progress in discussions and then when you are disagreed with, you seem to float back into self-satisfying bromides. How is that helping?

  92. Barry Woods says:

    ‘float back into self satisfying bromides’  the irony of accusing someone else of ranting must be lost.

    I think the point made about Jim, is he recognises the posibilities of being ercieved to have a conflict of interest, and the potential damage he would cause, if he were to sign, or get involved at level described. 

    Thus Jim has made the correct choice, one or the other, he cannot be both. So whilst many would disagree with him on many things, I would give him both credit and respect him for doing this.

  93. Judith Curry says:

    Steven Sullivan #88 made the following statement, to which i referred to in my post #89:
    “You haven’t refuted what Gavin and Bart pointed out “” that policy preference (which you elided with “˜politics’ earlier “” I saw what you did there)  can *derive from* consideration of the scientific data.”

    Given the size of the stakes, scientists who are advocates on both sides of the debate are politically attacked.  Like it or not, this is a very high stakes issue.  Whining about this is pointless.  Either take the advocacy bull by the horns and take the heat, or dont be a public advocate and you won’t get attacked.  If you want to engage in the policy process, Jonathan Gilligan in #51 gives excellent guidelines.  There is a big difference between engaging in the policy process in a constructive way, vs advocacy. This is Public Policy 101.    And when the advocacy has been become so entrenched in the people in leadership roles of the IPCC, well this is a sign that the assessment process has become postnormal. And hence the science and scientists lose credibility and the public trust.  And here we are in this happy state of affairs.
     

  94. Judith Curry says:

    The scientists who are being attacked (i don’t deny the attacks) are definitely whining (as per interviews and RC posts and petitions and editorials). The point I am trying to make is that many and possibly most of these people seem to be very ignorant of the policy process, and have gotten themselves in such hot water by getting involved with something they never should have gotten involved with without having educated themselves about the policy process and understanding the pitfalls of advocacy.

  95. willard says:

    I’d like to know the a big difference between engaging in the policy process in a constructive way versus advocacy.  It sounds like 94 of the 94 comments so far are not very constructive then.   Show me a comment, I will show you advocacy.
     
    Advocacy lies behind any intentional communication made in a public forum.  It is so obvious that you can’t criticize someone for advocating such and such without putting his intentions on trial.  It is so obvious that the very idea of stealth advocacy fails to be more than a sale pitch.  Stating one’s own interests never precludes the possibility of having unknown ones anyway.

  96. Steve F,

    You draw a strange conclusion. Why would those tens of thousands of scientists all share the same or similar values? Seems utterly unlikely to me.

    It’s much more likely that the scientific evidence is so overwhelming that that is the primary cause for their opinions (on whether emission reduction is needed) to converge.

  97. Judith,

    I think scientists and science itself are/is being attacked, regardless of whether someone is being “activist” (whatever tha means; signing a petition to the effect that the attackes are exaggagerated, is that activism, or is that responding to the attacks? I think the latter).

    It’s not the attack of someone’s policy stance that I take issue with (that could be considered whining indeed); it is the attack on science and scientists.

    It’s not whining to point out these attacks. It is shameful that these attacks is occurring on such a large scale.

  98. Judith Curry says:

    Bart, the attack is on the science and the scientists because people feel the whole thing has become postnormal and hence the science is biased.  It is these signed petitions with policy pronouncements and statements made to the media by IPCC principals that give this impression to the public.
     
    In terms of being attacked vs not being attacked, here are some guidelines based on my observations and my own experience. My own personal experience consists of being attacked during the hurricane wars of 2005/2006, and my recent experience post climategate.  Note, I have received thousands of emails since climategate, none that were threats other than one that mentioned I’ll end up jail with the rest of them.  How not to be the object of political attacks:
    1)  Option 1 is to stay out of the national/international spotlight.  Don’t issue press releases on your research.  Don’t make public statements about policy.  Don’t sign group letters or petitions intended to influence policy makers.  Note the vast majority of climate scientists operate under this option, including some scientists very high on the PNAS list in terms of publications/citations.
     
    2) If you want to engage in the public dialogue at the national/international level (in addition to the state/local level, where many climate scientists engage) and not get attacked, try this.  When discussing the science (e.g. issuing a press release on a current paper), don’t be an “uncertainty denier” and overhype your results.  Put the science you are discussing in the broader context.  Don’t say negative things about the qualifications or motives of your scientific opponents.  Engage in the policy process, but don’t be an advocate for policies (i.e. don’t sign petitions, etc.)  Make all of your data, metadata publicly available.  And actively engage with the public by answering questions, either in community seminars, the blogosphere, whatever.  And don’t appeal to your own authority, let others do it if they see fit.
     
    We’ve seen where the other option leads us, where scientists downplay uncertainties, hide their data, and advocate for specific policies.   When the stakes are high, this will result in political attacks.    This isn’t a surprise to anyone who knows anything about the policy process.
     
     

  99. Judith Curry says:

    Willard, the distinction between engaging in the policy process vs advocacy is aptly made by Jonathan Gilligan #44.  A good description of this issue that is relevant for the climate debate is in Roger Pielke Jr’s book “The Honest Broker”.  There is a huge body of literature on the science-policy interface, google it.   This is an issue that climate scientists need to get better educated on, it would help them be more effective/useful and keep them out of hot water.

  100. Barry Woods says:

    Some scientists won’t even read bookes that other sceintists recommend, for the most odd reasons!

    Ie ‘The Hockey Stick Ilusion’

     if they read it, they might understand where people are coming from, it doesn’t mean they have to agree with it. It may just increase there understanding of other people they see as ‘attacking science’, , the people concerned rightly/wrongly see themselves as auditing science.

  101. Steve Fitzpatrick says:

    Bart #96,
    “Why would those tens of thousands of scientists all share the same or similar values?”
     
    Why would most all people who convert to Christianity (or Hinduism, or any other religion) all share the same or similar values?  Why would most conservative Republicans share very similar values? Or liberal Democrats? Or the people who join political parties in the Netherlands that want to severely restrict immigration?
     
    Finding relative uniformity of values within a self selected group does not seem to me at all surprising.  I would in fact be shocked if it were otherwise.  It seems clear to me that most people who choose to enter the field of climate science do so because they are concerned about the future of the Earth, and because they are specifically concerned about humanity’s negative effect on Earths ecosystems.  Do you doubt there is strong self selection in climate science toward people who share these kind of concerns?
    I am not suggesting that Climate science is unique; there is likely considerable self-selection that goes on in most fields of human activity, including both technical and non-technical fields.

  102. Steve Fitzpatrick says:

    Judith Curry #98,
    Kudos for your continued efforts to de-politicize the science side of AGW.  Your advice is reasoned and sensible.  I’m not so sure it will be followed by many, but I still hope it makes a difference.

  103. Jonathan Gilligan says:

    On tacit knowledge, the following excerpt from a new post by Arthur Smith is relevant and useful (boldface emphasis added):
     
    “I also have not investigated anything about the tree ring data itself. Whether what Briffa did in truncating his series at 1960 was scientifically valid or not is something that requires some sort of scientific judgment and knowledge of the field, which I certainly do not have. I do know there are occasions where, as a scientist, you just know some of your data is tainted in some way and has to be discarded. This happened to me in one of my earliest publications, where I produced a graph of a theoretical curve regarding behavior of electrons in a quasicrystal, and then realized that the portion of the graph close to zero was meaningless because of an approximation I had made. So that portion is “shaded out” in the published article – I dropped the data because I knew it was not valid. Perhaps what Briffa did with his data was similarly justified, I just don’t know enough to comment one way or the other on that.”

  104. willard says:

    Judith,
     
    What is described in #44, and what you want portrayed in #98 is simply asking scientists to stay in the fact-stating business.  So scientists should “let the facts speak for themselves.”  That portrays stealth advocacy very well, at least to those who don’t like those facts.  There are lots of litterature on the fact/value dichotomy.
     
    As far as I can see, your disagreement is about communication strategies.  Fair enough, they are most of the times jejune.  But I don’t see how letting MSM and PR firms broker the propaganda, advocacy, spin or message be more objective, or honest.

  105. Steve Fitzpatrick says:

    Jonathan Gilligan,
    Arthur Smith is certainly correct. Most everybody who does research faces this kind of issue, and often you need to discount some data that you know to be incorrect.  So long as this is all done “above board” with a clear explanation/rational of why, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this.
    But the several graphs based on Briffa’s reconstruction, used in several AR’s, are not handled that way.  Specifically, the combination of dropping tree ring data after 1960, pasting on the instrument temperature data post-1960, and then smoothing the combined curve (as was done for at least one version of the reconstruction) gives a completely false representation of Briffa’s results.  I find this nothing short of outright deception.  Appalling.

  106. Judith,
     
    I used to agree a lot more with what you said than is recently the case. I don’t see many scientists at all “downplaying uncertainty, hiding data or advocating specific policies”. I can entirely understand why someone would be loath to provide the likes of McIntyre with data. In fact, Jones gave McIntyre data back in 2004 I think it was, no problem. Only after McIntyre started showing his real face did the friendly sharing of data stop. No wonder. Downplaying uncertainty, you keep saying that but I haven’t see any evidence or convincing argument to that effect, nor have I observed it to be the case myself. Advocating specific policies; I’m only aware of Hansen doing so (and making very clear that it’s his personal opinion). Advocating that emissions be reduced is not advocating for a specific policy.
     
    I think the option that Gavin is advocating, and many scientists like him are doing, is perfectly legitimate and even necessary to counter to flood of misinformation and spin out there. Sure they’ll get extra attacked for doing so for mostly extra-scientific reasons, but to claim that those attacks are somehow their own fault or deserved is very strange to me. When you were attacked in 2005/2006, do you somehow feel that you were to blame yourself?
     
    Steve F,
    Your comparison of science with belief systems (religion, politics) shows that don’t understand and/or don’t respect science.

  107. Barry Woods says:

    Surely, the history of science itselfs, shows that it can as easily fall prey to ‘consensus’ belief system , as any other field of human endeavour.

    Some would suggest that this is occuring with CAGW, is it not a scientists duty to look at this, without assuming ‘malice’ of the person asking the questions. Some are so wrapped up in it, they may not be able to see it.

  108. Judith Curry says:

    Advocacy groups (e.g. enviro vs the libertarians) have been duking it out for decades.  The MSM is all over the place. Scientists putting themselves in the middle of all this is a losing proposition for the scientists.  The real action is on the hill, the lobbyists and congress (and also at the state level).   Trying to engage with lobbyists is pointless.  Congressional briefings, with Q&A is a most effective strategy; you provide information for congressional staffers and the serious reporters attend these.
     
    The CRU emails showed evidence of those scientists obsessively worried about the media coverage their “opponents” were getting.  This is just pointless, trying to counter each piece of noise.  If done correctly, the assessments should be highly influential.  And the AR4 was (even to the extent of winning the IPCC Nobel Peace Prize), but it is losing its influence owing to the postnormalism that the scientists are exhibiting.   Doing the assessments right plus congressional briefings, plus tirelessly answering questions is the way to go, IMO.
     
    Bart, re the uncertainty thing, I have written extensively on that topic, won’t reiterate here, in the process of writing a journal article on the topic.

  109. JohnB says:

    #82 Gavin.

    There is a subtle problem with bias. That is that it changes our perception of when to raise warning flags due to our expectations. The Vulcan scientist is a fantasy and everybody is prey to their own biases, youm me, Judith, Keith, everybody. The problem with bias is that it clouds our ability to detect bias in our own actions.

    Where this is relevent. Suppose you (or anyone) were running projections to 2100 and you expect a 4 degree warming. AS in 4 degrees is around what you think the temps in 2100 will be. You know your stuff and have done this before, so you will have a rough idea of what to expect.

    If the answer comes in between 3.5 and 4.5 degrees, you’d shrug and say to yourself “Round about what I expected” and move on. If the answer came in at 5 degrees, you’d whistle and think “Higher than I expected, this could get bad” and then continue.

    However, if the answer came in at 3 degrees, you’d most likely think “That’s a bit low, I’d better check my figures.”

    Natural bias tends to make us more liable to doubt when the answer disagrees with our preconcieved ideas. You will be more likely to suspect a problem if the answer is lower than expectd than when the answer is higher than expected. I think it’s called “being human”.

    The problem comes in when the next person builds on your research. He assumes your findings are right. Why not, they’re peer reviewed and he also knows that Gavin knows his stuff and is likely right. But researcher number 2 has the same bias. So if his figures come out under yours, they will be immediately suspect (by him for a start) but if they come out a bit higher, well, both still fall into the error bars of the other, so they should be right.

    Hence the seemingly neverending litany of “It’s worse than we thought.” The simple fact that it’s always “worse than we thought” sets alarm bells ringing to Joe Public.

    This sort of “compounding of errors” has probably been observed by most people as it happens in all walks of life. Why should Climate Science be an different? Joe Public knows it happens everywhere else, he’s seen it happen, therefore he won’t accept “Trust me I’m a scientist” as an answer. He will have trouble with “It’s been checked by my peers” because he’s seen corporate plans checked and rechecked and still fail miserably.

    Joe Public knows all this, which is why he is immediately suspicious when someone says, in effect “Yes, I’m biased, but it doesn’t matter because I’m right”. He just won’t believe you.

    (I will add that a researcher who’s bias is towards a low climate sensitivity has exactly the same problem as described above, but in the opposite direction. He will be more likely to check his figures if the answer is above his expectations.)

  110. Judith Curry says:

    Bart, when I was attacked in 2005/2006, i felt “victimized.” In hind sight, this could have been avoided if I and my colleagues had had media training and a better understanding of the broad policy arena that we had inadvertently stepped into.  So I feel their pain, but i’ve taken a different path in terms of trying to understand what went wrong.  I’ve dropped the circling wagons strategy, engaged with skeptics, trying to bring more awareness of uncertainty issues in terms of how we can better embrace and assimilate uncertainty in a much broader and also formal sense than we have been doing say in the IPCC assessment reports, and trying to broaden the scope of policy options that are considered and assessed.  These kinds of situations can be avoided IMO, and with greater policy efficacy.

  111. Barry Woods says:

    Is it even possible to consider that no policy may be required?

    I do believe in AGW theory, but we must have some devil’s advocatey, the above is a poltical process question, not of the science, but the thought process of the IPCC, does the process even allow this to be thought?

    Rather than reviewing all thescience, they appear, along time ago, to have decide the policy, rightly or wrongly, this is the perception they now have to deal with, as other commentors here have suggested.

    A very early belief in AGW being proved is evident from the words of Sir John Houghton…(IPCC) ( in a presentaion I attended last week.) It came across, to me at least, very clearly that his mind was clear on this 15 years or more ago. No doubt he is sincere.

    http://www.wargravechurch.org.uk/climatechange.htm
    On Thursday 17th June 2010
    Professor Sir John Houghton FRS CBE
    spoke to a full church at St. Mary’s. 

     
    Co-chair of the Nobel Peace Prize winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s scientific assessment group and lead editor of their first 3 reports. Former Professor of Atmospheric Physics at Oxford University and Chief Executive of the Meteorological Office

    I’d recommend that Judith takes a listen:

    Sir John Houghton
    3 downloads:

    1  download of his presentaion (audio only)
    a quiet bit where he shows a video of clips of rainforests early on, worth percervering.

    2 download of his slides: God, Science and Global Warming

    3 download of the Q/A session at the end (me included, asking  a question whether the politicians have got it right with respect to carbon trading)

    His answers are worth hearing to a few sceptical’ish questions..

    He would appear to believe in a well funded denial machiine.  Which appears just ‘odd’ in the UK, (maybe a decade ago) because for a decade the politicians have been at one ith AGW theory, and business has followed (same in the EU) It might appear different in the USA?

  112. Judith,

    On your last post I recognize a lot of points I agree with.

    On your previous, I’m not sure if you’re underestimating the importance of the media in shaping public opinion, coupled with the “false balance” problem of providing equal coverage to groups who have very different weight, both in terms of evidence as in terms of relative amounts of experts broadly agreeing on each.

  113. Steve Fitzpatrick says:

    Bart #106,
    “Your comparison of science with belief systems (religion, politics) shows that don’t understand and/or don’t respect science.”

    As I said before, I, my wife, and one of my sons are scientists;  do you seriously think  I do not understand or respect science? Your comment suggests that you either didn’t understand what I was saying, or that you are  naive about human behavior.   Self selection to become a member of any group (political, professional, or whatever) is automatically going to generate groups of people who share many common personal values, and common personal values can lead to common biases.

    So once again I ask: Do you doubt there is strong self selection in climate science toward people who share concerns about the future of the Earth and its ecosystems?

  114. willard says:

    Suppose we have an Honest Broker.  This Honest Broker is an entity that promotes “Facts, and only the facts” ™.  FACTS are even his trademark.
     
    So this Honest Broker goes out to get his FACTS across.  Where?  We know from (Raimi, 2002) that “with great power comes great responsibility”.  So off he goes, everywhere he can.  On the hills.  In the living rooms.  In the dying rooms.  Everywhere.  He has the FACTS; this is very powerful.
     
    Even if he does not like it, he will have to go out and engage.  He has lots of power, a power that will compete with all the Think Tanks and thing Bombers and the Think Battlestars in the world.  He will get attacked.  The most ferocious Citizen Scientists will try to contest his supremacy over facts.  Everything he does will be audited with the upmost scrutinity.  The MSM and the Thinking Machines will summon scientists against those FACTS.  The Honest Broker will be described as an advocacy group.  Even advocacy groups agree that you can’t do worse than advocate for something to happen, or not.
     
    Blogs, of course, will follow all this with sheer delight.  It might even add a nit or two, against or for the FACTS.
     
    Now, what is different from what we have now, since our actual Honest Broker is called the IPCC?

  115. Judith Curry says:

    Bart, re the number of experts agreeing with each other.  When we published our 2005 Science paper on hurricanes, the “experts” all agreed that we had to be wrong, with regards to the increasing # of global cat 4, 5 hurricanes.  We immediately made our data available on our website.  After 6 months of noise and mudslinging,   the experts on both sides started working together including a policy statement that acknowledges the scientific uncertainty, and now the experts on both sides have written a consensus review doc, and our finding has generally held up.
     
    Now compare this with the hockey stick saga.  Hurricane data is a heck of alot more certain than the paleo proxy data, and no tricky statistical methods are required to analyze the hurricane data.  Yet the level of confidence that the authors of these papers portrayed in the IPCC TAR, AR4 is inappropriate to say the least.  How this looks to an educated outsider is aptly reflected in this email (obtained by Andrew Montford) written by Michael Kelly (Professor of Electronics at Cambridge), a member of the Oxburgh committee that evaluated CRU:
    “Up to and throughout this exercise, I have remained puzzled how the real humility of the scientists in this area, as evident in their papers, including all these here, and the talks I have heard them give, is morphed into statements of confidence at the 95% level for public consumption through the IPCC process. This does not happen in other subjects of equal importance to humanity, e.g. energy futures or environmental degradation or resource depletion. I can only think it is the “˜authority’ appropriated by the IPCC itself that is the root cause.”

  116. Barry Woods says:

    one pertinant example of this self selection of groups, perhaps:

    http://www.e-n.org.uk/p-1129-Climate-change-and-the-Christian.htm

    “Although I have yet to see any evidence that climate change is a sign of Christ’s imminent return, human pollution is clearly another of the birth pangs of creation, as it eagerly awaits being delivered from the bondage of corruption (Romans. 19-22).
    Tim Mitchell works at the Climactic Research Unit, UEA, Norwich, and is a member of South Park Evangelical Church.”

    (the missing Tim – in Harry_Read_Me.txt)

    Where he co authored papers with Mike Hulme (‘post normal scientist’)
    http://www.cru.uea.ac.uk/~timm/papers/index.html

    Is there a risk, and you belive this to be true, and gone into climate science to save the planet from human corruption, maybe subconcioulsy you dsiscount things that go against this no doubt sincere, to be admired for it’s intentions, belief system…

    You just might miss the ‘null’ hypothesis. This risk would equally apply to any secular, agnostic, or aethiest researcher with the same intention of going into ‘climate science’ with thoughts of  ‘saving the planet’ just from a different perspective.  Noble intentions, of course.

  117. Steve Fitzpatrick says:

    Barry Woods #116,
    “This risk would equally apply to any secular, agnostic, or aethiest researcher with the same intention of going into “˜climate science’ with thoughts of  ‘saving the planet’ just from a different perspective.”
    Of course, self selection to go into climate science may have nothing to do with religion, but a lot to do with a desire to (as you say) save the planet.

  118. Barry Woods says:

    Agreed, I’m not making a point about the religious aspect, there are pro-anti agw people with sincere religious belief on both sides of the debate.. but the ‘saving the planet’, for whatever motivation aspect

    But I imagine, if you were a graduate thinking about climate science with sceptical thoughts, the question would not be: 
    On applying to CRU, was I rejected because i’m sceptical..?
    But, would that sceptical person, even consider applying there in the first place?  Thus, self selecting groups arise..

    I saw exactly the same pattern emerge in the banking/finance industry, (over the management of risk, and the reliance on computer models of risk, that all converged to – reinforce the belief, ie like GCM’s)
    An enormous belief in ‘themselves priest experts of finance’ and in the system, self perpetuated by the ‘group’ thinking.  Where even Warren Buffets speech, of  (CDO’s)  ‘Weapons of mass financial destruction’ and other sceptical voices at the time and over the years were ignored.
    Parallels?

  119. Steve Fitzpatrick says:

    Barry Woods #118,
    “Where even Warren Buffets speech, of  (CDO’s)  “˜Weapons of mass financial destruction’ and other sceptical voices at the time and over the years were ignored.
    Parallels?”
    Sure there are parallels, or at least potential ones.  Expectation and confirmation biases are always dangers in science, just like in all other human endeavor, and nobody (absolutely nobody!) is immune.  All the more reason to be extremely careful about taking public action based on science when the stakes are very high.

  120. JohnB says:

    Steve Fitzpatrick #117

    Would you not agree that going in to Climate Science to “save the planet” would mean that you’ve already decided that the planet needs “saving”?

    Hence you would be automatically biased in favour of anything that reinforced your belief that the planet was in danger and that disaster was coming.

    Hardly a good basis for “unbiased” or “dispassionate” science, wouldn’t you say?

  121. Steve Fitzpatrick says:

    JohnB #120,
    Well sure, but “saving the planet” may be too strong.  The point I was trying to make with Bart earlier is that it seems quite reasonable to suspect a significant self selection process in choosing to enter climate science, and that many climate scientists enter the field already having concerns about the future of the planet and its ecosystems.  There is nothing nefarious going on, but it does mean that climate science (or any self selecting group!) may be subject to common biases due to many shared values.
     

  122. Gavin says:

    #98 Most of your ‘how to act’ description is fine although I agree more with Steve Schneider here – you should be perfectly at liberty to tell people if you have policy preferences. But if you think  that acting as you suggest, immunises you from attacks, misrepresentation, sensationalism and lawsuits you are hopelessly optimistic. A couple of examples, all of the GISTEMP data and code are online, yet people are still making cable TV specials accusing them of fraud and they are still getting letters from Congressman demanding that they come clean.  Second, I spend time working on a blog and interacting with the public (far more than my job demands) precisely to provide more context and answer people’s questions. My reward for that? A lawsuit in DC district court. Why? because lots of people don’t want scientists to speak in public, and they would prefer the “he said/she said” balanced talking head approach  dominating instead.  Much easier to misrepresent things that way.
     
    What is actually being opposed is the statement of opinion. For instance, Miskolcz’s theory is nonsense and Scafetta’s planetary influences are illusionary. We can pretend that these papers or people ‘raise important issues’ but they don’t, and that should be said even if it means upsetting someone.
     
    #115  The opinions of people who are first coming into a subject are interesting, but not definitive. I’m sure that Kelly was soon made aware that statements of ‘95%’ certainty in the IPCC report were reserved for statements about the anthropogenic causes for increases in GHGs, the “unequivocal” fact that the planet has warmed in the last century, the likelihood that net anthropogenic radiative forcing has been positive etc. It was not applied to any of the paleo-related conclusions in the SPM. What Kelly’s statements actually reveal is that communication of the nuances of climate knowledge is very hard and which  areas  lie between the ‘unequivocal’ and the ‘unknown’  are not well-known in the public. That calls for better communication, not a re-working of the IPCC.
     
    #109 John B. You are imagining scenarios that match only your prejudgement of my thinking. You are in fact completely wrong. In the 1990s, the GISS climate model had a sensitivity of 4.2 deg C (or even 5 deg C in some configurations). For the new model that I contributed to for AR4 (Schmidt et al, 2006), the sensitivity was 2.7 C – and at no time ever in the development process did we act as if that was ‘problem’ to be fixed. For the vast majority of scientists (and indeed all of the ones I’ve worked with), the answer is what it is.

  123. Steve Fitzpatrick says:

    Gavin #122,
    “For instance, Miskolcz’s theory is nonsense and Scafetta’s planetary influences are illusionary. We can pretend that these papers or people “˜raise important issues’ but they don’t”
    For certain they don’t.  They are in fact nonsensical and near-delusional respectively.  Few people with a bit of technical experience think either is worth a pinch of… oh well, you already knew that.
    But there are questions raised that are no so simple to dismiss.  It would be good to differentiate.

  124. Judith Curry says:

    #122:  Gavin, I understand that you are being harassed by CEI.  I have spoken with Fred Smith several times about how inappropriate this is.  But the fact is that you work in Jim Hansen’s group, and are reaping the harvest from his advocacy activities.
     
    #115: regarding Kelly’s comments, it is difficult to tell from context of his notes whether this statement is a reaction specifically to Briffas paper or more generally to the interviews also with Jones which include the historical data set.  In the AR4,  the word “very likely” is used several places re paleo:
    “Average Northern Hemisphere temperatures during the second half of the 20th century were very likely higher than during any other 50-year period in the last 500 years and likely the highest in at least the past 1,300 years. ”
    And in the TAR:
    “Globally, it is very likely that the 1990s was the warmest decade and 1998 the warmest year in the instrumental record, since 1861 ”

    The TAR statement, with its very high confidence level, was withdrawn from the AR4. Looks to me like Kelly got it right.

    Re Miskolczi and Scafetta.  I agree that Miskolczi can be dismissed.  But it is way premature to dismiss Scafetta, particularly the most recent paper

  125. Steve Fitzpatrick says:

    Judith Curry #124,
    I read the recent Scafetta paper (twice).  I think it is just a curve fit exercise.  If you look hard enough for correlations of temperatures with other things, you will find correlations; Scafetta does both.
     

  126. Judith Curry says:

    One further point regarding the harassment of NASA GISS scientists, which I attribute to Hansen’s advocacy activities.  Note, the climate modelling group at GFDL is not getting harassed (as far as I know.)

  127. Judith Curry says:

    Comments regarding the Scafetta paper, re that it should be “dismissed.”  Even if aspects of a paper are flawed, either in methodology or interpretation, this does not mean that the paper does not raise valid points that need to be considered or addressed.  And Scafetta’s paper was just recently published, so it has not been adequately scrutinized and discussed in a way that “dismissal” is a convincing verdict.  Again, IMO, such a dismissal is premature for this paper.

  128. Judith Curry says:

    One other point.  Of course, people should be at liberty to tell people if they have policy preferences.  This in itself is not advocacy.  Advocacy is when you are trying to influence policy, such as all the petition signing.

  129. Gavin says:

    #126 It would be handy to think this, but it simply isn’t true. There are many people at GISS or elsewhere in NASA that are not being targeted and many people elsewhere who are. Blaming Jim for this state of affairs is facile.

    #124 “very likely” was only applied in AR4 to the temperature changes in the last 500 years and denotes ‘90%’ confidence. The reason why this is the case is because of multiple and independent lines of evidence – including boreholes, glacier retreat, documentary, phenologic as well as the multi-proxy reconstructions from tree rings/ice cores/corals and the like. As for the TAR statement, it applies only to the instrumental record and is subsumed within the 500 year statement above. There is nothing problematic about either statement. Kelly appears to think that this level of certainty was applied to everything, and as you certainly know, this is not the case.

    You are wrong on Scafetta for the reasons Steve Fitzpatrick quotes. There is absolutely nothing valid in doing a fit of data with multidecadal variability against a source of data with multidecadal variability where you give yourself the latitude to fit phase and amplitude for each component separately. Please read papers more carefully before going public with endorsements, it will save time later.

  130. Gavin says:

    PS. Scafetta’s paper is not ‘published’, merely available. And yes, I have looked at it thoroughly.

  131. Judith Curry says:

    My comment was not anything close to an endorsement of the scafetta paper.  My point is that blanket statements of dismissal of a paper (not even yet published) are inappropriate unless a glaring error has been identified.   My statement was that it is premature to dismiss this paper. Once you and others have made arguments in the blogosphere or submit a comment to a journal, and these arguments are carefully considered and discussed (informally or in a formal assessment process), then maybe dismissal is the appropriate verdict.  The Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics is a respectable journal with a 1.77 impact factor.

  132. Judith Curry says:

    Re the problems at NASA GISS.  I’ve spoken with Fred Smith at the CEI about this, and it is directly tied to Hansen’s advocacy activities and your blogging activities that they view as tied to an advocacy group, on NASA’s dime.

  133. Judith Curry says:

    #129  Well this is just astonishing spin:
    #124 “very likely” was only applied in AR4 to the temperature changes in the last 500 years and denotes “˜90%’ confidence. The reason why this is the case is because of multiple and independent lines of evidence ““ including boreholes, glacier retreat, documentary, phenologic as well as the multi-proxy reconstructions from tree rings/ice cores/corals and the like. As for the TAR statement, it applies only to the instrumental record and is subsumed within the 500 year statement above. There is nothing problematic about either statement. Kelly appears to think that this level of certainty was applied to everything, and as you certainly know, this is not the case.

    How to “gracefully” withdraw from the “very likely” statement in the TAR for the AR4 was the subject of much discussion in the CRU emails.  The confidence level in the AR4 statement is also far higher than the level warrants, this has been debated ad nauseum and you left the last discussion on collide-a-scape when the questions got really pointed.

    Kelly got it right.  There is no other field of science where you would put such high confidence levels on such flimsy evidence on a problem that is frontier science.

  134. Judith Curry says:

    For background on the lawsuit against NASA GISS, see here, the article is written by Chris Horner who filed the FOIA requests.   The lawsuit was filed in response to a 3 year stonewall in responding to FOIA requests.   This lawsuit is clearly tied to the advocacy activities by GISS personnel.

  135. Gavin says:

    #133 Let’s go to the tape shall we?
    TAR: Globally, it is very likely that the 1990s was the warmest decade and 1998 the warmest year in the instrumental record, since 1861. (Very likely in TAR language was between 90-99% chance)).
    This statement has nothing to do with anything paleo. Note the giveaway note about the ‘instrumental record’ and ‘since 1861’.

    AR4: “Warming is unequivocal”, also “Eleven of the last twelve years rank amongst the 12 warmest”, also “Temperatures during the second half of the 20th C were very likely warmer than any other 50 year period in the last 500 years”.
    Avoiding a focus on an individual year is sensible so that was a good move in going from TAR to AR4, but if you think that there is any reasonable ambiguity in the fact that it is warmer now than in the 1860’s, I would like to know what you think that is based on.This is not based on ‘flimsy evidence’.

  136. Judith Curry says:

    In juggling too many things today, I’ve convoluted two lines of thought with careless cutting and pasting of IPCC sentences.
    From the TAR, this is the statement I object to:
    “New analyses of proxy data for the Northern Hemisphere indicate that the increase in temperature in the 20th century is likely7 to have been the largest of any century during the past 1,000 years. It is also likely7 that, in the Northern Hemisphere, the 1990s was the warmest decade and 1998 the warmest year (Figure 1b).”
    This is the conclusion that was withdrawn in AR4, and it has “likely” (not very likely) confidence level.  This is the sentence i was talking about in the previous post that Gavin referred to.
    With regards to the statement in AR4 that I actually cut and pasted into the previous message:
    “Globally, it is very likely7 that the 1990s was the warmest decade and 1998 the warmest year in the instrumental record, since 1861″
    This statement is likely to stand up to the test of time, but the uncertainties in the historical data record are substantial and many oceanographers that I have spoken to don’t have much confidence in the analyzed data in much of the global oceans prior to 1960.  And I am also concerned by the lack of rigorous error analysis on the global average temperatures, most particularly those associated with sampling.  Phil Jones in various interviews has discussed with humility the challenges in putting such a dataset together and the problems of identifying an accurate global average.  From there, we get “very likely.”   Personally, I don’t think it deserves “very likely” given these difficulties and the lack of a rigorous error analysis (and I think Kelly would agree also).

  137. Judith Curry says:

    i spotted this on the dotearth thread associated with the pnas paper, #23, but it seems more relevant here:
     
    “There’s a general “˜feeling’ that such “˜reinforcing’ correlation of very different “˜kinds observations’ and models SHOULD help to build confidence above the level provided by each “˜independent’ data set. But SO FAR, no good “˜statistical’ tools exist for “˜averaging’ such diverse results to get a “˜net mean and its confidence interval’. In the breach, a widely accepted, but ‘uncomfortable’ paradigm has developed, among both scientists and policy makers, to tentatively rely on the collective intuitions and confidence of those “˜expert peers’ who are judged to be most familiar with the data sets and with the relevance of that data to related physical models.”

    This aptly describes what goes into the “very likely” confidence level assessments

  138. Barry Woods says:

    even if it was the warmest, since when?

    satellite records
    thermometer records,
    since the last 1000 years,
    2000 years, 5000, years, 10,000 years, 100,000 years,etc

    what does that actually prove?
    It is merely an observation? 

    That sounds simply naive, man made  CO2 may correlate with a rise, but that is not scientifc proof of causation., and the earh is still coming out of an ice-age.  Given that all the natural climate processes are not completely understood, it is perhaps presumptious to come to a firm as conclusion, as ‘very likely’ a human signature observed, against  natural background with a very noisy dataset, Ie Kelly’s remarks.

    The CET (Central England temperature) dataset, would appear to shows a rate of rise of 0.26 deg C per century, since 1659, before and after the industrial revolution, which started in the UK. 

  139. JohnB says:

    Gavin #122.

    Where did I say anything was a “problem to be fixed”? I was pointing out the fact that our own biases influence our initial reaction to results. Nothing more, nothing less. Physicists have told me that this is so in their field, why would it not be true in others, including Climate Science?

    If I might buy into the “very likely” part of the conversation. I believe Gavin is correct to say that there is nothing wrong with saying that “warming is unequivicol” or that the “second half of the 20th Century is very likely the warmest in the last 500 years.”

    Historical records show that the world has indeed warmed in the last 150 years, there aren’t “Ice Fairs” on the Thames any more for a start. Thus warming is a fact. However it doesn’t tell us anything more than “the world has warmed”. It makes no comment on attribution. While there is a correllation that CO2 has also risen the rule that “Correllation is not Causation” must apply.

    Saying that the world is warmer now than it has been for hundreds of years is also a reasonable factual statement. Unfortunately it’s also virtually useless. (Depending on initial beliefs) If you accept that there was a “Little Ice Age”, and I doubt that few do, then the statement can be rewritten to say “It’s warmer now than during an Ice Age”. Well duh!  A “not Ice Age” is warmer than an “Ice Age”? That’s like announcing that it’s “very likely” that Summer is warmer than Winter. Again, it says nothing about attribution.

    It is quite reasonable to make these statements, but it is quite another thing to imply in any way that they strengthen the concept of the A in AGW. The fact that the world has warmed is not proof of attribution.

    PS. Gavin, why the model change from 4.2 to 2.7? Could you point me to where the reasons for the change are explained? Or will Schmidt 2006 do?

  140. Steve Fitzpatrick says:

    Barry Woods #138,
    Temperature rise does correlate with rise in CO2; and maybe other things also correlate with the rise in temperature (Total human population? Average lifespan in the UK? GDP of North America? Others?).  The difference is that there are very good physical reasons to expect (independent of any actual temperature observations) that radiative forcing from CO2, and from other infrared absorbing gases as well, should increase surface temperatures by some amount, while other things which happen to correlate with temperature have no known or expected causal relationship.  How much of the observed temperature increase has been caused by rising CO2, how much total rise can be expected for a specified level of CO2, and over what period, are matters of real controversy and uncertainty, but that increasing CO2 should cause some temperature increase is really not in doubt at all, at least not among all the physical scientists and engineers I know, who work in many different fields (but none in climate science!).

    Natural processes could certainly contribute to the observed temperature variation, of course, and this is another area of uncertainty, but that does not mean you can simply discount the contribution of rising CO2.  Claims of “hottest year” (or decade, or whatever) in the last century (or last 1,000, 10,000 or X thousand years) seem to me, as Judith points out, supported by very uncertain data and a lot of arm waving.  These claims seem to me designed only to make the cover of Newsweek or the London Times, and to instill fear.
    I think the IPCC would be well advised to say away from sensational claims; what is gained in credibility among thinking people in the absence of glaring headlines will be far more important in the long term than what is lost in fear in the short term.

  141. Gavin says:

    #136 Slipping up with references is understandable, but it does add to the confusion about just what it is you are trying to get across.
     
    As for the first statement in question, “the increase in NH temperature in the 20th century is likely to have been the largest of any century during the past 1,000 years.” is still valid. No reconstruction made to date shows anything different, but given the structural uncertainty in the methodologies, ‘likely’ is the best we are likely to get. The granularity of these methods precludes statements about individual years (like 1998), but it is likely that the 1990s (and now the 2000s) were the warmest decades in 1000 years. Again, statements like these rely on multiple lines of evidence – the age of stuff being unearthed by retreating glaciers (dating back 4 or 5000 years in places, 1000 years in other places), the different paleo archives etc.  Do I think this is certain? No. But I would give it a 2 out of 3 change for being right. We shall see!
     
    The state of the ocean data pre-WW2 in particular is of course a concern, especially in the southern hemisphere and there is a clear increase in uncertainty in discussing SH trends accordingly. I’m not sure why you think no error analyses have been done – Brohan et al (2006) is the best, and indeed it is the sampling error that is the easiest to quantify.
     
    As for CEI, their concern for how NASA spends dispenses its budget is touching, but I can assure you that dealing with the various and varied CEI and allied parties’ FOI requests is a much  bigger waste of resources than anything I could get up to (do you know how much lawyers are paid?). Forgive me if I don’t discuss cases in litigation, but do not assume that you are getting anything like an accurate story from CEI. They are wrong on the facts, and in the law. Unless perhaps there is some statute somewhere the indicates that all federal employees lose the right to free expression even when not performing official duties? I’m not aware of one….
     

  142. Colin Davidson says:

    On a different thread it was claimed that there is no SCIENTIFIC theory of CAGW. In other words the C part of the AGW thesis is not supported by scientists.

    Let’s suppose that the 0.8DegC or so of temperature increase in the last hundred years is all AGW. And that the modeller’s consensus temperature increase of 2DegC in the next ninety years is correct (Yes I know the modellers all use an unrealistic number for evaporation, but let’s leave that for now…)

    We all managed to ADAPT rather easily with the 20th century temperature increase (well done us!) We didn’t have to destroy our industries, shut down our factories, turn out the lights or take up bicycles. Rather the reverse.

    Of course our technologies are more powerful these days, so it would be unreasonable to suppose that we could not likewise adapt to 2DegC in the next 90 years. Unless we kill off our technological edge.

    So, even if the (on scientific grounds I think vastly overestimated) predictions (sorry, they don’t do that, so guesses?) of the IPCC come to pass, unless one believes in the fairytale “C” part of the AGW thesis, we should all just keep on with business as usual.

    Or is it that some “scientists” believe in the “C” part of the AGW thesis? Is that what the fuss is all about – a fringe which believes in “tipping points”?

  143. Barry Woods says:

    “are matters of real controversy and uncertainty, but that increasing CO2 should cause some temperature increase is really not in doubt at all, at least not among all the physical scientists and engineers I know, who work in many different fields ”

    I would agree with this, the problem being the gemeral public hear
    a different very ‘certain’ C  part in the AGW message.  Thus, when they find this out for themselves, it merely raises questions (suspicions) about the ‘message’ 

    The C seems to depend on assumptions and exrtapolations of computer ‘runs’ with many different outcomes +1.0 K – 12.0K.

    So the level of ‘vwey likwly’ seems problematic..
    Also concerned about the apparent believe in computer ‘runs’ as experiments with meaning, vs real world experimentation..  IE Kelly’s concerns in the Oxburgh enquiry, that were ONLY discovered after ‘sceptics’ had to resort to FOI requests, for someting that should have been very transparent.

  144. […] science as the new skepticism? By Bart Over at Keith’s, I got engaged in a discussion with Judith Curry and others about the well educated skeptics who self identify as “auditors” […]

  145. Judith Curry says:

    #141   Re the CEI lawsuit, the point i made was why they are doing it.  As per their own words, they are doing it because of the advocacy activities of Jim Hansen and RC.

  146. Hansen advocates specific policies, and is explicit in that this is his individual opinion.

    RC is engaged in communicating climate science to the blog and countering misinformation regarding climate science. Since when is that considered “advocay” by people who are not ideologically opposed to the (perceived policy consequences of) the science?

  147. Judith Curry says:

    #141  Re the FOIA requests.  A few months i spoke with a mid-level administrator at NOAA, and this person said that they had been instructed to provide any information (emails or whatever) that was requested.  Apparently they felt that this was the best way to defuse the issue so that it will eventually go away.  This is certainly the experience of CRU:  according to the people that made the FOIA requests, if CRU had responded to the first FOIA request (and the second), they wouldn’t have received the additional hundred.

  148. willard says:

    So Hansen made the CEI do it.  Bad, bad Hansen!

  149. Barry Woods says:

    Not bad hansen, not bad CEI

    A result of Hansens activities, resulted in a reasonable request for clarity, with respect to  publical funds.

  150. Judith Curry says:

    I would definitely agree that RC is not apparently involved in explicit advocacy.  CEI’s concern is RC’s affiliation with Environmental Media Services, which is an enviro advocacy group with ties to Gore.  EMS helped RC get started and set up.  I am not sure if there is still any direct relationship between RC and EMS, this might be past history.  But this is the specific advocacy link that the CEI are concerned with.

  151. Judith Curry says:

    I agree with #149,  this is what you should expect if you are involved with advocacy activities:  full transparency.
     
    Particularly in the case of RC and Gavin, I’ve argued with CEI that RC is not advocacy, that they are unlikely to find anything on this fishing expedition, and that continuing to pursue this will elevate their “victim” status, to the detriment of CEI’s position in all this.  They didn’t buy my argument obviously, but they were prepared to listen to me and discuss this with me.  The key RC issue from CEI’s perspective is the EMS link

  152. willard says:

    It’s CEI’s right to go on any fish expedition they want.  It can try to justify their fishing expeditions by saying “we do it because of the advocacy activities of such and such, linked to so an so”.  They must also acknowledge that using “because” might be seen as a way to shift reponsibilty of their action.
     
    So of CEI wants to justify their action, they should better than playing the You Made Me Do It kinda game.  Hell, even #149 is better than what they allegedly said.

  153. JohnB says:

    #150. Judith.

    According to a whois lookup, both realclimate dot org and realclimate dot com are registered to EMS. A Betsy Ensley is the contact. Registrant, Admin and Tech all point to EMS.

    You might also find that it is important to the rest of us too.  It is reasonable to ask that since Steve McIntyre owns his domain, (heck I own mine) why is RCs owned by EMS?

  154. Barry Woods says:

    If realclimate coudld link to luke wamer blogs, it might reduce the criticism of advocatcy..

    ‘climate Sicence for climate scientists’

    as they link to desmog blog and geaorge monbiot,
    but not climate audit, pielke’s or say lucia’s blackboard.. 
    george monbiot is not a scientist, he is a journalist!

    So it does look like advocacy to a new observer
    If they cuold bring themselve to do this it would be a gesture of goodwill..

    Having a link to ‘how to talk to Global Warming Sceptic’ vetted and endorsed by professionals at RealClimate, reflects, to an observer badly on RealClimate..

    So, constructive advice, drop the links to the more ‘flag waving’ type advocacy sites, include some ‘respected’ alternative views, it would help Realclimate stop being ‘perceived’  as an advocacy site rather than a science site…

  155. Artifex says:

    Judith (#150)
     
    How do you characterize explicit advocacy vs communicating climate science ? What criteria do you use ?
     
    I have always characterized science sites as promoting on topic in depth conversation with both pros and cons being heard. When one stoops to censoring or strawmanning ones opponents strongest technical arguments and attacking and disallowing any form of reasonable defense, I have a hard time describing such actions as anything but advocacy. It most certainly isn’t science.

  156. Gavin says:

    #150, #151, #152 So what? RC’s hosting has never been a secret and is fully disclosed on the website. Is the argument that you are defending that no federal employee at any level can have any contact at any time with an NGO on their free time? This would be a gross violation of their rights to free assembly and speech. FOIA does *not* cover personal communications that are unrelated to official duties, and yet the lawsuit is demanding that civil servants have to turn over all such communications. This is just wrong, and to submit to this bullying for the sake of a quiet life would be a gross dereliction and would set a terrible precedent  for civil servants everywhere whose rights to a personal life free of the intrusion of mischief making lobbyists would be compromised.  And it wouldn’t even work.
     
    The fact of the matter is that CEI, and Judicial Watch, and Pajamasmedia, and Business and Media Institute, and the SouthEastern Law foundation etc are pursuing these FOIA and other processes against any scientists that have a public profile – what connection does Ben Santer have to EMS? or Malcolm Hughes? or Susan Solomon? or Kevin Trenberth? None whatsoever. The idea is to simply intimidate scientists into not speaking in public, to not provide context, to not point out where CEI and it’s allies are just making sh*t up. This is in no way justified because Jim Hansen says what he honestly believes. CEI’s ‘reasons’ are just BS.   (And by the way, it isn’t going to stop scientists speaking in public or in the media in any case).
     
    NASA has a good policy on scientific openness (google Michael Griffins statement from 2006), and this kind of intimidation is completely antithetical to that policy as NASA knows full well.

  157. Barry Woods says:

    Gavin I mean to be constructive here…

    please consider this seperately to the CEI issue.

    Have you looked recently at some of the ‘comments’ and articles that the sites you link to, under the other opinion section, make?

    Yet no link to Pielke or climate audit.
    Some might say some of these links are quite extreme in their opinions, yet no links to  a real scientist like pielke. 

    It would help Real Climate, just as a simple PR gesture if it had in Other Opinions. 

     All opinions across the board,
    or just some more ‘respected’ contrarian ones.

    Please consider the intention of me saying this as a positive one.

  158. Barry Woods says:

    The  link to George Monbiot – who quiet famously has a Picture Card  –  Top Ten Climate Change Deniars
     
    including Senator Inholfe!!! And Sarah Palin,  how does that help Real Climate. 
    Whatever anyone may think of these peoples politics.
    I’m not a USA citizen, but I imagine that can not exacty help politically.. Climate Audit may be in Real Climates opinion wrong, but the section is other opinions?
    Politically, how does that help RealClimate in the USA, some of these sites are not talking science , but the worse sort of politics

  159. Judith Curry says:

    #156  the common thread is ADVOCACY.  The RC advocacy is established by the link to EMS.  The advocacy of  the other scientists you mention has been established via other links (e.g. signing statements, public statements)

  160. Artifex says:

    Gavin (#156)
     
    I was under the impression that use of government resources for personal use (be it commercial or political) was in fact criminal. It should be pointed out that you have no expectations of privacy when using NASA computer systems for things like personal email and I think a text message to that effect pops up when you log in (it has been awhile, so I don’t know for sure). Since technically, I believe it is not legal to be using NASA systems for such purposes (and I am sure someone will correct me if I am wrong) there is no such thing as private emails on a NASA system. If in fact you were using computing resources owned by yourself or your advocacy group, you are precisely right, FOIA does not apply. It’s yours and the only way it can be obtained is via the courts. I think anyone reasonable would defend your claim to free association and privacy.
     
    Federall employees can have contact with whomever they choose, but if they are using their employers equipment to do so, they better have the clear permission of their employer.
     
    So the real question becomes, were you and are you using government property for this ? If so you have a problem. If not, I think you have little to worry about.

  161. Jonathan Gilligan says:

    Re: #98, 99, 122
     
    For science and policy, Sheila Jasanoff’s The Fifth Branch is in many ways a better treatment than Pielke’s The Honest Broker (THB). I like THB, but it’s easy to misinterpret Pielke as saying that there are clean lines between tornado and abortion politics, or between the four roles he enumerates for scientists. This misinterpretation can lead readers to imagine that there are straightforward solutions to complex problems of how scientists ought to behave. It also continues to surprise me how many people (such as willard, #114) misread Pielke as saying that the Honest Broker role deals with facts only; he is clear that Honest Brokering is an explicitly political role, but one that attempts to facilitate policy negotiations among different parties rather than advocating a particular policy.
     
    The Fifth Branch works from extensive case studies with much more nuance about messy reality. One of Jasanoff’s many insights is the importance of what sociologists call “boundary work:” drawing the boundary between the scientific and the policy sides of a problem, or between legitimate experts and the general public.
     
    Where the scientific part of a policy problem lies entirely within a well-defined established  field of science, boundaries are clear and a linear model of science policy works pretty well: using the boundary to clearly delineate the science from the policy produces political legitimacy for the science and scientists, allowing experts to decide the scientific questions and then bringing the general public and other parties into the discussion only on the policy aspects.
     
    On the other hand, when the problem is like climate change, requiring a broad multidisciplinary approach to the scientific aspects, there is no clear boundary between science and policy or between experts and non-experts: no one can be expert across the whole range of the science: an expert on radiative transfer may have little expertise on ice-sheet dynamics, and the large uncertainties and difficulty empirically testing many important parts of the science leave much more room for subjective judgment on the part of the experts (e.g., in projections of ice-sheet melting).
     
    In these cases, drawing the boundary becomes a very high-stakes political activity. Who’s a legitimate expert and who isn’t determines who gets to speak authoritatively on matters that strongly influence policy directions, so people fight to give their allies authority and strip their opponents of it. This is what we see in this week’s fights over the Anderegg PNAS paper; in the Cuccinelli and Inhofe witch-hunts; in the CRU emails and the reactions to them; and so forth.
     
    It’s unrealistic to expect that a clean separation between science and policy regarding climate change is possible, or that if scientists would shut up about the policy and stick strictly to describing the physical world, this would prevent politically motivated personal attacks that aim at delegitimizing their science.
     
    Although a clean boundary is impossible, we can still strive for such distinctions as are possible between certain and objective science, uncertain (and thus more subjective) science, and outright normative/policy matters. The science is intrinsically political, and will remain the focus of political conflict regardless what scientists do. But scientists can take steps to help the science be used more productively in helping society decide on policy (and I agree with Gavin, #122, that leading figures in climate science have already taken many of these steps, but that the public is often not aware that they have; Stephen Schneider has been very clear and articulate about all of this for more than a decade).

  162. Barry Woods says:

    I have just had 2 comments disappear without trace at Realclimate, how can I continue in this debate.

  163. Keith Kloor says:

    Barry (162):

    Look, every blog host has the right to moderate as they see fit. You can continue in this debate just fine at this blog and other blogs (across the spectrum).

    The practice of moderation on blogs is no doubt whimsical and arbitrary. I hope to set some kind of consistency here so people have an understanding of what constitutes a civil and reasonably on-topic comment.

    Perhaps your expectations for the way you think Real Climate  should run its blog needs to be brought in line with your experiences there. Otherwise you are probably setting yourself up for continued frustration.

  164. Barry Woods says:

    It is difficult when RC comments here, and there is evidence to the contrary of what they say, by their own actions at RealClimate of their own advocay..

    How can I continue here, when some people here show no signs of the good faith required to have an honest debate and I’m not able to point this out for the other readers enlightenment. 

    Please have a read of my 2 emails to you.
    Please pass on my email as I ask.
    I’m just disapointed, it was constructive advice, to help them!

  165. Steve Fitzpatrick says:

    Barry Woods,
    It is not realistic to imagine you can conduct a meaningful exchange at RC.  Meaningful discussion does not seem to be the purpose of the blog.   Gavin et al want to control the content and direction of each thread; it is an echo chamber, not a forum for discussion.  I have found it usually pointless to spend time commenting there.

  166. AMac says:

    Barry Woods #164
     
    1. Make your comments as concise and on-topic as possible.
     
    2. Don’t expect them to pass at aggressively-moderated blogs.  So, make a local copy before pressing “Submit”.
     
    3. If failing moderation annoys you, re-post your remarks at An Inconvenient Comment. Or at a similar site. Or at your own blog.
     
    Some people just skip the comments at RealClimate and Climate Progress, because their selectively-aggressive moderation  stunts worthwhile dialog and discussion.  That’s not a problem you can solve.  Presumably it’s not a problem at all, from the proprietors’ point of view.

  167. Gavin says:

    #159 Judith, ‘advocacy’ for CEI’s purposes is just saying anything in public that they find objectionable. You can pretend that we have somehow brought this down on ourselves, but try looking at the things they are filing (e.g. see dot earth feb 2 2010).  Have you even heard of most of the names on their list? Even as scientists? let alone public speakers! These are *not* advocates or politicians, but just scientists trying to do their job. And this is an abuse of the legal system to intimidate scientists into forfeiting their right to free speech. I have no idea how anyone concerned with such issues can be so sanguine about these abuses.

  168. Gavin says:

    #164 Read the comment policy. Off topic digressions are moderated.

  169. Bill Stoltzfus says:

    Re: Bart #84
    “…I can see no logical reason to favour eg a two degree target for any other reason than the science.”

    For a scientist thinking scientifically about the issue, or for anyone?  This may be a kind of chicken and egg question, because isn’t it the science itself that informed the 2-degree position in the first place?

    As for reasons, political expediency might be one.  If, based on the science, Scientist A doesn’t believe in the 2-degree target but thinks some other level should be enforced like 3 or 4, and politically the 2-degree target is the only game in town likely to get anywhere, I can see Scientist A endorsing it anyway.  And now that he’s put a foot down in that camp, how does that change his other actions?  I don’t see it modifying how he does science, like changing research data to fit the 2-degree hypothesis, but I can see him altering other actions he might take as a scientist, like signing a “pro 2-degree” statement that previously he may have opted not to do. 

    Which brings us right back to the scientist as scientist vs. the scientist as citizen debate.  Whether statements by national academies and such should be considered as advocacy or not depends a great deal on the statement itself and why it was put forth.  Lay-people don’t get asked to sign statements, so any statement produced automatically appeals to the authority of experts, but if the statement is restricted to the science in question that appeal should be justified.  If there is a case where a small subset of people issues a statement on behalf of the entire academy without general review by the members, then you’re getting into trickier territory.

    Bill

    PS   Thanks, Keith, the discussions here are always interesting–I just wish I had more time to keep up with them.

  170. Barry Woods says:

    The selectively agressive moderation policy, could be used as evidence of the site being used for advocacy and PR purpose, which they say they are not.

    Judith and others were debating The CEI, NASA, Jim advocacy thing, so having a links to activist websites, that have agreesive PR lobby tactics, inclding picture of so called ‘climate deniars’ would appear to me as very much, advocacy and activism. 

    Whilst ate the same time not linking to any sites with known respected scientists (like pielke)  that are contrary to’ their perspective of climate science, is evidence of non scxientific neutrality.

    It is of cousre their blog, but linking, to activist journalists, which has pictures of US politicians naming them as ‘deniars’  – ie Inholfe, Palin, is just not in their own interests, surely! 😉

    It would help them, not to do this.

  171. dhogaza says:

    “Re the CEI lawsuit, the point i made was why they are doing it.  As per their own words, they are doing it because of the advocacy activities of Jim Hansen and RC.”

    Agency employees have the right to do advocacy work on their own time.  This is well-established in law.  You don’t lose your right to free expression when you sign up for an agency gig (the rules for the military are different, for obvious reasons).

    I have no idea what arrangement NASA has with Gavin regarding RC, but I know of no law that would prevent NASA from carrying on educational outreach activities, and RC certainly would qualify.  If Gavin works on RC on his own time, there’s nothing even vaguely illegal about it.

  172. dhogaza says:

    ” the common thread is ADVOCACY.  The RC advocacy is established by the link to EMS.  The advocacy of  the other scientists you mention has been established via other links (e.g. signing statements, public statements)”

    I’ll keep it short:  agency employees have a firmly-established right to do advocacy work on their own time.

    During the 1980s USFS employees went so far as to set up their own 501(c)(3) to advocate against their employer’s forest management policies and to make public work of agency scientists which had been supressed from public view, management decisions which violated NEPA,NFMA,ESA clean water act, etc.   Timber industry efforts to get members disciplined or fired failed.

    It’s no different with RC.

  173. willard says:

    Jonathan Gilligan,
     
    I agree with most of what you say in #161, and I welcome Jasanoff’s study on these matters.  The only thing I can easily disagree is with your interpretation of the Honest Broker.  Even if an entity says that it states only the facts, it’s still a complex entity that advocates that something must be done regarding the facts they state.
     
    Roger Junior wants to put a wedge between an entity that fully acknowledge its political nature, and another one that does not.  The latter is seen as committing “stealth advocacy”.  He is criticizing the IPCC for a few years now about being a stealth advocate.
     
    There are at least three problems with this view.
     
    The first one is that, for an entity, recognizing explicitely its political nature does not change its essence: the IPCC is an international panel, saying it’s not a political entity is simply nonsensical.  Besides, I am quite sure we can find something like a policy scope in IPCC’s constitution.
     
    The second one is that, for an entity, recognizing explicitely its political nature does not preclude it from having other political aims than the one it states.  No agents can really be omniscient to all its political aims.  The concept of “agent aim” is intentional (i.e. teleonomical) and intentional concepts are opaque; even if an agent was omniscient to its aim, we would have no means to know it.
     
    The third one is the one you describe: the false dichotomy between science (facts) and politics (values).  Roger Junior just used that old trick again, with a recent post entitled **Is it Science or Politics?**.  The Honest Broker is needed to make sure that there is a separation between Facts and Values.  Since there are no such separation, the Honest Broker is not needed.
     
    And so I take it that our actual Honest Broker is indeed the IPCC.  If it’s not, that means it’s our dishonest broker, right?  The only logical reason why it can’t be our broker is that it pushes towards action: the facts tell us we should do something.  So we need an HB to make sure that those who advocates doing nothing as a valid option are being heard.
     
    I can agree with most criticisms of the IPCC process.  Those criticisms simply does not entail we should have something else.  Unless we fall prey of the homunculus fallacy (the auditor of the auditor of the auditor, etc.; brokering the brokering of the brokering, etc.), we can try to improve on the IPCC as it is right now and accept that it’s a scientific authority which promotes the need for action.
     
    All in all, as Jasanoff and commenters here observe, the problems are more communicational than ones of political structure.

  174. Judith Curry says:

    I think I am developing some insights into RC.  See specifically #135 Gavin’s statement: “Let’s go to the tape shall we?”  (and my reply in #136).  And also this comment at RC. Well,  take your victories where you think you find them. If I’m wrong, I cheerfully admit it. In the meantime, I will continue to try to have a dialogue and a discussion to explore the complex and important issues that Keith is raising.  From my perspective, I declare winning by participants (myself and others) asking questions, providing arguments, further developing an argument in response to other arguments, learning something, and possibly changing your mind about something. Its about the dialogue,  I’m not interested in takedowns.  So if I seem to be playing a different game than some other climate researchers in the blogosphere, well I am.

  175. What even regular commenters may not realize that the moderation system in RealClimate is centered around the ‘control the conversation’ mode.
    The objective is total control over how a comments section will *appear* to a lurker or passerby. They do not care for semi-regular or regular contributor who wants to ask uncomfortable questions and challenge the inciting post. By controlling the appearance or disappearance of comments, by their timing, the nature of entire conversations is affected.
    The posts themselves are heavily editorialized and opinionated – in other words, very much blog-like. But the comments section is like a boxing ring of preening professorial-isms and faux academic highhandedness, – in other words, very much unblog-like.
     

  176. anon says:

    Judith @174, Shub @175,
    A lot of this is about gatekeeping.  And not that I know anything about it, but RC and much of the climate science blogosphere (including this blog here) would seem to be a demonstration of Feyerabend.
    What I find distressing (since I believe myself to be a liberal), is the amount of gatekeeping I have seen in the Internet world around topics like Obama vs. Clinton, Bias in family court against fathers, practically any wikipedia article discussing a political matter, and now science as well when it overlaps a policy issues.
    If you preferred Clinton over Obama, you were a racist. Believe family courts are biased against fathers and you’re a misogynist, curious about the math and statistics and methods of the hockey stick and you’re a holocaust denier, a creationist, a dimbulb, a liar, an Exxon bought tobacco climate shill, and have no intellectual honesty.
    Yesterday David Weigel of the Washington Post was fired for comments he made on Journolist a private listserv of various mostly liberal journalists and liberal activists.  In real life, journalists are supposed to compete.  On this list, journalists and activists discussed the stories and apparently shaped and coordinated the stories.  In real life, the journalists then pretended to be objective and neutral and truth seeking.
    Does that sound familiar?
    (I actually liked David Weigel when he wrote at Reason — I noticed when he moved to the WAPO and to the Daily Independent that his mentions at liberal blogs skyrocketed, and on blogs, I asked why that was — I think I know why now, not because of his stories, but because of JournoList.)

  177. Jonathan Gilligan says:

    Willard #173. Nice comment. No time at the moment to give you an adequate response, but I appreciate your useful criticism of my interpretation of HB.

  178. Barry Woods says:

    175#  is very insightful..

    I have experienced this myself, other regulars commentors, allowed to reply to me ‘taking me down’ and I have not been able to respond, or explain my point..

    Anyone looking at the thread, would think I have accepted the argument, or just ran away.

    Ie not like most blogs, but with an apparent pr, controlling the message agenda.

    It has become obvious now, it would help them, if they just let the commentors thrash things out amonsgt themselves (politiily – moderated) and would drawless criticism, the policy, just seem to become more sceptical.  A PR company, should realise this and adapt.

  179. CEI are hardly credible source on anything connected to their avowed goal of challenging government regulations and advocating for free markets. They opposed regulations to boost vehicle fuel efficiency standards, and long claimed global warming was a hoax.
     
    Given this strong bias why would anyone listen to their claims about climate science? Or support their harassment of climate scientists with nuisance FOIA req and lawsuits? Unless of course you support their ideological stance which makes all of this politics not science.

  180. Gavin says:

    #174 Judith our motiviations are exactly what what we say – to provide the context that is often missing, point out what scientists actually say (rather than what people imagine they do),  and allow lay people and journalists to interact directly with the scientists themselves. It’s not a secret. There is already far too much nonsense, misfinformation and disinformation out there that actually talking about real science is a novelty. But where people want to confuse, or want to disinform, we’d prefer to set them straight rather than pretend that they may have a point because we want everyone to see us as nice. Science isn’t ‘nice’. If someone insists that 2+2=5, we are going to correct it. If someone insists (again) that Miskolcz overturns all of radiative transfer theory, we aren’t going to say that this raises interesting questions. And if someone says that all of the discussion about solar forcing in the IPCC was written by a single person with no input from anyone else, we aren’t going to agree that this is a credible accusation. (We might rather direct people to the relevant review article on the topic Foukal et al, 2006, Nature).
     
    As some of the few serious scientists contributing in these discussions, you (and I) have special responsibilities not to further muddy the waters. It makes a difference what we do and don’t endorse, or what we do and don’t recommend people to read or think about, because the number of distractions, false accusations, misconceptions and distortions is infinite, and the number of people with enough background to cut through that, very finite.
     
    If you were not to use your knowledge to help people get closer to the truth you would be abdicating that responsibility, and that would be an awful shame.

  181. Roger Pielke Jr. says:

    Gavin and Judy-
     
    I’ve watched your exchanges with interest and also see a big difference in your approaches.  Gavin equates his own views with “truth” so any disagreement represents a move away from truth — which is to be defeated, with derision and snark if need be.  Judy recognizes that many issues are contested, some fairly so others no, and appears to welcome discussion as a way to understand other perspectives and have her own evolve in some cases.
     
    Gavin thinks it is about being “nice” when it is really about hubris.  These dynamics are of course endemic to academia and present in every department I’ve ever been associated with.  When in a public forum they just don’t present a view of the practice of science that does well in public engagement.  Judy’s approach is far better from that respect.

  182. Roger Pielke Jr. says:

    A few reactions to Jonathan Gilligan’s remarks about THB.
     
    1. It is not meant as a competitor with Jasanoff’s book.  Jasanoff’s book is a classic, but it really only deals with one of the categories that I describe — the science arbiter.
     
    2. I go to great lengths to explain that many issues share characteristics of both abortion and tornado politics.  If there is a recurring theme ad nauseum in THB is is that there are no bright lines that serve as demarcations.
     
    3. The “honest broker” can help to reduce the pathological politicization out of expert advice by presenting a wide range of policy alternatives, thereby more clearly separating the role of advisor and that of decision maker.  Ironically enough, science gets depoliticized by overtly engaging policy discussions  — not by trying to keep them separate.

  183. Barry Woods says:

    GAvin

    If someone say, don’t link to a politically motivated journalist, who has list picture of deniar in a hall of sahme (george Monbiot) including american politicians, becasue it make real climate look bad.. ie  it would help Realclimate not to be accused of advocay or politically motivated; eric deletes that comment, but lets Ray LAdbury make a snide remark.

    How does that help..

    RealClimate made me a sceptic..

    An IPCC scientist, directed me to RealClimate, when climategate broke, as I asked if they had been busy.  They said go hear if you want abuse… I just found a moderation policy, that is couterproductive..

  184. Bishop Hill says:

    IIRC all the moderators at RC are volunteers, but the question that always bothers me is this: how many of them are also employees of EMS?

  185. Kooiti Masuda says:

    In my observation, RealClimate is essentially not a forum for discussions or debates. It is a site for communicating the knowledge of scientists to wider audience. It is interactive in the sense that there are questions and answers, but the flow of knowledge is asymmetric. It is reasonable there not to accept comments whose topics are out of scope of the moderators. RC may be called a PR site. But it is essentially not a PR site for a political agenda, but a PR site for scientific knowledge. It is impossible to draw a strict boundary between science and politics, but it does not mean that science and politics is the same thing. Also note that blogs need not necessarily become forums for discussions.

  186. dhogaza says:

    Kooiti Masuda makes an excellent point.

  187. dhogaza says:

    anon (a clever handle for someone who likes “outing” people):
     
    “If you preferred Clinton over Obama, you were a racist.”

    That’s odd, given that everyone I know who supported Obama would’ve accepted Hillary as their second choice, and vice-versa.

    I’m sure there are some who made the accusation, just as there were those who suggested that supporting Obama rather than Hillary made one anti-feminist.

    But those were very small minorities.

    “Believe family courts are biased against fathers and you’re a misogynist”

    The only couple I know who are in the divorce and custody process has led to the woman paying child support to her ex-husband.

    “curious about the math and statistics and methods of the hockey stick and you’re a holocaust denier, a creationist, a dimbulb, a liar, an Exxon bought tobacco climate shill, and have no intellectual honesty.”

    Curiousity is fine.  However, there are people who have been going on about the hockey stick for years who do have no intellectual honesty.  McIntyre comes to mind.  And his panderers.

    Meanwhile, the world warms …

    http://nsidc.org/data/seaice_index/images/daily_images/N_stddev_timeseries.png

  188. JC:
    “Bart, the attack is on the science and the scientists because people feel the whole thing has become postnormal and hence the science is biased.”
     
    So, none of the ‘attacks’ are is based on ideological opposition or commercial interest?  It’s all because the scientists (supposedly) did bad bad things , i.e., advocated a policy?
     
    Rubbish.  There are lots of ‘people’ involved in these attacks, which have been ongoing for decades, Dr. Curry, and *for sure* they’re not all just responding out of righteous defense of the purity of science.
     
     
     

  189. Lady in Red says:

    Ok, folk. I need help. Willis Eschenbach on the WUWT site writes about a new House.gov site, promoting the Waxman-Markey bill. Mostly, Eschenbach is not amused. Here is what he writes:
     
    SUMMARY: Their web page contains two misrepresentations of fact about US Northeast winters, two implied misrepresentations, and a big lie:
    Misrepresentation of fact 1: the 1970-2009 winter temperatures have not “risen more than 4 degrees Fahrenheit”, they have risen 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit. There is no rise of more than 4 °F in the winter temperature record, no matter where you start.
    “Misrepresentation of fact 2: the 1970-2009 winter trend is not statistically significant, so we cannot reject the null hypothesis that there is no trend at all, much less a claimed 4 °F trend.
    “Implied misrepresentation 1: The US Northeast winters are not warming. Over the full period of record (1895-2009), there is no statistically significant trend in the winter record.
    “Implied misrepresentation 2: The seasonal temperatures in the US Northeast are not warming. Over the full period of record (1895-2009), there is no statistically significant trend in the overall record for any season.
    “THE BIG LIE: When you look at the full record for the US Northeast, there is no statistically significant trend anywhere. Neither spring, summer, winter, fall, nor the full annual average temperatures have any statistically significant trend for the period of the study, 1895-2009. And remember, this is measured by ground stations that contain spurious UHI warming, and there still is no warming trend.
    “The big lie is that the US Northeast is warming. The best records that we have say that it is not.”
    My twitching eye agrees with him, but….
     
    …we are dealing with numbers here, folk. Real hard, honest-to-goodness numbers. I don’t know what number is correct, but I am appalled that there could be nuance. Here’s what I, as a layperson, suspect:
     
    They cannot predict the seasons, I don’t believe climate scientists can predict the future.
    The MWP was hotter than now; rubbing it out was a political move.
    Things may be getting warmer, but that might be good.
    We have a world of economic problems; atmospheric carbon is the least of them.
    Why doesn’t Bjorn Lomborg get more attention in the climate scientist world….
    Capt and trade is about a new commodity for Goldman Sachs et al to make money.
    Cap and trade is about control of the world.
    Climate scientists are not rigorous.
    Climate scientists defend shoddy work.
    Climate scientists are third rate, follow the money.
    Climate scientists have no commitment to sharing data, models, methodology, anything, going forward, after Climategate…. business as usual.
    No one in The Community is chagined that Phil Jones would refuse to share data, 15 years ago.
    No one in The Community is chagined at the mess that poor HARRY_READ_ME dealt with
     
    This is an excellent opportunity for Dhogaza to jump in, but I would ask that, I be pointed to ““gently, smile…. ““ the sources of information. I wish to understand how can it be that one person cites some data, another different.
     
    Judith, in many many ways, this is where it is at. “¦.Lady in Red

  190. Lady in Red says:

    Come on, folk. Pick through this. I have been picking through the blogs becoming evermore disenfrancised for almost nine months. I am a smart skeptic: prove it, dude. The credible information is on the skeptic side. …Lady in Red

  191. JohnB says:

    Lady in Red, while it pains me to disagree, I fear I must.

    To take your points one at a time.

    They cannot predict the seasons, I don’t believe climate scientists can predict the future.

    In the short term, things are chaotic, but in the longer term they are predicable. In a similar fashion, while we cannot predict which atoms will decay, we can predict very accurately how many will over a longer time span. Climate models are only as good as the information fed into them and the assumptions they use. I for one am all in favour of increased funding for their improvement.

    The MWP was hotter than now; rubbing it out was a political move.

    It certainly appears that there were efforts to rub out the MWP and they would have been politically motivated. However, whether or not the MWP was warmer than today or not is another question. Due to the inevitable inaccuracies of proxies we simply cannot work out whether it was warmer then or not. Some proxies say yes, some say no, but virtually every one falls within the error bars of all the others, so certainty is to a large degree subjective.

    Things may be getting warmer, but that might be good.

    Things are getting warmer, of that there is no doubt at all, and it might be good, it might also be bad too. It might be good for some areas and bad for others. Hence the attempts to reduce the scale of models to regional and smaller.

    Capt and trade is about a new commodity for Goldman Sachs et al to make money.
    Cap and trade is about control of the world.

    I don’t know about controlling the world, but no company has ever backed a fiscal change unless they expected to make money out of it. WWF stands to make quite a bit out of offsets too. Others stand to cash in from increased demand in wind turbines. (I’ve heard BP mentioned in that context.) I don’t support them because I’ve yet to see a plan that doesn’t result in 3 things.
    1. Virtually zero reduction in CO2.
    2. Increased costs to the consumer, and probably hitting hardest those who can least afford it.
    3. Keeps the Third World impoverished.

    Climate scientists are not rigorous.
    Climate scientists defend shoddy work.
    Climate scientists are third rate, follow the money.
    Climate scientists have no commitment to sharing data, models, methodology, anything, going forward, after Climategate”¦. business as usual.

    These comments are unfair unless prefaced with the word “some”. Yes, some Climate Scientists may do shoddy work, but so do some Doctors, Physicists, Electricians, Builders and Plumbers. The only difference is that the percieved importance of the field is such that you hear about mistakes more. (When and if they occur) 

    If a Physicist writes a bad paper, others in the field have a quiet chuckle and the paper heads off to oblivion. If a Climate Scientist messes up, it’s all over the media and the net within hours. I don’t think that a science has ever been as closely scrutinized as CS has been the last few years.

    I know that Gavin from RC often comes across as snarky, but given the pressures and scrutiny, I find it understandable. I think I would be too after a while.

    As to things like sharing data and the rest, you only hear about the ones who don’t, never the myriads who do. It’s like police, one crooked cop is news, 10,000 honest cops isn’t. 

    No one in The Community is chagined that Phil Jones would refuse to share data, 15 years ago.
     
    I know for a fact that some, both within CS and in the wider scientific community are appalled at that statement from Dr. Jones.

    No one in The Community is chagined at the mess that poor HARRY_READ_ME dealt with

    Actually I asked dhogaza (and others) for their opinion about this given their personal expertise and experience in programming. I am assured that there is nothing actually unusual about the Harry file. Yes it shows things were a mess, but if anybody went back through 20 year old programming ported over many different forms of hardware and operating systems, any such large program would be in a similar state.

    The standards of recording changes to code have evolved over the years and were nowhere near as rigorous in the past. Work over a large program that has been modified and ported for 20 years and it would apparently be rather surprising if you didn’t finish up with something like the Harry file. 🙂

    There have been some absolutely appalling things done in Climate Science, some going against the very scientific method itself. But to blame all Climate Scientists or to tar them all with the same brush is simply unfair. (and incorrect)

    And my apologies if I have offended, MiLady.

  192. Judith Curry says:

    JohnB, well done

  193. Barry Woods says:

    I’m refering to CRU, the code harry was working on was CURRENT

    his read me file, was 2006-2009
    the datasets being worked on were all 2000 onwards.. ie (hadcrut 2.1 to 3.0)

    And no, it is not normal practice, and if so for ‘climate science’..
    No version control,  as just one example of poor practice, leading potentially to data errors, means the same program, gets continually modifed, improved, with the same name…

    Thus the data may have been adjusted ‘differently’ for example by the same program at different periods of time, with no record of what was going on, or when, no record what/how earlier adjustments did (I doubt if anyone ever put any control sets of data through it for known/expected outputs as a test)very easy to build in by accident, slightly differences, a warm bias, a cold bias, or just random difference, over time, and you have no idea what direction these changes took or when, and no way to go back and verify ((ie earlier adjustemnts, were slightly too cold, for example)

    Or even any method of going back to check, becuse the earlier code been lost.

    Personal , bad experinces of programming, normal for some maybe. 

    Try asking a former British Nuclear fuels safety systems fortran developer, that worked to stringent standards. 

    As should CRU, why are they not developing code to any other UK government IT standards, qa and procedures.
    AS do the MET office, which they supply datasets to!!!  Garbage into met office computer, garbage out.

    I and companies I’ve worked for , have worked on code, profesionally developed documented from the 1980’s. CRU is a horror story

    Academic software devlopemnt has an across the board bad reputation, in industry

    pretty much the Phil Jones, answer (for not sharing data) ie no one else shares data and code,  it is normal for ‘climate science’

    ie, Everyone, in academic science developes poorly documented, messy, code, no concept of ensuring data integrity, etc  and therefore it is normal and OK?! presumably no funding , for it.

    Harry_Read_me.tcxt demonstrates the the way that the code has been developed, and the culure present that allows many types of inadvertant problems occuring,  which academia seems oblivious to.

  194. Barry Woods says:

    whilst many were appplaed by what Phil Jones said about data…

    The issue is why did no one do anything about it!

    If they alll knew and were apppaled, given the very highly prominent roles Phil, Jones and CRu have within the IPCC process, and his other colleagues that devolped the same attitude…

    and even more to the point, what are those within ‘climate science’ doing about it now?!

    As following the ‘enquiries’, for all of Professor Kelly’s comments, it seems to be business exactly as usual for CRU

  195. Barry Woods says:

    on a positive note…

    Would not everyone agree (as I suggested in my challenge to Judith – in another thread)

    That all datasets,and code to process them by CRU (and others) should now be developed to the same rigorous standrads as any government funded IT projext (many commerical software business’ use the same procedures and standards)

    For, waht I have estblished, the MET office do do this.

    Additionally, provide CRU (and others, uk, usa) the funding and resources of professional IT software companies and project managers, that will do this for them.. Particulary the boring, houskeeping stuff (ie phils disorgnaised data), data managemnet, integrity, archiving, etc

    this would FREE up the scientists time (they will be the ownwer of the project and built to their requirements.

    Academic software, suufer from phd student, gards etc, doing there own work in their own self taught way,as a means to an end, and generally, with in adequate funding, or understanding why, certain things are essential .

    Less uncertainty, free up their time… make it if, not publically available (it should be as datasets, everyone uses) then audited by an independent software company.. apponted by an appropriate overseeing scientific body.

    Given the billions ridng on all this, I cannot see any reason, not to spare them some small change to do this.

    Would evryone agree that is desireable, it would shup me up – partially 😉

    It might then be possible to move on, with some confidence….

    Who knows, we might discover, we are on the cusp of a new ‘little ice age’ 😉 😉

  196. Barry Woods says:

    excuse the typos, big rush, wednesdays,  I look after my 2 year old, and she’s having a short nap…….

  197. laursaurus says:

    Ditto LadyinRed, sums up my same concerns.
    Barry W., #195, ITA! Yes, yes, YES!
    Climategate revealed and documented how appallingly the most prominent climate experts of the IPCC operate. Even more disturbing is the collusion to break FOIA laws, that were created for the very purpose of ensuring public trust. Due to a quirk in the law, the statues of limitation worked to deny our day in court and exonerated the offenders so completely that even an investigation of the charges cannot be carried out. The excuses offered only foster further suspicion, especially considering the paranoia expressed in the messages.
    Meanwhile, contempt for the average citizen only fosters more distrust.  Only a thoroughly transparent independent audit by professionals competent in statistics and IT can possibly re-establish IPCC credibility. I would cheerfully abandon my deep skepticism when convincing evidence is at last verified and validated by an impartial  investigation. I hate how political ideology has corrupted climate science. Is there any good reason not to do this? We can finally move on to determining solutions once we understand the problems.
     

  198. Lady in Red says:

    Let me parse this, lady.  …smile.
    Whew.
    Mel Briscoe and Carl Wunsch will no long speak with me…  smile.
     
    Let me think.  …Lady in Red

  199. Kooiti Masuda says:

    Re: “Harry Read Me”
    The software that CRU produced did not include full prognostic models of climate. Such models are developed at Met Office. And people at Met Office do care software engineering. See for example,
    D. Matthews, G. V. Wilson and S. M. Easterbrook, 2008: Configuration Management for Large-Scale Scientific Computing at the UK Met Office. IEEE Computing in Science and Engineering.
    at http://www.cs.toronto.edu/~sme/papers/index.html .
    The data produced at CRU are used at Met Office, but they are not used as major inputs of climate projections. They are compared with the results of simulations.  So if the quality of data of CRU is low, it does not affect the quality of simulations at Met Office, though it may affect the quality of the analysis of the results.
    The data produced at CRU are used for various climate impact studies (in combination with the results of simulations at Met Office and other institutions of the world).  So the quality of the data matters. As a user I think that the quality is as good as climate science in the present world can provide. Not perfect, but no one can make it perfect. And the software needed there are those of data handling, statistics, simple visualization, and application of expert decisions about data quality.
    I do not think there is so much need of software engineering for production of program codes at CRU-like research institutions. The codes produced there are usually short and simple. It is sometimes complex just because the input data are heterogeneous. It will be useful toenhance traceability of provenance. I think that the stream of data production should be fully version controlled. It will include documentation of the program codes used in the processing, or perhaps the codes themselves.
    But, as a scientist doing climate data analysis, I hope I may sometimes make “personal” trial-and-error of data processing without being version-controlled, even if I am hired by the government funding. I oblige the rule of version control when I contribute codes or data to be published or to be used in the team work. Still I may be selfish or too academic, but I doubt that you can find able climate scientists who are willing to work under full version control.
    I think that it is not easy for an information technologist to contribute to development of software for specific application of climate data analysis. Read another Harry — Harry Collins and Robert Evans “Rethinking Expertise”.  To make software for a specific field of research is to make part of tacit knowledge of the field explicit. So the IT expert need to become an “interactional expert” (in Collins and Evans’ term) of climate science, or the climate scientist need to become an interactional expert of IT. It will be an on-the-job learning process taking years of time.
     

  200. JohnB says:

    Kooiti Masuda. I think I see where you are coming from but I have to disagree. It was because of similar messes in other fields that strict version control was introduced.

    If someone can’t handle the idea of version control, they should not be writing code. Without version control a researcher 3 years down the track really has no idea if the code he is working with does what it is supposed to do.

    It can also mean that researcher D gets results very different from researcher A and both spend a lot of time trying to work out why. Only to find that the reason for the difference was undocumented changes to the code made by researchers B and C.

    Similarly, researchers document the data versions used. If you use RAOBCORE V 1.4, then you state explicitly that you have done so as this allows for reproducability. If you said “We use RAOBCORE data in our analysis”, the very first question would be “Which version?”  Why should code not be held to the same standard?

    More to the point. Version control is used to avoid known problems. It’s not that problems might crop up, but that problems will crop up if there is no control. This is accepted fully in other fields and version control is the standard, why should climate science deserve special priviliges?

    On “tacit” knowledge. The knowledge you have without knowing how you got it. I’m constantly amazed at how this comes up in Climate Science. I’ve never heard, even in very heated debates, a physicist make a similar claim. They prove what they say.

    The only way I can summarise my position is this. If you can’t handle accepted standards of data and version control, and you can’t reach conclusions without appealing to some form of arcane, “recieved” knowledge. Well, this is the “Science” building, “Social Sciences” and “The Arts” are down that way.

    #193 Barry Woods. Yes, the code Harry was working on was “current”, it was the current version of code that I would bet dollars to doughnuts started back in 1987 with Dr. Jones early papers on world temps.

    It was originally written in a time when a “big” computer had 64k of RAM and a 1 Meg HDD was considered huge. For the next 15 odd years it was modified to take advantage of increases in computing power and ported from one set of hardware to another, all without version control or proper documentation.

    At the end of this process, along comes Harry and just about kills himself trying to sort out the mess. His version was “current”, but it was the end version of a long and convoluted evolution.

    If I could also remind everybody that we should not be applying current standards of version and data control to earlier periods. The standards we take for granted now did not exists then. We should remember that. 

    Barry, you mentioned the Nuclear Industry and I think that to a degree that demonstrates my thinking. From the very beginning, Nuclear power was a hot potato and everybody knew that if there was a mistake the results would be clamitous, from the political, environmental, economic and human tragedy standpoints. So very strict controls were instituted from the start.

    However, CRU is three people, not an industry. Their data was handed to the Met Office to help with modelling. A few scientists working together, wondering what the world (and local) temps had been doing. CRU data was presented to the public every day, but nobody noticed or paid much attention.

    How was it presented? At the end of the news when the weatherman says “Todays top was X degrees, which is .2 degrees above average.”

    The bottom line is that the researchers knew each other and worked together every day and didn’t think that the world was going to hanging on and looking at every aspect of their work. Along came the IPCC and everything blew up in the most unexpected manner. Especially once the special interest groups grabbed the ball and ran with it, making predictions of catacysm.

    I watched Dr. Jones at the Parlimentary Inquiry and the only description I think that fits is “A deer in the headlights”. A guy wondering how the hell he got there and how things had spun so far out of hand.

    A note for our American friends. Parlimentary Inquiries under the Westminster system as practiced in the UK and Oz are often very different from your “Senate Inquiries”. Being called to testify after allegations is roughly equivalent to you being told “You have an appointment at the White House tomorrow morning at 9,  the Vice President and others want to know what you’ve been up to. Oh yes, and don’t make plans for the afternoon.”

    I can’t believe that I’m defending CRU, but I feel that I have to be fair.

    Why didn’t others speak up? Who? Scientists from other disciplines probably didn’t even notice, they are far too busy keeping up with their own field of study to worry about the political wranglings of other fields.

    Yes, Dr. Johnes and others did and said some things that are very contra science. Fine. The thing is to move forward and find ways to prevent the same problems from happening again.

  201. JohnB says:

    *Jones*  AAArrrggghhh!!!

  202. Lady in Red says:

    No one has dealt with Eschenbach’s stuff, vis a vis the new
    Congrress.gov site.
     
    Is that ok?  ….Lady in Red

  203. Lady in Red says:

    We are proposing to spend trillions of dollars, worldwide, on
    CAGW.  Say what?
     
    Is the Harry_Read_Me stuff ok?  …doesn’t have to be checked, indpendently…
    Come on, folk.  …Lady in Red

  204. Kooiti Masuda says:

    Re: version control, JohnB (#200):
    I understand that the data stream that lead to publication either of data or scientific articles need to be version controlled. On the other hand, I think scientists sometimes need to do wild trial-and-error with data “checked out” from the controlled data base. (Here I use the terminology of RCS, but I talk about data rather than code.) I think that the result should not be “checked in” even when the trial turned out to be useful for production. Instead we should go back to the data base and rerun the newly worked out steps under version control.
     

  205. JohnB says:

    Kooiti, I think that would be a reasonable way to go.

    As a general note it would probably be a good idea to keep the notes and the failed code somewhere as well. To save later researchers time by not following failed paths that had been explored already.

    Just take the notes and code, stick them in a folder called “Failed attempts for V1.2” and leave it on the HDD somewhere. Knowing the correct path is great, but knowing which paths are wrong can be of great value as well.

  206. JohnB says:

    Lady in Red, I don’t know what we can add to what Willis has said.

    It has to be remembered that the website is one based wholly on politics and not on science.

  207. Lady in Red says:

    Are Eschenbach’s numbers correct?
    Politics be damned!    ….Lady in Red

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