Climate Whine Fest?

Fred Pearce’s verdict on the Lisbon climate reconciliation:

Much time at the meeting was taken up bitching rather than conciliating.

Gee, what a surprise. Doesn’t Pearce read climate blog threads?

To be fair, this confab seems to have become Roshomon-like, according to Werner Krauss.

UPDATE: There’s a dust-up related to Pearce’s New Scientist dispatch that Joe Romm is all over here. Also, see the comment from grypo below.

105 Responses to “Climate Whine Fest?”

  1. grypo says:

    I’ll just say everyone should go read the comment section of the Pearce article, as a controversy over a comment he made about why Gavin didn’t go.  This has erupted through the blogs – RC, Thing’s Break, Tamino, Deep Climate, etc.
    My guess is he was trying to be funny, but doesn’t know how the “settled science” meme has been used in this debate as the absolute #1 strawman.  It’s also a question of journalistic integrity.

  2. I find it very doubtful that Pearce doesn’t know about the “97% consensus”, or “settled science” memes. Whether they’re strawman is a matter of interpretation. I’d consider that anyone who uses – as Schmidt does – the “97% of climate scientists are certain…” or similar meme is guilty of implicitly communicating the suggestion that the “science is in”.
    I don’t much care whether he uses the words “the science is settled” or not. If I said “Florence is my daughter”, I can’t complain in all seriousness if someone accuses me of saying “I am Florence’s father”. That would be a strawman complaint, surely.

  3. Keith Kloor says:

    Thanks for the heads-up. I wrote an update in the post above, also noting that Romm has just posted on this.


  4. “It’s about this fossil-fuel funded confab in Portugal”
    Who jumped the shark?

  5. Dave H says:

    1. Gavin is on record very publicly saying how much uncertainty there still is, and how wrong it would be to describe the science as "settled".
    2. Claiming that people like Gavin describe the science as "settled" is a well-worn tactic of those that oppose things like the IPCC assessments to portray the consensus as dogmatic, or somehow closed-minded.
    3. Fred Pearce has now ascribed those very words to Gavin, not only in the above manner but also with the implication of arrogance to brook no discussion of climate science at all.
    4. Gavin strongly denies saying anything even remotely in those terms, claims never to have been contacted by Pearce, and gives a completely different (and wholly plausible) version of events.
    So… Pearce’s story comes without a direct quote, without any substantiation of where he got that representation of Gavin from, and runs completely contrary to Gavin’s past pronouncements on the subject, as well as his direct refutation of the present article.
    Your response to this seems to be a confused defence of Pearce, based on misrepresentation, supposition and assumptions.

  6. grypo says:

    A large percentage of scientists agreeing on a few tenets from the conservative IPCC, does not at all, even come close to equaling”settled science”.  That actually means something huge, especially if you attribute those words to an accomplished scientist.
    It is undoubtedly used as rhetoric, and is a strawman.

  7. Small point of note: there is no direct quote. It is a summation or a paraphrasing but, in the absence of quotation marks, I don’t think it can be reasonably stated that this is a direct quote.
    I went shopping for a Gavin quote. First result:
    “Regardless of these spats, the fact that the community overwhelmingly supports the consensus is evidenced by picking up any copy of Journal of Climate or similar, any scientific program at the AGU or EGU meetings, or simply going to talk to scientists (not the famous ones, the ones at your local university or federal lab). I challenge you, if you think there is some un-reported division, show me the hundreds of abstracts at the Fall Meeting (the biggest confernce [sic] in the US on this topic) that support your view – you won’t be able to. You can argue whether the consensus is correct, or what it really implies, but you can’t credibly argue it doesn’t exist.”

    I don’t accept, at all, that the inference here is that climate scientists are undecided about CAGW. It’s your choice whether you wish to split hairs or spit feathers over Gavin’s message or the interpretation thereof, but there is no defence against Pearce’s summary of Gavin’s position in the face of these direct quotes from Schmidt himself.

  8. kdk33 says:

    Gavin is on record very publicly saying how much uncertainty there still is, and how wrong it would be to describe the science as “settled”.

    Ahhh, so he is not in a hurry to decarbonize our economies.  Right?  I’d say the poor guy has been misunderstood for years.

  9. grypo says:

    You are missing the point as to why those hairs are worth splitting.  Saying that many, many  scientists agree on a few facts, and have a high degree of certainty, on a few aspects, is very different from saying something is settled.  That is why Gavin challenged the person to find the literature that contradicts the consensus.  Consensus does not mean settled.  The weight of of evidence does not mean irrefutable proof.  Those distinctions are incredibly important.

  10. Stu says:

    I’m uncomfortable with Fred not quoting Gavin directly and then ascribing those words to him- it gives the impression that Fred has spoken to him recently and this was Gavin’s actual reply.

    Strangely though, here is an actual, recently quoted reply from Gavin-

    “Since, in my opinion, the causes of conflict in the climate change debate relate almost entirely to politics and not the MWP, climate sensitivity or “˜ice’, dismissing this from any discussion did not seem likely to be to help foster any reconciliation.”

    Is not Gavin saying here that there is no conflict in climate science on issues such as WMP, climate sensitivity and ‘ice’-that all conflict was “almost entirely” political in nature and not scientific? And doesn’t that actually translate into some kind of statement that the science is settled in these areas?


  11. I agree with you, Stu. I’m not excusing it, but I think Fred’s basically pissed at climate scientists like Gavin after having been duped by their concealment of uncertainties for so long. I think Fred’s description of Gavin’s belief is intended to communicate – fairly or unfairly – Gavin’s belligerence towards those challenging the consensus or slowing the shift to a carbon-free world. I don’t think it’s actually intended to be anything but a middle-fingered salute to a cantankerous Gavin.

  12. Dave H says:

    No. Gavin’s point was that in his opinion the most (and most vocal) conflict stems not from any specific scientific point, but from politics and politicization. As such, to take what he felt was the key factor off the table would make such a workshop unlikely to help with reconciliation. So he declined.

  13. As you observe, though, Stu.. the only way Gavin can counter Fred’s snipe is to walk back some of his own rhetoric.. as you clearly demonstrate.

  14. Dave H says:

    > I don’t think it’s actually intended to be anything but a middle-fingered salute to a cantankerous Gavin.
    Thus further lending credence to Gavin’s point that at heart the conflict stems from politics and politicisation. Do you think this is responsible reporting?

  15. kdk33 says:

    I don’t care for (another) he said / he didn’t say.  Really not interesting.  On the other hand…

    I’m thinking there is some rhetorical sleight of hand here.  Perhaps gaving is saying:  the science is not settled in the sense that there is still much to learn, but the science is settled in the sense that we now know enough to begin decarbonizing (at some considerable cost) our economies.  Of course, “settled” only really matters as it relates to decarbonization.

    So, is Gavin’s position that we now know enough to decarbonize and should not wait for a more complete understanding.  I think this is correct (but I won’t read RC, so could be wrong).  If so, then, for all intents and purposes, he is claiming settled science.  He says “not yet settled” for rhetorical reasons, or to collect additional funding – whichever.

    Maybe Gavin is ready to work with others (MT??) to ease up on alarmism and the push for decarbonization.

  16. grypo says:

    It appears what he is saying there is that he thinks that the disagreements in those areas are not why there is so much disagreement between the two groups that need reconciliation. Basically, I think he’s saying the entire idea behind the conference is wrong, not that any of those areas are settled scientifically.  But I’m sure he can answer that himself better.

  17. Dave H, it’s more “deniarrr” nonsense, though. The dispute revolves, and has always revolved, around the purported catastrophic nature of any detectable anthropogenic warming signal.
    The result of CAGW advancement has political and economic implications, but the claimed and unsubstantiated impending catastrophe is forwarded wholly by alarmists, not sceptics. The issues for sceptics most certainly are, as they always were, the oft-denied or denigrated existence of the MWP, dismal paleoclimatic reconstructions and other fundamental scientific issues.

  18. Dave H: “Thus further lending credence to Gavin’s point that at heart the conflict stems from politics and politicisation. Do you think this is responsible reporting?”
    Rather, I think, demonstrating the diminishing relevance of Gavin in the ongoing debate about climate science, its direction, its ability to advance and the necessity for it to start to pony up its data, re-establish its integrity and begin to rebuild the trust it has lost in the eyes of the public.
    Do I think it’s responsible reporting? I think perhaps he could have left that line about Gavin out, but I don’t much care and I’ve seen (and not bothered to speak out against) so much worse atrocities performed in the name of environmental journalism in recent years that, frankly, I’m somewhat desensitised at this point. I figure what goes around comes around, and I figure karma’s a real bitch.

  19. Stu says:


    In this case I think neither Fred nor Gavin are helping things. I could see that Fred’s comment was a ‘jibe’ but that’s not going to help a lot of the readers (of New Scientist) who maybe don’t understand or are simply not interested in the history or personalities behind such a remark.
    And Gavin’s comments and attitude seem only to point to why the conference was probably a good idea in the first place. 😉


  20. I doubt that either Gavin or Fred are helping things, directly, but I’m always open to the possibility that some clarification of what is implied by “the consensus” might result. In this respect, both Fred and Gavin are helping things immensely. Just not necessarily in the way Gavin would like.
    This “consensus” argument has ALWAYS been for the purpose of closing down the debate – PRECISELY in the same way as “the science is settled” is intended to close down the debate. The “consensus” and “the science is settled” are entirely synonymous and they are used/usable interchangeably, invariably to convey the same message and to effect the shut-down of the debate.

  21. kdk33 says:

    “This “consensus” argument has ALWAYS been for the purpose of closing down the debate ” (my emphasis)

    The debate about what, exactly.

  22. About whether science conclusively shows that action is required in order to avert climate catastrophe.

  23. StuartR says:

    I agree that the casual statement

    “…including NASA’s Gavin Schmidt, who said the science was settled so there was nothing to discuss.”

    is annoying and glib. I gather Fred Pearce has some sort of reputation in Environmental journalism so I think he should be more detailed with whatever insight he has in the Environmentalist world.

    Although the ensuing response is pretty OTT as usual IMHO. I don’t know why someone hasn’t just pointed to the 3 December 2009 RC article titled “Unsettled Science”, in which Schmidt clearly states his disagreement with the “settled science” phrase (maybe someone has somewhere).

    However in that 2009 piece Schmidt says:

    “However, while the science may not be settled, we can still tell what kind of building we have and what the overall picture looks like. Arguments over whether a single brick should be blue or yellow don’t change the building from a skyscraper to a mud hut.”

    I think he should have gone to Lisbon to at least debate whether  the analogy of a sky scraper is correct 😉

  24. Pride of comment at the Lisbon farrago was given to someone who still champions the ‘aether’ model, apparently:
    c’est LOL

  25. Simon,

    You seem to use a different definition for “settled science” here than is usually ascribed to it. In the strawman version often used, it means something like “there’s no uncertainy and therefore no need to discuss any of these scientific issues”. Gavin and most, if not all scientists, would vehemently disagree to such.

    You seem to define it in this thread as “widespread agreement amongst experts on the main tenets of the issue”. Most Scientists would agree that such is the case, as per the quote you provided from Gavin (#7). But it is not at all the same as the definition often used when used as a rhetorical weapon by contrarians.

  26. Keith Kloor says:

    A couple of observations. Just to make sure everyone knows that Gavin does not believe the science is settled, and in fact has said the opposite, see this post.

    Secondly, grypo makes a good point in # 9. On that note, see this recent post at Climate Abyss (towards the end).

    I reread Pearce’s post a few times and speculate that he started off writing it in an acerbic tongue-in-cheek manner. But that tone is not consistent throughout the text, which includes some basic standard reporting/summarizing of an event.

    Pearce’s deep knowledge of the subject and his familiarity with all the main players, including Gavin, suggest to me that he has to know that Gavin does not believe the science is settled. So until Pearce clears up the controversy himself, I’m going with idea that Pearce was trying to be cheeky. (And he should have known it would not be received that way, even if his half-serious tone was consistent throughout). That doesn’t excuse it. I’m just trying to make sense of it.


  27. Bart:
    “The consensus” is a consensus of opinion, rather than of scientific evidence, purportedly that either “2,500 IPCC scientists agree..” or “97% of climate scientists agree..” depending on which revision of “the consensus” you’re invoking, used frequently by Gavin.
    The assertion that “the science is settled” is an assertion famously invoked by (IIRC) Gordon Brown, but others too.
    Both of these are non-scientific, political assertions. Both are false. Their precise meanings clearly differ in nuance, but their function is precisely the same. They are both politically, ideologically and unscientifically inspired, and are invariably invoked to draw a line under the science, to intimate (falsely, in both cases) that the overwhelming scientific evidence is conclusive and that, not withstanding minor “spats” as Gavin puts it, the scientific case for CAGW (i.e. AGW that demands action) is a job done.
    The words are different, but their purpose is the same. But there is absolutely NO case to be made for invoking the consensus of opinion argument, which is wholly unscientific in every respect, except to communicate that the case is made and, for all intents and purposes, “the science is settled”. Unless your intention is to communicate this, there is absolutely no excuse for making any reference to the scientifically meaningless “consensus” of opinion.
    Gavin has only himself to blame if his belligerence is being recognised for what it is, having such a long history of repeatedly invoking the fallacious “consensus” argument in order to shut others down.

  28. kdk33 says:


    It is you who are creating a strawman.  “Settled” in the usual sense means settled anough to advocate for certain energy policy.  Nobody, contrarian or otherwise, is arguing that we know everything about climate and there is nothing left to discover (my weatherman still sux).

    Frankly, if Gavin et al weren’t arguing for policy (which clearly implies they believe the science is “setttled enough”) then nobody would care.

  29. Keith, I’ve noted before that Gavin’s RC post was way too late to the party. It was made, post-Climategate, in response to several weeks of mounting ridicule. After many years of failure to address and acknowledge this fundamental point, the post was eventually made and this point driven home.
    I accept that Gavin now acknowledges that the science is not settled, but I assert that you don’t have to state that “the science is settled” if you’re concurrently shutting down the debate with “the consensus” argument. Man speak with forked tongue.
    As for Pearce, I agree that he likely knows that Gavin doesn’t believe the science is settled. But I suspect that he also knows that Gavin knows that the consensus argument which he frequently invokes is no less egregious, scientifically speaking. Yellow card for Pearce; play on.

  30. Simon,

    The consensus of expert opinion is a result of the consilience of evidence, i.e. the evidence in broad lines pointing in a certain direction. It is *not* a matter of counting hands; it’s a matter of weighing evidence and based on that arriving at a conclusion. As the scientific field matures and the evidence gets stronger and converges, then naturally experts start to agree more and more about the big picture, also if large uncertainties remain in pretty much all details, so plenty of science left to be done (hence, it’s of course not settled).

  31. Is the consensus of expert opinion, derived from the consensus of evidence, documented anywhere or is it an ethereal gut feeling or impression?
    Let’s start with the “2,500 scientists agree” consensus of opinion. What’s the source? What’s the assertion? The no-brainer that AGW is to a great extent likely, or that CO2 mitigation is necessary and is urgent? Could you point me the way, please.

  32. Øystein says:

    It’s documented. Called FAR, SAR, TAR and AR4.

  33. No, Øystein, that doesn’t cut it. AR4, the most recent, involved 2,500 scientists but there is a wide range of scientific opinion there, and no consensus. The claim that “2,500 scientists agree” is a gross misrepresentation.

  34. Given that there exists a wide…consensus among non-skeptics (including the IAC) that uncertainties have been repeatedly misrepresented and since Gavin doesn’t believe to be a leader in climate science, the point of the debate should be not if Gavin has explicitly written that “the science is settled”, but if by omitting to consider what so many others (including the IAC) have pointed out again and again, Gavin has participated in the misrepresentation of uncertainties.
    Who cares what is written by a guy at RC, when there is a misleading graph heading a WMO report and the IPCC got it all mixed up about what “uncertainty” really means?

  35. Louise says:

    Over at Dr Curry’s blog, Tallbloke has just ‘outed’ himself as the source for Fred Pearce’s statement that Gavin said the science is settled.

    As I said there, I think he made up a malicious reason for Gavin not attending and said this without ever thinking that he might be listened to and repeated (I assume he is used to being ignored).

    I think he’s so clearly overwhelmed by the whole exciting adventure of being asked to not only attend but be part of  the organsing team – says it all about the seriousness of the event (IMO).

  36. JD Ohio says:

    If the science is not settled, then there is no reason to try to obtain drastic CO2 reductions to ameliorate problems that are about 100 years away.  It is extremely difficult to take steps now that will have the intended effect 100 years from now, and if the science is not settled, then there are no practical reasons to seek major CO2 reductions.

  37. Sashka says:

    @ Bart (25)

    This would be fine except there are a couple facts that make me think that “not settled” caveat is more about lip service than anything else. Consider: (1) Did Gavin (or any other “consensus” scientist for that matter) told Al Gore to cut his nonsense? Not as far as I know. Instead I heard a loud applause to the scientific accuracy of “Inconvenient Truth” at RC; (2) His answer to “how do we know that CO2 contributes to  warming?” amounts to the inability of the models to explain the 20-th century warming without CO2 contribution. No, he won’t say it’s settled. But this argument makes a strong impression on laymen and it went into IPCC as an important factor.

  38. J Bowers says:

    Here’s an idea; read what Gavin Schmidt actually wrote about “settled science” back in 2009 in Unsettled Science at RC.
    Hardly ambiguous.

  39. J Bowers, covered at #26 and #29.

  40. kdk33 says:

    “Dealing with the future always involves dealing with uncertainty ““ and this is as true with climate as it is with the economy. Science has led to a great deal of well-supported concern that increasing emissions of CO2 (in particular) are posing a substantial risk to human society. Playing rhetorical games in the face of this, while momentarily satisfying for blog commenters, is no answer at all to the real issues we face.”

    It is Gavin who is playing rhetorical games.  When WSJ says settled, they obviously mean in the context of “doing something” about GHG emissions.  Gavin states the GHG risk is substantial and well-supported – you can split hairs, but that’s damn close to “settled”.

    Gavin twists WSJ words by pointing to the obvious:  until the climate model is developed that can predict whether everywhere from now one there is still more to learn.  Ergo, science is not settled, WSJ is wrong.  But, WSJ clearly didn’t mean this to begin with.

    It’s all rather childish and stupid.  But par for the course.

  41. Stu says:

    This comment by ‘Hector M’ at Climate Etc, is useful here, imo.

    “Conflict in the climate change debate (and most of the Climategate mails) do not deal with political objections (conservative, libertarian or whatever) but with specific scientific objections raised by the likes of Steve McIntyre and Ross Kittrick. It is about the MWP, the possible effecto of UHI on instrumental temperature records, arcane mathematical discussions about the way principal component analysis is implemented in some scientific papers, the use of data of disputed or uncertain validity (e.g. Chinese met stations), the legitimacy of eliminating diverging tree-ring data, the release of actual raw data on which calculations have been based, the possible neglect of negative cloud feedbacks in the estimation of climate sensititivy, the claim that recent warming is unprecedented in a millennium, and so on.”
    “No one in that context has disputed that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, no one has denied that the greenhouse effect exists, and most if not all have not disputed the reality of recent warming (2nd half of 20th century) even admitting UHI effects. And as far as I can see, no one disputed these points among the people invited to the “˜reconciliation’ workshop.”
    Focusing on the first quoted block of text (the second dealing with areas of broad agreement in both camps) and taking into account Gavin’s recent reply and also his ‘unsettled science’ post, Gavin appears either to be wholly uninterested in, or more likely does not want to admit to the importance of these issues, prefering to trivialise them as “Arguments over whether a single brick should be blue or yellow” and dismissively relegating them to the political sphere. But this is false. The answers to these questions (climate sensitivity, or the way in which science is conducted in the 21st C, etc), whatever they may turn out to be, and whether we can even arrive at a satisfactory answer- do not change the fact that CO2 is a greenhouse gas. But they are important.

  42. Hal Morris says:

    I am feeling deep despair over what I see as a systematic attempt to villify and neutralize any entity (scientific academia, or the “MSM”) that
    tries most of the time to be an honest broker of or seeker of the truth.  How much of this “systematic attempt” comes from spontaneous grassroots reactions and how much is sponsored and funded by big players on the right is hard to say, but click on my name above to see what I think are some examples of the latter (not specifically about AGW; more about stoking the general atmosphere of paranoia).
    The big narrative, and I hear this directly from my wife who would go traveling to Tea Party conventions if we could afford it (whereas I’ve called
    myself an “Eisenhower Socialist”) is right out of the cartoon version of Hayek’s _Road to Serfdom_ or _Atlas Shrugged_ (the book; I haven’t seen the
    blog).  It is that AGW is a hoax invented partly to enrich climate scientists, and anybody who stands to benefit from Green this-and-that (though I
    suspect any climate scientist, at least if not tenured already, would do better financially going to work for Heritage Foundation or Exxon), and partly serving (the AGW “hoax that is) as a pretext for a “power grab” that will tend in the direction of worldwide Stalinism.
    One of my shortest ever posts in TRTP was just:

    “If you tell enough big lies, and get enough people to believe them, it becomes easier to convince your followers that the people trying to get at the
    truth are the big liars.

    “This, in my opinion, is the main usefulness to the right of calling Global Warming a hoax. They would have far too much to lose if they ever gave that
    up and admitted there is even some Global Warming effect.
    Returning to the grassroots vs top down issue — I think if there is anything like a mature discipline of Econonics of Ideas (or meme-ology), it should have a fine time exploring among other features the feedback looks that lead to stampeding in one direction or another — much like what we fear will happen with the climate.

  43. JD Ohio says:

    #38 J Bowers
    You were right.  I read the article.  For public policy purposes in the way public policy people would view matters, Gavin is saying the science is settled.  From a very technical standpoint, applicable only to very strict science, Gavin is saying it is not settled.  This is all a tempest in a teapot because, the way most people would understand settled, Gavin considers the science to be settled.  Other than his combative nature, don’t know why Joe Romm has any interest in this — it has virtually no public policy implications.

  44. […] other instances (e.g. by Simon at CaS) it is defined as “widespread agreement amongst experts on the main tenets of the […]

  45. grypo says:

    “For public policy purposes in the way public policy people would view matters, Gavin is saying the science is settled. ”
    No, he quotes Hulme:
    “The central battlegrounds on which we need to fight out the policy implications of climate change concern matters of risk management, of valuation, and political ideology. We must move the locus of public argumentation here not because the science has somehow been “done” or “is settled”; science will never be either of these things, although it can offer powerful forms of knowledge not available in other ways. It is a false hope to expect science to dispel the fog of uncertainty so that it finally becomes clear exactly what the future holds and what role humans have in causing it.”

    And you can hear his views on public policy below.  If you guys can’t recognize the difference between something being “settled” scientifically, and people’s opinions on what constitutes enough certainty to act, then this argument will go nowhere.  Drop the rhetoric.  Stop forcing words down your opponent’s throats.  “Settled” means something, and is a trick.  His opinion on “what is enough” is about values and ethics.  This is where the debate is.  Perhaps the Lisbon pow-wow should have asked that question instead.

  46. JD Ohio says:

    #44 Grypo
    Gavin’s actual words “In the climate field, there are a number of issues which are no longer subject to fundamental debate in the community. The existence of the greenhouse effect, the increase in CO2 (and other GHGs) over the last hundred years and its human cause, and the fact the planet warmed significantly over the 20th Century are not much in doubt. IPCC described these factors as “˜virtually certain’ or “˜unequivocal’. The attribution of the warming over the last 50 years to human activity is also pretty well established ““ that is “˜highly likely’ and the anticipation that further warming will continue as CO2 levels continue to rise is a well supported conclusion”
    To people concerned with policy this means settled.  From an esoteric scientific standpoint it is not settled.
    I would add that Gavin has no expertise in risk management and that his policy advocacy undermines the credibility of his science.

  47. Shub says:

    “Pearce’s deep knowledge of the subject and his familiarity with all the main players, including Gavin, suggest to me that he has to know that Gavin does not believe the science is settled.”

    -Keith Kloor

    One for the museum

  48. Sashka says:

    @ grypo

    I translate is as follows: the science cannot do away with uncertainty but let’s move on to risk management b/c the science is good enough. Or to rephrase it: the science is settled enough to define the politics of the risk management process.

    I think you are looking for semantic differences.

  49. grypo says:

    No, that is a brief review of the state of the science.  If you feel that it means “settled” then you are wrong.  Or if you feel that it means most reasonable people will want to act upon hearing it, then I guess my agreement with it is in the mainstream.

  50. grypo says:

    This controversy is good evidence that the controversy really is about the values and what constitutes “enough”.  You don’t need to keep using the word “settled”.  Just stop.  Start by stating that you don’t believe the weight of evidence is enough to act (with a policy in discussion, as this will differ with different skeptics) and start your arguments as to why.  Then we let the people decide.

  51. Hal Morris says:

    Testing, 3 – Will this reply show up?  Previous 2 didn’t.  Can’t figure out what kind of screening is being done here.

  52. Keith Kloor says:

    Hal, your most recent comment prompted me to check my spam folder, where indeed your previous two comments were (the second being a query, asking where the first was).

    Your first comment now appears upthread at #42.

    I have no idea why some comments occasionally get caught in moderation or as spam, but if anyone doesn’t see their comment appear after a reasonable time has elapsed, please email me.

  53. @ Keith, Hal: “I have no idea why some comments occasionally get caught in moderation or as spam”
    Hal’s post quite likely got flagged because the filter deduced he may have been trying to subliminally flog erectile dysfunction meds. I kid you not. A popular brand is imbedded in the word that follows Eisenhower in his post. Same thing happens at RC…

  54. Sashka says:

    @ grypo

    No this is not a brief review of the state of the science. This is what he wants to sell as a brief review of the state of the science.

    I tried my best to express my reading in the most plain no BS way. I feel that his goal is to make people to act upon hearing it. These would be otherwise reasonable but ill-informed people and green loonies and a lot of people in between.

    I’m not sure whom do you call to stop using the word “settled”. You remember that it wasn’t skeptics who came up with it, right? Why don’t you send this message to Al Gore? I’m sure he would be delighted.

  55. Eli Rabett says:

    Eisenhower Socialist, a great descriptive phrase:)

  56. Keith Kloor says:

    The guy (tallbloke) who told Fred Pearce that Gavin said the science was settled has put up the originating source for this information here.

    While this obviously makes Tallbloke look foolish, it doesn’t absolve Fred from not doing his homework and confirming Tallbloke’s interpretation straight with Gavin.

  57. Stu says:

    “…the originating source for this information here.”

    What a weird statement. Would Gavin have gone to this thing if policy was on the agenda? He is a scientist- he should be focused on ‘what the weather was like 1000 years ago’.

  58. GS: “Your proposed restriction against policy discussion removes the whole point.”

    Gavin’s only interested in getting down and dirty with the policies. Climate scientists discussing climate science is pointless. Political advocate much?
    GS: “None of the seemingly important “˜conflicts’ that are *perceived* in the science are “˜conflicts’ in any real sense within the scientific community [..]”

    IOW, the science is settled.
    I don’t think Tallbloke has at all misrepresented Gavin’s stated position. It seems he captured it succinctly.

  59. Keith Kloor says:


    You’re focusing on that? Is that the issue here?

  60. Keith Kloor says:


    That sound you hear is my head banging against the wall again.

  61. Keith, this is Gavin’s direct response to the direct invitation to the Lisbon conference. Do please explain what I’m missing.

  62. Stu says:

    Keith- read my comment @41 if you haven’t already. There are a whole bunch of issues, real scientific ones- which Gavin as a scientist, should be focused on and interested in. Instead, he wants to talk about policy???
    I would say yes, that’s an issue.
    PS- yes. Bad Tallbloke. Bad Bad.

  63. Keith Kloor says:

    Simon (61):

    I can’t fathom how you square (#58) Gavin’s response with Tallbloke’s interpretation (“the science is settled,”), so how am I going to explain what you’re missing? I can’t, hence, the head-banging against wall.

  64. Stu says:

    PS – maybe Gavin would like to explain what kind of understanding the scientific community is focused on increasing?

    MWP – apparently uninteresting.
    Climate sensitivity – apparently uninteresting.
    UHI and other issues pertaining to temperature measurement – apparently uninteresting.
    Data availability issues – apparently uninteresting.
    ‘Ice’ – apparently uninteresting.

  65. Shub says:

    You can play any kind of game at currying favor with the consensus, but it is not going to cut it, not this time.

  66. JimR says:

    So a climate scientists was invited to a workshop where climate science issues were to be discussed and issues of policy were forbidden. His response was to say that the conflict is what should be done about GHG emissions (policy) and that “None of the seemingly important “˜conflicts’ that are *perceived* in the science are “˜conflicts’ in any real sense within the scientific community, rather they are proxy arguments for political positions.”
    I have a hard time understanding how this isn’t a climate scientist saying the science is settled and wanting to focus on policy. Those weren’t his exact words and the phrase “the science is settled” is rather unpopular… but isn’t that was he is saying?

  67. Gavin says:

    #64 etc.
    Why do people spend time trying to torture some implication out of what I said in a single email, when I have written thousands of words and dozens of papers on exactly the issue they are questioning?
    On medieval climate: here, here – interesting
    On Climate Sensitivity: here, here – interesting
    etc. etc.
    The issue is not that there isn’t interesting science yet to be done on all of these issues – there is, but rather the *perceived* conflicts (cf. WUWT ad nauseum) have nothing whatsoever to do with the real scientific issues. Accusations of fraud or ‘manipulation’ in GISTEMP is a made-up non-issue, whether the medieval period is or is not warmer than the 1990s is not relevant to anything much, whether a tree ring series is or is not online is not salient.
    If I wanted to learn more about medieval climate, I would organise a workshop of people who know stuff about medieval climate. If I wanted to learn more about climate sensitivity, I would organise a session including scientists who have worked on climate sensitivity. This would be completely different to what was organised in Lisbon.
    Can it really be that people are incapable of having serious conversations that acknowledge this? Please prove me wrong.

  68. PDA says:

    No. He was saying that the subjects specifically mentioned in the invitation are not “˜conflicts’ in any real sense within the scientific community. You may object, and say that they should be, but the fact is that they are not.

  69. Stu @62
    PS- yes. Bad Tallbloke. Bad Bad.

    Moi? 🙂

  70. JimR, ditto. So Tallbloke paraphrased. Gee wizz. He still didn’t misrepresent the stance or reason that Gavin gave. Perhaps Keith means that Gavin misrepresented his own position resulting in an incorrectly, while still somehow accurate, inferred message.

  71. PDA, you mean they’re settled, whether we like it or not?

  72. BobN says:

    Keith – I think one thing Gavin’s email shows is that he really has an awkward way with words sometimes.  While Tallbloke’s one sentence summation was not a perfect paraphrase by any stretch, Gavin’s awkward wording of saying the “perceived conflicts” aren’t really scientific but political(ly motivated?) could be construed as saying “for the purpose of these issues, the science is essentially settled” even if that is not what he meant.  Re-reading the email a few times, I am not really sure what Gavin is trying to say, unless it is that he considers the so-called “conflicts” of the topics of discussion at the Lisbon to be politically, rather than scientifically motivated.  So I wouldn’t blame Tallbloke too much for throwing out a quick precis during an informal conversation at the conference, but Pearce should be taken to task for attributing a quote to Gavin without checking on it. 

    The whole thing is definitely a mountain out of a molehill type of thing.

  73. kdk33 says:

    For heavens sake! the guy just posted in the comments.


    Do you think the scientific evidence justifies government mandated decarbonization of the worlds economies, or would you prefer that we wait unilt our scientific understanding of climate improves.

    Thanks in Advance

  74. Hal Morris says:

    Keith Kloor – Thank you for your intervention.  You say “I have no idea why some comments occasionally get caught in moderation or as spam”
    Well, the 2nd disappeared posting was pretty much like the 3rd (test) posting except in that case I’d filled in the Website blank using a specific page on a blog of mine with a long URL. I had a similar experience on the Judith Curry Blog.
    So, long URL name that reaches 3 levels deep into the hierarchy of my blog.  Anyone experienced trouble like that?  Just for fun I’m going to try this with just the basename of my blog URL.
    I have a blog called “The Real Truth Project” because “The Truth Project” was doubly taken (1) by the “truthers” who maintain the U.S. faked 9/11 as pretext to start a war and (2) by some subsidiary of Dr Dobson’s (focus on the family) operation bent on seeing that fathers have a “Biblical Worldview”.  My blog started out trying to address “Practical Epistemology”, but it has mostly been about taking apart ridiculous and often totally dishonest viral emails, blog articles, fake “Wall Street Journal” commentaries (the real ones are bad enough).
    One of the first things that made me tear my hair out was the very widespread misreading of Wolfgang Knorr’s results on “airborne fraction of anthropogenic CO2 emissions”.  It went viral on right wing blogs with everybody saying “So there’s been no statistically significant growth in the CO2 level in 150 years”  ha ha that’s the “nail in the coffin of the AGW hoax!”.
    Yeah.  An interesting fact is that big guys like Limbaugh and Beck who presumably have fact-checkers to avoid being caught in too clearly disprovable lies, just remained mum on the whole thing, so it never became public enough to get refuted.  A most elegant division of labor between those who pass on dozens of flat out lies a day and the “Spinners” who tell us what it all means without getting too deep in to the details.

  75. JimR says:

    It strikes me very odd reconciling what Gavin wrote to the workshop organizers and his response here. Here he points to his own writings on the Medieval Warm Period and climate sensitivity and comments “interesting”. Sounds like a good reason he be invited to just such a workshop. But then he jumps on to what he would do if he wanted to “learn more about” the MWP and climate sensitivity which wasn’t the aim of the workshop according to the invite. It was about overcoming the polarization and reaching some points of clarity on areas of agreement and disagreement.
    Overcoming the polarization should be a good thing, claiming that the conflicts are not conflicts but “proxy arguments for political positions” seems to be reinforcement of the polarization.
    His comments above seem to talk past the issue under discussion, almost saying he’s already discussed the issues, here are the links and what he has already written is “interesting”. Is that supposed to overcome the need for a workshop on reconciliation, just read what he has written and reconcile to that?

  76. Hal Morris says:

    W.r.t. Gavin’s reasons for not attending, seems to me very futile to talk with a lot of people not steeped in the same studies he’s steeped  would be to try to talk about issues other than science.
    Anyway, for people who take AGW seriously and are hoping to see something done about it, trying to refute every little point the deniers bring up seems hopeless and counterproductive.  I’d rather see efforts to build a case that is both faithful to the science and less vulnerable to disinformation.  Also, how can we give the public a better understanding of what scientists are like and what motivates them.

  77. Hal Morris says:

    Correction: seems to me very futile to talk <b>about science</b> with a lot of people not steeped in the same studies he’s steeped in.

  78. BobN says:

    Gavin – your reply wasn’t up when I posted my comment above.  Thank you for the clarification, though it still wasn’t exactly clear, to me at least, what you were saying, unless it is simply that you think the “conflicts” to be discussed are artificial constructs and that you didn’t think the format of the conference would be a productive use of your time.  Anyway, thanks for stopping by here and providing the clarification.

  79. Hal @77
    Steve MacIntyre was there. He knows a fair bit about paleodendro stats and medieval issues. I’m sure he and Gavin would have got along fine in the friendly ambience generated in the workshop.
    An opportunity missed.
    Anyway, since Gavin has just posted here, I’d just like to repeat my thanks for his open attitude in this case in giving me permission to reproduce his response. I’ve been criticised on Judy Curry’s blog for not having read Gavin’s previous statements about the science not being settled.
    I’m really glad he’s said this in the past and I hope the IPCC policy makers summary reflects this uncertainty better next time round.

  80. Dave H says:

    > I think one thing Gavin’s email shows is that he really has an awkward way with words sometimes.
    I just can’t grasp this. Its plain English, it makes complete sense, and it is to the point. Yet this thread is filled with tortured meandering trying to misrepresent or willfully misconstrue – for the umpteenth time – what Gavin said. Face. Palm.
    It just comes across to me as certain people having a preconceived position and bending over backwards to twist reality in order to justify that position. In other words: precisely the sort of issue that is a serious cause of so much acrimony in this whole sorry “debate”, and precisely the sort of thing that might have been a productive topic of conversation.
    One cannot even use terms such as Cognitive Dissonance any more, as they have been embraced and co-opted (completely without irony) by those previously described thus.

  81. Dave H says:

    @Rog Tallbloke
    > An opportunity missed.
    Really? Because all I see is a lot of backslapping and agreement on the least politically incorrect outcome as the most likely. The “consensus” such as it is that has been emerging from these quarters is that:
    a) People that doubt that AGW exists at all are extremists
    b) The IPCC is overly alarmist
    c) Therefore people with an inoffensive viewpoint somewhere in between are probably right
    There are so many things wrong with this framing that my mind is truly boggled. It is science by committee, where self-selected arbiters can decide what constitutes “good science” according to their own personal interpretation of the available evidence.
    To put it another way – if Gavin had attended, what is the likelihood that the outcome would have been that those with a “skeptical” position ended up becoming reconciled to the IPCC assessments?

  82. Keith Kloor says:

    me “currying favor with the consensus” (#65)

    I don’t know what gave me a bigger laugh–reading that or watching the Colbert spoof of O’Reilly that I linked to earlier today.

  83. Tom Gray says:

    CAGW is an important issue and the issue that is being discussed here is trivial. Why do participants in this issue find it puzzling that the public has given up on the debate. Do you people have any sense of what this teapot tempest and the many like it do to the CAGW issue?

  84. Tom Gray says:

    Just think of it.  Somebody is wondering about th massive changes demanded in his life by the policies promoted to address AGW. he then comes to this blog to understand the issue. he then reads this debate. Do you really think that he will be impressed with the collective wisdom of the participants and be so especially impressed that he will dramatically change the way that he lives his life?
    Einstein spoke of a war between the frogs and toads. That war would be of much greater significance than what passes fro discussion on this issue.

  85. Steve Mennie says:

    @Tom Gray..
    Thanks for dropping by Tom..It took 80 odd comments to get there but finally somebody said something worth saying.

  86. Matt B says:

    Pearce should know better that to make specific statements about any of the icons in this squabble; 84 comments already on this foofaraw?
    However, I do like Gavin’s statement: “Fred Pearce did not interview me for this piece. I should like to request that in future, if my views are of interest, that he (or anyone else) should actually ask me directly. I am not hard to contact.”

    Is this a case of the kettle calling the black a pot?


  87. Tom Fuller says:

    First we should quickly ask, ‘Is the science settled?’ I think for some very basic aspects (greenhouse gases and effects) the answer is yes.
    However, until we know what the sensitivity of the atmosphere is to a doubling of concentrations of CO2, which is the real heart of climate change, I think we can safely say the answer is no. The treatment of aerosols, clouds, etc., only make that clearer.
    So then we look at Gavin Schmidt and what he has written over the years. His obligatory bow to the reality of science not being settled aside, he has gone out of his way to avoid engaging skeptics, and has done everything in his power to paint his consensus side of the story as overwhelmingly convincing and as having convinced 97% of climate scientists. That in fact it is settled.
    He wants to create the impression of settled science without using the phrase. His email to the Lisbon participants pretty much confirms that. He’s tap dancing on a high wire, and one must admire his skill even while questioning his judgement.

  88. John Mashey says:

    Rog Tallbloke says he was a member of the ad hoc organizing committee and asked to recommend climate scientists, an interesting juxtaposition with his gift of the “Climate science as trashbin” T-Shirt.  He says that he accidentally got a copy of Gavin’s email.
    1) Was anyone on the ad hoc committee authorized to offer public interpretations of anyone’s replies to the invitation?
    2) Or did Tallbloke feel he had the right to spread his interpretation of Gavin’s unseen email around amongst the people at the conference?  (Bad Gavin, Bad Gavin, Science is Settled…)  Perhaps Tallbloke did not expect to see it in print.
    I’d suggest that people think very hard before even answering an invite from such folks, because even a simple “due to schedule, I am unable to attend” could be described as a curt refusal if someone were so inclined.
    Usually, people are usually accorded the right to make priority calls on the use of their time without being hassled for not being willing to spend a week on this (fly to Europe, 3 days, fly back).

  89. Keith Kloor Says:
    February 4th, 2011 at 7:53 pm
    me “currying favor with the consensus” (#65)

    “I don’t know what gave me a bigger laugh […]”

    I don’t know what gave you a bigger laugh, but do I know what gave me an ironic and very hearty laugh.

    I distinctly recall the verbal contortions in which you engaged during the course of your recent valiant attempts to sustain the mountain you chose to make of a cherry-picked molehill re Delingpole’s acknowledgment wrt the holy writ of peer-review, that he doesn’t have the time or expertise to read peer-reviewed papers”“ but that he relies on the interpretations of those who do.

    In response to my obviously futile attempt to add some context, nuance, and completion to that to which you obviously had taken extreme umbrage, you chose to accuse me of “splitting hairs”.  And you chose to further infer from that which Delingpole did not say that “He’s just blatantly saying he can’t be bothered”.

    In response, I did acknowledge that you and I might have different definitions of both “splitting hairs” and “blatantly”.  I invited you to  “give me some indication of the point [in the video excerpt] at which he makes such a ‘blatant’ statement”.

    The sounds of your silence were as deafening as those of Tobis when invited to provide some evidence in support of (well, almost anything on which he’s challenged, but in this instance) his claim vis a vis Trenberth and Landsea.

    So, when I compare your responses above to those that I find in this thread I can’t help wondering if perhaps you have a double-standard when it comes to “interpreting” [or inferring from if you prefer] that which was said … and that which wasn’t.

    If I didn’t know better, I’d be inclined to conclude that your bias is not just showing, it’s positively glowing.

  90. Stu says:

    @ 67 Gavin
    “The issue is not that there isn’t interesting science yet to be done on all of these issues ““ there is, but rather the *perceived* conflicts (cf. WUWT ad nauseum) have nothing whatsoever to do with the real scientific issues. Accusations of fraud or “˜manipulation’ in GISTEMP is a made-up non-issue, whether the medieval period is or is not warmer than the 1990s is not relevant to anything much, whether a tree ring series is or is not online is not salient.”
    If you believe you have more of an understanding about these things than your opponents then the conference may have provided a welcome opportunity for a ‘teachable moment’ for the sceptics present. But you misconstrue the intentions of these people, repeatedly. Notice that there was nothing in the conference invite referencing fraud or manipulation. To say that someone like Steve Mc is politically motivated does not square with what is known about Steve Mc, etc.
    Your call Gavin, of course.

  91. Eli Rabett says:

    Speaking for Gavin…[SNIP]
    Gavin does not necessarily see…[SNIP]


  92. Eli Rabett says:

    Stu, you clearly don’t understand what is going on.  If you want a lesson take a look at the megathread on Slaying the Greenhouse Dragon at Judith Curry’s blog where one Claes Johnson digs in and defends his “proof” that Planck was an idiot.  Johnson and his friends simply pull a black knight routine, and Judy and her friends can’t move them.   Most of those attending the Baccalau Fest were of the same tribe, the Black Knights, and have no intention of ever being moved.

  93. Keith Kloor says:

    Hilary (89)

    You must have played twister a lot as a child, cause you got me on this one. I have no idea what you’re talking about, other than I recall as self-evident that Delingpole is quite happy being an a) ignoramus and 2) partisan, ideological hack. Case closed.

    What double standard are you referring to? The one where I say it was wrong for Pearce to rely on an obviously biased source. Seems like that’s Deligngpole’s SOP for a living, when he can be bothered, of course…

  94. Stu says:

    Eli –
    Maybe you could provide a list of the names of invitees to the conference who agree with Claes Johnson?

  95. kdk33 says:

    “Rog Tallbloke says … he accidentally got a copy of Gavin’s email”


  96. kdk33 says:

    The Access Hollywood element here is a tad distasteful.  But the Gavin element is fascinating…

    His “unsettled science” writing is a silly rhetorical game in which he chides his opponents for playing rhetorical games in the face of looming catastrophe – per science he is at great pain to not describe as settled.  Rather than clear the air here he deposits some diversionary links to previous writings – the abstract of one, a classic:  it’s worse than we thought; and, oh by the way, policy makers need to factor in this (unsettled?) worseness.  The man is unsettling, to say the least.

    One wonders how long he will sit so lofty in the priesthood, and the longer he does the more one wonders about the acolytes.

  97. William Newman says:

    It seems to me that tallbloke was in a difficult position because of our confused norms about when it’s acceptable for a recipient of an (e)mail to publish it, or to publish sizable quotes from it. He probably should have been more cautious, because it’s bad — very common, alas, but nonetheless bad — to make any uncharitable paraphrase of one’s opponents’ positions. Really, though, paraphrasing one’s opponents is a minefield, so much that one should try to avoid it without at least an accompanying direct cite or quote, except that our (e)mail norms seem to have boxed tallbloke into having to do it without either.

    It’s hard for me to condemn tallbloke too much, however, because I haven’t found Pearce giving a direct quote of what tallbloke actually said to him. The remark from Gavin in Pearce’s NS article looks like Pearce’s paraphrase of tallbloke’s summary paraphrase; surfing around for 10 minutes I haven’t noticed anything giving the underlying direct quote(s) from tallbloke that Pearce was paraphrasing.

    That said, it doesn’t seem to me that the paraphrased paraphrase is a gross distortion. In the original text of the email Gavin wrote “none of the seemingly important “˜conflicts’ that are *perceived* in the science are “˜conflicts’ in any real sense within the scientific community, rather they are proxy arguments for political positions.” If tallbloke had said “I don’t have permission to quote directly from the email, but I can tell you that it was among other things another round of the ‘the science is settled’ game,” I’d be in agreement with him.
    Apparently Pearce didn’t contact Gavin directly, and I don’t understand why. Given this, I blame Pearce rather more than tallbloke for the confusion that led to this controversy. With the best will in the world, the best skills in the world, and plenty of time, it seems to me that it still would’ve been at least somewhat difficult for tallbloke to give a short really careful paraphrase of Gavin’s email. But with ordinary good journalistic practice, wouldn’t it’ve been routine for Pearce to contact Gavin and get a direct quote, and/or a clear yes-or-no answer on permission to read and quote the original email?

  98. […] seems to be the current climate-blog kerfuffle with on going discussion at collide a scape. It all started when Fred Pearce wrote: “But the leaders of mainstream climate science turned […]

  99. thingsbreak says:

    Why did Tallbloke try to fall on the sword over this if Pearce actually read Gavin’s email himself (as Steve McIntyre is claiming and Tallbloke confirms)?

  100. Dave H says:

    Here’s what annoys me most about this: its a very clear cut case of casual misrepresentation, regardless of motive. Gavin did not say what was ascribed to him, and Pearce paraphrased a second-hand account in a manner that was denigrating and inflammatory.
    This would be a complete non event were it not for the black-is-white brigade determined to argue the toss at every opportunity. Pointing out Pearce’s blunder is quite simple, and some sort of followup (published response from Gavin, correction from Pearce) would put an end to it.
    Instead we have dozens upon dozens of frankly pretty desperate attempts to reinterpret what Gavin said to somehow excuse Pearce’s slant (or even – amazingly – claim it is accurate and that it is *Gavin* that is dissembling), and who then have the *unmitigated gall* to criticize those endlessly faced with setting the record straight of focusing on a petty or trivial matter. Ridiculous and childish.

  101. grypo says:

    Dave H.
    The reaction fairly represents that their is a large crowd who refuse to give up the “settled” meme.  Without it, there is no other way for them to characterize what many people believe is enough evidence and therefore must start to argue on the basis of policy.  Think about it.  Like Connelly rightly said:
    It is a feeble attempt at a double bind: is the science settled? ha ha, then you can’t be a scientist because real science is never settled. Is the science not settled? Oh great, then we don’t need to do anything until it is.

    Instead of arguing parts of the science that almost all experts agree on – because of the weighted evidence in the literature – it is much easier to argue a strawman.  Like, sarcastically, “but you said the science is settled, so it doesn’t matter.”  The argument can never move on to what to do based on what we know and what risk it entails.  It is much easier to use rhetoric when you have no answers.

  102. Keith @93:

    Sorry that you chose not to get the point of my post; I did include links which might have made it easier for you to recollect what actually had transpired in the thread.

    Consequently, I found it somewhat ironic that you should have gone to such lengths to find in Delingpole’s brief comments that which he did not say (thereby denigrating him) while going to equal lengths to overlook that which Gavin’s E-mail clearly did say (thereby glorifying him – while denigrating Pearce and/or tallbloke).

  103. Jay Currie says:

    Keith, as you now know, your statement “The one where I say it was wrong for Pearce to rely on an obviously biased source.” is incorrect as Pearce had read Schmidt’s refusal and drawn his own conclusions.
    You really should be more careful in ascribing fault and bias.

  104. Barry Woods says:

    As Delingpole has been mentioned.

    I wonder if K could give some thoughts whether or not Emma Jay, and the producer showed bad faith to Delingpole, in the BBC’s invitation?

    Delingpole – and I have spoken to James, eneter into the meeting with Professor Paul Nurse positively, based on the invite…

  105. Steven Sullivan says:

    Dave #80:
    “I just can’t grasp this. Its plain English, it makes complete sense, and it is to the point. Yet this thread is filled with tortured meandering trying to misrepresent or willfully misconstrue ““ for the umpteenth time ““ what Gavin said. Face. Palm.”

    Dave, ever see this?

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