The Tao of Climate Science

With the climate change debate becoming increasingly hard-nosed and polarized, perhaps it’s time the main players in climate science reconsidered their tactics.

Right now, force meets force. This has largely deteriorated into a never-ending rhetorical battle of insults between climate scientists and skeptics. (Climate activists, taking their cue from the hostile landscape, are more transparent, with some calling for a “serious takedown” of one particular renegade scientist). I realize that caged fighting is all the rage, but I don’t think it’s going to change the dynamics of the climate change discussion.  There are, however, other martial arts that could help break this ugly standoff.

For example, should climate scientists ever want to establish a better rapport with skeptics (and the public at large) they might consider taking up Tai Chi, a popular Chinese martial art that blends “soft” and “hard” techniquies. Why? Here’s one excellent reason via Wikipedia:

The philosophy of Tai Chi Chuan is that if one uses hardness to resist violent force, then both sides are certain to be injured at least to some degree. Such injury, according to tai chi theory, is a natural consequence of meeting brute force with brute force. Instead, students are taught not to directly fight or resist an incoming force, but to meet it in softness and follow its motion while remaining in physical contact until the incoming force of attack exhausts itself or can be safely redirected, meeting yang with yin.

Please do no think I am recommending that Tai Chi be used to outwit skeptics. Rather, I am suggesting that the philosophy may serve as a useful metaphor for more productive engagement with the public (though as an off-and-on-again student of Tai Chi, I certainly recommend it for both body and mind).

I started thinking about this after paying closer attention to the comment threads at Real Climate. These guys, I believe, are well intentioned and they perform a valuable public service. Over time, they have also come to represent the public face of climate science. They have to know this. Yet the way RC interacts with a segment of its readership does not reflect well on the communication skills of some of the RC contributors.

If you are familiar with radio jock Howard Stern (who can be crude but is also often hilarious), then you might know this classic bit he has shared with listeners countless times. It’s a twenty second exchange between a young Howard and his father, who berates his son with a classic one-liner. I think some of the guys at RC, either out of impatience or frustration, or just sheer contempt, employ variations of the same putdown. It’s probably not the best way to win people over to your side of the argument.

This brings me to an op-ed by Chris Mooney in yesterday’s Washington Post, titled

If scientists want to educate the public, they should start by listening

The column likely has some scientists scratching their heads, since Mooney is the co-author of the recent book Unscientific America, in which he argues that

Americans are paying less and less attention to scientists.

So who are scientists supposed to listen to if people have already tuned them out? Maybe Chris can smooth that one out in his next op-ed. At any rate, I would argue that the Real Climate guys who are the public face of climate science in the blogosphere (where much of the nasty debate plays out) are indeed listening to the public. It’s how they’re responding that strikes me as the bigger problem.

UPDATE: I think Mooney’s essay is worth taking up in a separate post. Meanwhile, have a look at Orac’s rebuttal. BTW (and this is off-topic, but hey, it’s my blog), some of you may be interested to learn that I agree with Orac that scientists can’t and shouldn’t be building bridges to the anti-vaccine movement. That said, I happen to think that Orac and other science bloggers unfairly lump in climate skeptics with creationists and anti-vaccine activists as part of the larger “denialist” anti-science phenomena. For example, here’s Orac in that current post:

Here’s the problem with Chris’ observations. As he clearly points out, denialists, be they anti-vaccine, creationist, deniers of anthropogenic global warming, or whatever, are indeed highly motivated “consumers of science.” That’s part of the problem. They are consumers of science, but do not understand (or necessarily accept) the scientific method or how science works.

If the more serious and science-minded climate sceptics don’t want to be painted with this broad brush (and make no mistake, they are), then I think it’s up to them to distinguish themselves from the anti-science types they are so often grouped with. I know they feel they shouldn’t have to, but hey, this is the world we live in.

136 Responses to “The Tao of Climate Science”

  1. Sadly, the Snark-in-Chief is Dr. Gavin Schmidt, who is also the most active contributor to the blog. He sets the tone for his readers, I think. Too bad.
     
    An even more obnoxious practice is their very aggressive moderation policy, which seems like censorship to those cut off. Which has included skeptics of impeccable credentials. When these folks post their censored material elsewhere, it’s (usually) reasonable & on-topic. Again, no way to build trust.
     
    In many ways, RC is run in such a way that one wonders if there is an “evil mastermind” behind the scene, working to turn people away from the overt message of the site. It’s almost a cliche on sites such as Climate Audit (and here) that articulate people write in, complaining of the ill-treatment they have received at RC, and noting this was the start of their serious skepticism about the “consensus” view of AGW.

  2. Judith Curry says:

    Compare the RC strategy to The Art of War.  Anybody see analogies?

  3. Mooney’s op ed has two interesting observations that are worth comparing:

    When Mooney speaks of climate change, he invokes the ubiquitous “scientific consensus” (aka the “tenets” of ACC, according to the recently discussed PNAS study).  Yet in discussing the vaccine-autism controversy he speaks of  the “body of epidemiological evidence.”

    YMMV, but I, for one, will be far more inclined to give credence and trust to claims based on “epidemiological evidence” than I will to any number of “tenets”  – regardless of how many publications and/or citations can be attributed to those who are in “striking agreement” with such [unarticulated] tenets.

    Agreement with “tenets” requires nothing less (and, indeed, nothing more) than a leap of faith  –  not to mention that outputs from computer generated models are a far cry from “epidemiological evidence”.

    The most prevalent common denominator (for want of a better phrase) amongst those, such as RC, who advocate adherence to the tenets of ACC, appears to be: “trust us … we’re right … because we said so”.

    No matter how many papers they’ve published – nor how many times they’ve been cited –  this should not be used in an attempt to obscure the fact that evidence (of human-generated CO2 as the primary cause of ACC) is the weakest link in their chain of tenets.

    Nor should the thinking public be expected to give credence and trust to their claims, merely because they say so.

  4. AMac says:

    Orac writes, “Here’s the problem with Chris’ observations. As he clearly points out, denialists … are consumers of science, but do not understand (or necessarily accept) the scientific method or how science works.”
     
    1.  That offensive term again, so easily used.
     
    2. People who don’t agree with me don’t understand or accept the scientific method.
     
    3. People who don’t agree with me don’t understand or accept how science works.
     
    Sounds like Orac is ready to start a beautiful relationship.
     
    On a different but related topic, AGW Consensus blogger (and C-a-s participant) Arthur Smith has already taken Keith’s Tai Chi Chuan advice, as he engages on … Tiljander (the controversial paleoclimate reconstruction proxy series discussed a fortnight ago at this C-a-s post).  I particularly commend Martin Vermeer’s forthright answers to the two questions I posed in that C-a-s thread.  (If you participate, be forewarned that Arthur’s moderation touch is not light.)

  5. Keith Kloor says:

    AMac:

    On a related note, Bart has another interesting post up, called “Climate Skepticism Comes in Many Shades of Gray,” which rather oddly leads off with this sentence:

    “It has long puzzled me why so many people don’t accept the science.”

    But here I think Bart is wrong, because what I’m learning is that that the level of skepticism comes in all shades of gray, which is a different thing from whatever the extra-scientific motives are.

    What I’m getting in my update at is that the mainstream view of skeptics is monochromatic. You all may differentiate between CAGW and AGW or aGW and so on, but that’s not how you’re perceived. Which is why–I’m sorry I keep harping on this–but if you don;t want to be lumped in with creationists and anti-vaccine ideologues (both groups which hold views contrary to accepted science), then you’ll have to separate yourselves from that grouping.

  6. dhogaza says:

    “(Climate activists, taking their cue from the hostile landscape, are more transparent, with some calling for a “serious takedown“ of one particular renegade scientist).”

    I was, of course, speaking of the need to publicly expose her false claims, and more importantly, her public statement here that when she posts a claim, she doesn’t necessarily believe what she posts.

    You’re a bit bashful about approving posts which make the point bluntly, so it would be a good thing if her false statements were exposed very publicly, elsewhere.

  7. AMac says:

    Keith:
    >if you don’t want to be lumped in with creationists and anti-vaccine ideologues… then you’ll have to separate yourselves from that grouping.
    Er… I’m not aware that I’ve done anything to lump myself with those groups.  But to be fair, neither have JohnB, or Judith Curry.  Or you!
    (To be painfully clear, the last two sentences were an attempt at levity.)
    At any rate, I’ll take the Kloor Pledge:  I denounce Creationism!  I denounce Vaccine Rejectionism!
    Further, I will enthusiastically recommend that C-a-s readers check out Zeke Hausfather’s series of posts on analysis of the instrumental record, at Lucia’s Blackboard.  They are a model of transparency with respect to data and code.  The findings are strengthened by the collaborative approach taken by Zeke and numerous other scientists and citizen-scientists (many of whom have put in cameos in C-a-s threads).  And Zeke stays polite in the Comments, even when the tomatoes fly.
    His latest post is “Replication”.
    What trend do you suppose is shown in Zeke’s analysis?  Which matters more:  the process, or the results?

  8. lucia says:

    Keith–
    then you’ll have to separate yourselves from that grouping.
     
    I have one or two blog visitors who are constantly intoning the the you have to distance  yourself from “X” mantra.  But that prompts two questions: Precisely is in need of separating themselves from the edge of skepticism that really does know nothing about science? The Pielkes? Judy Curry?  Me? AMac?  Moreover, what exactly is “separating” and how is this accomplished especially when you have no idea what constitutes being joined?
    At times it seems there is some group out there who is decreeing people to be equivalent to anti-evolutionists for discussing climate change and not being as constantly alarming as Joe Romm.  If you don’t do that, then you are somehow magically “joined” to people who also don’t happen to be   fans of Romm, and so “anti-science”.  Is what being joined means?
    if you don;t want to be lumped in with creationists and anti-vaccine ideologues (both groups which hold views contrary to accepted science)
    In the end, my take is not to worry who lumps me into some group and just discuss what I’m going to discuss.  That said: I also don’t spend any time complaining about how someone out there might pigeonhole me.

  9. dhogaza says:

    I happen to think that Orac and other science bloggers unfairly lump in climate skeptics with creationists and anti-vaccine activists as part of the larger “denialist” anti-science phenomena.”


    I agree with Orac.  In my opinion, it’s exactly the same phenomena – when science runs headfirst into the deeply held beliefs of some people in society, there’s a tendency to counter science, and the techniques that are used are very similar whatever field of science is attack.

    It’s not that climate science deniers are also HIV deniers.  It’s that when faced with overwhelming scientific evidence, denialism leads to the same complaints, the touting of individual heros defying a tribalist scientific community holding on to false evidence (HIV’s hero – Dusenberg etc, scientific creationism – Behe etc, climate science denialism – Lindzen etc), blah blah blah.

    It’s all the same.  I’ve seen no argument used by the climate science denialsphere that hasn’t been used by the creationist community.

  10. Keith Kloor says:

    On the contrary, I let through many rebuttals by you, Bloom and Eli on this issue. I only delete the comments that go well beyond what you characterize as “blunt” criticism.

    You and a handful of others are on moderation because of your tendency towards insulting and derogatory remarks that are intended to cast aspersions on someone’s personal character.

    As I said some time ago, that’s no longer tolerated here. Obviously, you have plenty of other blogs where that is allowed.

  11. dhogaza says:

    “You and a handful of others are on moderation because of your tendency towards insulting and derogatory remarks that are intended to cast aspersions on someone’s personal character.”

    So if someone’s personal character is worthy of aspersion, they get a free pass in Keith Kloor’s universe?  We don’t hold people accountable in your world?

    Neville was polite.  Winston was not.  Which approach proved more useful, in the end?

  12. thingsbreak says:

    kkloor,
     
    Still hoping that you might email me the language of my post that was deleted for being “obnoxious”. I’d like to examine what I wrote, especially whether or not it contained “insulting and derogatory remarks that are intended to cast aspersions on someone’s personal character.”
     
    Cheers.

  13. Keith Kloor says:

    Jeez, I knew I should have done a separate post on this, because I can see this might be where all the action goes.

    Okay, so dhogoza just usefully laid out the talking points used for lumping in all climate skeptics with the “denialisphere.”

    His take is quite commonly accepted among mainstream commentators of all stripes. Here’s Daniel Drezner, another respected pundit/adademic on the same grouping.

    AMac, I don’t think you need to take a pledge, I just think you all need to talk about this some more and recognize how simplistically you are being characterized in the larger public discussion. Taking the high road and saying, ‘hey, that’s on them if they believe that, not me,’ is not being pragmatic. The climate discourse is able to caricature skeptics in a very black/white manner, because none of you seem to want to push back against it. Well, fine. Then you’ll continue to be lumped in with anti-vaccine and creationist crowd.

  14. SimonH says:

    A pro-AGW camp that fails continually to understand the motivation of its opposition, the citizen scientist, would never be able to use Tai Chi to defend against it.
     
    That pro-AGW activists understand Americans are paying less and less attention to scientists” as “Americans are less and less scientific” is merely symptomatic of the guff between what is and what is assumed to be.
     
    Nice idea, Keith, but demonstrably unachievable.

  15. Keith Kloor says:

    (#10): Per your last sentence, you and a few others often have a way of unintionally illustrating what I’m trying to avoid now in these threads.

    (#11): I suggest you make a copy of all your comments, because if I find them offensive, I just hit delete. I’m not interested in “snipping.”  So keep trying and this way you can post the comments elsewhere if I don’t let them through. Cheers.

  16. I try to use aikido principles in communication (not always succesfully), which has been described as peaceful conflict resolution. Interesting to see you bring up tai chi.

  17. Keith Kloor says:

    Bart, it doesn’t surprise me that you use aikido. That would be equally as good, I think.

    But back to tai chi, imagine if there was a “push hands” exercise between some climate scientists and skeptics. That would be good to see.

  18. GaryM says:

    Keith,
    “What I’m getting in my update at is that the mainstream view of skeptics is monochromatic.”
     
    To the loudest voices of the establishment climate science community, all versions of  “CAGW and AGW or aGW and so on” that allow for skepticism ARE monochromatic.  It simply does not matter if you agree that the climate is warming because of man.  If you do not accept that the consequences of such man mad climate change are catastrophic and certain enough to justify large tax increases and modification in lifestyle NOW, you are a threat.
     
    To some that threat is to their income, to most of the blogatariat it is a threat to their egos, and to many it is a threat to both.  I have read comments before from Judith Curry, Steve McIntyre and others who accept the science, and I have marveled at their surprise at being castigated by those with whom they for the most part agree.  I suspect you will shortly suffer that same fate.
     
    Given what is at stake for Phil Jones, Gavin Smith, James Hansen, Rajendra Pachauri, et al. if the skeptics are correct, their vehemence is not such a surprise.  The science community was correct to question the credibility of those (actually) funded by big oil.  Skeptics now are just as correct to question the credibility of those funded by big government, particularly where big government will get much bigger if enough people can be convinced of the coming catastrophe.
     

  19. lucia says:

    Keith
    Then you’ll continue to be lumped in with anti-vaccine and creationist crowd.
     
    Ok, but how would Tai Chi tell us to deal with this lumping?  Doing the lumping than  seems to be an attempt at forceful  PR tactic on the part of some.  We might just notice that those who do the lumping overshoot and don’t accomplish what they set out to do. So, what is one to do?
     
    I don’t do martial arts, so I have no idea what aikido principles are. 🙂

  20. Kooiti Masuda says:

    In my opinion, the problem of RealClimate is not too much moderation, but too little moderation. Its jewels are the original posting. Its comment section is useful as far as it helps improvement of the original posting in the next occasion. It is an illusion that the comment section is a forum of free discussion and that refusal of a certain comment is censorship. It is a site intended to communicate specific packets of knowledge from scientists to interested audience, with questions and answers. So, off-topic comments are just noise, and fewer of them are better.

  21. AMac says:

    Kooiti Masuda, on RealClimate moderation (currently #19) —
     
    Your summary of RC’s moderation policy rings true.  That one-hand-clapping aspect is the main reason I usually skip its comments; I already know that’s an R&R site for Believers.
     
    And yet… here you are at C-a-s.  Could there be some benefit to informed debate under a regime of even-handed moderation?

  22. #19, Kooiti Masuda
    I guess you’ve noticed that the RC moderators allow tons of content-free “Wow, great post!” or “That [skeptic] is such an idiotic fool” stuff. So in that sense, I agree. What I (and many others) don’t like is when the RC moderators cut off substantial, on-topic discussion that doesn’t fit their agenda. It’s a very “top-down” site, where we’ re supposed to receive Wisdom from the Masters — and no backtalk! This had gotten better after Climategate, but seems to be reverting to the mean now. I’m hardly the first to notice this.

  23. I’ll try yet again to make this important point which illustrates Keith’s example of Tai Ch “softness”:

    It does need to be repeated that most of the actions/policies needed to reduce emissions ought to be done regardless of AGW because they reduce dependence on fossil fuels, improves energy security, reduces air pollution, create new jobs etc, etc”¦.
    But why isn’t it happening on the scale that’s needed? The question for those here is why aren’t we talking about this instead of all this IPCC/RC navel-gazing?

    Is it that we’d rather gossip and fight than do something?

  24. thingsbreak says:

    @20 Kooiti Masuda
     
    Excellent points. I’d like to add to that those who pose on-topic/relevant questions who exhibit a willingness to listen are treated pretty much the same regardless of where they’re coming from. Those that post axe-grinding, false-assumption-laden comments in the guise of questions are usually dismissed.
     
    As someone who’s been both linked to and strongly disagreed with by RC, I think that their comment policy enforcement is overly lax, if anything. One thing that websites like Watts Up and Climate Audit do is foster a “sense of community” by allowing if not outright creating an in-group using standard techniques like group-specific slang/idioms, attempting to tie a series of out-group antagonists to topics that they have little if anything to do with, etc. I think to RC’s credit, they’ve avoided that sort of epistemological self-isolation. If you’re familiar with the science, you can understand the posts with little trouble. If you don’t follow the larger “not IPCC!” blogs like Watts and Climate Audit, there’s a great deal of inside baseball to decipher.

  25. Barry Woods says:

    19#  Sorry, that is not many people’s experience.  There is frequent comments allowed that are personal attacks on other commentors, and people are not allowed to respond, most commentors there are unaware of any ‘debate’ because it fets delted out of existance, then they experience the ‘shock’ of actually getting replies at other websites, that would have been deleted at RealClimate, as such, there debating skills have not been ‘sharpened for the debate’

    Post climategate, I was directed to RealClimate as the place to find out about climate science, and they completely alienated me inside about an hour, the condescending patronising tone, total lack of any humility (a great scientist, can explain anything, patiently)just reading the personal attacks, viciuosness, and insults, let alone what followed when I commented.

    Links to activist websites, with Sceptics Hall of Shame, etc. does not help them, they seem just to be preaching to a select ‘in crowd’ of their own ‘tribe’. more interested in scoring points and ‘taking people down’

    As I was directed their by a friend that is a fully paid up member of the elite ‘climate science’club. that was interesting, (IPCC, etc).  Most scientists are NOT like the main contributors at Realclimate, they do my friend and the whole field a disservice, in my opinion.

    I’m not part of any group.  I’m just me..

    I have commented on any blog that takes my interest, this has included:
    BBC – various blogs, comment section – inc Richard Black Earthwatch
    (BBC is evangelical about CAGW, but here mods are very Fair)
    Real Climate – part of the Guardian Environment network
    The Guardian newspaper – home to CAGW activist/journalist George Monbiot –  (mainstrean, yet very CAGW pro paper, ie do stil buy it!)
    Conservative Home – Blue blog – official conservative party.
    Watts up – occasionally, bit usa centric for me)
    Telegraph – quite a lot, post climategate
    Jo Nova – Jeff Id, thomas Fuller, on occasion.
    Climate audit, very techy debates, occasionally
    Lucia’s Blackboard, as above
    Bishop Hill – UK centric, so has the feel from a UK perspective.
    and thanks to a Bishop Hill story/link:
    Collide a Scape –

    Of the above, I was blocked/deleted/moderated out of existance only at, The Guardian, RealClimate and the Conservative party!

    (as the Guardian and tory party are at total opposites of the political challenge, do I get a prize – ie the issue is not right vs left)

    I have sent emails to many people
    and as I have had many more emails back from the BBC environment team, that I guess makes me a CAGW believer!! 😉

    I don’t want to know what Keith Kloor’s personal position is on CAGW, AGW or agw, as it is just interesting to debate without having preconceptions, though I guess people here may have worked out my thoughts by now. 

    pro aGW, maybe AGW (unproven), deeply cynical about CAGW for the record, mainly because of the tactics of ‘alarmism’ and the ‘ attempts of closing down debate’ by very dubious tactics.

  26. Gavin says:

    Some clarifications on RealClimate are perhaps required.
     
    RealClimate is run by working scientists who are not separate from some of the blog controversies that some others find endlessly fascinating. No-one has voted us the ‘voice of the community’, and we speak for no-one but ourselves. That we speak in our own voices is both inevitable and interesting (no-one really wants to read a blog that is just dry textbook stuff).  That we interact with commenters is (I think) a strength and allows for a two-way interaction which goes against the ‘ivory tower’ stereotype that is rightly condemned.
     
    However, for dialogue to occur between two parties, a certain amount of respect is required. If someone starts their comment with a leading question that implies that all climate science (or even single scientists) are corrupt and incompetent and dishonest, conversations with climate scientists are not going to go well. I have very little patience with this kind of pseudo-interaction or attempted gotcha questions. On the other hand, I do find it interesting to try and assess what the conceptual difficulties are that people have when discussing (for instance), replication, or attribution, or climate models. These kinds of general issues are far more interesting (to me at least) than the technical specifics of papers published a decade or more ago. If other people disagree (and some obviously do), they can make contributions elsewhere (as they do). There is no rule that says that RC has to respond to every instance of climate related blogorrhea.   (RC as a whole is really not that interested in various blog wars, discussions of moderation polices, or in providing rebunkings of every piece of nonsense that someone comes up with).
     
    We see RC metaphorically as a dinner party conversation,  disagreement is fine (and please read the comment threads before you claim that all comments agree with us), but if someone starts insulting the hosts or throwing food, their presence is no longer welcome. Note this goes for anyone.
     
    As for answering questions, I find it hard to understand how someone can claim that RC principles (including myself) don’t ‘answer questions’ from the public. We have probably answered more questions from the public than any climate scientists currently working. But we are not paid for this, and we do it mainly as a labour of love, and so there are limits to what we are going to do. Other scientists are more than welcome to start their own blogs if they don’t like our opinions or they want to focus on other aspects or engage more or less with other bloggers. I think that a greater number of ‘mainstream’ blogs would be great and it would diminish this impression that RC is somehow an official spokesblog.

  27. Keith Kloor says:

    Gavin (25):

    Thanks for providing that larger context.

    I also want to say to anyone posting a comment on this thread: please check your own individual grievances with RC at the blog door. I’m not interested in turning this thread or my blog into a clearinghouse for individual complaints against RC.

  28. Keith (#12), I’m not so sure that the auto-lumping is so much a “perception” as it is a knee-jerk response by the lumpers to any who might have the temerity to question the sanctity of their tenets.  

    Mind you,  I will certainly grant that it may well be the intent of the lumpers to create and reinforce such a perception in the minds of  any who will listen –  in particular, those who lack  either the inclination or the wherewithal to conduct their own due diligence into the matter (a number of politicians come to mind!)

     One might almost call it the unbearable arrogance of activist bias 😉

    As for the “larger public discussion”, I haven’t conducted a scientific study (not even one as flimsy as that of Anderegg et al), but it would be interesting to know the extent to which the “lumping” has been promulgated by a coalition of willing journalists.

  29. Keith: “With the climate change debate becoming increasingly hard-nosed and polarized, perhaps it’s time the main players in climate science reconsidered their tactics.”
     
    I agree without reservation. Where we disagree is in whether the press is one of the main players. You continue to take the stance that the press is outside the game, but the press is the ball.
     
    The conversation cannot make progress until we have a press that isn’t absolutely committed to a posture of perpetual indecision.
     
    We have a great many decisions to make about how to handle the facts. It is time we moved on from sterile debates. The role of the press in stalemating progress in an area where the policy-relevant science was in place twenty years ago may turn out to be a key tragedy in human history.
     
    Let’s talk about that, for a change.
     

  30. Kooiti Masuda writes English very clearly for a native Japanese speaker, so I am quite baffled at how thoroughly his comments have been misunderstood here.
     
    RealClimate may not be an official voice of climate science, but it is representative of serious understanding of the climate system that is absent among the persistent critics.
     
    I wish the editors would err on the side of understatement in criticizing the most egregious examples. The point is largely the effect it has on third party readers.
     
    That said, a persistent social problem with being a scientist is knowing when to be polite when less informed people earnestly say things that are excluded on the evidence.
     

  31. Artifex says:

    Keith,
     
    Tell me again who is being convinced ? I thought the fundamental issue was we just can’t convince those skeptics. So you are saying that the skeptics now need to convince the established clique that they are serious and then the established clique will freely answer questions ? Of course, asking anything hard is an indication you are not serious.
     
    Why exactly am I going to take someone who tries to paint me as a creationist seriously ? More to point, when discussing the issue with others, many of whom are technical, do you really think that slaying the same army of strawmen (such as the creationist meme) that so convinces the true believers is going to have the same effect on folks with a hard science background ? I claim it’s going to have the opposite effect. What jujitsu are you going to use here ?

  32. KK,  I read dhogaza’s ‘takedown’ post as a call to *audit* Dr.  Curry’s  increasingly-referenced blogospheric output.  Where’s the harm in that? She is arguably becoming as much a ‘go to’ climate scientist as the RC folks.
     
    If such use of  ‘takedown’ directed at a scientist offends you,  be sure to shield your eyes when the ‘skeptic’  tribe start talking about what should be done to Michael Mann or Phil Jones,  over on Watts’s or Morano’s  blogs, or even Dot Earth.
     
     
     

  33. And +1 to:
     
    – Michael Tobis’ suggestion to focus *this* blog on the role of the press in moving us (or not)  beyond the ‘sterile debates’.
     
    – Kooiti Masuda’s call for more signal (moderation), less noise, on RC, where it would be lovely to discuss/interrogate the science without having to navigate through both the zombie arguments and the fire aimed at them.
     

  34. willard says:

    I disagree with MT’s #29: the press is not the ball, but the puck.

  35. anon says:

    EDIT: I’M BREAKING MY NO SNIP POLICY HERE TO SNIP PERSONAL COMMENTARY/GRIEVANCE ON RC MODERATION POLICY, WHICH I SPECIFICALLY ASKED PEOPLE NOT TO DO. BUT I WANT TO ALLOW THE REST OF THE COMMENT.//KK
     
    Keith, regarding anti-vaccine issues.  I had Guillain Barre, no one knows why.  I can say this about vaccines — not all vaccines were created equal.  Some vaccines have been recalled.  Some vaccines have been found to harbor prions.  Not all vaccines go through the same rigorous testing.
     
    Not all vaccines are the same by any stretch of the imagination.
     
    It is not unreasonable for parents to speak with their doctors concerning their children and use the special knowledge of the context of their kids and the doctors advice to determine if their kids should be vaccinated.
     
    I had some surgery at the time of novel H1N1.  I desparately wanted a vaccine, regardless of my GBS.  I could find no doctor to give me that vaccination because of CDC guidelines.
     
    My wife and I had our kids innoculated with about 80% of the vaccinations — and balked on a couple of new ones, with limited histories.
     
    It is ignorant on your part and Orac’s part to treat all vaccinations as the same, developed by the same people, with the same motivations, tested under the same regimes, and with the same histories.

  36. anon says:

    To the extent that climate scientists are using “post normal science”, to justify their science and their policy recommendations, than Chris Mooney lets climate scientists off the hook too easily.
     
    Read the blogs.  The people critiquing the climate scientists are often physicists, chemists, engineers, statisticians, very well educated people with a great deal of understanding of science, and perhaps little understanding of “post normal science”.
     
    As has been pointed out many times, many people agree about the cause AGW, but disagree about various impacts and the sorded policy recommendations — Mooney is lumping everyone into the lumpenproletariat and the ignorati.  Orac too.
     
    It makes their job easier and lessens their failings (Mooney’s esp. as communicator) and even their moral choices.

  37. anon says:

    Hmm, I have a bunch of amazingly great witty, pithy, and insightful comments stuck in the moderation queue.  (Probably because I used a variant on an anonymous email address?)

  38. Artifex says:

    MT says:
    The conversation cannot make progress until we have a press that isn’t absolutely committed to a posture of perpetual indecision.


    Sigh, I guess a free press would be detrimental to your designs. It’s funny how we embrace plurality of viewpoint and variety of belief until it’s our ox that is gored and then the press is bad for not espousing our fundamentalism firmly enough. After all, we’re right and those heretics are wrong !

    I wasn’t aware there was a monolithic press, just lots of individual voices made more diverse by the internet.  In fact, I seem to recall that many of the mainstream news sources did exactly as you were advocating and failed to publish various “climate disputes” because they were not “news”. Seems like this all came out anyway, thanks to several blogs. The press is just going to mirror, the views of society at large as long as it is free (sad as this may be to some of us).

    Maybe instead of blaming the free press, a little bit of mirror time might be in order to figure out why you are significantly less than convincing to many groups. I suspect that it’s easier to instead attribute ill motives to your opposition than actually understand why you fail to convince, but hey, we are looking for methods of changing the conversation, so maybe there is hope.

    By the way, what you call sterile debates, I call science, and yes, it does someone is always pushing the debate away from that direction.

  39. SimonH says:

    Steven Sullivan, #31 says: KK,  I read dhogaza’s “˜takedown’ post as a call to *audit* Dr.  Curry’s  increasingly-referenced blogospheric output.
     
    This would be the first time I’ve heard the oft-quoted phrase “take down” in a non-aggressive context, ever. It’s not convincing. I’m sorry but I don’t believe that interpretation can be sincere.
     
    Gavin, #25: I wholly accept that RC’s content, including its comment section, is RC’s content. It should be (and is) moderated exactly in accordance with the site’s owners preference. Whatever RC does is right for RC.
     
    Everyone has a right to reply, even if (for whichever reason) it might not be directly on the RC site. Blogs like WordPress and Blogger are free, and sites should stand and fall on their own merit. Sites like ClimateAudit.org, Wattsupwiththat.com etc. exist as such sites, borne of the desire to exercise that right to reply.
     
    In my humble opinion the discussion, away from RC, of the intricacies of the science being performed, the integrity of climate science data and the major players and their scientific endeavours, has resulted in a much greater depth of understanding across a much larger base,  directly as a result of RC’s site moderation policies.
     
    There are some (and I would have to count myself among them) that may question whether much or some of the content at RC crosses a virtual Maginot Line from science into advocacy, and of course there are those that would question whether that were even a concern or consideration, but ultimately whether or not I agree with the way RC conducts its affairs on its site, I do support its right to exist and to conduct itself as it sees fit. As things are, nobody is being denied anything.

  40. Keith Kloor says:

    Anon (37)

    My emails to you keep bouncing back. If you want to know why some of your comments are not being approved, you should use an email address I can respond to.

     

  41. Marlowe Johnson says:

    Artifex,
    I’d suggest that your notion of a ‘free press’ in the context of the MSM is about as realistic as vampires and werewolves (yes I just got sucked into wasting 2 hrs watching new moon). Just as the ‘free market’ is a theoretical construct, so too is the notion of a ‘free press’.  As I’m sure KK will be happy to point out, MSM is in the business of making money. And the way they make most of their money is through advertisers.  Would you agree that this shapes both the choice of issues that are covered and more importantly how they are covered?
    On this subject Keith, I think that you’re taking MT’s criticisms too personally, rather than viewing as an structural/institutional failing of the MSM.
    In that vein, my humble suggestion for your next post is “Manufacturing Consent and climate change: how the profit motive constrains MSM from providing a thoughtful discussion of climate policy choices” 🙂

  42. Artifex: Seems like this all came out anyway, thanks to several blogs.
     
    I wish somebody would tell me what “this all” was.
     
    I guess a free press would be detrimental to your designs. It’s funny how we embrace plurality of viewpoint and variety of belief until it’s our ox that is gored and then the press is bad for not espousing our fundamentalism firmly enough.
     
    Moynihan’s principle applies: you are entitled to your own opinion but not to your own facts. The press needs to state clearly 1) that there must be an objective fact of this matter and 2) where the scientific community currently stands on this fact. Without this, there is no practical point to science.
     
    Maybe instead of blaming the free press, a little bit of mirror time might be in order to figure out why you are significantly less than convincing to many groups. I suspect that it’s easier to instead attribute ill motives to your opposition than actually understand why you fail to convince, but hey, we are looking for methods of changing the conversation, so maybe there is hope.
     
    On this point I wholeheartedly agree. But there are very clear obstacles to improving, among which is the easy accusation that one is using public funds to play politics when one uses public funds to defend the views indicated by the balance of evidence.
     
    Keith is asking how we get off this point. Alas, he proceeds by giving advice to the people who are outside the scientific mainstream. As someone outside the mainstream on economics, I am very interested in his answer to that question.
     
    But what is his advice to us as climate scientists, given that most of us believe the public discourse has gone off the rails?
     
    And what is his advice to the press? Is the press blameless?
     

  43. willard says:

    A free press would a very good idea.

  44. willard says:

    As expressed in #36, a free press would be a very good idea.

  45. Ron Broberg says:

    Lucia comments: “I don’t do martial arts, so I have no idea what aikido principles are.”


    It is sincerity!
    First cultivate sincerity with all your heart
    So realize this truth
    The World of Reality and the World of Appearance are One

     
    By means of the way
    Call out the misguided enemy
    Advance and persuade him with words of instruction
    Through the Sword of Love
     
    To see the true things
    Harmonize the voice with shouts
    “Yah”
    Never be drawn into the rhythm of the enemy.

     
    Even the most powerful human being
    has a limited sphere of strength.
    Draw him outside of that sphere
    and into your own, and his strength will dissipate.
     
    Causing the perverted enemy to attack
    I must then stand behind his form
    And so cut the enemy down.

     
    Pour your spirit and heart
    Into daily technical training
    To approach the many through a single principle
    This is “The Way of the Fighting Man”


    “You must realize this!
    Aiki cannot be captured with the brush
    Nor can it be expressed with the mouth
    And so it is that one must proceed
    to realization”

     
    Aikido Poems from Ueshiba; days gone by
    http://www.aikidofaq.com/doka.html

  46. Ron Broberg says:

    Dr Curry says: “Compare the RC strategy to The Art of War.  Anybody see analogies?”

    Yes.
    “There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare.”

  47. Keith Kloor says:

    Anon (35):

    Sorry for any confusion but I thought it was obvious that much of my referencing to the anti-vaccine movement is with respect to the zombie meme (the supposed autism link).

    This meme is why many parents have become irrationally fearful of childhood vaccinations. It’s a terrible threat to public health, in my opinion (and a disservice to their own children). We’re losing the herd immunity effect.

    I saw some of the same irrational fears this past fall/winter when the flu season hit and there was a public campaign to get people vaccinated.

    I’m quite disturbed by this all, esp when I see otherwise smart people like comedian Bill Maher talking nonsense about vaccines on his show and I see the Huffington Post turned into a mouthpiece for the anti-vaccine movement.

  48. Keith Kloor says:

    Lucia (19):
    You would be a natural at Tai Chi or Aikido, based upon the way you parry and thrust in your blog and in dialogue.
    Michael (29) You write: The conversation cannot make progress until we have a press that isn’t absolutely committed to a posture of perpetual indecision.
    I don’t understand that. What is the press being indecisive on?
    You also write: The role of the press in stalemating progress in an area where the policy-relevant science was in place twenty years ago may turn out to be a key tragedy in human history.
    You continue to misunderstand the role of journalism. Additionally, I’d say Jon Stewart has a better handle on this stalemate thing than you.

  49. Keith, the Stewart bit is daunting and funny, but we can’t afford that kind of screwup much longer. (We may already be doomed; sometimes I think Obama is the Gorbachev of America, heart in the right place, but far too late to save the system.)
     
    The problem is that the public doesn’t have the requisite understanding, because the politicians don’t have room to deliver bad news. The politicians don’t have room to deliver bad news because the press’s window of acceptable discourse is framed by the two “sides”. So most people don’t grasp how serious the problems are.
     
    You want us to refine what we are saying, um, somehow. But it doesn’t matter at all. The public will never hear what we are saying because there is no mechanism for conveying it, no job description for people delivering bad news. Bad news like “there are no low-risk scenarios for the next two centuries, but we’d better line up behind something and make it work”.
     
    If it should not be the role of journalism to convey the real scope of the challenges we face (stipulate for the sake of argument that there are some:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o41WgM4f5uI )
    whose is it?
     
    As for stalemates, never forget that there are powerful forces that benefit from stalemate. Individuals may be aligned with them out of good faith, but the whole structure of argumentation has gradually emerged as a cynical communication strategy over the past half century.
     
    See http://is.gd/d8sqq wherein the tree lobsters demonstrate the key techniques.
     

  50. TomFP says:

    As someone who received both Salk and Saben vaccines as a child, yet managed to catch polio at the age of 25, I keep an open mind on the matter of vaccination.
    As someone receiving treatment for helicobacter pylori, I am the beneficiary of the tenacity of a scientist who was all but universally derided for his rejection of the prevailing consensus, but ended up with a Nobel Prize when he succeeded in doing so. As such, scientific “consensus” inspires at least as much suspicion in me as it does confidence.
    The distrust of the public is not of science in general, but of certain key fields where it informs policy decisions of great social and economic moment. Prominent among these is climate “science”, and not least as a result of the release of the CRU emails.
    The key offence they reveal is the subversion of the peer-review (or “cheer”-review, as we denialists would have it) process, and the habit this allowed the Hockey Team to acquire, of persistently and wilfully neglecting the null hypothesis. Here’s some of what Michael Kelly, of the Oxbrough Committee, wrote about the (carefully selected) papers he was given to read:
    “(i) I take real exception to having simulation runs described as experiments (without at least the qualification of ‘computer’ experiments). It does a disservice to centuries of real experimentation and allows simulations output to be considered as real data. This last is a very serious matter, as it can lead to the idea that real ‘real data’ might be wrong simply because it disagrees with the models!* That is turning centuries of science on its head.”
    * *cf Trenberth “…the data are surely wrong.”
    He has much else to say, but concludes with:
    “My overall sympathy is with Ernest Rutherford: “If your experiment needs statistics, you ought to have done a better experiment.””
    I leave it to readers to reconcile as best they can the Oxburgh Report as published, with Kelly’s contribution to it.
    You can find his entire text, courtesy of Andrew Montford, here
    http://bishophill.squarespace.com/storage/kelly%20paper.pdf

  51. mondo says:

    Gavin’s comments are interesting, leaving aside that he apparently cannot appreciate the difference between principles and principals.

    There is a site – rcrejects.wordpress.com – that has been collecting posts rejects at RC over the past 18 months or so.   It gives a rather clear picture of RC moderation policies and suggests (at least to me) that RC moderation is designed to advance their political agenda rather than the cause of science.

  52. Kooiti Masuda says:

    Please be skeptic.  Please be skeptic to propagation of such unsubstantiated rumors as “Global warming is hoax”.
     

  53. Judith Curry says:

    Michael Tobis,  you mention the “facts” in your posts numerous times.
     

    Science is a process, not a collection of facts. The public and politicians seek certainties and facts, while scientists offer probabilities, uncertainties and caveats. No scientific theory is ever considered strictly certain, and scientists use theory to make predictions with high probability, but the most likely event does not always happen.

    In the AGW science, even accepting the IPCC reports as the best possible current assessment of the science, the appellations “likely” and “very likely”, associated with with >66% and >90% confidence, leave plenty of room for uncertainty. And then there are a significant number of scientists (e.g. me) who think these confidence levels are too high.

    So in terms of “facts”, things that are absolutely not going to be refuted in some way, well we are left with CO2 increasing in the atmosphere, and CO2 contributing to increased IR fluxes that will warm the surface. The rest of the arguments are theories or hypotheses.

    Because of the conflation of policy and science on the topic of AGW, there is much motivation for those that do not like the prescriptive policies coming from the pro-AGW work, to take potshots at the theories and hypotheses, which should continue to be challenged in any event. The MSM reflects all this. And frankly I personally think that the role of the MSM in all this isn’t that important in influencing policy on this topic (would be interested others perception on this). In any event, it seemed to me that the MSM pretty much rolled over after publication of the IPCC AR4, but became feisty after climategate broke.

  54. Barry Woods says:

    53#

    Not a hoax, that implies intent, a better word and explantion of CAGW (not aGW) might be:

    Man Made Global Warming ‘delusion’
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extraordinary_Popular_Delusions_and_the_Madness_of_Crowds

  55. Barry Woods says:

    My post above refers, to 52# sorry

  56. willard says:

    The thread begins to sound like every other ones.  And in every other thread where we start to talk about AGW and blogs, we end up talking about RC’s moderation policy, while we get snipers sniping links demonstrating the falsity and the stupidity of AGW or to explain it away as a crowd effect.  I have seen this up-to-date reference to (Mackay, 1841)  at least a hundred times by now.
     
    As usual, I agree with Kooiti Masuda, notwithstanding the fact that I would suggest being even more strict on who posts.  Too much flames, too much piling on, too much comments too.  Impossible to read.  But eh, I am biased, I always get snipped at RC.
     
    Here is a comment that got snipped in RC:
    http://bit.ly/b8cf00
    Don’t worry, it leads to Roger Junior’s site.  Here it is in its entirety:
     
    <blockquote>
    A response to Gavin at RC, reposted here … you know why 😉

    —–

    Gavin (#18)

    Thanks kindly for your response. A few replies.

    First, you write, “Whatever flaws or ambiguities exist in the paper, the use of the letters as source materials for any comparison cannot purely be a test of agreement with the IPCC (as we stated above – you could agree with every word in the IPCC report and still not want to do anything about emissions), but must be a test of someone’s opinion about what to do about it. . . Thus the only way in my mind to interpret a comparison of signers is a categorization by policy direction, not understanding or agreement on the science. Perhaps the authors of the PNAS paper would disagree, but that is up to them. Do not confuse something they may or may not have said with what I and Eric have said.”

    You do realize I hope that with these statements you have completely undercut the entire methodology of the PNAS paper? I had thought that this post was about that paper. If it is about something else, then indeed I am confused. I have characterized the paper as an inkblot, and perhaps that is what we see here.

    2. Thank’s for the lecture of the definition of “politics” — I will share with my colleagues in political science 😉

    3. But lets take your spin on the paper rather than the authors’and let me ask a follow up question — To be clear, do you really think that a 1992 statement on “immediate action” is relevant to discerning someone’s views on action in 2010? Really?
    </blockquote>
     
    This comment shows a real willingness to discuss issues, isn’t it?

  57. Banjoman0 says:

    #46
     
    I’m not sure I see the relation between RC and The Art Of War, unless you want to see how they violate almost all the principles Sun Ze set forth, like “know your enemy…”, “know your terrain…”, and of course your comment.
    Also, there is usually no contradiction between Tai Chi/Aikido and The Art Of War.
     

  58. Lady in Red says:

    <!– @page { margin: 0.79in } P { margin-bottom: 0.08in } –>
    None of this “conversation” is going to get any better until The Community eschews secrecy and stops acting like patronizing gods. It is amazing how much a bit of openness could do. As long as I have the sense that something is being hidden, I will distrust.
     
    I think about how much fun it would be to spend an evening with Judith Curry and Richard Lindzen or Michael Mann and Gavin Schmidt and, frankly, I don’t have to think long. The Community doesn’t seem to contain many interesting minds, thinkers. It seems to be peopled with a lot of folk like Hans the Horse, one trick over and over and over. And, that’s all.
     
    It is interesting to me that no one in The Community is in any way concerned about the HARRY_READ_ME work, saying, in effect, “Ooohmagosh! That work must be checked, verified, looked at again.” No. Yawn. What is going to convince the skeptics is real science, open and independently verified.
     
    Instead there is just repeated attempts to justify old, poorly done work.  That gets stale, quickly.  …..Lady in Red

  59. Judith Curry: Science is a process, not a collection of facts.

     
    Is that a fact?
     
    In a way it’s a cheap shot, but I’m being serious. The crucial facts of the matter are the balance of informed opinion, not the output of the science viewed as in some sense “proven”. Those facts, contingent and uncertain as they are, indicate that policy is long overdue.
     
    Uncertainty, viewed as a fact and properly construed, justifies stronger and more urgent policy response, not weaker. (Bias, depending on the general direction of the bias, is another matter.)
     
    Also, I find your use of the expressions “climategate” and “pro-AGW”, both bits of political jargon common among the people most eager to politicize the science, contradict your expressed distaste for politicization of science.
     
    Of course, it’s a complex system and our predictions of it are contingent and probably in some way wrong. (One trouble is that underestimates of the sensitivity are *at least* as likely as overestimated. Nobody seems to stress that aspect very much.)
     
    Challenges, though, need to come from people willing to put in the effort to understand what is already understood. You and I know that is nontrivial; most of the general public and the critics have no way of knowing that. We need to seek out and respond to genuine curiosity in the public, but we should beware of the ulterior motives that obviously exist.
     
    The general public isn’t aware of the rules of the game, and what’s more, the people who show up on these public discussions have a very wide range of skills, motivations and biases. It doesn’t work to treat these conversations in the same way as one would an exchange of ideas in the faculty lounge. The consequence of taking these conversations at face value is infinite delay on policy.
     
    If you want to advocate a delay on policy, go ahead and do so explicitly. Indulging the posture of “open-mindedness and concern” etc. (sincere in some cases and not in others) as a precursor for policy discussions on the other hand simply rewards those who are arguing science as a proxy for delaying a sound strategy.
     
    The instant you engage the public, especially the more hostile elements of the public, on what they think or want others to think “the science” is you are in an explicitly political sphere.  Please do not pretend or encourage pretenses to the contrary.
     

  60. lucia says:

    MT
    The instant you engage the public, especially the more hostile elements of the public, on what they think or want others to think “the science” is you are in an explicitly political sphere.  Please do not pretend or encourage pretenses to the contrary.
    Of course.  Can I assume you are writing this to remind yourself, people on your blogroll and those who listen to you that some of you should stop making such pretenses?

  61. Banjoman0 says:

    MT#59
    Uncertainty, viewed as a fact and properly construed, justifies stronger and more urgent policy response, not weaker. (Bias, depending on the general direction of the bias, is another matter.)
    I, for one, am uncertain how to properly construe the fact of uncertainty to justify a stronger and more urgent policy response.  I’m guessing that bias thing has something to do with it.

  62. Judith Curry says:

    Michael, you state that you refer to the “fact” of balance of informed opinion.  Few would refer to this as a fact; rather they would refer to it as, well “balance of  informed opinion.”
     
    My expositions on too much confidence, inadequate uncertainty, etc.  in the science as reported by the IPCC  is mistakenly taken as a call to delay policy action.  This is not correct at all.  We have had this conversation a number of times, here again is my argument.  There is a whole field of science called “decision making under uncertainty.”  Individuals, governments, and companies do it all the time.  Uncertainty cuts two ways:  the outcome could be better or worse than the consensus opinion.  The issue is linking climate science to what many believe is a flawed policy (e.g. carbon cap and trade in the context of UN protocols; the people thinking this is a flawed policy includes Jim Hansen.)   If the main policy option that people were discussing was something like this, then there would be little controversy.
     
    This attitude of overhyping the science (by stating that opinions are facts) to support a flawed policy option is to the detriment of both the science and policy.  Lets broaden the policy options, assess their cost/loss in the context of the range of possible climate scenarios.  Then we have a basis for making a reasoned policy choice that accounts for a range of values and is politically viable.   The overhyping of the climate science plays into the hands of political skeptics who are saying, well, the climate scientists are overhyping the science, and so therefore we can’t trust them.
     
    So exactly what policy do you want and why?  And if your answer is that you want carbon cap and trade or one of its variants because this follows logically from the science, then I will say you don’t know anything about the policy or political process.

  63. Judith Curry says:

    Tom Fuller has an interesting essay.

  64. anon says:

    Keith, the vaccine stuff is complex, and I think you (Orac, et. al.) do it, yourself, your reader an injustice by lumping it all as the anti-vaccine movement, or actually narrowing that term to somehow mean just the zombie autism stuff.
     
    Each vaccine is its own medicine, was developed differently, on different evidence, by different scientists, for different reasons, and taken to market to address different problems.  Some vaccines have been recalled.  (Why would that be if all vaccines were safe, if all vaccines were fundamentally the same, if all vaccines were opposed by “deniers”)
     
    I rely on the herd effect, but it would only be in extreme cases that I would say the herd effect gives ANY justification for making any vaccine mandatory.
     
    The classic reasons for making vaccines mandatory were: a) pose an immediate grave threat to the individual (meningitis), a risk to pregnant women and their fetuses (rubella).  But that gets watered down and watered down with oh noes about the herd effect in general.
     
    As one example, consider Gardasil, and specifically Gardasil, not just any vaccine against HIV.  It attempts to cure a disease that will not effect women for 20-40 years after the vaccination.  According to all sorts of people, including the woman in charge of its testing, it has not been adequately tested for long term effects, much less long term efficacy.  According to other doctors, the best treatment still is early detection via Pap smear.
     
    I won’t say the same is true today, but at the time it came out, it was quite reasonable for parents and others to question whether their kids should get it.  And yet, for political reasons (feminism) and monetary reasons (Governor Perry’s re-election and campaign fund), it was pushed on people who were, just as in the AGW debate, told they were deniers, and Christian Fundamentalists, and oh noes! Herd Effect!
     
    Consider Gardasil, research it’s testing, and how it cannot be tested on the young population they give it to, and consider what better vaccine and/or treatments may come along in the intervening 10-20-40 years.  And that’s not a cop-out or a denial or a terrible delay.
     
    A year ago, I had a very serious operation I knew I needed for 25 years. A year go, that operation had about a 95% chance of success, and I was on my feet within two days.  Not so had I had that operation 25 years previously.  Medicine advances, quickly, with research, and sometime the appropriate action IS to delay, wait and see.
     
    But you can only do that if you use science and resist the shaming and scare mongering of what, the “post normals” and the agenda driven?

  65. Banjoman0 says:

    JC#62
    So exactly what policy do you want and why?  And if your answer is that you want carbon cap and trade or one of its variants because this follows logically from the science, then I will say you don’t know anything about the policy or political process.
    Not to mention how these truly interact (intersect?) with science.
    You know, it isn’t like I’m saying “do nothing.”  I’m all for developing alternative energy, conservation, etc., even regulations that make some sense.  I just don’t see how the “science” “justifies” certain policy prescriptions.  If the people of South Africa decide they need 4 GW of electricity, who are we to tell them they can’t have it?  Or force them into an alternative of how-many-acres of unreliable windmills and solar panels as an alternative?

  66. Lucia; that wasn’t my purpose, but I have no objection, as long as my meaning is represented fairly.
     
    Judith; in and of itself I think the Waxman-Markey approach was a bad idea.
     
    (Whether it was or wasn’t better than nothing last year was a realpolitik question; it would probably have negative net benefit except for allowing Obama to arrive at Copenhagen with some evidence that the US was capable of taking some action. Even with that benefit the case isn’t clear to me.)
     
    Richter’s position seems quite sound at first glance. I don’t agree that it (or anything) would be easy to enact if Obama got behind it. In the current political configuration it seems that much of the opposition simply wants Obama to fail more than it wants the country or the world to succeed.
     
    I’m happy to pursue policy discussions further, but I don’t see your acknowledgment that your engagement with the naysayers has far greater political consequences than it does scientific. That you seem unaware of it has been my main concern with your recent approach, and I daresay that of others as well.
     

  67. anon says:

    “Uncertainty, viewed as a fact and properly construed, justifies stronger and more urgent policy response, not weaker. (Bias, depending on the general direction of the bias, is another matter.)”

    Can you describe what properly construe means operationally?

    At various times, I’ve heard uncertainty can be gotten a handle on through the use of various ways of determining effective probability of an event, multiplied by cost of that event.  That can be difficult in the realm of small and big numbers (P(killer comet hitting earth) * Cost(killer comet hitting earth)), but can potentially be addressed by examining probability distributions, monte carlo simulations, options theory, and I guess, “post normal” science (which my ignorance tells me is very susceptible to political agendas and scare mongering.)

    In that sense though, uncertainty can mean, buy an option and wait and see.

  68. Judith Curry says:

    Michael, exactly what have the political consequences been of my engagement with naysayers?  The loss of trust after climategate and the other IPCC blunders has been colossal.  My approach to rebuilding trust is engagement with skeptics and to try to convince scientists and the institutions that support them to be more transparent and do a better job of characterizing uncertainty.  You seem to be suggesting continued wagon circling.   IMO, the wagon circling precipitated the loss of trust.  Time to try something else.

  69. anon says:

    “As one example, consider Gardasil, and specifically Gardasil, not just any vaccine against HIV.”

    Against HPV, as I fix that for me, but all you folks knew that and weren’t going to hold a small mistake made before coffee against me, right?

  70. lucia says:

    MT–
    Lucia; that wasn’t my purpose, but I have no objection, as long as my meaning is represented fairly.

    I asked because I seem to recall that back when your planet google groups list was readable by the public, some of your members including I believe Arthur Smith were very upset by <a href=”http://rankexploits.com/musings/2010/how-to-respond-to-an-invitation-to-debate/”>this post</a> where I observed,

    The balance of evidence does suggest Ms. Simac is politically motivated, but so is Michael Tobis’s group.

    and also called the Union of Concerned Scientists  a political group. 

    At my blog, Arthur posted this:

    Off the main topic, but Lucia, here you claim that Tobis’ organization and UCS are “political” organizations. What is your definition of “political” that justifies such a claim?

    Yet, if the following, which you posted above is correct,
    The instant you engage the public, especially the more hostile elements of the public, on what they think or want others to think “the science” is you are in an explicitly political sphere.  Please do not pretend or encourage pretenses to the contrary.
    the UCS and your group both certainly are political.
    I wish I could refresh my mind by checking the conversation at plante3.0 where I believe Arthur went on and on about this. I don’t seem to recall anyone at your googlegroup suggesting that they are political and that one should not pretend otherwise. Of course, as I noted, I can’t check and I may be mistaken.
     
     


  71. Ken says:

    Michael, my opinion of AGW was that it is nothing but junk science from the very beginning. I won’t go into the reasons for this, but that has been my opinion.

    When Judith started going to different blogs and posting it started a rethink of my position. I first saw her posting on WUWT. She received alot of negative feedback, because many of the commenters felt that she was not going to be genuine in her attempt to listen to them. I think she has managed to be very honest with as many people as she can and this is gaining her credibility. Skeptics are willing to listen to what she has to say without the automatic responses to an authoritarian kicking in. I would say her approach has been awesome and I hope she can continue in this manner.

    I have a huge problem with your attempted use of  “Peer pressure”.

    “That you seem unaware of it has been my main concern with your recent approach, and I daresay that of others as well.”

    How is this beneficial to anyone?

    Thank you for your effort Judith, I am listening and maybe finally learning.

  72. Kloor,
    I would not listen to anyone who starts comparing vaccines to global warming.

    Anthropogenic warming requires a series of factors to act in concert, to produce a sequence of changes. Some, of these changes in the end may be ‘harmful’ to humans. There is a slow-evolving cause-to-effect continuum acting apparently over decades, if not centuries.

    Infectious diseases, which we vaccinate against, similarly involve a number of factors acting together over a period of time. However, if left unvaccinated, there would be epidemics with people dying or being affected in large numbers, the timescales of seeing such effects would be in weeks, months or maybe decades – well within individual lifetimes. Secondly, the fundamental epidemiologic unit, the individual either has disease or doesn’t – that is a dichotomous variable.

    Neither of these are satisfied in anthropogenic global change. 

    Why persist in these futile analogies that cause confusion?

    It is obvious why. It is because modern medicine has *demonstrated* societal benefits due to vaccines. To an extent that those who point out their obvious drawbacks (anon) can be casually labelled ‘deniers’ and ‘anti-science’. The AGW proponents want to join on that side of the debate that labels its opponents without having contributed any positive benefit to society at large.

  73. Phil Clarke says:

    Willard: <i>” Here is a comment that got snipped in RC”</i>
    Really? http://www.realclimate.org/?comments_popup=4284#comment-178816
    Got any more like that 😉
    I know our host does not want a digression in to RC moderation, so I just note that the site set up to collect all those killer arguments the Team run away from is not exactly er, high-traffic.
    http://rcrejects.wordpress.com/2010/03/22/post-your-rejected-posts-here-4

    Nothing new for over three months now.

  74. cagw_skeptic99 says:

    Michael Tobis: “We need to seek out and respond to genuine curiosity in the public, but we should beware of the ulterior motives that obviously exist.”
     
    As long as you and the people you hang with continue to base your thought processes regarding these communications on your belief in ulterior motives of the people on these blogs, there will be little or no contribution by that group to the progress that Judith is seeking, IMO.
     
    I am one who attributes ulterior motives to your group for this simple reason: if you have no ulterior motives then why do you continue hiding the data/methods/program logic and why do you support those who do so?  Now maybe you personally are not one of those who prevent others from testing your work by replicating it, but clearly you are part of the belief set that has done so and doesn’t stop members from doing so.
     
    The ulterior motives thing works both ways.  For some decades I have watched true believers on the environmentalist side engage in destructive behavior because their ends justify their means.  I am reflexively suspicious of anyone out to save the world because experience has taught me that they cannot and should not be trusted.
     
    You seem to want the public to support your desired policy goals.  So far what your side has been doing is accomplishing the opposite of what you say you want.  Time to circle the wagons and do more of the same?

  75. willard says:

    Thank you, Phil, for your kind correction in #73.  Perhaps Roger Junior will edit accordingly?

  76. Judith Curry says:

    Shub, I agree that the AGW-vaccine analogy isn’t a good one.  One can argue that there is a coherent group of ideologues opposed to AGW.  But what is the ideology of those opposed to vaccines,  concerned parenthood?

  77. Keith is it not instructive that no one here wants to talk about the soft path?  Which I’ll define as something we can all agree on that most of the actions/policies needed to reduce emissions ought to be done regardless of AGW to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, improve energy security, reduces air pollution, create new jobs etc, etc”¦.

    But why isn’t it happening on the scale that’s needed? And why do we let our govts give billions in taxpayer dollars to subsidize the world’s richest corporations?
     
    Wouldn’t it be more productive and pragmatic to discuss this and the solutions?
     
    Sadly it won’t happen. It is not just because it is easier to criticize but folks are so psychologically vested in their positions in “the debate” they can’t let go. I’ve done some recent interviews with psychologists about this and they say we are ill equipped psychologically to deal with anything like this and “flee the evidence” because, among other things, it challenges the deeply embedded myth of progress.

    My response is to flee this site.

  78. Dan Ferber says:

    Great post, Keith. As a journalist who writes about climate change and a t’ai chi aficionado, I agree with your premise, and think that the metaphor goes even deeper. To neutralize hard force during t’ai chi push hands practice, we’re taught to “listen” and “follow” our opponent–something that simply can’t be done when we’re puffed up with ego and driven entirely by our own agenda. When that happens, we get off balance, and sometimes we fall on our face. We’re also taught to never give up our physical center or lose our cool. The analogy, in my mind at least: listen to constructive criticism from your opponent, keep cool, don’t make it personal, but hold to the scientific truth, as best as it can be determined. A recipe for progress, perhaps?

  79. Keith Kloor says:

    Dan (78), thanks for weighing in. I actually had you in mind as I was writing the post. (Dan is a contributing correspondent to Science, an an old colleague,  a helluva science journalist, and a long-time student and teacher of tai chi–he even spells it correctly.)

    Dan is also wrapping up a book he’s co-authored on the health impacts of climate change, which is due out spring 2011, by University of California Press. Congrats on that!

  80. Judith:  “ The loss of trust after climategate and the other IPCC blunders has been colossal.”
     
    The naysayers are maintaining the same posture they have for twenty years. They had no “trust” to lose. The press has given them a boost of publicity and public support for policy has been weakened, especially in the UK.  So there seems to have been some loss of confidence among the less engaged members of the public. For this I fault the press.
     
    I don’t see anything colossal other than the extent to which these issues have been exaggerated. The correct approach to these matters in particular is to examine how they have been reported, given that the issues are so marginal.
     
    My approach to rebuilding trust is engagement with skeptics and to try to convince scientists and the institutions that support them to be more transparent and do a better job of characterizing uncertainty.

     
    More openness, more repeatability and more transparency are goals I totally support. I don’t fully understand your concern about uncertainty; my experience is that overconfidence does not arise from scientific practitioners.
     
    That said I have been engaging with them for 20 years. You will not succeed in “rebuilding” a trust that was lacking by definition.
     
    You seem to be suggesting continued wagon circling.
     
    I don’t really agree that the failures of the field in engaging with outsiders were much larger than the unfair institutional environment dictates. The perception is unavoidable, given that some of the outsiders obviously prefer a perceived failure and that the press is willing to oblige any hint of controversy.
     
    What I am suggesting is that, in engaging with the naysayers, you make an effort to reiterate that these issues do not change the fact that time is of the essence, and that the risks and expenses associated with climate change continue to mount while we debate minutiae about tree rings.
     
    There have been some benefits from what you and Zeke Hausfather have been doing of late.  I hope this continues. I and others can learn from it. On the other hand, if there isn’t explicit and regular repetition that these debates do not logically support a delay of policy, it’s hard to see the outreach as meaningful.
     

  81. Tom Fuller says:

    I would be willing to list policy and process that I think we can move forward on with or without agreeing to every element of the debate. In fact, I think I have done so several times.

  82. cagw_skeptic99 says:

    Stephen,
     
    Your post was addressed to Keith, but I have an opinion.  For years I have believed that the US made a huge strategic error by halting new nuclear energy installations some thirty years ago.  Nuclear is the one practical method of replacing coal fired power plants with something that doesn’t pollute.  Why have we not gone this down path like the French did? Largely because environmentalists oppose.
     
    Now we have CAGW folks who also claim to be environmentalists opposing activities like coal fired power plants that emit CO2.  But where is the support for nuclear power that would actually make a difference?  Instead we get support for solar and wind power that is unlikely to make even 1/10 difference in the foreseeable future.
     
    As long as the people wanting change oppose the most likely sources of positive change, it seems that policy consensus isn’t likely.

  83. On policy, the “environmentalist” position is that renewables suffice, and that neither large scale carbon sequestration nor nuclear power is necessary to get to a zero net emission scenario.
     
    I would love to see serious discussion of this proposition. For myself, I am inclined against the idea, but not decisively. I am inclined to think that nuclear power will be what we end up doing, so we might as well get going. I’d like to see this discussion get quantitative.
     
     

  84. Ron Broberg says:

    Tom, over at Bart’s, you said”I, like everyone else who uses the term, refer to those who believe the effects of global warming will be dramatically worse than predicted by the IPCC reports

    Seeing as to how they are not part of the CAGW-tribal-lit, would you agree that the IPCC assessment is a place from which “we can move forward on with or without agreeing to every element of the debate”

  85. Keith Kloor says:

    Stephen (77):

    Before you flee:

    You can’t have it both ways. You can’t on the one hand, continue to play up impacts from climate change (such as you did by citing such dubious figures from that Global Humanitarian Forum report that made worldwide headlines , and then on the other hand, say, why can’t we just talk about the need to reduce emissions for reasons not related to AGW.

    The whole reason why we are having these debates is because people such as yourself insist on using the scariest scenarios/supposed impacts happening right now as the main reason for getting off fossil fuels.

    So make up your mind. You want to talk about energy policy, I’m all for it. But I also noticed you were one of merely six commenters on this policy-related post, in which you felt compelled to defend the relevance and importance of climate change in the policy discourse.

  86. cagw_skeptic99 says:

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/2010/06/28/the-tao-of-climate-science/#comment-9584
     
    Michael Tobin: “On policy, the “environmentalist” position is that renewables suffice”
     
    To me, this is just one of those mysterious environmentalist statements that has never come close to making sense.  If renewables are wind, solar, and bio fuels, then these might suffice someday when major technical advances occur that will allow wind/solar to be stored efficiently, or will allow bio to be used to produce fuel directly from cellulose or algae or something besides corn, in ways that have not happened yet.
     
    The European efforts claim very little in the way of ‘saved’ carbon from several years of work and billions of dollars of expense because the spinning backup power costs almost as much as the gain from wind.
     
    It reminds me of the big push to recycle newsprint.  After people carefully separated their papers and put them at the curb, and the trucks carefully segregated the newspapers and hauled them to the waste station, the station managers quietly buried or burned the newsprint because supply exceeded demand by an order of magnitude.  Environmentalists seemed to be happy because the public was now aware and was motivated to act in ways that are now described as green.
     
    Do you have a quantitative example from any public utility anywhere (even one) that documents anything happening other than what I would call ‘feels good’ renewable power generation?  Billions are being spent on windmills that are ongoing environmental disasters, but that is ok, even when next to zero net electricity is generated, because it makes everyone feel good.
     

  87. lucia says:

    MT
    and that neither large scale carbon sequestration nor nuclear power is necessary to get to a zero net emission scenario.
    Well, that’s an interesting way for them to frame it. Solar and wind are also not necessary. We could probably go nuke in a major way,  skip the solar and wind and get pretty darn far toward reducing our fossil fuel use.
     
    It seems to me that even if it is hypothetically possible to eventually get all conceivable energy needs from wind and solar, we could reduce fossil fuel use much more quickly and effectively building nuclear base load than not building nuclear baseload.   From an engineering stand point, nuclear suits some sites where solar or wind aren’t suitable.
    From a political view, we could have buy in from many people who would otherwise be reluctant to give up fossil fired baseload based on some people’s guess that nuclear won’t be necessary.
    Movement forward would be much easier by adding the word “nuclear” when discussing alternative to fossil fuels.  But the “N” word is often avoided.

  88. Keith Kloor says:

    Here’s an interesting post over at the NYT on the “uncertainty” theme running through this thread.

  89. GaryM says:

    Michael Tobis writes: ” sometimes I think Obama is the Gorbachev of America, heart in the right place, but far too late to save the system.”  Since the “system” Gorbachev was trying to save was the communist/socialist system of the USSR, how should we take that?   Glasnost and perestroika were expressly intended to maintain the exclusive control of the communist party over the country politically, and to modify socialism only enough to keep it from complete collapse.
     
    When it comes to climate policy, Thomas Friedman of the New York Times waxes eloquent  over the wonders of autocracy in China; and here we have regrets that we got our American Gorbachev too late.   Maybe it should be no surprise then that so many global warming enthusiasts have little patience for the objections of those outside the “elite.”  They shouldn’t have a say anyway.

  90. Keith Kloor says:

    GaryM (89):

    I don’t think Michael Tobis meant what you’re implying. But I am in agreement with your take on Friedman’s enchantment with China.

     

  91. Dr Curry,
    Vaccines have been around for quite some time now. As a public health measure, when they were popularized (Ed Jenner’s inoculation campaigns for example), the balance of good opinion and rational fear (it was rational then – no one knew their effects) was skewed greatly towards fear. It was fear of the unknown, so to speak.

    Today, with the wealth of epidemiologic and observational data available, the vast majority of people have trust in vaccines, the skew is to the opposite side (and rightly so), but so is awareness of the myriad ill effects of vaccines – some proven and many others tentative. There is a fear of the known now.

    Vaccines have a wide range of unwanted effects of all kinds and when something goes wrong, simple word-of-mouth is more than enough to put a chill on others (those affected severely will complain bitterly). Without invoking any sort of ideology, this mechanism alone is enough to explain to our dear public health experts not to expect anywhere close to 100% vaccination rates.

    There are other mechanisms at work too, but if our armchair psychologists step in at this point and declare such new parents as being ‘deniers’, they are only contributing to the problem, and I am afraid this is happening quite a bit.

  92. Yeah, I pretty much predicted somebody would read that backwards.
     
    As far as I am concerned Obama is a defender of the system trying to modify corporate capitalism enough to save it from collapse under its own stresses and contradictions. Obama is a member of the law faculty of the University of Chicago and somewhat under the sway of its economists. How people take him to be a socialist is off topic. Remember that Mrs. Clinton ran to Obama’s left, and the Clinton administration was very much a cerature of the corporate sector.
     
    Of course, the first Bush did not leave Clinton as big an economic and geopolitical disaster area as his son left Obama. But you have to blame Bush for the interventions in the financial market.
     

  93. JohnB says:

    MT.

    “How people take him to be a socialist is off topic.”

    Simple, he supports Universal Health Care, therefore he is a socialist. I’m politically right wing, an Australian and I support UHC. Therefore I am a right wing socialist. 🙂

    Ain’t two value logic wunnerful?

  94. GaryM says:

    Michael Tobis,
     
    I originally sent this in an email to Keith regarding my post, and his reply.   Given your latest, I think I should post it here, to clarify my meaning.
     
    Keith, 
    I don’t know any other way to take Michael Tobis’ comment that Gorbachev “had his heart in the right place.”  I recognize that the implied meaning of the comparison was just a quip – that Obama may be “too late” to save the climate (rather than a political system like Gorbachev), and I did not intend to suggest otherwise. But it was Tobis’ apparent fondness for Gorbachev and his motives that I found more revealing.  I know it was a throw away comment, but those are often the most revealing.  Freudian slips and all that. I did not fully deconstruct the post for the sake of brevity.  .

    I was also trying to make a general point without necessarily challenging Tobis directly, which a more detailed post would have done.  Reading the various blogs, including in particular Real Climate, there is a common theme in the frustration of many of the “climate community” in having to explain things to people who should just shut up and take what their betters know is best for them.
     
    For example, there was a series of comments at Real Climate recently about how the “average” IQ is 100, and “scientists” in general? (it wasn’t specified) have IQs of 145.  Forgetting the many other problems with such a line of thought, the disdain for the “common man” shown in those threads is all too common. I think a lot of the open warfare in the climate debate, and the comments sections of the blogs in particular, comes from this attitude.  Those who disdain their perceived inferiors vs. those who object to being seen as, and even called, inferior.
     
    Elitism is a concept not surprisingly more favored by those who consider themselves among the elite (whether based on IQ or otherwise).  It shouldn’t be a surprise then when an elitist favors the type of system, socialism or some variation thereof, that centralizes power in the elite. That is where Friedman is coming from.  And I believe Tobis’ comment re Gorbachev inadvertently, but clearly, showed the same mindset.  That was the import of my post, however ineffectively I conveyed it.
    Gary.
    Michael, Your latest post makes  my point rather more directly.

  95. Steve Fitzpatrick says:

    Michael Tobis #92,
    “As far as I am concerned Obama is a defender of the system trying to modify corporate capitalism enough to save it from collapse under its own stresses and contradictions.”
     
    Thanks for this perspective; I can now understand your thinking on a number of subjects that previously made no sense to me.

  96. anon says:

    There are other mechanisms at work too, but if our armchair psychologists step in at this point and declare such new parents as being “˜deniers’, they are only contributing to the problem, and I am afraid this is happening quite a bit.
     
    I agree with this, and this to me is how vaccines ARE like global warming.  Instead of having a dialog with citizens, and outreach to citizens and educate citizens, we instead get calls to make more and more vaccines mandatory because we dislike listening and dealing with citizens and we all know that the scientists and the bureaucrats and the agenda lobbyists have only society’s best interests in mind. And it’s all to easy to demonize people who disagree.  But as with global warming the demonization is worse for everyone than the disease.

  97. My apologies for the off-topic blurt. People wanting to take up the Obama/Gorbachev thing are welcome to do so on my blog. Let’s not burden Keith with it. My bad.

  98. Dan Ferber says:

    Keith (79), thanks for the kind words, and I appreciate the mention of Changing Planet, Changing Health, the upcoming book I coauthored with Dr. Paul Epstein of Harvard Medical School. Looking forward to visiting here again–you have a lot of smart folk hanging around, for good reason.

  99. Keith Kloor says:

    Anon (96), you continue to conflate the larger (and well-organized)   anti-vaccine movement (prompted by parental fears over an unfounded link between autism and the MMR) and the legitimate concerns of of individual vaccine-related side effects.

    Your logic is troubling. Statistically, a tiny percentage of people have adverse reactions to the annual flu shot (and some people die from it, due to a confluence of other health-related issues). So does this mean it’s okay for public figures to advocate against getting it, which is what Bill Maher did last year on his show?

    My larger point about this is not to slouch off legitimate concerns about big Pharma and not to say that parents shouldn’t do due diligence on the vaccine issue. It’s to say that a very powerful and irrational fear has gripped parents about the MMR, which over the years has morphed into a very powerful and irrational fear about all childhood vaccines. Among the best articles I’ve seen on this phenomena of late is this Wired magazine story.

    And anyone who has closely followed this issue knows that it was a controversial study in a highly reputed journal that gave serious legs to this fear. And even though that journal recently retracted the study and the lead author (and primary vaccine/autism fear merchant has lost his medical license), the damage is done, as this March 2010 PBS story notes at the outset:

    The Lancet medical journal fully retracted a 1998 paper Tuesday that first suggested a link between the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism, formally discrediting a key piece of research in the public debate over the vaccine’s safety for children.

    Multiple studies in the past decade and a review of research on the topic in 2004 by the Institute of Medicine found no scientific evidence the vaccine causes autism in children, but concerns have persisted among consumers and broadened to other vaccines as well.

  100. anon says:

    Anon (96), you continue to conflate the larger (and well-organized)   anti-vaccine movement (prompted by parental fears over an unfounded link between autism and the MMR) and the legitimate concerns of of individual vaccine-related side effects.

    My larger point about this is not to slouch off legitimate concerns about big Pharma and not to say that parents shouldn’t do due diligence on the vaccine issue


    Can you show there is some “well-organized” anti-vaccine movement?  What I see are a handful of websites fronting very small organizations, most of which discuss all vaccines and their side effects, and discuss things like informed consent and the various ways in which actual real life well organized groups of doctors etc. try to remove informed consent and mandate more vaccines for everyone.

    Sigh, 4 hours sleep and a long day — hope you’ll forgive my jumbled unsorted thoughts tonight.

    Anyway, when you say, “well-organized” I hear the same scare tactics as the warmists railing against the well-organized coolists (?).  Everyone’s opponent is always well-organized — the easiest way to determine this is if their website is not hosted on geocities. But here, I don’t see why parents, mostly, would have any monetary incentive to organize against vaccines.  Are they funded by Big Tobacco?  Big Oil?  The money incentive here is definitely on Big Pharma — And just look at Governor Perry and Gardasil to see how that played out.  Look again at Gardasil and see how feminists were at first very much behind it, realized a bit why Perry was doing it, backed off a bit, and then supported it, but definitely not as enthusiastically as before.  (Don’t get me wrong, they still support it.)

    Even the Jenny McCarthy stuff — as you say — promoted by Big Science at first — a Lancet Study.  If anything, shouldn’t this be an object lesson in the Big Heads and peer reviews getting it wrong?

    At any rate, and I think my point of this post is — I don’t see how you can claim that you support parents doing due dilegence with the rest of your post.  Either you support parents doing their due diligence to the poor/middling/average standards that parents will EVEN when they come up with decisions opposite yours, or you don’t.

    And I might be wrong, but operationalize that for me.  What is it you support telling parents, and allowing parents to do that can be distinguished from a handful of websites informing parents about their rights, and about the pros and cons and side effects of various vaccines.  And if that existed, are you sure Orac and others wouldn’t still be calling them out as anti-vaxxers?

    Not all vaccines are the same, and the CDC tells doctors not to give me a vaccination even when the expected value of probability of my getting GBS again and the cost of that is less than probability of my getting H1N1 or other flu and the expected cost of that.  Are you sure you can distinguish the CDC’s advice from an “anti-vaxxer?”

    (Keith, you might want to look at evil slutopia’s faq and other faq to gardasil.)

    Again, my point of view is to educate the parents and promote outreach to them, and trust them.

    Let me ask you a question Keith, what do you think about fluoridated water and the people who don’t think it’s needed or a good idea?

  101. anon says:

    If you’re representing yourself as a scientist, then you should explain to
    the layman what you’re doing–and if they don’t want to support you
    under those circumstances, then that’s their decision.

  102. Keith Kloor says:

    Anon,

    I never intended for this thread to veer off into a debate on the science or ethics of vaccination. Suffice to say we have very different opinions on this issue and we’ll leave it at that for now.

    I’ll take all this up again in a separate post in the very near future.

  103. Tom Fuller says:

    Temperatures warmed. We emitted a lot of CO2. Might be a connection. We know we need to wean ourselves off of fossil fuels in the near future. We are making progress, but need to do more. Skeptics need to push for high technology–especially smart grids and meters. Environmentalists need to accept more nuclear power and storage solutions like pumped hydros.  Those who have been frenetically pushing the meme that our civilization will collapse if global warming isn’t halted immediately need to tone down their rhetoric.  Skeptics (esp. in the U.S.) need to quit using climate change as a purely Republican club to beat the current administration with.
     
    Did I miss anybody?
     
    Oh. And I think solar power will be really big and really useful quite soon. Wind, not so much…
     
    But the big providers of renewable energy get no ink at all. Hydroelectric power has doubled since the 70s and is growing rapidly now–in the developing world. Combined heat and power is popping up everywhere–where wind failed in northern Europe, CHP is succeeding. And waste to energy needs to get the capital that is currently being lavished on wind turbines.
     
    That it?

  104. SimonH says:

    MT says “Of course, the first Bush did not leave Clinton as big an economic and geopolitical disaster area as his son left Obama. But you have to blame Bush for the interventions in the financial market.”
    MT, the initiation of the near/collapse of a global financial market is in no small part attributable to the collapse of the US sub-prime market, whose assets were wrongly/falsely bond-rated AAA and sold. The problem being, of course, the selling of a product without disclosing its inherent uncertainty.
     
    So it is interesting that you seem to recognise that this was a bad thing (and who could possibly disagree?), and yet where climate science is concerned you don’t seem to recognise the problem with policy being formed on science, the uncertainties of which are purposefully diminished, understated or simply ignored.
     
    In each respective “market”,  financial and climate, the only people that I can think of that that could possibly see this concept of understating inherent uncertainties in the product as either acceptable or even preferable (at least in the short term) are the sellers and the brokers. Those becoming investors (willing or otherwise), however,  certainly would regard this misrepresentation of uncertainty negatively. One has to wonder where in this scenario you are positioned. You sound like a salesman to me.
     
    It might be that, even being aware of the inherent uncertainty attached to the climate change science, some may be willing to risk investment. However, I suspect that more would prefer to diversify their investment in the light of these uncertainties. But what I don’t think is likely is that a seller or a broker that, it transpires, knowingly sold a product with inherent uncertainties without fully disclosing those uncertainties, would ever regain a potential/current investor’s trust.
     
    And this is why climate scientists’ credibility is diminished today. While at one time a few sceptics spotted uncertainties and inconsistencies in the product being pitched as AAA, today those uncertainties are much more widely recognised. And the climate scientists, who were once popularly perceived as the “honest brokers”, are now widely perceived has having been complicit in the misrepresentation and sale of the sub-prime product through the IPCC sales showroom.
     
    Trust: Can’t buy it.

  105. SimonH says:

    Bart (#104): “What do you have against wind power?”
     
    On THIS day, wind turbines in the UK managed just 5% of their own capacity.
     
    Wind simply doesn’t generate when it’s needed, and until there is technology to effectively store its product for later use, it’s useless. Manoeuvring into a situation of reliance upon wind is blatant idiocy, and a £2M turbine producing electricity at a rate of £9/day is a path to financial ruin.

  106. Barry Woods says:

    wind technoloy is just half a technology, without a means of converting wind power into storage, it has this inherant problem.

  107. charles says:

    SimonH, there was also the recent news that wind farms are being paid not to produce power.
    Tom Fuller talks a lot of sense. It would be good if both sides took notice of what he says. But neither will.

  108. Barry Woods says:

    Tom does talk good sense, the problem is everyone is tryong to rush it in 10 years, when practically, the change over will take 20-30 years or more..  just on logistics, practical engineering concerns,

    ie 20 million petrol/diesel cars in the UK alone…
    However the greens wish they weren’t there, now, and lobby hard against, they will need phasing out gradually.. 

    Unless billions are spent, and a WHOLE lot of CO2 produced in making 20 million  ‘green’ cars in a short term, as an example.
    which would be a bit counter productive, half or more CO2 produced, over the whole life of a car, is in it’s manufacture.

  109. Tom Fuller says:

    Bart, my problem is really more with the business model than the technology. There are large barriers to entry to new and innovative aspirants in the wind industry. The current manufacturers are large multinationals selling solely to utilities and governments. Not a prescription for the innovation wind needs to get better quickly enough to make a contribution.
     
    Compare it with solar, with a large residential and light commercial customer base, hundreds (if not thousands) of manufacturers who are right now installing incredible amounts of production capacity and have already identified the improvements needed to drop prices to grid parity.
     
    Solar will spread like wildfire. Wind will sputter along. The funny part is that the monolithic wind companies will be able to protect their profit margins. The solar companies will struggle to make a dime off of their rapidly increasing sales.
     
    Wind must compete with natural gas, which right now is at a very low price. Expect to see some unexpected support from some unexpected sources for the movie ‘Gasland.’

  110. SimonH says:

    Charles, I did read that at the time. There is a Telegraph explaining the situation here. I can’t pretend to be anything short of dumbstruck at how this whole thing is playing out.
     
    There was I, thinking we were in a global financial strangle-hold. Yet here we are, as already-squeezed energy consumers, paying money (and a lot of it) in order to NOT receive “green” energy. Seriously, what gives? Situations like this make it impossible for me to view the entire paradigm of wind energy with anything but total incredulity.

  111. Bob Koss says:

    Only when solar, wind, biofuel companies are capable of manufacturing their product by relying on their own product for manufacturing power  can they be considered competitive with fossil fuel and nuclear. Until that time they represent a “feel good” product and only serve to unnecessarily increase power costs.

  112. Ron Broberg says:

    Fuller: <em>We know we need to wean ourselves off of fossil fuels in the near future.</em>

    Why?

  113. Tom Fuller says:

    Ron, I think it’s pretty clear that we don’t really want to use coal, that the easy oil is already in the bucket, that natural gas obtained by fracking really needs to be looked at in terms of what it does to the local ground and water tables, and firewood is pretty, but so are trees.
    Given that we will need to make the switch within our lifetimes, might as well start now, don’t you think?

  114. #113:  Prudence?  Forethought for our children and grandchildren?
     
    Leaving aside the horrendous political price we pay for depending so much on imported oil, even if we switch more to coal, as the (known and estimated) oil and natural gas  reserves give out (as they are  expected to in a century or two, at current rates,  and that’s being generous)  the cost (economic and ecological) of extracting that coal will be immense, barring some stunning extraction technology coup.  And of course we’d deplete coal more rapidly as we increase its proportion in the fuels mix.  So at the very least laying a serious groundwork *now* for moving to alternative energy sources in the next century makes sense.  In the USA we’re barely doing even that, even though we use a comparatively huge proportion of the world’s fossil fuels.
     
     
     
     
     
     
     

  115. SimonH says:

    I’ve no issues whatsoever with developing alternatives to fossil fuels. I just object to deploying them before they’re in fact alternatives. An alternative to fossil fuel has to be a viable alternative, or it’s really no alternative at all.
     
    Invest in development, THEN invest in an affordable deployment. This going green thing for the sake of.. well.. just appearing to go green.. it may soothe some consciences and make a few feel virtuous, but it WILL kill the poor and the vulnerable if it isn’t economically comparable to fossil fuels. You can’t heat your house with good intentions.

  116. Tom Fuller says:

    SimonH, I think the strategy (if it was a conscious strategy) of building and supporting a supplier community in parallel with pushing for the improvements needed to make the technology truly viable is actually a good one. It is used by government elsewhere and has succeeded, especially in the military.
    We are funding the R&D of the solar industry by making it profitable now. This R&D is working, and quite well.
     
    It isn’t working so well for wind, which seems to be getting more expensive, not less.

  117. laursaurus says:

    This thread is going into an educational and productive discussion. CAGW, i.e. climate change science may be too politically tainted to ever be settled. But maybe we can agree to bury the hatchet and come together on the direction we want to take in the future.
    Big Oil is obviously not part of an evil plot to undermine climate science. Every reasonable person wants to eliminate pollution and transition to “sustainable” energy for obvious practical reasons. The most technically promising source is nuclear and possibly solar. Understanding the pros and cons will move us forward to an even better future.
    Obviously, we can’t rely on fossil fuels forever. Even if CAGW turns out to be false, at least it has motivated human ingenuity to address these issues to avert an inevitable energy crisis.

  118. Ron Broberg says:

    Fuller: Ron, I think it’s pretty clear that we don’t really want to use coal,…

    Why? Coal is the most abundant fossil fuel and sulphur scrubbers seem to me to be relatively successful  in managing SO2 emissions (due in large part to SO2 cap-n-trade).

    It seems to me that you have made an assumption (we must switch away from coal) that you have not supported by any argument.
    Fuller: Given that we will need to make the switch within our lifetimes …

    American coal resources will extend well beyond the current generation. At least today, and probably for the next several decades, coal plants are more affordable than nuclear or solar.

    So why do we need to switch?

  119. Tom Fuller says:

    Ron, first, coal is inefficient. The best plants we’ve got waste more than half the coal burnt. Second, new coal plants are indeed incredibly better than previous generations and I don’t want to slight their performance. If we do indeed move to an intermediate stage of best-generation fossil fuels, I would not overly object to best of breed coal being a part of it–temporarily. However, given current practice both in the U.S. and China, I think we should move away from coal for the same reason we moved away from whale oil–it kills those extracting the resource in unacceptable numbers, it damages a resource we consider precious with the removal of mountaintops, and leaves a considerable amount of detritus in its wake. I think fly ash is a considerable environmental issue now, and don’t want to see it grow.
     
    And the fact is that when we talk about using best generation coal, what people (including the coal industry) hears is that it’s okay to hang on to their old coal plants as long as they can before converting, because we just said we could live with coal. Just human nature.
     
    We are talking about retiring tens of billions of dollars in capital investment decades before the end of its natural lifespan–and I understand that.

  120. lucia says:

    Ron–
    Tom gave the reason we need to switch long ago when he wrote
     
    Temperatures warmed. We emitted a lot of CO2. Might be a connection.
    That’s the reason for what follows:


    We know we need to wean ourselves off of fossil fuels in the near future. We are making progress, but need to do more.

  121. lucia says:

    I guess I should have written “I think” that was a (not necessarily the) reason.

  122. Tom Fuller says:

    In any case, you were correct 🙂

  123. Ed Forbes says:

    “”¦Here’s the problem with Chris’ observations. As he clearly points out, denialists, be they anti-vaccine, creationist, deniers of anthropogenic global warming, or whatever..”
    .

    The “anti-vaccine denialist” has been taken, so I will step up the issue of being a Darwinian denialist, that frequently gets me tagged as a “creationist”.  
    .
    Imagine that”¦an agnostic humanist tagged as a “God Shouter” LoL. Same a being a “luke warmer” gets me tagged as a “flat earther” and being “anti-science”.

    .
    Previous to Darwin, “catastrophism” was the accepted process that shaped the earth.  Under catastrophism, new species replaced the old that were destroyed by these cataclysms. The current evolution controversy began with the Scottish geologist James Hudson in 1795.  Charles Lyell followed with his Principles of Geology in1830.  Hudson and Lyell both advanced the “uniformitarianism” views that the earth had changed under regular laws “within the existing order of nature”, over great periods of time.  At first, the majority of geologists considered “uniformitarianism” as heretical, but “uniformitarianism” won out with the coming of Darwin’s papers. Darwin totally rejected “catastrophism” with its sudden mass extinctions and leaps of new species coming suddenly into existence. Darwin was wrong.
    American Paleontologists Niles Eldredge and Stephan Jay Gould supported the view that the gaps seen in the fossil record are real.  They both hold that the constant, incremental change required by Darwin does not reflect the record.  Eldredge and Jay suggest that new species arise in explosive phases, spread over wide areas, and then go static with little or no change over very long periods of time.  This matches the fossil record as new species that arise in small, localized areas, in a small geographical area, and having a small population size would have little chance to either leave, or be able to find, a fossil record.

  124. Bob Koss says:

    Tom,  #120
    What is your definition of waste? You seem define it differently than I do.
    To my mind, leaving coal in the the ground is more wasteful than digging it up and using it in combustion. I also believe the residue must have some commercial value.
     
    I also seem to have a different outlook on efficiency.
    I look at it from the point of view of cost per KW over the life of the plant. If coal was really terribly more inefficient than other fuels, coal plants simply wouldn’t be in use today.
    To my mind, solar and wind are much more inefficient than coal. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t have to be so heavily subsidizes. I would prefer they only be installed as small plants used for experimental research related to improving  their efficiency. Widespread installation of solar and wind plants using essentially the same design doesn’t advance research. All it does is consume funds that could be put to better use elsewhere.

  125. Ron Broberg says:

    Lucia quotes Tom: Temperatures warmed. We emitted a lot of CO2. Might be a connection.

    That seems to me to be a terribly vague statement upon which to build public policy. Inadequate.

    Tom points to fly ash, MTR, and efficiency as additional reasons. Market pricing and competition is the best way to improve efficiencies. If coal is so cheap to burn that wasting 50% of it makes sense, then either the market is improperly distorted or coal is indeed much, much cheaper than other electricity generating methods. If coal seems too cheap while MTR and fly ash remain a problem, then maybe regulation has to be modified so that the full costs of environmental restoration and proper disposal of fly ash is included in the price of coal/generation.

    If fly ash and MTR are the main issues with coal as a fuel for electrical generation, the solution is to ensure that the full costs for those problems are included in the price of coal. If the production of CO2 is also an issue, then the costs of CO2 production by burning coal should also be added to the price of coal.

    If all you are willing to say about coal and CO2 production is that “it might be related to some warming” without defining the degree of connection and the costs of the warming, then you do not have a logical, rational basis for attempting to phase out coal production in favor of a lower carbon solution. It might feel good for some reason or another  – but there is no economic principle upon which to drive the change.

    There is a whole realm of economic theory and practice which deals with uncertainity in costs and returns on investment, with risk and benefits. But you cannot bring those tools to bear on the problem until you can start defining the “how much warming” and  “the consequences and benefits of warming.” Both those terms can have a range of uncertainty attached, but those tools require numbers and not just some kind of ‘generalized agreement in principle.’

  126. Bob Koss says:

    Tom  #120 continued …
    I agree that coal plants should be converted to use best practices. I also agree that safety should be a priority in the mining and should be so in all professions. Unfortunately, a certain attrition from deaths is unavoidable in many professions, not just in mining. It is simply not possible to protect workers against unforeseen circumstances. Life is full of trade-offs. The worker has to be final judge of whether they wish to accept the risk. I’m sure you must have seen “The Deadliest Catch.” I wouldn’t do it. They accept the risk.

  127. Ron Broberg says:

    As an example:

    The likely economic impact of a 30cm sea rise over the next 9 decades can be calculate: required port improvements, waste water re-engineering, loss of land, and additional flooding. So can the impact of 100cm sea rise over the next 9 decades. Assign a range of certainty across the spectrum of SLR, and you can determine the range of costs. Determine the amount of SLR due to CO2 emissions and you can calculate the amount of money which should be spent in preventing CO2 emissions. If you have to spend more to prevent CO2 emissions than you get back from reducting SLR damage, then maybe your money is better spent by accepting the CO2 damage and doing the port improvements, waster water re-engineering, and accepting additional land loss and flooding.

    Of course, that is just SLR. There are numerous other proposed climate changes. But what if the monetary damage done by CO2 is lower than cost of controlling CO2 emissions? Or what if the costs of CO2 emissions are more likely to be borne by foreign countries? What economic reason is there to control CO2 emission and, instead, spend the money on improving (security types might say “hardening”) our infrastructure?

    You can’t answer those questions without be willing to put a number on the amount warming caused by CO2 emissions and then calculating the costs and benefits that such warming might cause. And you can’t answer those questions accurately without having the correct uncertainty figures.

    I find the desire to “put the debate behind us” and move on to a low-carbon future infuringly irrational. There is no reason to move on to a low-carbon future if you are unwilling to quantify the costs of a high-carbon future. And a rational economic being will realize that the costs involved with “living with the change” of a high CO2 future might be lower than “preventing the change.” You cannot rationally choose between those two futures until you are willing to put hard numbers (and solid uncertainty ranges) to the two scenarios.

  128. Ron Broberg says:

    I either have to write shorter posts or write them in an word editor. 😉

  129. Tom Fuller says:

    Hi Ron,
    Lots to talk about. My encapsulization done on the fly at 103 was a bit flippant, but was aiming to find something we could all agree on. I agree with you on the need for cost benefit analyses, but I doubt if they can address the entire scope of climate change and actions we take to mitigate or adapt. Which means that as we do CBA on individual actions, we’ll be blinding ourselves to any feed through effects or network effects.
    By waste I was referring to energy produced but not delivered to an end user or used for productive work.
    Bob, I think I’m going to start an active campaign to prevent the use of solar and wind in the same sentence. I think it would help. Here’s why. Solar is going to be subject to a price/performance improvement regime similar to what happened with information and telecommunications technologies. In fact, it’s been going on for quite a while. On the other hand, wind is getting more expensive, obtrusive and harder to integrate into electrical distribution networks.
     
    Back to CBAs: I do think we should do them, but I will suggest that some non-financial benefits are worth considering, among them a sense of security about the future for people who fear global warming the most.  A lot of them don’t act like very nice people in the comments section of various weblogs, and I’m also sure that they would just find something new to worry about, but their worries are already costing us, and alleviating those worries would benefit them–and us.
     
    I believe Bjorn Lomborg refers to or has done CBAs that show that combating sea level rise would not be overly burdensome, if it were done as the rise manifested itself, as SLR will not be uniform and we’re all supposed to be getting richer in the meantime. It also appears that it isn’t that expensive, if we do one thing now–change building permit policies to discourage building and rebuilding in areas already subject to damage.
     
    At 129, I think you’re trying to trap us all into writing humungously long comments, and so I’ll shut up for the moment now.

  130. […] suggests (as I have on repeated occasion), that “sincere and enlightened climate skeptics” should put some distance between […]

  131. Barry Woods says:

    Tom

    With respect to sea level rise, is here actually any physical evidence of real ‘additional’ sea level rises, greater than the long term trend since the last ice age..

    Is it all computer projections, or is their any real evidence, that importantly, has the natural amount quantified of sea level rise accounted for and  has a human signature proved?

    I’m thinking of that sea level expert, writing repeated letters to the president of the Maldives, telling him not to worry 😉

    No doubt we will have to deal with natural, but that is by adapation, rather than king canute like CO2 pronouncement of hold the planet to 2.0 deg rise, with the planetary control machine. (if only he’d put told his advisors to stand by the shore, and commanded from the high ground ;0 )

  132. Tom Fuller says:

    Barry, with all the claims and counter-claims about SLR, it’s difficult for a non-scientist to know who to believe, especially if she or he is part of the ‘non-aligned’ movement.
    The most reasonable assertion that I have seen to date is that sea level is rising a bit (a few millimeters a year–three or four), that the rate rose a bit for a short period in the 90s, but that although sea level is still rising, the rate has gone back down to even below what it was before.
    The number of potentially confounding factors is very large, and FWIW, the only advice I could give on this is beware of those who sound certain.

  133. Barry, Tom,

    Sea level has risen faster over the past 100 years than in the centuries before. It averaged just over 3 mm/year over the past few decades, showing no sign of slowing down (unless one looks at short term blips and forgets the upswing thereafter).

    On windpower: Large scale wind is a lot closer to grid parity than solar PV, but they each serve different markets/purposes: Wind to supply directly to the gridl solar PV for rooftop individidual application.
    Solar thermal is more comparable to wind in that sense.

  134. Tom Fuller says:

    Bart, I think your numbers on solar vs. wind are out of date regarding proximity to grid parity, and if they are not now, they soon will be. And concentrated photovoltaic power systems are being built now to supply utilities with energy, as well as CSP systems.
    As for sea level rise, I have seen what you’ve quoted and also assertions made with just the same tone of confidence that sea level rise is lower than in past centuries and slowing down.
    Which is why I phrased it the way I did.

  135. JohnB says:

    #134 Bart.
    Sea level has risen faster over the past 100 years than in the centuries before.

    But is that a surprise? Or is it actually indicative of anything other than “Sea levels rise more when it’s warm.”?

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