A day of politics at Nature


I’ve commented previously on Nature’s ill-advised forays into political advocacy, as have others. It’s not a very new phenomenon — this piece dates from 2007.

On Wednesday this week, January 4th, the former science magazine and its spin-offs surpassed themselves with no less that three political articles on the same day (HT Barry Woods and Roger Pielke sr).

Why researchers should resolve to engage in 2017 is an anonymous editorial calling for scientists to engage in political activism. Bizarrely, it starts with a quote about science never being settled as if this is something that we ought to be challenging. It complains about “US think tanks that support free markets and reduced government”. It cites approvingly a paper by the notorious McCright and Dunlap, one of several by those authors whose only purpose is to create division and smear the “conservative movement”, or “one’s opponents” as the article helpfully puts it, just in case their might be any doubt about the politics of the author. It goes on to encourage “researchers to write to their political representatives”.  It was Nature’s citation of  so-called Skeptical Science as “an international group of technically minded individuals” that prompted both the Pielkes to draw attention to it:

Under the editorial you may see the words Commenting is currently unavailable. This is untrue — if you register with Nature you can see and submit comments. There is a comment from Deborah Castleman that says:

 I’ve been thinking about this post since I read it this morning… and I hardly know where to start in trying to articulate just how wrong-headed this approach is. Advocating for certain policy positions is advocacy, period. It is not science. Worse, because of this, “science” as an institution is losing credibility. It certainly has with me.

Well done Deborah, whoever you are. You have a better understanding of this issue than Nature Editor-in-Chief Philip Campbell or whoever it was who wrote the editorial.

Next, we have Scientists should not resign themselves to Brexit by ex-Nature-editor Colin Macilwain.  Again we have a call to action: “Instead, researchers, together with other groups threatened by Brexit, should fight to keep a foothold in the European Union.”  There is also the unsubstantiated opinion stated as if it were a fact: “the mood in science departments is universally grim” — well, that’s not the case in my department, where people were surprised and a bit shocked but carry on pretty much as before.

Perhaps the most offensive comment from Macilwain is this: “But the loose coalition of dissenters, doubters and right-wing jackals who voted to leave Europe can still be broken up”.  With a lack of self-awareness that is typical of the authoritarian elite, he seems to have forgotten that at the start of his article he accused others of arrogance. The article ends with another use of the m-word so beloved by these people: “The scientific community may be close to despair right now. But it must not take this rout lying down.”

Thirdly, in Nature Climate Change, there is Politics of climate change belief, which starts off with “Earlier this year, Donald Trump appointed Myron Ebell, a known climate science denier…”.  Most of the rest of the article is not so bad — it says that support for policies such as renewable energy is not necessarily determined by one’s view on climate science. But again it ends with a call to action, to convince people to adopt “pro-climate” behaviour.

Finally, a bit of positive news. UEA climate scientist Phil Williamson wrote a complaint to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) regarding James Delingpole’s article Ocean acidification: yet another wobbly pillar of climate alarmism in the Spectator. Nature gave Williamson a platform for his whining in December, in which he said “it would be a defeat of rationality and science if my complaint to IPSO is dismissed as a matter of opinion, rather than fact.” Well, IPSO has now issued the ruling, the result being that there was no breach of their code.  They say that “[t]he article was clearly a comment piece” and that the committee “did not establish that the article contained any significant inaccuracies or misleading statements.”

You’d think they might have learnt that UEA climate profs called Phil complaining about climate sceptics isn’t a wise move.

400 thoughts on “A day of politics at Nature

  1. Jaw-dropping and eyebrow-raising and smile-inducing all at the same time. Now that they’ve given up on science, perhaps stand-up comedy awaits their unemployment from scientific publications – unemployment which cannot come a moment too soon if the sputtering candles of scientific integrity are to be protected from their foul and heavy breathing. I am left scratching my head at their insolence.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. As the wheels come off the AGW gravytrain, the reactions of those on it get ever more starkly irrational. This is a hopeful sign for the rest of us. One of the things devout warmunists cannot seem to stand is ridicule. And that gets easier every day, as these examples illustrate.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. This reminds me of a parable related by Forest Whitaker to Stephen Rea in the film ‘The Crying Game’. It involves a scorpion and a frog. The frog offers to save the scorpion by taking it across a wide flooded river. Scorpion climbs onto the frog’s back and they get half way across the river before the scorpion stings the frog. The frog says to the scorpion: “Why did you sting me scorpion, because we will both now surely die?” The scorpion answers: “Because it was in my nature”.

    Thus it is with Nature journal. It cannot help but be its own sorry demise, because it is in its Nature.

    Liked by 6 people

  4. From Scientists should not resign themselves to Brexit “We’re far too well-behaved,” Glover told the meeting.

    These people really need to get out of the lab.

    It’s very sad to see how wealthy, intelligent people hold democracy in such contempt. They forget that it is a contract between the richest and the poorest that if determined enough, the poorest can make the richest do their will. Nobody but nobody could be in any doubt that leaving the EU is a risky business. The Remain side made it clear. So to choose Leave, Brexiteers had to have very strong reasons for doing so. I know a lot of people who voted Remain but were very, very tempted to vote Leave. It was not a light hearted decision on either side.

    If these people wanted us to embrace the EU they should have heard the mutterings from the crowd long before the vote and sought to solve the problems. Instead of listening they used their elevated positions to pour scorn on public concerns and sweep them under the carpet. Many elites even blamed the EU when they chose not to solve some of the problems. They can’t say after the event that the EU wasn’t to blame.

    I doubt their determination to keep the EU grant money rolling in matches decades of growing anger about immigration and erosion of sovereignty.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. “But the loose coalition of dissenters, doubters and right-wing jackals who voted to leave Europe can still be broken up”

    So I’m a “right-wing jackal” now, am I?

    Yeah, I can live with that!

    The silly little man utterly fails to realise that it is insulting, inflammatory rhetoric such as that from privileged pseudo-intellectual self-elected “elite” sucklers at the taxpayers’ teat such as him that caused 17.4 million people to vote for Brexit in the first place and is equally responsible for the triumph of Trump and the Deplorables at the other side of the Pond.

    Blimey, talk about “how to make friends and influence people”!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Sorry Richard – it was just an extract from the pdf:-

    In any case, the global research university is a function of its own history, its host city, and other circumstances
    —not of its national government. Small nations are the strongest scientific performers in Europe: in the 2012 round of ERC starting grants, for example, the best performers per
    head were Switzerland, Holland,Israel and Denmark, in that order. There’s no empirical evidence that access to large research systems (such as those of the UK, Germany or the United States) confersexcellence.
    Last autumn, I askedErnst Winnacker, former head of both of the DFG and the ERC, about the track record of university reform in Germany. He spoke wistfully ofthe strengthof the Swiss system, and of the relative success of reforms in Austria.
    A Scottish research system could be modernized and optimized more readily than is the case with the established UK system.It is understandable that researchers will be apprehensive about any move by the political class to reform the structures that provide their funding, whether related to independenceor not. But I believe that Scottish researchers realise that there are bigger stakes here — no stakes could be larger, after all, than the future of our country — and that constitutional change need not threaten scientific excellence. Instead, it should be seen, in research policy as elsewhere, as an opportunity to move towards better, more transparent, and more accountable governance.


  7. Isn’t it odd that all Williamson’s forays – in Nature, his IPSO complaint & now this – seem to be strong on political rhetoric and rather light on scientific arguments?

    You could almost believe he was more activist than scientist.

    Bob Ward with hair.


  8. Thanks for the reformat Geoff – impressed to see you’re a geek as well as a polymath 🙂

    [Those of us depending on being geeks for our daily bread take exception to this 🙂

    I was going to do the same but got lost looking for a password for Barry. Rats – Richard]


  9. A curious point from Politics of Climate Change is the suggestion that sceptics might reject the science but be amenable to installing renewables. “many Republicans support policies that promote development of clean and renewable energy not because they reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but because of potential economic benefits. ” But anyone examining renewables knows that the only economic benefits are for those raking in subsidies. Ok, maybe they’re a good idea to balance with air con in hot sunny conditions but only as part of a fully stocked grid. It’s hard to maintain any respect for the intelligence of these people if they’ve failed to notice renewables being unfit for purpose and far from being cheap.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Perhaps in anticipation that surface warming is not going to be a card that they can play for much longer, the climate alarmist bandwagon does seem to be diversifying into other areas.


    The slowdown/collapse in AMOC has an added bonus too. If it cools in the Northern Hemisphere (as currently suggested by diminishing solar activity) and sea-ice at the north pole expands again (as suggested by the cyclical nature of the AMO) then global warming alarmists have the perfect ready-made explanation:

    “The resulting climate consequences, compared to the uncorrected model, are also dramatic. Without the usual transport of warm water into the north, the corrected model predicts a marked cooling over the northern Atlantic, including in the United Kingdom, Iceland and northwestern Europe, as well as in the Arctic, where sea ice begins to expand.”

    We are of course already seeing a marked cooling of the North Atlantic. Is this due to rapid melting of the Greenland ice sheet diluting the salty waters of the North Atlantic and slowing the mass transport of deep water south? Will the continued melting of the Greenland ice sheet further imperil the correct functioning of AMOC in years to come? Decide for yourself in light of the fact that since September this year, Greenland has been gaining ice mass at a record rate.

    These people will not give up easily. They’ll use every trick in the book to keep the alarmist anthropogenic climate change narrative going.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. The Day After Tomorrow scenario is the zombie that just won’t die. If it was true, it would have happened many times in the past including the MWP and the RWP. But as you write, Greenland is doing fine.


  12. It is an odd argument: the Telegraph, Guardian, NYTimes and any tom, dick or harry blogger can write about the politics of science, despite probably knowing nothing about science, but Nature should not. It is as if you think medical journals shouldn’t express an opinion on the politics of medicine or maths journals shouldn’t express an opinion about the politics of maths research or teaching or… etc, make up your own stupid examples.


  13. It only matters if they want to present themselves as impartial. I never thought they were, so demonstrating bias merely confirms it to those who were under illusions.

    It’s a dangerous, arrogant route to take, to assume that their opinions carry much weight over Brexit or the US elections. It smacks of ‘all people are equal but some are more equal than others’. Most of the time it’s true and those who benefit most from a peaceful society should recognise that some of the time they have to lose. Preferably with grace. The alternative is that democracy breaks down and it’s every man for himself. Then the biggest b@stard wins. That, sadly is what currently works for the Middel East and parts of Africa.

    I was amazed that Leave won. It said that the desire to leave the EU was far stronger than even the figures suggest. I didn’t expect Leave to win unless the polls put Leave at 70%, to allow for 20% to not vote or change their mind at the last minute. While many are still shocked by the vote, deep down there are a lot of people who are pleased that they can have it all – leave the EU and not be responsible for it because they voted to remain. The true supporters of the EU are actually few and far between.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I wouldn’t mind scientists pontificating about Brexit if they brought some of their expertise to the question. Scientists are clever chaps who understand complicated stuff like correlations. They could look at, for instance, the reported huge enthusiasm of the well-educated young for Europe and the steep decline in the study of foreign languages, and maybe draw some conclusions.

    Liked by 3 people

  15. I do find some blogs, including this one, somewhat difficult to understand or sympathize with sometimes. People in the warmist camp are almost universally considered to have no skill, no morals or credibility. Reading some contributions, you would imagine they are all charlatans, with hard hearts and desires to destroy modern societies. You get an impression that “drawing and quartering” would be too good for them. Well my experience differs, a very few I have known or met are genuine shits, but most are normal human beings trying their best and believing they work for the greater good. I believe they are wrong in many respects but they commonly can be people of generosity and good spirit. I constantly have to remind myself of this since I now have little to no contact with students, staff and visiting academics at UEA. Exposure to sceptical sites is not good for my humanity, but then I don’t read the other side, which I am constantly told can be considerably worse.

    Liked by 3 people

  16. Alan, it is good that you bring these impressions to us, for if you are right we ought to try to do better. But I think you are expressing more of what you fear might be the case than the reality deserves. You’d have to travel far before you’d meet a kinder lot than here. We can all lose patience at times given the deliberate provocations of some of our visitors, but, overall, effort is made to let them speak,and to respond to them in helpful ways.

    As for all ‘warmists’ being seen to have ‘no skill, no morals or credibility’, and worse, I do not see that. There is surely no question that a great many good and decent people have been moved to work on what has been so widely promoted as a, or even ‘the’, most important, urgent, and potentially catastrophic problem. I see the problem as none of those things, and my first reaction to those who think differently is one of sympathy. It is easy to see why they might well be very concerned. One result I hope for from this blog, is to advance a calmer more ‘feet on the ground’ approach. Reasoned arguments have a place, as does taking the piss out of some on the other ‘side’.

    From where I stand, this ‘climate movement’ has wreaked a great deal of physical and mental harm, but nevertheless there is still scope for civil discussions, and even the occasional laugh, as we work towards improving our understanding of how it came about and how the harm it does might best be reduced.

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  17. TinyCO2, you say “It only matters if they want to present themselves as impartial.” Nobody who is affected is impartial. We’ve all already lost 10-15% of our wealth, so none of us is. Scientific and academic cooperation with Europe is bound to suffer unless we can remain in the relevant agreements and allow free or at least easy movement of foreign/UK academics and students. So Nature should not be neutral.

    Paul Matthews, you say your department is not grim at athe prospect of leaving the EU. I don’t know if maths departments are considered science departments now. Perhaps so. What sort of involvement does a maths dept have with cross-European science programs, funding and student transfers?

    Geoff, youngsters don’t need to learn a foreign language to be keen on the prospect of studying or working abroad. If a student goes abroad, she can learn in a few months what might take years in school. I worked for years in Germany and had no need to learn German (although I did). Any meeting where there was a single monoglot-Brit present would switch effortlessly to English.

    Alan, you sound like a good person. Why not try a few non-sceptic sites. People there are generally nice.


  18. Alan,
    Interesting comment. Maybe you should try some other blogs. None are perfect, but I don’t think many are quite as extreme as this one. I’m also interested in what way you think climate scientists are wrong.


    but nevertheless there is still scope for civil discussions

    I don’t think there is much scope for civil discussions (at least not between those who mostly disagree about this topic), but you could always try?


  19. Somebody with the right connections please write up the line requesting that taxpayer funded work not be published in Nature publications because it’s a partisan political organization. We do expect tax payers not to fund political machines and conspirators, and that’s what Nature has become.


  20. ATTP. Interesting comment yourself. However I find this site by far the most tolerant around – with my somewhat odd background at UEA I tend not to fit too well at some other sites, being blamed for starting arguments in one. This one feels much more confortable although I feel somewhat over-awed by some of the contributors and discussions. I certainly would never consider this to be an extreme site – perhaps you are just trying to provoke as I have observed you doing elsewhere.


  21. Len when I had the responsibility of instructing young undergraduate minds at UEA I made sure that I kept abreast of what was happening on both sides of the climate science fence (and advised my charges to do the same). So I have experienced both. I no longer read non-sceptic sites for the simple reason that I don’t recognize your description of them as “friendly”. I looked up their reaction to Curry’s retirement this morning, and from that, my views have not changed.


  22. Alan,
    Eye of the beholder and all that, but clearly some are welcome here and some less so, and so ones impression is possibly influenced by that. I was simply suggesting that you could always try some other sites. I am still interested in in what way you think climate scientists. You seemed to suggest that they were quite substantially wrong. And, FWIW, this isn’t some kind of leading question.


  23. I’m sure that the various churches there have been over the millennia were full of intelligent people who were convinced they were doing the right thing and used all their skills to bring about a better world. It didn’t mean that they didn’t trample others opinions underfoot and do a great amount of evil. I’m also sure that those churches had genuinely nice people who kept their heads down because they believed that the greater good was more important than the minor atrocities. I’m sure that there were genuinely nasty people who ruthlessly used the power that religion gave them over others. There were a few brave souls who were prepared to say something was wrong when they saw it. By and large they were crucified for their apostasy. And there were the heathen masses who resisted forced conversion with everything they’d got.

    In the 21st century the masses have more power than we’ve even had before. What we don’t have to do is give the new crusading religious leaders the benefit of the doubt. They’ve got to earn it. That includes the EU and climate science. Personally I feel that we gave the EU far too long to justify the trust we’d placed on it.

    Liked by 2 people

  24. LEN MARTINEZ (07 Jan 17 at 1:46 pm)

    We’ve all already lost 10-15% of our wealth.

    Only if you were planning to spend it all abroad and hadn’t already converted your pounds into euros.

    I worked for years in Germany and had no need to learn German (although I did). Any meeting where there was a single monoglot-Brit present would switch effortlessly to English.

    That certainly wouldn’t happen in France, though I know it does in other European countries. No wonder they don’t like us much. I wasn’t talking about the practicalities of living in Europe so much as the naïve and patronising attitude it reveals. “Don’t like Farage and the chavs that vote for him. Think I’ll go to Europe and be an immigrant, welcomed everywhere because of our proud traditions and Mr Bean. Or maybe I’ll just go to Budapest for a cheap piss up.”

    Ex-prats, dontcha hate ’em?


  25. Alan,

    “I do find some blogs, including this one, somewhat difficult to understand or sympathize with sometimes . . . . . People in the warmist camp are almost universally considered to have no skill, no morals or credibility. Well my experience differs, a very few I have known or met are genuine shits, but most are normal human beings trying their best and believing they work for the greater good. I believe they are wrong in many respects but they commonly can be people of generosity and good spirit.”

    I don’t think we deride the 97% (or significant majority at least) of scientists who are ‘warmists’. We question their methods, their conclusions, and occasionally their motives. In that respect, is it a sufficiently valid motivation in science for somebody to ‘believe that they are working for the greater good’? Commendable no doubt but I personally don’t think it is sufficient. The overriding motivation for anybody to be doing science should, in my opinion, be a thirst for knowledge, for understanding, for consistent explanations of how things work. That may not be too ‘humane’ in some respects, but it is definitely very human. So when you say exposure to sceptical sites is not good for your humanity, I’m assuming you mean your appreciation of ‘humaneness’. But of course people can harbour vastly different ideas of what constitutes ‘humane’ and what doesn’t. In the climate change debate, many warmists consider it inhumane to question ‘settled’ climate science and in particular to oppose measures to mitigate climate change. Many sceptics think the measure themselves are inhumane, in addition to some of the persons most enthusiastically advocating those ‘solutions’.

    I’m sure that most people working for the ‘other side’ have morals – it’s difficult to function in life without some sort of moral guidance. In fact, we sceptics probably share very similar morals to our detractors, but because we have a different perspective, we tend to apply those morals differently, and perhaps more judiciously, when debating climate change and ‘what to do about it’.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. ALAN KENDALL: ” but most are normal human beings trying their best and believing they work for the greater good.”

    The same could be said for eugenics enthusiasts. Or the Inquisitors who tortured and burned alive their victims for the good of their immortal souls. A certain Bernado Guidoni AKA Bernard Guy was credited with the inquisition of no less than 10,000 souls. All for their own good, of course.
    Remember, that cuddly humanistic Socialist utopian Swedes and Norwegians was still compulsorily sterilising people – including people considered to lack Nordic complexions – “for their own good” as recently as the 1970s. http://www.economist.com/node/155244
    Personally, I trust the “for their own good” brigade far less than I trust the straight-up assholes, myself. They have caused far more blood and death and suffering than all the rest put together IMO.
    As the Greens are doing right now in the Third World by condemning upwards of a billion people to an early death by forcing them to cook over open fires, not to mention the damage to the environment they cause in their hunt for fuel.
    But hey, who cares about a few million little brown children when they’er ‘Saving the World™’ right?

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Quite.

    That’s exactly what’s wrong with open borders, it allows others to trample over the traditions and sensibilities of the locals – wherever those locals happen to be. When in Rome and all that. If you move to another country, embrace it. Don’t move just because you can and the prospects are better. I have no more objection to other countries demanding that immigrants learn their language that I think it’s reasonable that those wishing to reside here for any length of time do the same. Holiday makers and students can do what they like so long as they pay the bill.

    There may come a day when 28 countries are all on the same page and are so bland that one country is the same as another and one unifying government suits everyone but that day is a long way off. At the moment there are few people who fit seamlessly with their neighbours. The more distant, the less they have in common. As it is, the parts of the UK are drifting apart, not closer, for exactly the reason a unified EU doesn’t work. Multi culturism has encouraged people to retain their foreighness while berating the locals for wanting to cling to their own culture. It’s a double insult. The harder they try to shove European countries together the faster and more explosively they will blow apart.


  28. Alan, if you dislike the warmist reaction to Curry, how do you react to the suggestions of malpractice or fraud by Mann on these pages? Surely that must set your nastiness detectors off?


  29. Oh please Len. You would think we were plucking these allegations of fraud/scientific misconduct out of a hat. Hard evidence for Mann’s shoddy work in constructing the hockey stick is everywhere. His behaviour in promoting his scientific malpractice as ‘fact’ to a public audience very likely amounts to fraud.


    The “warmist reaction to Curry” is in no way comparable.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Alan: “Well my experience differs, a very few I have known or met are genuine shits, but most are normal human beings trying their best and believing they work for the greater good”

    I would agree, but the problem is, for climate scientists in general, is that the shits (largely), have captured the political and media, or those like eic holtaus who fight against deniers, because the are in climate despair: https://twitter.com/EricHolthaus/status/817507282321670145?lang=en

    I was heartened to see at least one UK climate scientist, refuse to cite Skeptical Science, because of their ‘Climate Misinformer’ section… And he defended this viewpoint against @dana1981 @GavinCawley @andyscuse (all SkS) and ATTP following on from Roger Pielke Snr, complaining of Nature endorsing SkS, pointing out, he and other scientists were listed in it as ‘Climate Misinformer’, an misrepresented in it.. Fabius shows how here:


    Liked by 2 people

  31. Ironically it was probably Mann’s work that pushed Curry over towards the ‘dark’ side but it was the system’s refusal to admit that what he’d done was wrong and ostracised those that persisted in calling for higher standards, that made it permanent. Climate science has not been defined by its mistakes but how it dealt, or more accurately failed to deal, with them.

    Liked by 3 people

  32. Re evidence for scientific misconduct by the egregious Michael Mann correctly entitled “A disgrace to his profession” – by his own colleagues:

    All 320 pages of it!


  33. Barry, re Eric. Is the reason he’s depressed because he can’t understand that the action on CO2 is poor because the science and solutions are poor. Or is he depressed because he knows the science and solutions are poor and not likely to get any better?

    You’d think that after all these years being scorned by sceptics and ignored by the public that they might, just once in a while, wonder if the fault was them. They could just try it for a while and see if it made a difference.

    Liked by 1 person

  34. Catweasle yours was the most challenging and strongest response to my post, and so is the one that I will try to address. You make comparisons with eugenics enthusiasts and with Inquisitors who tortured and burned alive their victims for the good of their souls. With regard to the the Inquisition, it is unfair to judge them using modern arguments. At the time one’s immortal soul was your most valued possession and your time of Earth was of much lesser value. It was the church’s responsibility to protect the souls of its charges regardless of the severity of its actions. Today we hold no truck with what happened but then it would have been deemed acceptable.

    The eugenics movement seemed to be based on science. Humankind could be improved with selective breeding (it wasn’t all about sterilization). At the time it combined neodarwinism and was known about genetic transference. What was not known then was that genetic combination tended towards the mean. Do you blame all supporters of eugenics, or selectively identify and blame kthose who misused the concept?

    The point I was trying to make is that most supporters of climate alarmism are definitely not shits, but commonly are identified as such, particularly in some sceptical sites – but not so much this one.


  35. Alan, This blog does do a good job of allowing wide ranging discussion. If we compare it with ATTP, who is commenting here, we will find that ATTP has banned Paul Matthews, but yet ATTP is allowed free reign to comment here. I am also unable to comment at ATTP. That I think shows that your observation is correct. The “climate” at ATTP is more hostile and less open than that here or at Climate Etc. or the blackboard for example. The real problem at blogs like RealClimate and ATTP is that disgusting anonymous trolls who insult and demean are allowed to persist. This tactic allows the blog proprietors can appear to keep clean hands while ensuring that people they don’t like are driven away. That’s a tactic of hypocrisy.


  36. Barry, I would point out that ATTP (Ken Rice) is a SKS associate having published papers with a number of the principals.


  37. “The point I was trying to make is that most supporters of climate alarmism are definitely not shits”

    Nor were the Inquisitors, nor the Scandinavians who legislated and implemented the practice of eugenics.

    My point is that good intentions don’t necessarily excuse bad outcomes.

    Rather the opposite in many cases, in fact.

    Are you aware of the Milgram experiment, incidentally?


  38. Please note, my original post was not a direct criticism or indictment of this site. It was an attempt to point out that “the other side” are human too and may be well motivated. I do feel that even the best of us (and especially myself who ought to know better) lose sight of this basic point sometimes. On some sites it is possible to create a firestorm with only a slightly inappropriate phrase or comment that is not “politically correct”. I recall when I first joined the blogosphere and was strongly criticized for not joining in the condemnation of members of CRU. These were my former colleagues, not people for me to hate.


  39. Alan, I think everyone here agrees with your point that many climate scientists are very honest and good people. Richard Betts and Ed Hawkins come to mind. Judith Curry fits here too. Roger Pielke Jr. is another one whose statements seem to have never been shown to be even a little bit incorrect.

    What I think is important to realize here is that as scientists, there is I would say an obligation to try to improve science and its objectivity and to try to distance it from political narratives. And that’s where there is a subset of climate scientists who actively work to politicize the science and to “enforce” the consensus by smearing those who disagree.

    A far more important mission for the reputation of science is the “enforce” civility and good science by strictly separating science from advocacy and politics. I would claim that HotWhopper and a few others such as SKS with their misinformers list (which is a smear) do far more harm to science. You also need to beware of those such as ATTP who publish with these creeps and show extreme bias in their enforcement efforts.


  40. We understand, we just don’t give them the benefit of the doubt any more. For most of us it’s been more than ten years waiting for a flicker of remorse or desire to change. Climategate was a long time ago. We’ve seen some of them ‘engage’ which was code for take the opportunity to criticise us

    They’ve turned their backs while the science was debased and good scientists were demonised. Just as the EU makes FIFA look like a company of harp plucking angels, everyone knows the waste and corruption are rife and while not personally involved, they don’t fix things either. Just as a lot of people at the BBC knew that there was something about Jimmy but didn’t want to be the one that called him out. “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

    The public’s disinterest is far more of an indictment than our derision.

    And don’t say that this isn’t as bad as those examples. We are told that CAGW is the most important issue of our time. OK we believe them. Then surely the science should be the best of the best, not the best they can be bothered with?

    Liked by 1 person

  41. I asked my first sceptic question of a Met Office representative in 2006. I asked how long the Pause would have to last or how low temperatures would have to fall before they admitted that the science was wrong. A bit stumped she replied that would never be wrong because they’d change the science. I never in my wildest suspicion think that by that she meant they’d rewrite the data to match the models.


  42. I think I have made my main point and to pursue it further would get me a hiding to nothing. I remain concerned that most climate scientists are all too commonly over demonized. They are accused of not objectively assessing the evidence, cherry picking the evidence they use or manufacture. These practices are rightly condemned but are far from being unique to climate science. Extremely eminent scientists in the past have engaged in these practices. They were fortunate that they proved to be orrect when better evidence arrived or others confirmed their less than pristine work.
    The essential difference, as others have pointed out, is the descent into advocacy, advocacy that has severe repercussions for societies.

    Liked by 1 person

  43. But these mistakes are costing trillions AK and that money represents lives. I’m not going to repeat the comment I gate crashed Brad’s article with but it perhaps explains why I and many like me are angry with the casual attitude some are taking to frittering government money as if we had it to burn. No, climate science isn’t the only offender by far but you have to start somewhere.


    For all I know CAGW is real but I vehemently reject yet another cause that will sap our will to get sorted the things that are destroying people today. I reject it because the people in charge of it are playing at catastrophe management. They have no real plan. They can’t be arsed to live by the standards demanded of their cause and their main contribution is whining. They don’t care enough to listen to those boring people who say what can realistically be done with energy technology at the moment. Instead they cosy up to every bloody shyster that comes along and promises them a shiny new magic toy in exchange for a lot of cash?


  44. Tiny CO2 we could disagree all day (week, month,,,,) I have had both the privilege and the misfortune to meet many climate scientists (but never Mann). They vary enormously, some are charming, others obnoxious, some are clearly high intellects, others not so much. Some (the CRU crowd) I have had to work with – teaching on the same module or sitting on committees. One (Keith Briffa) I considered a friend and he stood up for me when I refused to go along with the departmental stance taken after Climategate broke. So I cannot ever forget that these people are people, people in the main who thought they were doing good.
    My anger and disgust is for the very few in climate science who rode their tiger and for the politicians and business types who latched onto and created this gravy train.
    Phil Jones and I would studiously avert our eyes and ignore each other when passing in the UEA corridors. I believe we both refused to sit on each other’s committees. Petty and infantile behaviour from both of us – but I probably would be still doing it today.


  45. Really appreciate your comments on this thread (and elsewhere) Alan. They influenced me in my latest on Paul’s Judith Curry resignation one, including as I remembered a good chat I had with a consensus believer I sat next to in Bristol. Unfortunately, as we see it, there’s a systemic plus a personal courage problem, perhaps best summarised by Jonathan Jones in his words to Richard Betts quoted by Tom Fuller on that thread:

    Do I expect you to publicly denounce the Hockey Stick as obvious drivel? Well yes, that’s what you should do. It is the job of scientists of integrity to expose pathological science. It is a litmus test of whether climate scientists are prepared to stand up against the bullying defenders of pathology in their midst.

    You have shown courage though. Thanks again for bringing your perspective to Cliscep.


  46. Richard I can wholeheartedly agree with your quote, while still trying to understand why and how many climate change practitioners operate. Most would disagree that the basic premises of the science are pathological.

    I must admit to sometimes being very confused about the support I give to sceptics and consensus supporters. I am torn. I also believe the whole issue has become over polarized. On many blogs I dare not raise objections to opinions written by others for fear of being swamped by invective.


  47. Tiny CO2. Reread your post upon “useless” science being done at the expense of more beneficial work. While agreeing with many of your views, I do have a different take. I hope that at some time in the future we might have the opportunity to debate this issue.


  48. Alan,
    I think your point about demonizing people is well made and could be applied more generally. However, with regards to the quote Richard posted, I do think there is a potential issue with insisting that others denounce what you regard as worth denouncing. Of course, there will be cases where it’s obvious, but judging people on the basis of what they are willing to publicly, or not, denounce, sounds more like politics, than science to me. Scientists generally prefer to “fight” in the scientific literature, than in public, and not denouncing something doesn’t imply endorsing it.


  49. ATTP, your convolutions are something to behold.

    The quote posted by Richard hinges on the existence of ‘bullying defenders of pathology in their midst’. Start from there. Assume it as a postulate. What ought to be done by the peers of these bullies? Do they have some moral and intellectual responsibility there?

    Or, if you prefer, challenge the presumption. For example, you might wish to deny the existence of the presumed bullying behaviour, and tell us why you take that view.

    But you float away from the challenge and waffle instead.

    Liked by 1 person

  50. Thanks to GreenieWatch (http://antigreen.blogspot.co.uk/2017/01/the-usual-gullibility-from-kristoff-of.html#links), I have just across a very thoughtful paper on Cook et al. (2016) [all the other articles mentioned at the GreenieWatch link look worthwhile as well].

    The abstract reads: ‘Cook et al (2016) presents a collaborative work by several consensus study authors, who claim a 97% agreement by undefined climate science experts that “humans are causing recent global warming.” The statement illustrates the problem of trying to use a social proof of consensus in place of scientifically defined evidence. The lack of empirical parameters that specifically identify the claimed ratio of human effect versus natural influence, the timescale in question, the level of risk or benefit, and the human activity or causative factor(s) are undefined. The notion of consensus defies the fundamental principle of scientific inquiry which is not about agreement, but rather a continuous search for understanding. This paper evaluates key disparities of Cook et al (2016) and outlines why a claimed consensus is a powerful tool for driving public policy, but an inappropriate and unethical means of conducting scientific inquiry or informing the public. ‘

    The focus on the dubious ethics. I look forward to reading it again, but in the meantime to encourage others to go there, here is the author’s concluding paragraph:
    ‘The failure to elucidate these types of uncertainties and instead proclaim that there is an amorphous “consensus on consensus” is an ethical breach in the opinion of this author and demonstrates a lack of scientific integrity. This is damaging to scientific inquiry, to science and society.’

    The paper can be downloaded from here: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2887245

    The author is Michelle Stirling, described only as ‘Independent’ on the paper. She may be the Canadian writer who is described here as the ‘ communications manager of Friends of Science Society ‘.

    Her conclusion makes her paper relevant to this post, highlighting as it does the blinkered politicisation of Nature. That this carries a risk of being ‘damaging to scientific inquiry, to science and society’ seems clear enough.


  51. CATWEAZLE666 I missed your 07 Jan 17 at 8:21 pm post. I don’t believe the Milgram experiment is relevant. Climate scientists, in my experience, have little respect for authority figures. Climategate did reveal some attempts by some to get others to do things they might not otherwise do (delete potentially incriminating e-mails, hide the decline) but little coercion was involved. More likely is the relationship whereby students and junior staff members look up to and slavishly follow the opinions and lead of a more senior figure. But this isn’t what Milgram studied.


  52. Alan Kendall,

    For the avoidance of doubt, I have no quarrel whatsoever with your position on these matters. Indeed my own position is probably quite close to yours: recall that I share a department with Myles Allen, Tim Palmer and Raymond Pierrehumbert.

    “Pathological science” in my famous quote refers to a quite small number of specific instances: essentially the Hockey Stick and various instances of refusal to provide, or attempts to hide the significance of, adverse data or adverse verification statistics. It is not meant as a comment on mainstream climate science as a whole. If climate scientists were willing to deal with the relatively small number of truly flagrant breaches of good scientific practice by their colleagues the world would be a better place, and I suspect that their refusal to do so will, in retrospect, be seen as a major error of academic judgement on their part.

    Liked by 1 person

  53. Jonathan, I’m sure we don’t have many differences. My complaint is with the overall sceptic scene that contains too many who believe and comment upon climate scientists in general as if they were devils incarnate. I can understand and even sympathize with those with such views (there is much to be angry about) but I believe them to be wrong. Commonly, however, if you try to express nuanced views you are considered as part of the problem. I am so very pleased to be able to report that I have not been subjected to that here.


  54. John, you complain of ” blinkered politicisation of Nature”. Alan, you complain of “advocacy” by scientists. Do you complain too of the same by journalists ignorant of science, such as Dellingpole, Rose, Booker etc?

    Tell me, who is best placed to comment on the political aspects of science, scientists or journalists, bloggers and politicians?
    Who is best placed to comment on the political aspects of medicine? Doctors or journalists, bloggers and politicians?
    Who is best placed to comment on the political aspects of teaching? Teachers or journalists, bloggers and politicians?
    Who is best placed to comment on the political aspects of engineering? Engineers or journalists, bloggers and politicians?

    John will clearly not answer, as Paul didn’t earlier. Cliscep authors don’t defend their statements. But maybe Alan will.


  55. ‘Cliscep authors don’t defend their statements.’ Clearly not true.

    Len, you come across alternately as a troll and as some student looking for someone to do his assignments for him . Both are naughty of you. And tiresome.


  56. Len. You ask
    “Tell me, who is best placed to comment on the political aspects of science, scientists or journalists, bloggers and politicians?
    Who is best placed to comment on the political aspects of medicine? Doctors or journalists, bloggers and politicians?
    Who is best placed to comment on the political aspects of teaching? Teachers or journalists, bloggers and politicians?
    Who is best placed to comment on the political aspects of engineering? Engineers or journalists, bloggers and politicians?”

    Somewhat naive questions if I might say so. What does “best placed” mean? Comment with what intention? Who are the audience? What is the aim of any information inparted? If I assume you mean to inform the general public about matters they should know about when political decisions are being made about science, medicine, education or even politics itself, my vote would go to the well informed and politically neutral journalists. Even if they are not neutral it is common that you can make suitable adjustments. Apart from websites I get much of my information from correspondents and columnists, and probably some of my opinions also. They all go through my own personal filter however.
    The important caveat is that the journalists need to be well informed. Few today are; they have not taken the necessary care and effort to become informed to the level they formerly were. Oddly I have just read a piece about Martin Sixsmith – someone with knowledge of Russia that I respect who appears to think Trump is deluded if he feels he can get the better of Putin. But who knows, more opinions to be processed by my own filter and prejudices.


  57. Len. Who says journalists are “ignorant of science”? I used to recommend my undergraduate students , who were loath to accept my claims that there really were legitimate sceptical views out there, to start by reading “The Deniers” – a collection of articles by Lawrence Solomon, a newspaper journalist. Few students who did so emerged with their previous pro- warmist opinions intact.

    Strangely the UEA constantly prevaricated about obtaining a copy of this book, even though I identified it as an essential reading source. The two personal copies I successively donated to the library, also strangely disappeared (as did records of the library ever holding such copies). Copies of other books, like “The Satanic Gases” also absented themselves from the shelves. Just saying….

    Liked by 1 person

  58. John, Alan and Jonathan, you all make good points. The actions of the few bad eggs are almost irrelevant. As is the general niceness, honesty and good work of the others. It’s how the whole field respond to the flaws that matter. I understand and have sympathy for most of the characters in the Climategate affair. I can even half forgive the immediate response, which was to sweep it under the carpet and say ‘nothing to see here’. But how many years of calmer reflection do they need to think ‘you know what, Climatgete was bad, not admitting it was worse and not putting systems in place to stop something similar happening is worst ’?

    Imagine that instead of climate science we were talking about a chemical industry. When that sort of business cocks up, people die. You can see the direct consequences of them getting it wrong. Nobody plans for anyone to get hurt. Industry people are generally nice, hardworking people too. They may have cut a few corners, made assumptions or just been too busy to do something seemingly trivial at a key point. Who hasn’t? With hindsight many accidents could have been avoided if time have been spent beforehand on procedures but who likes doing that part of the job? Now in this fictional chemical company, would the public be relaxed about those mistakes and be reassured that there was no need for regulation because it was just how industry was done? Would they accept that there was no need for inspections or regulation because it was just time wasting interference? Imagine how the public would react if key industry or business data were modified years, decades after the event. Would an acceptable excuse be that the other businesses did it too? And all the while the greater field stonewalled and obstructed and ignored growing concern. What would you think?

    Fundamentally, is climate science a funny little back water science subject or a life and death field that deservedly gets massive amounts of money and scrutiny?

    Liked by 1 person

  59. Alan: ref that ‘sceptic scene’

    I hate to be the bearer of bad/good news – but you are 100% a part of it.. !

    on the spectrum, dare i suggest 97% plus in agreement with Jonathan Jones, with respect to the science..

    to Mann, SkS you would be just another “climate denier”.. they choose the labels..


  60. ATTP, Yes the scientific literature is the place for technical disagreements generally except where there is bias in the literature and/or a science establishment that actively surpresses technical dissent. You may recall that this happened with the hockey stick. Many like Gavin Schmidt were in on the disingenuous defense of Mann. The problem here was that the community actively surpassed accurate criticisms. To this day, there is widespread denial that anything was wrong and the truth has never been aired adequately in the literature. Your silence is hard to square with honesty in this case. Being an ideological apologist for science also helps rationalize these inconsistencies.

    An example from another field might be helpful. In the 1960’s, a Nobel Prize winning chemist became an anti-nuclear activist and also “discovered” that Vitamin C cured cancer. He ultimately won a second Nobel prize for his activism on nuclear weapons. Many were skeptical about Vitamin C and ultimately studies proved it to be nonsense. It now appears that anti-oxidant supplementation is generally harmful to human health. Pauling deceived many people who declined effective treatment in favor of his quack cure. While the response of the community eventually corrected the error, there was a very long delay. In fact, the idea that anti-oxidant supplementation will improve health is still very popular and there is a huge industry that sells these products. Since Pauling was adept at using popular publications to spread his activism, it would have hastened the revelation of the truth if other scientists had used these venues.

    The bottom line here is that scientists have a responsibility to put aside their activism and political views and admit errors when they occur.


  61. The problem here is simply that science is now so powerful in its impact that people are starting to wake up to the abuses and the generally unreliable nature of the literature. And there is a growing demand for reform. I would assert that denying that there is a serious problem is a natural place for scientists, especially those who are politically left of center, to end up. The public should demand better.


  62. DPY6629, every field that comes under scrutiny tries to shrug it off. Industry, especially the oil business rightfully earned a bad reputation for it. The kind of work it involves is boring, restrictive and nowhere near as fast as freeform science. In many ways it’s a step backward but it’s what has to happen, especially where there is a lot of uncertainty.


  63. DPY6629. Scientists should not advocate? Just suppose I had evidence that Vesuvius was about to erupt tomorrow but I couldn’t be exactly sure how severely, and the authorities in Naples do not accept all my conclusions. Potentially more than a million people might be at risk. Would you advise me to keep quiet because “scientists should not be in the business of advocacy”, or do you advise I warn people as best I can and with dire warnings through the media?

    This is the sort of dilemma faced by climate scientists who genuinely believe in CAGW.


  64. Alan: this long comment is worth a read ( Jonathan and Alan mentioned in final quote)

    As far as the warmist/climate concerned (for want of a description we can agree on) climate blogs are concerned, Alan, merely by reading and citing Climate Audit, you will be a climate denier, and you are absolutely on the ‘climate sceptic spectrum’ especially about concerns of a University being perceived as refusing to release data.

    [Note – it is allowed to be concerned by climate change – see Thomas Fuller who also has blogged here, and is smeared all over the internet as a climate denier]

    I note Phil Jones, is winding down.?

    “Alan is retiring at the end of this year….thankfully.” – Phil Jones

    I have long standing friends amongst the climate community, long time before I became interested in the subject, since kids our kids were at nursery together. One of whose emails were in the hack (all very boring), and an editor of the 3rd assessment report. It is the ‘sh*t that have made sensible public debate impossible, with their with us or against us attitude. (the Climate Audit as a ‘right wing site’ description to persuade Dave Palmer to ignore Climate Audit, simple (laughable) example, in the link above.


  65. Yes Alan, I understand the dilemma. But its an ethically false flag. The activist scientist could just as easily be wrong and force a very costly and deadly to fragile people evacuation that could last indefinitely if the scientist pulled a Linus Pauling and kept saying that disaster was imminent. Everyone is biased including scientists. Some try harder than others to avoid bias. The hockey stick is a perfect example of bias that was covered up and denied by climate science. There is continued denial to this day by “communicators” such as Ken Rice. Do not be fooled by his latest “reasonable” persona.

    The least harm comes from scientists sticking to the science and letting the public and through them the government do what it thinks best.

    You see, the far bigger problem here I would argue is that activist scientists only succeed at undermining public confidence. Politics is more polarized now than at any time since the 19th century at least in the US. Scientists would be wise to steer clear of that toxic environment. In medicine, there is an oath that says “first do no harm.” Scientists should take that very seriously. The tendency in medicine is to advocate intervention because its a strong cultural bias that medicine works miracles. Also there is a financial interest of doctors to be able to perform more procedures.

    I would argue that the lasting advances in human knowledge have generally been made by people who eschewed politics and political consequences of their work, despite their private feelings. Errors are often compounded by political involvement.

    Social Darwinism in the 19th Century was a pseudo-scientific political doctrine that justified eugenics, racism, and the abuses of the gilded age and as Barbara Tuchman argued in The Proud Tower led to the rise of fascism in Europe. One could cite other very problematic instances, such as the guidelines on saturated fat and cholesterol that are just now being rethought. These were based on biased science by an activist scientist named Keyes. I mentioned previously Linus Pauling, a man who single handedly fatally harmed an untold number of people. The list is very long.


  66. John, you don’t defend what you write. The other day you recommended a statistics website. Yet you did not comment on this statement by its author, WMBriggs:

    “Actually, of course, an average is a model—at least if you want to attach any meaning to it. It at least assumes the data that went into the model is measured without error.”

    I pointed out that Tamino’s response to this was: “[Response: Wrong. So wrong it’s astounding.]” and asked you to comment, but … nothing.

    Equally here, you and Paul claim that Nature should not make political statements yet you won’t comment on whether a medical (or other specialist) journal should never comment on the politics of medicine (or other specialist subject).

    Richard and others defend Curry response to Salby’s nonsense but they wont address the fact that RISTVAN (hardly a warmist) says that Salby’s errors are obvious to someone of Curry’s experience.

    So I am right to say that your authors wont defend what they write.


    Alan, the book you mention, “The Deniers”, has a wiki page. The scientists mentioned include Bellamy, who has no climate science knowledge, Tol, who knows little CS apart from economics, Carter and Lindzen well known misleaders, Wegman (was he the one of the report that was basically a copy/paste thing?), etc. Not impressive, but quite likely to mislead undergrads.

    You call my question naive, yet you suggest that the best people to comment on CS politics are a non-existent group of journalists. What does that make you? Would you prefer the government to receive advice on medical matters from this non-existent group or from medical experts? Why should it be different for CS?


  67. Hoe about geologist Len, do they have no climate science knowledge (ie like Ian Plimer) especially if they’ve worked in oil/mining industry.

    and FFS – without Dr David Bellamy there would be no environmental movement in the UK. He was instrumental in countless documentaries, for turning the public n to the environment.. but not convinced by CO2 catastrophism and ended up in a George Monbiot Deniers – Hall of Shame, despite achieving so much, much more for the environment.

    well known misleaders… why because activists that hate them just say so. get a grip..
    what about his guy: quoting a scientist making a comment at Bishop Hill.. Is he a sceptic? in your opinion

    “Also offspring of working class, socialist-leaning, parents and brought up in East End of London. First of a large extended family to go to university where I read geology. Have worked in government, industry (oil), and academia and lived in North America for 17 years. Worked in Alaska, Egypt and Australia, as well as the rest of the USA, Canada and the UK. Taught geological-related subjects at the [location removed, for making this point to Len] for more than 20 years, and dabbled into teaching sceptical climate science, much to the annoyance of CRU (but only fully aware of this following climategate).
    Never a warmist, but became increasingly perturbed about my former industrial profession as the tide of climate alarmism became ever more strident. Developed my scepticism after reading Crichton’s State of Fear (terrible book, good appendix and bibliography) did the necessary research and never looked back.”

    Wegman was not a copy/paste- with background info on the subject, which was referenced, was held up as an example of plagiarism, absolutely irrelevant to the report, but seized on as a smear.

    you are just parroting smears of people, with very little knowledge of the issues..

    Len: quote above, climate sceptic?


  68. Guardian Environment
    Earthshakers: the top 100 green campaigners of all time

    18 David Bellamy, TV botanist
    A formidable campaigner for green causes, including saving a Tasmanian rainforest from flooding by a dam project. In recent years his reputation has been tarnished by public statements sceptical of climate change. Fierce hater of wind farms.


  69. DYP6629. Fine but you ignore the essential point – the people involved in the dilemmas wholeheartedly believe that what they see as a threat to be real. They believe in it and this forces them to consider advocacy. Not to do so would be considered cowardice or a dereliction of duty by anyone believing in ethical responsibility. Should you really blame someone who might end up being wrong but who acted in good faith. A good scientist might offer clarification in the form of estimated probabilities. I deliberately chose the Vesuvius example because 1) it is conceivable 2) doing nothing might have very serious consequences and 3) as you pointed out the consequences of advocacy and being wrong are also serious. I happen to know someone put into a similar position regarding a volcanic eruption in the West Indies. That person was fortunate in having the support of the authorities.


  70. Len. You asked “Would you prefer the government to receive advice on medical matters from this non-existent group or from medical experts? ” Read my response to your questions more carefully. I purposely did not attempt to answer a question about advising government.

    You really do have to watch the pea when debating you, don’t you.

    I put no pressure on my students with respect to the book. I urged them to make up their own minds. Ad hominem attacks on the people featured in the book, as you have done, would not have cut ice with my students.


  71. Monbiot smeared and humiliated David Bellamy (wel he says he did, so do al the activists).
    not good enough to say he was wrong, but to the need to destroy him.. despite(or because of) he was a leading light in the save the rainforest movement and a leading environmentalist in the 1970s-1990s. Very visible, known and loved by millions of the public for green environmental courses (thus Bellamy being a CO2 catastrophe sceptic, a BIG problem for climate advocates)

    Monbiot, and the climate science advocates would have done the same to you Alan, if you’d kept up your letter writing, or been a more public voice with your scientific scepticism. you would have had to have been destroyed.. the climate activists/advocates would have seen to it. as any doubt, and you would have been seen as raising doubt would be dangerous, the public need no doubt, and saving the planet would have comes first over your reputation


  72. I think Alan’s points about advocacy are well made. My own view is that people should be free to speak publicly whatever their other roles might be (unless, of course, they have some contractual obligation to not do so) but they should be honest about their role. For example, are they a scientist speaking as an expert, or are they a member of the public who might happen to have relevant expertise? I also think the idea that we want to discourage experts from speaking out is bizarre, especially given that we don’t fund research simply to allow people to satisfy their own curiosity, we fund it ultimately to benefit society as a whole. Having experts who can highlight potential issues is part of that benefit, even if there are examples where it was poorly done. As far as I can see, most of the arguments against advocacy by scientists/researchers are coming from those who don’t like what the scientists are suggesting and so want to deligitimise the messengers because they don’t have a strong argument against the message.


  73. Bellamy was an advocate for environmentalism, but a CO2 catastrophy sceptic (he may of course be wrong, that is allowed ) but he had to be smeared and supposedly ‘humiliated’, because a leading environmental light, loved by the genera public, being a sceptic was a problem for all the other advocates on the ‘other’ side.


  74. Barry. Don’t I know it, but I was at the end of my career and due for retirement. I was quite proud of getting those letters published in the Guardian (the letter editor must have had a couple of off days) and then to be individually chosen by Mombiot for personal criticism was a near career highpoint. I took much pleasure from that.


  75. Barry,
    How do you think this should all work? When can someone who comments publicly be criticised, and when not? When can people use labels, and when not? I’m all for a more civilised debate, but even I’m not naive enough to think that it’s really likely in all cases, and even I’m aware that anything I say publicly is open to criticism.


  76. Yes, Alan, there is a genuine dilemma if the danger is immediate and very likely. Rather like reporting a suspicious Muslim to authorities (like the San Bernadino shooter), where fear of condemnation can lead to inaction. Or there could be bias involved too.

    I believe the vast majority of these cases with regard to science are far too subject to bias to lead to genuine ethical dilemmas. Scientists who can’t even consider their own biases are not in my mind to be given much sympathy. Ethically, the imminent danger of significant harm is an important issue to consider. I would argue, the danger is mostly on the side of alarmism and political motivation. By all means point out the science, but advocating policy is quite another thing. For a physician, a similar dilemma is when to intervene in an individuals behavior. It’s not a sharp line either.

    As science apologists are so prone to pointing out, the truth usually will prevail in the long run, provided activist scientists, consensus enforcers, and political actors don’t squash the legitimate debate that science should be about. In our current politicized environment, every danger is hyped intensely for political advantage and the public grows weary of all the fear mongering and click bait horror stories.


  77. Not picking on you Alan..
    (you made an effort! and as you found out via the hack/leak ruffled delicate feathers)

    But where were the scientists, the societies, the chief scientists, the organisations, the universites, the departments, the Royal Society, etc, defending Bellamy, his peers made him a pariah, even locked him out of his office. (defending at least his right to be wrong, and not smeared or misrepresented) where were they defending Plimer, Carter, Pielke, Lindzen, Spencer, Stott, Soon, sonja any one that ‘dissented’ or even asked questions. these people were demonised, made examples of, smeared as funded by fossil fuel industry climate deniers.. Lynas/Marshall being the source of that little phrase and smearing Lindzen as in pay of oil. , which Marshall acknowledged (the pharse) with a little embarrassment last year.. And Lynas said to me personally, no he does not believe that about Lindzen,( ‘oil funded opinion’ – now just wrong, in interesting ways)

    and of course, with the above shouted down, the clear message was sent out to encourage the others, keep your heads down, everybody else, or you get the same treatment, grants might not be looked on favourably, etc.. What would any young scientist do, with mildly sceptical views, or just curiosity in certain academic directions, keep quiet, or just get out of academia, how many good scientist will have been lost that way. (ref Judith Curry’s recent resignation statement, ref she did not know how to advice younger scientists, anymore, who cared about science, but needed a career.

    The scientists/organisations were silent.. they kept their opinions about the ‘sh*ts’, to themselves, and those like Mcintyre, Watts, Nova demonised as well. again silence from the Royal society, the AGU, etc,etc..

    then the sociologist/psychologists got into the smear…. of dissent

    So if their are some angry people out there, who are not that polite about scientists (after over a decade), and scientists don’t like the ‘tone’ of some on the sceptic scene’ – well ####### tough.. they should have spoken up earlier, and said the Halls of Shame, the smearing was not acceptable (looking at you Michael Mann)

    for evil to flourish, goes the saying, if good men say nothing..

    well that is wrong.. good scientists would not be silent.

    (mini rant, nor directed at Alan)


  78. Ken Rice, You are at it again. You say:

    “As far as I can see, most of the arguments against advocacy by scientists/researchers are coming from those who don’t like what the scientists are suggesting and so want to deligitimise the messengers because they don’t have a strong argument against the message.”

    That’s just rubbish and intellectually lazy. I would ask you to comment on the saturated fat controversy and Keyes’ activism and subsequent government action. The real problem here is that advocacy can be completely wrong and lead to vast harm. Given high levels of bias, its a very real danger.

    Why shouldn’t scientists distinguish between scientific research and political policy? The latter is political and scientists are no more qualified than anyone else. It’s arrogant to suppose otherwise. Unless you like the social Darwinists who believed that their politics should try to claim scientific backing?


  79. I had a feeling that I’d come across Michelle Stirling before. She wrote the paper I drew attention to above in https://cliscep.com/2017/01/06/a-day-of-politics-at-nature/#comment-10310

    It turns out we had an exchange of emails back in 2012, and she later mentioned my blog in this article from that year: http://www.troymedia.com/2012/09/27/teachers-journal-wants-questions-about-climate-change-suppressed/ I quote it here because it too is relevant to this thread since it is about political zealotry promoting the corruption of science teaching in schools.

    The rot at Nature is but another symptom of widespread politicisation in climate science outreach. Here is a Washington Times lament about it reaching kidergarten back in 2012: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/jun/5/teaching-global-warming-in-kindergarten/#ixzz29akMTlGF


  80. dpy6629,

    The real problem here is that advocacy can be completely wrong and lead to vast harm.

    Yes, of course, but we live in democracies and people have the right to express their views. You might not like it, but I far prefer it to the alternative. In my view, we’d be better off if we encouraged more people to speak out, so as to minimise the impact of over-confident minorities with little actual expertise, rather than trying to silence experts who might say things that challenge our ideologies. This doesn’t mean that those who do speak out should be free from criticism, but is an argument against advocating that they don’t speak in the first place.

    Given high levels of bias, its a very real danger.

    Everyone has some kind of bias. Trying to deligitimise groups that you regard as overly biased simply highights your own.


  81. “Everyone has some kind of bias. Trying to deligitimise groups that you regard as overly biased simply highights your own.” – ATTP

    Below: ATTP trying to delagiamise this blog (comment earlier on this article)

    “Maybe you should try some other blogs. None are perfect, but I don’t think many are quite as extreme as this one.” – ATTP

    Unban, Paul from commenting on your blog ATTP , show some good faith, if you want to comment on his articles at this blog. (without coming across as a ~~~~~ tr##l ~~~~ ~~~~ ~~~~~, self censored)


  82. Ken Rice, I know you prefer activism to the alternative. But you didn’t really answer my point either. The alternative is to stick to the science and let politicians and advocacy groups (of which there are a giant surplus) do the political end. Activists who imagine that they will advance “truth” or “science” in this way are shown by history to be wrong.

    My point is simply that science and scientists often discredit themselves when they enter political advocacy. Perhaps politics in South Africa was always as nasty and degenerate as in America in the 1850s. In the US, the descent has been very rapid in the last 15 years to that level. The majority of the public is really tired of constant activist messages pushed by dishonest political activists, backed by fake or biased news. They are also tired of pseudo-scientific “advice” about every aspect of their lives. I would recommend Barbara Tuchman’s “The Proud Tower” and consider its documentation of the demise of the rule of the “gentlemen.”


  83. dpy6629,

    Perhaps politics in South Africa was always as nasty and degenerate as in America in the 1850s.

    A great deal of my time in South Africa was a period of extremely positive politics, and included the release of Nelson Mandela, the repeals of the group areas act and the mixed marriage act, and the first free and fair elections. If anything, living and growing up in South Africa has lead me to be very supportive of the idea that we should encourage people to speak out, rather than advocating that they do not.


  84. Yes Ken, that confirms my suspicions. I would ask you to try to ask honestly if you are perhaps biased on this subject. It is a little like the activist feeling that slavery in the US was eliminated by the abolitionist movement. This is wrong. The Civil War was always justified in terms of preserving the Union and the liberty it ensured because the vast majority of opinion in the North did not favor abolition until after the war. In fact, slavery was a dying system because it was inferior economically to the capitalist system of free labor. And of course, the Civil War was tremendously costly, with 600,000 battle deaths in a population of perhaps 30 million at the time. There were also activists on the other side called the fire eaters who actively tried to provoke dissolution of the Union and a civil war. They no doubt felt very virtuous too. Samuel Elliot Morrison says in his Oxford History that if you believe that delaying the Civil War could have prevented it, then it is credible to argue that the election of Lincoln was a mistake. Slavery would have faded away. And none of this had any effect really on science or human knowledge.

    Social Darwinism is another case of science and its political uses gone awry.

    I would also assert that political activism by scientists cannot advance science and can only retard it. This I suspect has to do with what Bertrand Russell diagnosed as the modern ascendency of ideas that are based on “feelings” and not on objective reality. Virtue signaling is very tempting to those who seek social approval, but accomplishes nothing in terms of advancing human knowledge.


  85. Barry Woods. I read through your 8.51 pm “rant” and realized it undermined much of what I had been writing here today. And yet I think about the individuals I had been considering as I wrote and I don’t believe they are bad people. I can look to myself. I probably could have spoken up more. Why didn’t I? Partly for a quieter life and partly because it was counterproductive. After a few years I convinced myself that getting a proportion of undergraduates to think for themselves rather than just accepting the climate mantra was a worthy aim in life.
    These ethical and moral questions are exceedingly difficult and rarely get resolved. I haven’t exercised these particular mental “muscles” for a few months now – the advantages of retirement.


  86. Aside from perhaps more than its fair share of bad apples, the field of climate science is of course not populated by “bad people” per se, but the entire field in which they work, the academic backdrop against which they work, has been corrupted by a single, extraordinarily entrenched hypothesis – that of man-made global warming. Alan’s argument for excusing political advocacy on the part of those climate scientists who “believe” CAGW is a real threat by directly comparing their situation to that of a geologist who has assessed the evidence for an eruption and thereby faces the similar ‘dilemma’ of whether to communicate the risk to the public, just doesn’t hold water, I’m afraid.

    Climate scientists have had 30 years to find the evidence for CAGW and they have come up with nothing but failed climate model projections, a stubbornly wide range of ‘probable’ climate sensitivity, an attribution statement of modern climate change which completely ignores structural uncertainties, the trivial observation that sea-ice extent at the north pole has declined, the trivial observation that the surface has moderately warmed (though not by an ‘unprecedented’ amount). the observation that ocean heat content has increased by an uncertain amount, the trivial observation that atmospheric CO2 has increased, linearly, whilst emissions have increased exponentially, and finally a new and exciting ‘science’ of extreme weather attribution which seeks to pin the blame for bad weather around the globe on a hypothetical climate change which has not actually been observed, only modeled. Thus the nature of the ‘evidence’ and the immediacy of the threat assessed by Alan’s geologist is a lot different in character from the ‘threat’ and the ‘evidence’ being assessed by climate scientists.

    Liked by 1 person

  87. And on the basis of all that 30 years of having found SFA Jamie, Western governments have wasted literally trillions of £/$/etc. that could have been used to solve real, important health, environmental and humanitarian problem, condemned tens – hundreds – of thousands of the poor, the weak and the elderly to choose between eating and heating and dying prematurely as a result, and condemned billions of inhabitants of the Third World to a lack of lighting and worse, to having to cook over open fires, thus drastically reducing their lifespan.

    All in the cause of “Saving the World™”…

    Talk about crimes against humanity!


  88. I am no appologist for any climate scientist. It should be so easy for any of them to gather enough contrary information to demonstrate that what they accept s dubious at best.

    So why don’t they? One obvious reason is the opprobrium they would receive and no more grant money. Another is that few of them are at the cutting edge of the science of attribution. You accept that word as gospel and add your contribution to it (perhaps the effect of warming on the sexual activity levels of damsel flies). You believe; you believe the basic mantra, you add your voice to the legendary 97% and dismiss sceptical voices as possibly in the pay of big oil. All around you are encouraging signs – belief gets you research students, funding, appointments and promotion. Apostasy gets you none of this. Governments, academic institutions, granting agencies and those you respect and admire are all singing from the same sheet. So carrot and whip keep you in line, you believe anyway because everyone, except shills, also believes. You might have some doubts, especially if you have come up with data that doesn’t fit, but you don’t share any misgivings with others because that way is madness and professional suicide.

    So you are in this place and you hear that sceptics are calling you to identify, expose and denounce what they are calling toxic science. What do you do? Do you even read/listen to what such DENIERS are conveying?

    The final questions are rhetorical.


  89. Jaime Jessop. You wrote “Alan’s argument for excusing political advocacy on the part of those climate scientists who “believe” CAGW is a real threat…..just doesn’t hold water,”. Why not? If you truly believe immediate action is required to prevent future catastrophe and all around you are saying the same, what do you do?

    If you don’t like my scenario, lets change it a bit. You are a volcanologist working in the Volcano Institute on Vesuvius. You all agree that an eruption is imminent but you cannot convince the city authorities to take appropriate action (perhaps you made a dodgy prediction earlier). What do you do?
    Alternatively you make a prediction that suggests a valuable land plot will inevitably be overrun by lava flows. The city authorities and a land developer announce a brand new hospital complex is to be built on this land. What do you do? – remember the threat to the area is potential, you cannot point to any evidence that lava flows are predicted at any given time.

    Advocacy should occur relating to scenarios with immediate affects all the way to the distant future, from scenarios that are blindingly obvious when identified to the obscure.


  90. It comes down to Judith Curry’s uncertainty monster again I guess Alan; the ability to define the threat and to quantify it. I am making the assumption that those two things are considerably easier and more straightforward to do in the case of a volcanic eruption than they are in the case of the hypothetical threat of man-made climate change. What we see in climate science is increasingly strident policy advocacy on the part of some scientists (the consequences of said policies being in themselves extremely disruptive and damaging) based on what is essentially a very poorly defined and quantified ‘threat’. Also adaptation: it’s far more feasible to incorporate adaptation into climate change policy than it is to incorporate adaptation to a river of volcanic lava! In the latter case, you either act, soon, or you don’t, in which case property is destroyed and lives lost. Adaptation to a moderately changing climate over decades/years is a genuine alternative to instant action to mitigate the ‘threat’. That’s all I was trying to say; that the comparison may not be that apt.


  91. There have been some excellent comments here, including Barry on David Bellamy and Jaime’s latest on the very great difference between the impact curve of a volcano compared to man-made warming. And indeed the existence proof. We may have a problem with warming or cooling over the next hundred years, who knows. We may never know that either have been caused by the actions of man. You can’t compare the two problems in any meaningful way.

    Having said which, I agree with Alan that it’s rightly hard to draw the line between science and activism. It’s whether your activism produces bias in your science that’s the issue. Those comments in the Climategate emails about not wanting to give fodder to sceptics show clearly that this poison had happened.

    Re Len, Curry and Salby, I was going to come to it today. I think your comments were groundless and disgusting. But you were assisted in your puny attempts to smear Dr Curry by an over-enthusiastic defence by Rud Istvan. That explains the logical bind you thought we were in but it doesn’t explain how graceless you and the other alarmist haters have become.


  92. Jaime,
    You invoke some kind of uncertainty monster and then seem convinced that climate change will be moderate and that adaptation will be feasible (or a genuine alternative to mitigation). That doesn’t really seem consistent. Even if there is more uncertainty than is indicated by – for example – the IPCC, it doesn’t mean that it only works in one direction (i.e., the uncertainty monster – if it exists – does not simply imply that things will be less severe than indicated by current scientific analyses).

    FWIW, I also don’t think this is really an adaptation versus mitigation issue. It seems clear that some level of adaptation is unavoidable (rising sea levels being one example) and the big question is really whether or not we should be actively doing something to reduce how much we emit into the atmosphere in the coming decades.


  93. ATTP, there are a few certainties to add to the fabled uncertainty monster. For example, the number of deaths caused by extreme climate events. That’s been coming down since 1920s. In a properly reported debate everyone would be aware of this base fact, which is powerful evidence that we have no problem that requires coercive CO2 emission reduction. Growing prosperity, and adaptation within that, has been working brilliantly. Your side has to prove that this winning formula is now defunct. But you never even mention this type of evidence. Blindness or dishonesty? I don’t know. But it’s very harmful to proper policy making.


  94. Jaime. You don’t have to convince me. The points I have been trying to make are attempts to understand how most climate scientists operate, to explain why they act or do not act and why the majority of them are decent human beings behaving according to their beliefs or (at worst) fear to stand out from the crowd. Only those with little to lose are usually prepared to oppose the overwhelming paradigm. It has often been noted that many visable sceptics have retired or are near retirement (and are smeared for being so)

    I am also interested in the opinions of the general public. To most I think it is obvious. Carbon dioxide is a GHG, humans have increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that should result in warming, it has warmed, QED. The problem is the QED, this is difficult to properly assess, and everyone around is screaming at you that the science is settled and you should believe and go out there and do your own screaming.

    Over the years I have given climate change talks to community groups in Norfolk. Afterwards people would come up and express interest and declare intentions to investigate for themselves. Few do, as return visits confirm, it’s so very difficult to stand against the screaming mob.

    I used to constantly have doubts when at UEA. I wasn’t a climate scientist, I was a lowly geologist and surrounded by seemingly eminent people who governments consulted, who were recognized and awarded and given high status. How could they all be wrong and little ol’me be the holder of the truth. I know, first hand, how very difficult it is to stand firm to your own analysis of the truth. How much more difficult is it for junior members of staff, let alone lay people to independently reach their own conclusions and stick by them?

    Liked by 1 person

  95. Richard,

    Your side has the prove that this winning formula is now defunct.

    I don’t really have a side (or, rather, I don’t have to accept some of affiliation supplied by others) and I certainly don’t really have to prove anything.

    But you never even mention this type of evidence. Blindness or dishonesty? I don’t know.

    Personally, I’m a physicist, so I mainly stick to physical science and was largely referring to uncertainty in our understanding of how the climate would respond to changes in anthropogenic forcings (or, equivalently, changes in atmospheric CO2). It’s certainly my view that dishonesty is saying something that is untrue, not failing to say something that you happen to think is important. YMMV, of course.


  96. ATTP: So you are admitting that on your blog you have never once mentioned this evidence, let alone discussed it?

    Matt Ridley certainly mentioned it in his annual lecture for the GWPF and has frequently done so. Have you or others ever criticised Matt Ridley on your blog? I’m assuming the answer is yes. (Tom Fuller knows how to do the search!) Yet none of you have ever mentioned one of Matt’s most powerful arguments? Have I got that right?


  97. Alan Kendall 09 Jan 17 at 7:05 am

    I agree with everything you wrote. However I don’t think the climate community (wider than the scientists) can now back down. It’s turned into a black and white situation. Every time a scientist claims x could happen as soon as y, they reaffirm that CO2 will be catastrophic. It would be interesting to survey politicians and the public to see if they are at all aware of the ‘could’.

    In your volcano scenario, you don’t allow for the scientists to present their evidence and say ‘you now know what I know’ and allow the officials to make a decision based on it. If the scientists don’t know, they don’t know. Saying ‘I don’t know’ is one of the hardest things a knowledge based professional has to do. And yes, your employers might think that you’re a waste of money. If a scientist filters the information to give a biased answer, they’ve become a decision maker. Decision makers are paid to make decisions and take the flack for the wrong ones (even if they wriggle out of it). Scientists set themselves up as patsy if they can be proven to have unduly swayed the decision making process. Remember politicians are fleeting and even parties come in and out of government. The scientists and their institutions are much longer lived.

    I know why climate scientists have acted the way they have, but I now think a change of direction can only come from outside.


  98. ATTP:

    I don’t really have a side …

    You clearly do. If emission reduction has become ‘the right thing to do’ in the West and you never question this you have taken sides.

    Or you could show us where you have questioned it.


  99. Its clear that some of you don’t like my linking advocacy for climate change with the more immediate warnings about volcanic activity, so let me try another case where I have some personal knowledge and tried unsuccessfully to advocate.

    Some time ago my wife and I spent a pleasurable holiday in the Maldives. Flying back to the airport I noted a clear relationship between the size of atoll like structures and whether the central lagoons were filled with sediment from the ring reefs. Only small ring reefs were filled and only those had islands upon which the Malvevians could live. We had noticed previously that the reefs near to inhabited islands were being overfished, and that blocks of the reef were being used for building materials. On our return to the UK we wrote a proposal to study the platform reefs of the Maldives and incorporated a warning that the reefs were providing all the material that kept the islands extant and therefore nearby reefs should be specially protected. Our proposal was rejected by the Maldives Government and we were refused permission to do research in the country. We went to the High Commission to plead our case but to no avail. What we didn’t know was that the Maldives Government had decided that the problem was rising sealevels caused by global warming and they wanted no confusion from interfering Colonial busybodies. Meanwhile local reefs continued to be damaged and we believed the very islands the inhabitants lived on were potentially being put at risk.

    My question to you is – should we have persisted and moved into straightforward advocacy? We believed we knew the “truth” and that the Government, by rejecting our warnings, were potentially endangering their citizens.

    We really wanted to do research in the Maldives. Purely altruistic reasons!!


  100. Richard,

    So you are admitting that on your blog you have never once mentioned this evidence, let alone discussed it?

    Probably. I’ll try to explain again. I’m a physicist. I tend to stick to things that I think I understand well enough to comment on. If I haven’t commented on something, it might simply be that I regard it as outside my area of expertise, not because I’m trying to avoid highlighting something inconvenient. I also don’t think that someone saying something that might be true somehow negates all the things that they say that are not.

    If emission reduction has become ‘the right thing to do’ in the West and you never question this you have taken sides.

    Maybe you could find where I’ve claimed it’s the right thing to do? I think I may have expressed a personal opinion that I think continuing to emit increasing amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere would be a stupid thing to do, but I don’t think I’ve ever claimed that the right thing to do would be reduce emissions. Expressing a personal opinion is not somehow a claim about what is right and what is wrong.

    What I was getting at in my earlier comment is that I think that this is the aspect about which there should be more discussion. If you think that me suggesting this should be discussed more is some kind of indication that I’m claiming that the right thing to do is reduce emissions, maybe you should read harder?


  101. Ken, yes of course the uncertainty monster has a tail end which includes extreme scenarios (‘tipping points’ etc.) but on the evidence we have thus far, the observed change in climate is moderate (rather more so than many models anticipated) and continues to be so. Indeed it can be argued that global warming to date has failed to exceed past fairly recent natural variations with respect to the rate of change or the magnitude. Climate sensitivity to CO2, on the basis of current observations, appears to be quite modest and so adaptation would appear to be a real possibility which would certainly be far less costly and damaging than rapid and drastic cuts in emissions. Returning to Alan’s analogy, we know for sure that the consequences for life and property in the vicinity of an erupting volcano will be catastrophic; the severe consequences are thus unanimously agreed upon and easily quantifiable.


  102. Alan, that’s probably a better analogy but you and your wife’s advocacy in that situation would have essentially come down to opposing the prevailing hypothesis of what the greatest threat to the Maldives supposedly was (SLR due to global warming) and instead proposing that the more imminent and real threat to the islands was reef destruction by the inhabitants. You would then be advocating an alternative solution based upon an alternative theory, albeit combined with a genuine concern for the Maldives and their population.

    With climate change, we have a hugely dominant theory of a supposed threat which has essentially been unchallenged for decades AND we have scientists advocating public policy to deal with that threat. If the threat is so clearly defined and understood, then the only reason scientists can be moving into advocacy is not that they perceive any realistic scientific challenge to their conclusions, only that they wish to overcome public/political resistance to the solutions to the ‘problem’. Then they are behaving more like politicians than scientists, but ostensibly politicians with a clear moral purpose – to save us all from ourselves.


  103. ATTP: I don’t need to find somewhere you claimed emission reduction was right. You’ve said just now that your opinion is that it would be stupid not to. That is the side you take. There’s no need to nit-pick.

    While on the physics I was conscious that you didn’t offer an opinion when Len said this on my Christmas thread:

    On the bigger picture of you article, the science behind global warming predates any of the big new ideas of the early 20th C that you talk about

    Because it is a very common (and in my view very stupid) trope I interpreted this as follows:

    Len: I find your claim that the science behind climate alarmism preceded general relativity to be not just silly but moronic … the moronic equating of Fourier, Tyndall. Arrhenius and co with recent alarmist theories does you and your fellow-travellers no favours.

    Len didn’t seem to dispute my interpretation:

    Richard, can you really be saying that the science behind global warming was not developed by Fourier, Tyndall, Arrhenius etc?

    Don’t you agree with me that current theories of the greenhouse effect, building on Manabe and Wetherald in 1967, have moved on from Fourier, Tyndall and Arrhenius, not least to take account of convection? Isn’t it highly misleading therefore to point to the earlier work as definitive, as so many people do? It would be like saying that Eddington’s observations in 1919 supported Newton! The reality was that we’d moved on from Newton at that point. And atmospheric physics has quite rightly moved on from the 19th century picture – though the so-called “enhanced greenhouse effect” is still a matter of open debate, with observations pointing to a lower climate sensitivity than predicted, as Jaime says. But do you agree with my basic point that current greenhouse theory has by now moved on from Fourier, Tyndall and Arrhenius? (This was certainly the picture painted at an event I attended at Imperial College to celebrate the work of Guy Callendar in 2013, with Doug McNeall among others speaking.)


  104. Richard,
    As far as the Greenhouse effect goes, I think it’s perfectly fine to regard the origin of the the theory to be Fourier, Tyndall and Arrhenius. Everything moves on, but their work was a pretty crucial part of developing our understanding of why the surface is warmer than we would expect based on pure energy balance. I also don’t see why this is a big deal, or why you seem to want me to agree with you.


  105. Haha. You can’t answer the question. I didn’t ask about the origin of the theory, I asked about whether the work of Fourier, Tyndall and Arrhenius had been superseded in current thinking, just as Newton was superseded in 1919. (Admittedly the observational picture is much more complex in the case of greenhouse theory, just as it was with Wegener’s continental drift from 1912 onwards.) Isn’t the simple answer to my question yes? Why do people like you equivocate on this? Why is there this misdirection back to 19th century, ad nauseam, all the time? Are you deliberately treating the general public as babies?


  106. Richard,

    You can’t answer the question. I didn’t ask about the origin of the theory, I asked about whether the work of Fourier, Tyndall and Arrhenius had been superseded in current thinking

    I did, but to do so again, yes the theory has moved on since the time of Fourier, Tyndall and Arrhenius, but so what? That’s how science progresses and doesn’t change that they made fundamental contributions to our current understanding. There wasn’t some fundamental change at some point that invalidated what they had done.

    Newton was superseded in 1919

    This is rather simplistic. A great deal of modern physics still relies on (uses) Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation even though it was technically superseded by Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity. There are situations where it is well known that Newtonian gravity is absolutely fine and others where you need to take GR into account.


  107. The references to the earliest scientists is an attempt to give the relativly new science a pedigree it hasn’t earned. By that measure one might give all modern medicine a free pass because some parts have been known for hundreds if not thousands of years.


  108. Tiny,
    Alternatively, the objections to suggestion that the origins are Tyndall, Arrhenius and Fourier is that it gives the science you don’t like a better pedigree than you’re comfortable accepting. Personally, I don’t think it really matters (it is what it is) but that some seem to be making a fuss over this seems rather telling.


  109. ATTP: The “so what?” gives the lie to your interest being in the physics. Theories that don’t even take account of convection are good enough to fly the alarmist mission and if the energy poor end up crashing and burning it’s just too bad. You’re only interested in the physics.

    What value did Fourier give for the social cost of carbon by the way? Oh no, sorry, you’re just interested in the physics so you wouldn’t even understand the joke. Except you’re not. You’ve added nothing constructive on what you see as the crucial developments in the area you claim to be so interested in. Because the physics is only interesting as an excuse to avoid other awkward subjects.

    And then there’s utter boredom and pointlessness.


  110. ATTP but I don’t give modern medicine a free pass either. That doesn’t mean I reject all of it either. Medicine needs scrutiny from those whose job it is to find fault.


  111. Another paper from Nature – behind a pay wall, Naturally – it’s supposed to convince us that the signs of global catastrophe are already clear (with no reference to the past having negative impacts if the graphs and write ups are anything to go by). And things will only get worse.



    Clearly written to be included in the next IPPC report, it infantalizes the issues in an attempt to make them clear and at the same time makes them worthy of derision.


  112. Alan Kendall: “I am also interested in the opinions of the general public.”

    How about the opinions of 9,733,970 international respondents to the 2015 United Nations ‘My World’ survey of causes for concern?


    “Action taken on climate change” comes flat last, sixteenth of sixteen categories.


  113. Catweazle: Your vote has been counted and will be taken into consideration 🙂 But note that I was talking about a group of people – what I called “your side” to ATTP, those in favour of coercive emission reduction. Here’s the full paragraph:

    ATTP, there are a few certainties to add to the fabled uncertainty monster. For example, the number of deaths caused by extreme climate events. That’s been coming down since 1920s. In a properly reported debate everyone would be aware of this base fact, which is powerful evidence that we have no problem that requires coercive CO2 emission reduction. Growing prosperity, and adaptation within that, has been working brilliantly. Your side has to prove that this winning formula is now defunct. But you never even mention this type of evidence. Blindness or dishonesty? I don’t know. But it’s very harmful to proper policy making.

    Because it’s a group I’m expecting there to be some blindness, some dishonesty. What’s amazing is that the mass media has never, to my knowledge, even mentioned such basic evidence. Add this to the picture and the Nature activism begins indeed to look very blind.


  114. Tiny, thanks, I am not sure which is funnier, the article in Nature or the write-up in Vox that says “The so-called “burning embers” graph attempts to render the various risks of climate change — “reasons for concern,” or RFCs — in an easy-to-grasp visual form.”

    Can someone explain to me why there are three tractors in the third bar, and two frogs in the fourth one?


  115. Catweasle. You quote me ” I am also interested in the opinions of the general public.” and I am, but primarily why they might have the opinions they do on climate change, as my text explained. They may rank their concern about it dead last in a list, but this does not necessarily correlate with whether or not they believe it to be real or not – as I think you well know. Much of the unconcern is that they perceive (and are told) that the effects are in the future. Who gives a xxxt when it’s other people who will have to suffer and you have present day problems to deal with. This low ranking of climate change is commonly misused.


  116. Wow. The new diagraphgram looks fabulous – chocky-jam full of high impact and high confidence colours. The whole thing looks like a schematic for a new concept game of climate monopoly. I particularly like the little counters – frogs, igloos and coral reefs.
    I’ll swope you my malaria hospital card for two of your frogs.


  117. I think the third tractor means that even your Greenland and Antarctic farms will be heat stressed at that point. They were going to put little rockets at the top to indicate we’d need to seek a new planet at that point but they thought that might be seen as alarmist and trvialise the issue.


  118. “Who gives a xxxt when it’s other people who will have to suffer and you have present day problems to deal with”

    Or possibly they realise that there has up to now been no evidence of the dreadful catastrophes predicted by the CAGW brigade – rather the opposite in fact, vide the US mainland hurricane drought now in its 11th year and the 12% increase in Global green cover primarily attributed by NASA to CO2 fertilisation – and the totally astronomical funds poured into fighting this mythical monster at the expense of existential threats that they are actually living with – all of which rank above climate change in the above survey?

    As to your extraordinarily cynical “who gives a xxxt…”, if that is some sort of a slur on my regard or that of the other respondents for safety of the future population, I can assure you that as I have both children and grandchildren, I – and probably many of the other respondents to that survey – are heavily invested both materially and emotionally in the future of the planet and its inhabitants. Truly, is that how you view the morals/ethics of the majority of the population?

    In fact, I am far more worried for my children should this type of mindset become excessively evident:

    “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

    C. S. Lewis

    Liked by 1 person

  119. Catweasle no slur intended (as I think you know full well).

    If you don’t think people are cynical, evaluate the other concerns and see how those likely to affect the respondants directly are ranked relative to those affecting other people. When you are beset by a host of problems, especially those beyond your control, the fate of others, now or in the future, assume lesser importance. For many “not giving a xxxt” is a reasonable facsimile.

    It would be satisfying to conclude (as you appear to have) that the low ranking of climate change means people have evaluated it and found it wanting. I fear this is not the case. Most people, in my estimation, are agnostic, ambivalent or broadly supportive of the climate mantra – if they ever think about it.


  120. “– if they ever think about it.”

    Given that it is forced under their noses many times a day by the mainstream media – the BBC for example cannot broadcast a single program, including on the World Service – without bringing AGW – er sorry, climate change, into it somewhere, I think you are mistaken about that too.

    And please note my handle is spelt with a “Z”, not an “S”. But you already knew THAT, didn’t you?

    As this conversation is getting nowhere as you appear to believe you can read my mind – YOU CAN’T – I’ll leave you with this apposite comment on your excuses for climate “scientists” and their support of the unsupportable.

    As the great parliamentarian Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”


  121. Chicken or egg? Were the arguments unpersuasive and people stopped listening or did they never listen and so were unpersuaded? I think the former. Warmists prefer the second answer, with extra confusion thown in by oil funded deniers. That’s why they keep trying to repeat the same weak messages in ever simplistic forms to the point where few people know what the facts are. It was very telling that nobody on Newsnight knew that Emma Thompson was talking rubbish and never bothered to find out before they aired it.

    Liked by 1 person

  122. Alan does have some evidence for saying that people are aware but don’t care in that most of the warmists fit into this category but I argue that belief is a weak measure of human commiment on all things. We supposedly believe a lot of things and then do the opposite. Are we in denial? Or do we just evaluate everything with its pros and cons. We might not know that we’re doing it and the calculation might be wrong but humans and animals are built for it.


  123. Mr. Kendall, I am a market researcher and I deal with consumer surveys pretty much on a daily basis. Repeated surveys of the public that are specific to global warming do show, as you suggest, that a majority believes that some part of the Current Warming Period is caused by human emissions of CO2.

    Surveys of priorities usually end up with a dozen or more issues that the public perceives as of compelling interest. Addressing climate change is invariably last.

    Given the strength of intergenerational transfers of wealth, I am not persuaded that they don’t give a ‘xxxt’ about the future. I think the explanation lies elsewhere.

    I believe the constant barrage of mistaken but hysterical media stories has a numbing effect, especially as so many are acknowledged to be in error at a later date.

    I think the personal behavior of some of the climate change ‘rockstars’ like Al Gore and Rajendra Pachauri do not help the credibility of that coterie of activists and scientists who are most concerned about climate change.

    I think very large mistakes in messaging strategy by environmental NGOs have backfired, most notably the 10/10 No Pressure video.

    I think the adoption of mitigation measures by would-be rentiers, especially in Europe, has alientated large numbers of people–VAT carousel fraud, the mafia controlling wind farms, etc. has associated climate change with crooks and thugs–the very rare misbehavior of scientists has been publicized and has not helped.

    Finally, the political behavior of legislators and attorneys general has looked like bullying to most. That doesn’t help, even if the opposition frequently acts just as boorishly.

    I read on the internet (so it must be true) that 40% of the world’s population has not heard of human caused climate change. That may account for its dismal ranking in global surveys. But otherwise I would lay the responsibility at the doorstep of your allies, not your opposition.

    Liked by 2 people

  124. It would be easy to get your RFCs mixed up with your RCPs.

    Or maybe Climate Cluedo Alan.

    It was the Swiss Doctor (or the Red cross worker) who killed the coral reef, using either the thermometer cosh or by drowning it in the shower, in RFC2.


  125. For some reason, I am being prevented by WordPress (I presume) from ‘liking’ comments, and I have been for many a long month. That hasn’t troubled me much, although I’ve seen many, many comments here on this blog that I did indeed like. But reading the last comment from Thomas had me raging a bit at the machine. I really liked his comment a lot.


  126. John, me too. It might be about not having a WordPress account or the settings on the Browser.


  127. Catweazle. I shall repeat myself – I am no apologist for any climate scientist. I try to understand how they think and operate and I try to do this with as much understanding as I can. I do this because I have had friends and close colleagues who had very different views of AGW than I had. Have you faced a similar dilemma?

    I apologize for misspelling your nom-de-blog. It was not intentional.

    People are indeed bombarded with climate brainwash and, again in my experience, it rolls off them without lodging.

    I would prefer a more pleasant discussion if possible.


  128. The interpretation of the UN poll has brought to mind an article I found helpful last month: The Defense of Liberty Can’t Do Without Identity Politics. I suspect some Cliscep readers may not immediately be attracted by that title! But in the first part the author Jacob Levy made a convincing case that lots of pundits were over-explaining Donald Trump’s victory in the US election. Surprise, surprise, they did so in the direction of their pre-held beliefs! Well worth a look.

    Alan: Summarises my view of the field very well 🙂


  129. Thomaswfuller 2. Have only just read your interesting post after responding to Catweazle. I shall defer to your more relevant experience. As you write, it is a question of whether people apathetic about climate change were once concerned and have become apathetic (or even downright sceptical) or have never been supporters. Many of the reasons you suggest for suggesting the first group may have been apostate, would also act to keep he second group where they are.
    Do you think there might be any way in which individuals could be identified as belonging to either group?


  130. Alan, it doesn’t matter whether it is advice to government or not, what Paul et. al. complain about is Nature making political statements based upon the knowledge and opinions of its editorial staff. He and all of you fail to say whether you would think it equally wrong for any other professional publication or body to do the same. Obviously that would be plain stupid, so you are all in a bind and have to say nothing or change the subject.

    It is the same with John, a professional statistician, recommending a website written by another statistician, and then, on finding that the author of that website says some really stupid things about statistics, being unable to defend his choice of authority on statistics.

    Or Richard being unable to defend Curry when he finds that one of Curry’s corespondents has agreed with Curry that Salby is plainly wrong and that anyone with a clue can see that and yet appears to give weight to Salby nevertheless.

    I could go on, but the message is clear. Sceptics at CliScep cannot support things they say because what they say is often stupid. It is difficult to say whether the stupidity or the dishonesty is worse. I doubt you’ll find such behaviour at ATTP, because when people do say stupid things, others (non-sceptics) will call them out. I recommend you give ATTP a go.


  131. Hello Mr. Kendall, it’s actually quite easy to do if you’re running the survey. You ask the segmentation question and run crosstabs on the answer.

    Pretty nigh impossible if you don’t ask the question, though.


  132. Gee Mr. Martinez, I think that perhaps we are reading different blogs.

    No blog is immune from errors, false assumptions or stupidity in the comments. However, I think this blog does pretty well when compared to most of the competition.

    But it brings up a relevant question–if we’re so stupid why are you here talking to us? Don’t you risk contamination?


  133. As for And Then There’s Physics, I was excommunicated rather early on, as were many others here. That’s why Ken Rice comes over to slum on occasion–because he banned us all from ATTP.


  134. Len, you are out of your depth here. You are making a fool of yourself. Why not give it a break for a couple of years or so, and give yourself more time for thought and study?


  135. Thomaswfuller2. I think I can deduce what a segmentation question is, but would you take the trouble to explain to someone such as me what running cross tabs are? I can almost guess, but would wish to be sure.


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