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Ben Pile explains climate scepticism to Scott Adams

A sequence of tweets from Ben today, strung together with threadreaderunwrap. The key point is that you don’t need to be an expert scientist to see that many of the claims made by climate scientists are unjustified or nonsense.


Here, @ScottAdamsSays that the debate between ‘scientists’ and ‘sceptics’ (his framing) is impossible for a layperson to fathom, because by the end of examining the claims and counter claims lies something he cannot understand or establish the truth of.

But this is wrong. The example he gives is of ice melt.

But we know that Arctic ice did not disappear in the summer of 2013. We do not need to establish the truth of that claim — and many other similar claims about the Arctic. But those were claims made by scientists.

The same is true of many claims made in the climate debate, which you neither need expert knowledge or endless volumes of data to assess.

It is climate scientists who have stuck their heads out further than their necks can support.
Moreover, the climate debate was rehearsed a number of times, by the same organisations, institutions and individuals, in earlier decades. They made the same order of predictions, none of which were revealed to have any skill.

The second order of claim that the layperson can ask, and find out the truth of for himself is, even if the Arctic ice melted, ‘so what?’.

The scientist might argue, ‘it will be bad for polar bears’. But this, too, turns out to be false.
It does not take an endless journey to find and understand claims in the climate debate. This took me a day, eight years ago.

In truth, a melting Arctic is only of symbolic consequence.

Even if the scientific claims are difficult, the lay person can still ask why there is so much exaggeration from scientists, in the media, and from political perspectives hidden behind ‘science’.

You don’t need to be a scientist to understand that, for all its objectivity, ‘science’ is often a fig leaf. In fact, scientists are perhaps the last to grasp this point.

Here’s another instance of scientists making claims about Arctic ice melting that turn out to be hasty, and far from the rigorous scrutiny that we expect of ‘science’.

Ultimately, @ScottAdamsSays is wrong on this point, because sceptics are not in fact a camp as he has framed them.

They are the same as him, trying to understand the claims made by climate scientists (and others). They are just further down the road than him.

There is only one identifiable ‘camp’. And that is a broad movement of people, some of whom are scientists, who are infinitely better resourced, and who do not think they need to explain themselves to their critics, but that their view should prevail over others, nonetheless.

When a researcher steps outside the consensus, he or she will find peers turning on them. It turns out that institutional science is not able to transcend the problems of the political sphere.

You don’t need to be a scientist to see it.

No doubt, the scientists involved in attacking Crockford for her views believe themselves to be unimpeachable — it is obvious from their argument.

But what they reveal is that they have a much weaker grasp of what they claim to have insight into.

Where does that leave the layperson, on his journey to the Truth?

In the same place as the scientists.

More often than not, they don’t know either.

99 thoughts on “Ben Pile explains climate scepticism to Scott Adams

  1. It’s staggering to hear someone as smart as Scott Adams doesn’t understand that Climate Alarmism is dominated by PR not truth.
    ..However I think debate in the US is different and as he says it is quite easy to point at a few really wacky people on the US sceptic side, but how Adams can overlook the good debunkers in the states is weird.

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  2. Paul,

    Spot on. Years ago, I was thinking that it was impossible to get across the understanding that not only was there such a camp, but that it’s group behaviours are as old as homo-sapiens at least and probably older, and are pretty well known. And impossible also to get across the fact of a lack of the same group behaviours on the other side, because alliance effects have pulled in existing cultural conflicts in some countries (e.g. Con / Reps versus Lib / Dems), which mask the underlying situation, and indeed how it entangled with those conflicts in the first place.

    But now I’m much more optimistic. I think that, albeit slowly, thoughts are increasingly going beyond the huge depth and unresolvability of physical climate science, and creeping towards much simpler issues of social behaviours such as those you state above. So maybe, Scott will eventually get there; after all a realisation that the science is mired in a social boxing match of claim and counter claim is actually a necessary step (and for sure this situation doesn’t imply a there could be certainty of global catastrophe, as propagated for years by presidents and prime ministers). The next step would be looking at how and why this battle of claims has arisen over the years, and hence turning to the behaviours you note here as the ultimate cause. The increasing zeal and moral pressure of a movement that in various ways seems to be leaving reality behind, is surely encouraging people towards asking appropriate questions about behaviours.

    The social issues have a few complications too. But this angle can deliver a very understandable answer and without recourse to any climate science. It cannot say ‘what is right’ (social data cannot answer a physical science proposal). But it certainly can say ‘who is wrong’, because all strong cultural consensuses are wrong; they are just fairy tales that emerge to define and glue together an in-group via emotive conviction. Which leaves everyone in the same place, as you note, i.e. not knowing what the truth is. Yet the horizon is likely narrowed; although a high certainty of global catastrophe could be right for an utterly wrong reason, if so it would be the first one in an endless sequence throughout history of these fairy tales, to ever come true.

    The expected behaviours of the camp are listed here:
    http://judithcurry.com/2015/11/20/climate-culture/

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  3. Stew, per above the starting situation to a layman (assuming this is the case) in the US just looks like a big fight between Rep / Cons and Dem / Libs. And en-masse, neither side knows anything about the actual topic and many on both sides weaponize anything to do with climate and energy they can seize upon. So assuming a truly cold start, this is from a highly artificial situation, and one in which I presume there is no trust in anything and no means to determine what source might be trusted. Both sides claim science is on their side (but the Dem / Libs are aligned to international consensus so generally would win on this score alone, yet laymen are more US focused anyhow so local opinion matters).

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  4. Observation: Greenland ice has melted and Arctic sea-ice has shrunk considerably since satellite monitoring began in 1979. Climate scientists tell us that most or all of this is due to anthropogenic GHGs. You don’t need to be Einstein to check that there are competing theories as to why Arctic ice has melted, involving natural oceanic and atmospheric variability. You don’t need to be a brilliant historian to check that Arctic ice melted probably just as dramatically in the 1930s/40s when there was much less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Scientists made numerous predictions of an ‘ice-free’ Arctic. All wrong. These things are simple. They form the backbone of the sceptic viewpoint. Examination of the science behind natural and unnatural explanations for Arctic ice melt is a little more complex and taxing but should not be beyond the intelligence of a man like Adams, which raises the question of whether he is genuinely curious about climate change and its causes, or whether he is more interested in simply framing the opposition to the established explanation for observed changes in the cryosphere and elsewhere.

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  5. Jaime. “These things are simple. They form the backbone of the sceptic viewpoint.”

    I disagree.

    There is no sceptic viewpoint. There are many perspectives, only having in common the things they are sceptical of, to degrees. I’ve written a lot about Arctic ice. But not because it is the core of my perspective. I have written about it because that is (or was) where a so much alarmist bullshit has come from. It’s not the core of alarmist climate-environmentalism; it’s just a prop. It shouldn’t be the backbone of the sceptical perspective either.

    Put differently, the climate debate descends to science.

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  6. Pingback: Ben Pile explains climate scepticism to Scott Adams – Today,s Thought

  7. Ben, my comment was not that clear. What I was trying to convey is that simple observations of inconsistencies in the climate narrative form the backbone of scepticism. I was just using the Arctic ice thing as an example. Cook and others like to waive these off as ‘sceptic talking points’, as if they are just meaningless chatter, devoid of consequence. People like McIntyre, Lewis et al put flesh on the bones of these ‘talking points’.

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  8. But we know that Arctic ice did not disappear in the summer of 2013. We do not need to establish the truth of that claim — and many other similar claims about the Arctic. But those were claims made by scientists.

    It’s interesting that you highlight this. This is one area where a very small number of scientists (and some non-scientists) have made claims that were clearly wrong and which were challenged by many scientists at the time. Yet, you somehow think this is a good example of scientists getting something wrong. Do you really think that a small number of scientists getting something wrong is somehow representative of the scientific community as a whole? Seems like an impossible expectation (all scientists must be right all the time).

    Put differently, the climate debate descends to science.

    Yes, but this is mostly because many climate skeptics seem reluctant to move on from the science. It seems that it is easier to challenge the science than it is to engage in substantive discussions about what – if anything – should be done.

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  9. ATTP
    The IPCC used to recognize that there are two lines of policy to combat climate change – mitigation and adaptation.
    Mitigation – reducing GHG emissions – has failed so far. After 24 annual COP meetings there has been a total to agree national policies that will in aggregate even stop emissions rising. Therefore the UK is imposing costly policies that will not produce the supposed benefits.
    That leaves climate adaptation as the only option. To ensure that the benefits of such policies are greater than costs requires reasonably accurate estimates of the location, magnitude and timing of each of the various impacts. There have been a lot of well-publicized short-term false alarms, but where are the short-term predictions of doom that have been accurate?
    If there is a genuine problem with climate change your blogging is a liability to getting real workable solutions, whilst minimizing the harms caused. One line of evidence is shown below.
    https://manicbeancounter.com/2015/04/26/attp-on-lombergs-australian-funding/

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  10. ATTP,

    “Do you really think that a small number of scientists getting something wrong is somehow representative of the scientific community as a whole?”

    Clearly he doesn’t. But he does seem to think that it is representative of the sort of things that have been said by scientists and it is representative of the alarmist statements that are driving the sentiment used to support the advocated climate change policies. No matter how unreliable such statements may be in capturing the consensus view, they still carry impact. This is not one of those issues that can be swept away by accusations of cherry-picking.

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  11. Ken: “It’s interesting that you highlight this. This is one area where a very small number of scientists (and some non-scientists) have made claims that were clearly wrong and which were challenged by many scientists at the time.”

    It’s always a small number of scientists who highlight anything. It wasn’t a small number of non-scientists highlighting it, but a very large number, across a great many headlines and political statements. And it wasn’t a large number number of scientists challenging it. I was one of a number of non scientists pointing out the problems.

    Yet, you somehow think this is a good example of scientists getting something wrong.

    It’s a very good example of scientists getting something wrong. It was wrong. The wrongness can be established very easily by the lay person. And the lay person can also draw broader conclusions from the wrongness. Such as, for example, that despite the emphasis on science, neither a scientific consensus not institutional science as such can control the alarmist narrative. This much speaks to Scott Adams’ claim that the layperson cannot access the truth of claims.

    Do you really think that a small number of scientists getting something wrong is somehow representative of the scientific community as a whole?

    You getting ahead of your ability to read what was actually written is what annoys sceptics and gives you your reputation. I gave two other examples in what was a relatively short and entirely informal (on Twitter!) series of arguments.

    One was the case of the late Seymour Laxon, whose research seemed very hasty to me at the time — it produced countless alarming headlines, though the research was incomplete and unpublished. Science by press release. This speaks to Adams’ point that the layperson cannot get to the bottom of claims. Of course they couldn’t, because neither could scientists examine unpublished claims, to address the alarmist headlines. Rather than agreeing with me that science should be complete and published before it gets turned into headlines, I think I was called ‘stupid’ by a number claiming to ‘speak for science’.

    The other was a reference to polar bear population statistics. I pointed out that they were not sound, and that it was possible, contra Adam’s claims, for a lay person to establish that they were not sound. Worse, the lay person doing his own assessment of polar bear population studies would have encountered Susan Crockford’s much more comprehensive –i.e. scientific — investigation of Polar Bear populations, but who was met with categorically bad faith replies from putative peers, whose work in turn depends not on empirical observations, but mostly ad hom and modelled population dynamics hypotheses to claim that she is wrong. There are several discoveries for the lay person in that.

    And there was a fourth (including further observations from the cryosphere), not mentioned. My lay evaluation of the claims about polar bear populations were prompted by cryospherologist, Mark Brandon, whose seemingly expert demolition of non-scientist Nigel Lawson’s rebuttal to David Attenborough tried to depict polar bear populations in pie charts. That struck me as an inherently flawed way of presenting population statistics, and so I dug deeper. Brandon later admitted to me that he was wrong. Subsequently, I interviewed him about other Arctic controversies. https://www.spiked-online.com/2012/08/13/why-facts-cut-no-ice-in-the-climate-debate/

    Seems like an impossible expectation (all scientists must be right all the time).

    Well, that’s our (sceptics) point, isn’t it? As I point out at the end of the interview with Brandon, seven years ago,

    As long as there is an expectation that science can only produce uncorrupted and objective accounts of the world, the immediate significance of melting ice (and other things) will continue to be overstated. And while there is an expectation that instructions to politics can be simply read off from scientific observations, anti-progress and anti-human narratives, of the kind epitomised by the Guardian’s alarmism, will persist. It is these tendencies which allow a few millimetres of melted ice to turn into stories about several miles of melting, and many meters of sea level rise.

    I’m glad you’re catching up. Sceptics, it seems to me are quite comfortable with the notion that scientists err. More, they seem to expect scientists to err. But, as I also said,

    What most frustrates climate sceptics is the persistence of such junk science in the public and policy debates. Those who point out the problems of making arguments for policy on the back of PR stunts and junk science are labelled as ‘sceptics’ or ‘deniers’, motivated by profit, ‘ideology’ or simple bad-mindedness rather than the desire for a sensible debate about our relationship with the natural environment and concern about development. [Gordon] Brown’s errors are passed over with little criticism from science. But how to account for such errors in the first place?

    So, no. It was not just one case of ‘scientists’ being wrong about one thing. It was many scientists, being wrong about many things, in good and in bad faith. And they were addressed to Scott Adam’s claims that the lay person cannot fathom the truth of the arguments in currency, and his framing of the debate as one between ‘scientists’ and ‘sceptics’. In truth, those designations precede the debate. Adams’ emphasis was on claims about the Arctic, and as the four+ claims visited here demonstrate, climate sceptics, lay people among them, have been on the right ‘side’ of those scientific debates in spite of those designations, and arguably have been more effective at correcting the dominant narrative than institutional science has been.

    “many climate skeptics seem reluctant to move on from the science. It seems that it is easier to challenge the science than it is to engage in substantive discussions about what – if anything – should be done.”

    Translation: the whole debate would be over if everyone just admitted I am right about everything.

    That’s not how science works, Ken. It is how many seem to want it to work, though.

    Liked by 5 people

  12. ATTP:

    “This is one area where a very small number of scientists (and some non-scientists) have made claims that were clearly wrong and which were challenged by many scientists at the time.”

    Indeed there are only a small number of scientists who disagree with the mainstream / IPCC position and push a high certainty of the catastrophic (via whatever mechanisms, including Arctic ice). But Ben notes the symbolism. Their claims have become iconic, and are woven into a generic narrative of imminent (decades) global catastrophe (absent dramatic action), which is and has been propagated by presidents, prime ministers, the UN elite, religious leaders, and rafts of other authorities and influencers and NGOs and businesses for decades. So how would the public know this is simply not true? Especially considering that a critical element of the catastrophe narrative itself as propagated by all that list, is that this judgement on catastrophe *is* the considered output of ‘the’ science. This is false, as mainstream science doesn’t support that narrative; not even any need to invoke any of the skeptic science. But all these authority sources are not lying, they are saying what they actually believe to be true.

    “…and which were challenged by many scientists at the time.”

    For sure the push-back on such claims generally, isn’t zero. But the vastly larger mainstream scientific community that does *not* support a high certainty of imminent global catastrophe, is *not* seriously challenging the catastrophe narrative as propagated by all those authority sources (and indeed a small number of non-mainstream scientists too). If they had pushed back seriously, it wouldn’t have gotten to be such a huge and false belief, and one in which (up until the exception of the current US admin) many of the highest authorities on the planet and rafts of lower authorities too (who cumulatively hold the ultimate command to policy), are citing as the principle reason to act.

    Meanwhile the same mainstream science community has spent inordinate amounts of effort challenging skeptical views, which even now hold much less influence than the above list of authorities, and until pretty recently, far less still. I don’t know which of the positions on the physical science future history will endorse, but regarding the ‘science of science communication’, we should be addressing the biggest ‘pollution’ (borrowing Dan Kahan’s terms) of the science communication environment first. The notion of high certainty of imminent global catastrophe (absent dramatic action) as propagated by all those many and many high authorities, is both false by mainstream AND skeptical standards, and about as influential as it gets.

    About 180 examples of catastrophe narrative from authority sources and scientists, discussed here:
    https://judithcurry.com/2018/11/14/the-catastrophe-narrative/

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  13. Fix:

    “Indeed there are only a small number of *climate* scientists who disagree with the mainstream…”

    Outside of core climate science there are very many more who propagate the full-on catastrophe narrative, this seems especially common for environmental scientists. There are examples from climate and ‘other’ scientists in the above list above (50 total). The public would I presume not generally know the difference.

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  14. For clarity, and to aid Ken in his understanding…

    Ken responded to the post and discussion by claiming that just one instance of scientific error forms the basis of my argument. This was countered by pointing out two other instances that were also alluded to in the tweets/article, and that a fourth article exists also, which details a number of other instances of the domain in question (the Arctic), which institutional science had failed to either bring sense to its own or to coverage. Additionally, Andy added a great number of examples from the broader debate that has driven sceptical discussion, which I am barely through parsing myself.

    These are details which Ken has, as is Ken’s wont, seen fit to ignore. He ignores them in order to make ad hom points. He was wrong, though pointing out his own error to him makes no difference to Ken, whose routine is to double down in a cloud of whingeing, outraged self-justification. I indulged him once. And this yielded no evidence of good faith. It is derailing and it is tedious.

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  15. ” Put differently, the climate debate descends to science.

    Yes, but this is mostly because many climate skeptics seem reluctant to move on from the science. It seems that it is easier to challenge the science than it is to engage in substantive discussions about what – if anything – should be done.”

    Ken, this must be the most wrong-headed of all the wrong-headed comments you have ever uttered on this blog. What came first? The science of man-made climate change or the policy response re. what to do about man-made climate change? I’m one of those simple folk who thinks that the science must necessarily justify the policy response, i.e. mitigation and adaptation. If the science ain’t right or it ain’t all it’s cracked up to be, then the policy response cannot be right either. If modeled projections of future warming are too hot because climate is less sensitive to CO2 than is generally assumed, and/or if the influence of natural variability has been poorly constrained, then the massive disruption to the way we live coupled with the shakedown of Western economies required to decarbonise by 2050 advocated by climate alarmists is brought into doubt. The urgency of action is questionable if the science is questionable. This is why sceptics tend to concentrate on the science, not because it is easy – it isn’t – but because it is primary. Post normal thinking predominant on the Left and among climate activists and alarmists tends to ignore such reasoned argument in favour of turning causative logic on its head to insist that the secondary is now the primary and vice versa. Hence, the policy response is all important “because the unsettled science is settled, because it just IS OK!”

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  16. This is why we don’t need Ken. And why sceptics aren’t a thing…

    Jaime: “This is why sceptics tend to concentrate on the science, not because it is easy – it isn’t – but because it is primary. Post normal thinking predominant on the Left and among climate activists and alarmists tends to ignore such reasoned argument in favour of turning causative logic on its head to insist that the secondary is now the primary and vice versa. ”

    I don’t concentrate on the science. I’ve long argued that we can examine the politics of climate change with or without the science. Environmentalism — i.e. green political ideology — is primary, logically and historically. It is prior historically because, as we have seen, the same claims (made by the same organisations, institutions, and individuals) are made about climate as were made about earlier environmental issues. And they are prior logically, as are revealed by the environmentalists’ presuppositions that make an equivalence of society’s sensitivity to climate and climate’s sensitivity to CO2. The science is detail.

    None of which is to say that we shouldn’t look at the detail. But it is to say that it is naive to believe that the end of climate alarmism will be the end of environmental alarmism.

    Environmentalism of the kind we are faced with predates ‘post normal’ thinking, as formulated by Funtowicz and Ravetz by at least two decades, though is coincident with the left’s (and even the Soviet Union’s) disintegration. But environmentalism was at one point, a symptom of the right’s decline (i.e. Ehrlich et al, in supranational processes that the Soviet Bloc were not party to, and domestic/western, new left movements were deeply suspicious of), despite the contemporary nominal left’s more recent adoption of the cause. Put differently, environmentalism is a symptom of political decline across the spectrum.

    In the 1980s, and into the 2000s, political critique of climate environmentalism diminished until it had all but completely disappeared. One such example that popped up recently is French philosopher and politician, Luc Ferry who made some unwise remarks about the Gilet Jeunes — he thought they should be shot. In the ’90s Ferry wrote a critical history of political ecology — https://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/N/bo3696920.html . But 25 years later, the reaction to carbon taxes dans la rue are of no interest to him. These are different political times — and he seems to have benefited from, and been swept along by the changes that gave increasing emphasis to the projects of the environmentalists of the 1960s and ’70s.

    There is more to be understood about the rise of climate alarmism by looking at that transformation than can be understood by looking at ice core data. I wish more sceptics would do it. It seems to me a shortcoming of scepticism that merely debunking alarmists claims risks accepting the premises of environmentalism — that *if* their scientific claims are true, then their political demands are true. This seems almost designed to exclude normal politics (speaking of post-normal science), i.e. to exclude the lay person from politics. That is why I take issue with Adams’ framing.

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  17. Of some further relevance to the numbers of scientists…

    For the post linked above I roughly assessed the tightest / most extreme category, i.e. those who propagate the full-on catastrophe narrative, aka a high certainty of imminent (~ 2 to 8 decades) global catastrophe. And of particular interest were also those doing this and yet who were also formally signed into the IPCC process representing ‘the mainstream’ (which output doesn’t support that narrative). Although searching only in English (which nevertheless seems to be the main language of the domain):

    ‘Those scientists included in the catastrophe narrative examples from footnote 6 and 7 who are also IPCC contributors, include at least: from the 831 authors in the AR5 Working Groups; Andrew Weaver, Anthony Richardson? (website claims ‘culminated in me being invited to co-author of Chapter 30 The Ocean in the IPCC 5th Assessment’, but he is not listed in the 10 authors of this chapter), David Karoly, Eric Rignot, Michael Oppenheimer, Niklas Höhne, Peter Wadhams and Pieter Tans. From earlier IPCC main reports; Hans Joachim Schellnhuber (a coordinating lead author on AR3 WGII), Jason Box (AR4), Michael MacCracken, Michael Mann (a lead author on AR3), Richard Somerville (a coordinating lead author on AR4), Stephan Rahmstorf (a lead author on AR4). From other IPCC efforts; Johan Rockström (contributed on at least an early effort towards AR6), Ken Caldeira (IPCC 2005 special report on CCS, also resigned as a co-ordinating author on AR5), Robert Watson (IPCC chair, 1997 to 2002), Thomas Goreau (at least 1 expert meeting in 2007).’

    There are no doubt others, but *for this tight category* the numbers do indeed seem to be small relative to the total of contributors. Without too much effort one can pull full-on catastrophe narrative quotes from dozens of scientists off the Internet, yet more than half are non-climate scientists, and environmentalists in particular. Spending more effort and searching in other languages may get to low hundreds I would guess, but this is still a small minority of those directly involved in the various official IPCC reports, and the thousands more whose papers are sucked into the bottom of the IPCC process. Of course very many scientists don’t have sufficient profile that a quote would be available, but then they aren’t contributing to the catastrophe narrative in the public domain anyhow, which is what I was looking for. Plus as far as I can see, those who do propagate the catastrophe narrative seem to thereby earn a much higher profile (which considering its high emotive content is not a surprise). A small subset have many high profile catastrophe quotes that the media seems to lap up.

    However, if one opens out from the strict catastrophe narrative (aka a high certainty of imminent [decades] global catastrophe [absent action]), yet still include more specific items that most mainstream scientists wouldn’t agree with (which may include local catastrophes), or for instance per John R’s point here on occasion unsupported precautionary principle narratives, I presume the numbers one could catch would go up dramatically. But this wasn’t what I was looking for, plus it would take more value judgements on physical science to set the search bounds (not my bag), whereas the full-on catastrophe narrative is not just the ‘most wrong’ in this context, but by far the easiest to test for.

    So at the loose end of the scale and especially in absolute terms, ‘a very large number’ of scientists is a reasonable assessment. But also at the tightest end of the scale and in relative terms (% of total IPCC contributors, say), ‘a very small number’ is also likely (maybe a single figure percentage). Yet at either end this is a serious and systemic problem, and as Ben notes absolutely not an issue of isolated examples or even of isolated sub-domains, such as Arctic ice. Not only do these scientists (climate and other) help very much to legitimize the wider and false catastrophe narrative that has been propagated by many and many high authorities over decades, I think a bigger problem still is that the majority of climate scientists keep relatively if not completely silent, i.e. they fail to provide serious push-back to the false catastrophe narrative that is actually propagated by presidents and prime ministers and UN elite and religious leaders and NGOs and economists and businesses and many other authorities and influencers, *in their name*.

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  18. Ken writes “It seems that it is easier to challenge the science than it is to engage in substantive discussions about what – if anything – should be done.”

    I am incredulous that such a moron appears to hold an academic position. I am incredulous that such a moron passed gcse exams.

    If there is no problem that can be objectively identified then there is no need to do anything.

    This guy should be sectioned. He is objectively stupid

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  19. I call it ‘wilfully obtuse’, MiaB.

    There’s a lot of it about.

    Schmidt, for instance, ultimately prefers the authority of indoctrinated 16 yr old autistic skivers to debate with academic peers.

    That is the standard being set for ‘academic positions’. If that continues to be the case, we no longer need academia.

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  20. Jaime:

    This is why sceptics tend to concentrate on the science, not because it is easy – it isn’t – but because it is primary.

    Ben:

    I don’t concentrate on the science. I’ve long argued that we can examine the politics of climate change with or without the science.

    Nice setup. I’m reminded at once of Robin Guenier, who also strongly felt that he didn’t want to concentrate on the science, but on the complete irrationality of climate policy, even if the science was bang-on. Because China. (And he’s made some very powerful arguments on that.) The interesting thing for me is that Robin elected not to be a founding member of Cliscep – we all very much wanted him – and I think that had a lot to do with the climate sceptic brand. He didn’t think it was going to help him.

    My own tuppence ha’penny is that there is much in the middle that is neither pure science nor policy. There’s engineering for one thing, and basic humanism, as Michael Kelly brilliantly combined in For Climate Alarmism, The Poor Pay The Price in Standpoint just over three years ago.

    And what of my own four numbers that tell a story over seven years ago? I still think this is the simplest way of “explaining to someone with an open mind that there is something lacking in the accepted wisdom on climate change.” But is my fourth number (or time series) a matter of science or policy?

    If you pushed me to take sides, I’d agree with Ben. But it’s a great discussion to be having.

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  21. So Gavin is using the manipulation of a child suffering from autism as an example of the quality of his position.
    How pathetic.

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  22. Richard — “there is much in the middle that is neither pure science nor policy. There’s engineering for one thing, and basic humanism”.

    I’ve referred to this clip a few times in the past. Zizek calls it ‘ideology’.

    This is ideology as distinct from political doctrine. But it’s all the more an important observation that ideology pops up (floats, and won’t flush away) where we least expect it (however far we want to go along with the rest of Zizek), when so much of politics is hidden behind ‘science’ — environmentalism refusing to admit it is ideological, and that it has any doctrine.

    This is why I think we should resist definitions of scepticism. Jaime (who I hope I’m not picking on), Andy and I have really quite different perspectives. We converge at climate because it is wrong from so many perspectives. Added to that, some here are from the left. Some the right. Some are refugees from the left. The climate alarmists demonology, however, would tell us otherwise.

    Sceptics vs scientists, my a***e.

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  23. An actual NASA climate scientist has recently come out as an active supporter* of a campaign that says that climate science says that unless humans cut CO2 emissions to zero by 2025 (sometimes 2050) then climate change could make us extinct within decades and will probably wipe us out by the end of this century.

    Consensus climate science says nothing of the kind, so should Peter Kalmus be sacked from NASA for supporting such potentially dangerous nonsense?

    Of course not. He should have been sacked years ago because of his Twitter profile: ‘Climate scientist, hater of fossil fuel, lover of life’.

    ===
    *twitter.com/ClimateHuman/status/1087090372294004736

    If you’re wondering whether Kalmus isn’t aware of XR’s eschatonanist tendencies, yesterday he tweeted that this Graun profile of XR from last year…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jAH3IQwHKag

    …was an ‘outstanding video’ that is all about people who ‘deeply get the urgency of climate breakdown’.

    The deeply-got urgency? The video repeated this statement three times: ‘We’re looking at mass starvation within ten years.’**

    Also this: ‘It’s effectively over. We’re all going to die unless there’s a major mobilization.’

    ===
    **The third repetition of the imminent mass starvation claim was accompanied by a cartoon of an orangutan vandalising a child’s bedroom. At first I assumed this was a mischievous Grauniad editorial comment on XR’s nonsense but it turns out that it was just an unfortunate edit of the original RT interview with XR th0ught-leader Roger Hallam. The orangutan cartoon was an extract from an anti-palm oil, Emma Thompson-voiced Greenpeace advert that had been re-badged by the supermarket Iceland to support its claims that it was phasing out palm oil in its own-label products – claims that were undermined last week by an admission that it had instead de-badged its palm-oil-containing own-label products, rendering them no-label, so therefore still somehow sans palm oil. Top greenwashing there, Iceland!

    Liked by 1 person

  24. It’s like buses. One waits for ages for a decent discussion of toilets to come along and suddenly there’s two at once:

    Liked by 1 person

  25. I agree with Ben that environmental activism (green political ideology) precedes the science of anthropogenic global warming which it has so effectively latched on to in order to exploit politically. In the narrower sense though, the science still must precede specific mitigation policy. Greens couldn’t just argue for decarbonisation in a vacuum; they needed a cause celebre and that cause was man-made Thermageddon. I’m sure they’ll find something else if climate change goes tits up; in fact, they already have – aerosol pollution. I’m also pretty certain that, had the 70’s cooling continued, aerosols would have been pinpointed as the cause and we would have had, instead of GHG warming, catastrophic anthropogenic aerosol cooling instead. Conveniently, the main target for action would still have been fossil-fueled industry and transport. These people will stop at nothing to propagate their misanthropic vision of a baleful human influence upon the planet.

    Like

  26. Jaime the last part of your last sentence “misanthropic vision of a baleful human influence upon the planet” struck a chord. I worked on the geology of the Eastern Desert of Egypt, an area which the Egyptians feared would be invaded by the Israelis and so was strung with barbed wire, mile after mile of it. These would not be maintained. Whereas they wouldn’t stop a dinkietoy car, they trapped every scrap of plastic blowing in the strong winds of the area. So driving over this pristine stony desert, with occasional nebkha, you would come across these signs of humanity – lines of rotting rubbish, sometimes with skeletons of desert animals that they had trapped, and a phrase similar to yours would pop into my head – more baleful human influence upon our planet.

    Liked by 3 people

  27. Alan, there is no argument whatsoever against the contention that humans have been, and continue to be, detrimental to ‘the environment’. The debate is whether, via a supposed ‘dangerous’ influence upon the global climate and global atmospheric/oceanic circulation, we are capable of initiating a global catastrophe.

    Liked by 2 people

  28. The detriment is predominantly related to poverty, take eg the plastic soup hype, Europe makes no contribution to the plastic pollution in the Pacific, this pool is predominantly fed by Asian rivers sourced by growing economies where people have little sense for the environment. The recent accident with container vessel MSC Zoe in the southern North Sea showed that all pollution from the Thames and the Rhine flows to the Barentz Sea.

    Liked by 2 people

  29. Hans: I took the liberty of editing your comment for typos. Partly because it’s a very helpful input for a post I’m planning to do later today.

    John and Ben: I saw those two comments that have now been disappeared! I assume and hope because Ben got the wrong end of the stick as far as what John meant. If so, we should have more of this tidying up. (And I have no objection about the earlier comments being removed by Ben. That’s the freedom we’ve always given to thread owners, as Ben rightly is here, with Paul merely his amanuensis. And such variation in moderation makes for useful experiments, with controls. Not wholly watertight as ‘science’ but suggestive.)

    Like

  30. Jaime:

    The debate is whether, via a supposed ‘dangerous’ influence upon the global climate and global atmospheric/oceanic circulation, we are capable of initiating a global catastrophe.

    I don’t think even that’s an adequate description. It’s whether such a global catastrophe that we (just maybe) have initiated, or are about to initiate in the next hundred years, say, is avertable in any reasonable sense. “We must do something!” goes the cry. But you have to prove that the something has a good chance of averting the posited catastrophe. We have to get into the probabilities, the insurance analogy, the cost of the premiums versus the chance that through that massive expense and loss of precious freedoms we are going to avert the man-made catastrophe that some people think is just possibly over the horizon otherwise. You must present evidence that the catastrophe is both likely and avertable. Colour me not entirely convinced. (And for that I’m called a Denier.)

    Liked by 1 person

  31. Jaime my comment was in no way in opposition to yours.
    There is a strong correlation between wealth and evironmentalism. Even in the earliest days, preservation of the environment was promoted by those with enough disposable income to visit pristine sites, and enough spare time to contemplate doing something to maintain them.*
    Although I was appalled by those barbed wire plastic collection barriers, our Egyptian drivers did not even notice them. The stony deserts were areas of no value to them (I believe today ‘crazy’ tourists are taken there on trucks and jeeps to ‘experience’ the ‘real’ desert.

    * This I think is a western viewpoint. I believe the countryside, and indeed even the cities of Japan are conspicuously free of rubbish. Sacred sites (commonly natural) have been visited and revered for centuries.

    Liked by 2 people

  32. Richard, yes, that’s getting back to the discussion about the primacy of science or policy and which topic is better or ‘easier’ for sceptics to concentrate upon. Even if you accept that the scientific argument is strong enough to warrant action, it is notable that the action taken thus far and that proposed for the coming decades is both ludicrously impractical and, for all intents and purposes, ineffective. Thus the posited ‘catastrophe’, on current policy, in not avoidable, in fact barely mitigable. What we can say with certainty is that climate policy as advocated in its more extreme form, i.e. 100% reliance upon renewables, serves only to fuel the wet dreams of green fanatics, which area mostly concerns Ben, I think.

    Alan, your Egyptian drivers show as little concern for the desert as the average inner city high-rise dweller has for the English countryside. Yes, environmental concern does tend to be a middle class thing, where ‘value’ is placed upon those environments which the better off have the time and money to visit regularly, or even live in. My view is that these environments possess intrinsic value as well as relative value, but this may just be my fanciful Western notion of ‘the wild’ coming into play.

    Liked by 1 person

  33. “Even if you accept that the scientific argument is strong enough to warrant action…”

    We may have gotten there via different perspectives, but I agree with Ben that the scientific argument, promoted by mainstream scientists plus associated citizen scientists, and opposed by skeptic scientists plus associated citizen scientists, has become to some extent a side-show. The most influential messaging in the domain over decades now (albeit with the recent exception of the current US admin), i.e. as propagated by presidents and prime ministers and high ministers and UN elite and religious leaders and NGOs and economists and businesses and rafts of other authorities and influencers, is the catastrophe narrative, aka a high certainty of imminent (decades) global catastrophe (absent dramatic action). The cumulative influence of all these authorities drives main policy aspirations, and indeed the certainty of catastrophe is often explicitly given as the principle reason to act. But *both* skeptic science and mainstream science do not support this narrative elephant in the public domain, ridden by so many leaders and authorities of international, national and local standing. Hence the argument between the two camps on scientific detail is irrelevant to the main message and its consequent action, which message isn’t disputed by either side (they both believe it to be false). If skeptics want ‘one single thing’ out of mainstream science, it should be to get them to oppose the catastrophe narrative as propagated in their name but unsupported by them (e.g. per AR5). Currently, they do not seriously oppose (there are some very token efforts), and hence among various heavy consequences a small fringe of catastrophist scientists who do oppose the IPCC, but in the opposite direction i.e. for being too conservative, can enjoy highly disproportionate publicity. This ‘one single thing’ would likely cut the elephant down at the knees, whatever emerged later regarding scientific detail and wherever that happened to fall on the spectrum. I presume that mainstream science doesn’t oppose because they are culturally cowed; albeit en-masse the main effects are subconscious not conscious, it may well have occurred to quite a few latterly that they don’t want their colleagues and employers and children and partners, calling them a ‘denier’. Forensic science efforts such as that by Steve M or lately Nick L, exposing weak science and biased methodologies, will no doubt (as these do actually achieve some publicity) put a dart in the elephant; but as has become clear you need an awful lot of darts to bring down an elephant, especially as its main sustenance is not science wrong or right but emotive conviction anyhow. And this is still an argument mainly (i.e. except in cases of the fringe catastrophist scientists) with those who scientifically agree that the elephant is a fantasy beast in any case, even if a barbed social barrier has to be crossed for them to publicly admit it. Incidentally, Lindzen has been pointing out this level of agreement between the IPCC and skeptic science for years. And as Geoff Chambers has noted on these pages, the most substantive obstacle in the elephant’s way right now appears to be a few strongmen / populist leaders (not so good), and should they end up doing the deed with a rifle, the consequences for the reputation of climate science would be immeasurably worse than if it stood up itself against the beast.

    Like

  34. “But we know that Arctic ice did not disappear in the summer of 2013. We do not need to establish the truth of that claim — and many other similar claims about the Arctic.”

    but we also know those individual projections were conditional, and in the one instance where they were published, the IPCC rejected them.

    thats right. The consensus of science is that summer ice will remain until 2040 at least.

    The MSM, a couple of alarmists, and the skeptics are the only people who believed the rash predictions if ice loss and snow loss.

    the science says different.

    The real question is why do skeptics unskeptically accept science presented in the MSM as the actual published, reviewed, and accepted science?

    The best scuence says the ice will last beyond 2040. The best science says snow will decline maybe 10 to 20 percent.

    When sceptics can only attack the weakest science, the science presented on occassion by the MSM, that tells you something about their willingness and capacity to challenge the best

    Like

  35. That’s very good Andy, imho, but I don’t understand the last sentence. Here’s a mini-Fisk

    And as Geoff Chambers has noted on these pages

    Anything noted by Geoff is worth due attention and respect (crawl, crawl)

    the most substantive obstacle in the elephant’s way right now appears to be a few strongmen / populist leaders (not so good)

    Agree with the not so good there.

    and should they end up doing the deed with a rifle, the consequences for the reputation of climate science would be immeasurably worse than if it stood up itself against the beast.

    I was thinking more that it could be a disaster for the reputation of sceptics, who’ve ended up, perhaps for the best of motives, siding with hated strongmen or populist leaders. But this depends on what you mean by finishing off the elephant with a rifle. Metaphors begone. What are we talking about here?

    Like

  36. Mosh:

    “The real question is why do skeptics unskeptically accept science presented in the MSM as the actual published, reviewed, and accepted science?”

    They don’t. They often call it out as BS – quoting the ‘best science’ and simple observations. The real question is why so few of the ‘best scientists’ don’t do the same.

    Liked by 7 people

  37. It’s also not true that it was only a ‘couple of alarmists’ sounding the fire bell re. the disappearance of summer Arctic ice:

    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/earth/earthnews/3345666/North-Pole-ice-may-disappear-by-September.html

    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/earth/earthnews/3318239/Arctic-ice-could-be-gone-in-five-years.html

    Many influential scientists jumped on the bandwagon when Arctic ice was melting much more rapidly than projected by the IPCC to claim that maybe the projections were too conservative.

    Like

  38. Richard,

    “I was thinking more that it could be a disaster for the reputation of sceptics, who’ve ended up, perhaps for the best of motives, siding with hated strongmen or populist leaders.”

    Indeed, that too.

    “But this depends on what you mean by finishing off the elephant with a rifle. Metaphors begone. What are we talking about here?”

    Rather than showing it is wrong and why and promoting detox, instead merely undermining or even smashing the main social structures upon which it relies. Starting with the NGOs and heavily advocating research, and then green parties, and proceeding to who knows where. Of course the reputation of climate science and indeed skeptics will be far from the worst consequences if this proceeded all the way to a logical conclusion, as society is highly integrated and very many good things happen from the same structures. I presume and hope that even a worst case wouldn’t be that bad, but if it continues to the point when only unpredictable strongmen will address via conflict what *mainstream* science should have addressed itself long before (and indeed has essentially known all along is wrong), who knows where things could go. I doubt anyone knows in Brazil.

    Liked by 1 person

  39. SM: “When sceptics can only attack the weakest science, the science presented on occassion by the MSM, that tells you something about their willingness and capacity to challenge the best”

    It was a blog post, formed from a short series of tweets. It listed three cases, of which I had personal experience, to show that it was possible for a lay person to make progress in the climate debate, to point out institutional science’s errors. Subsequently, a fourth was offered, showing agreement and discussion between a sceptic (me) and a scientist with specialism in the domain (ie.. Arctic), to discuss the problem of Arctic hyperbole. Others have contributed vastly more for your consideration.

    You’re just full of BS. In fact, you’re overflowing. And you do much to substantiate my point that people of your kind cannot even read to debate. You have to make up what is in front of you.

    Go away.

    Liked by 1 person

  40. ben pile,
    Have you read any more of Scott Adams’ writing on climate yet?
    Just wondering.

    Like

  41. The possible reason we don’t see Steve or someone as credible as the go to guy to point out the BS presented ad nauseum regarding the climate consensus is simple.
    The gate keepers refuse to hear anything not full bore apocalyptic.
    After all, according to some big wig sciencey person we are down to 12 years before it all goes to climate Hades.
    Where are Steve’s angry missives pointing out to the big problems climate consensus blogs the B’s on that?
    Oh yeah: they would delete his posts and ban him.

    Like

  42. “The MSM, a couple of alarmists, and the skeptics are the only people who believed the rash predictions if ice loss and snow loss.”

    This is utter drivel. Obviously, the skeptics didn’t believe it. But ‘only people’ is also nonsense. Millions of people who know nothing about climate change but read the BBC or the Guardian will have believed it. Most ordinary members of the public, if they read something in the Guardian about what a Cambridge Professor says, are likely to believe it. The public is being misled, and some people don’t seem to care. There are many examples, but the Arctic ice is one of the clearest.

    Liked by 2 people

  43. Richard,
    Perhaps you could comment on how silence regarding claims that climate is so important that democracy must be ended/suspended to tackle it don’t damage those making them.
    Or those who don’t condemn the calls.

    Like

  44. Hunter: I changed ‘dilence’ to silence there – hope that’s what you intended. An issue here is with what kind of damage we are dealing. I hope very much that there is a decisive reckoning with climate alarmism which means that those who have advocated things like the suspension of democracy to tackle the ‘problem’ are damaged (in the credibility sense) for their long lives thereafter. The same goes, but to a lesser extent, with the many who were silent. But looking at folks like Paul Ehrlich I’m not filled with hope on this point. We may have to be content with smaller wins than that.

    Liked by 1 person

  45. “Millions of people who know nothing about climate change but read the BBC or the Guardian will have believed it. ”

    Cumulatively, over many years and many messages, an even worse problem is that presidents, prime ministers, high ministers, UN elite, religious leaders, NGOs, economists, businesses, and rafts of other authorities and influencers, also believe it, and propagate it too. They’re all represented below, see the file link for full context in each case. In turn this persuades far more of the general public; why wouldn’t they believe their leaders in practically every sphere? Especially since those leaders assure within their messaging that global catastrophe is, absent dramatic action, the considered judgement of ‘the science’. They are not lying when they say this, they truly believe it. If mainstream science continues not to push back against this belief which it doesn’t support, how will they ever learn their error?

    Examples of catastrophe narrative from…
    [AL GORE] Ex US VP, [AMINA J. MOHAMMED] UN Deputy Secretary General, [ANGELA MERKEL] Chancellor of Germany, [BAN KI-MOON] U.N. Secretary-General, [BERNIE SANDERS] US presidential candidate, [BILL CLINTON] Ex US President, [CHARLES MICHEL] Belgium’s Prime Minister, [CHRISTINE LAGARDE] Managing director of the International Monetary Fund, [ED DAVEY] UK Secretary of State for Energy & Climate Change, [EMMANUEL MACRON] As President of France, [FRANCOIS HOLLANDE] As President of France, [GORDON BROWN] As Prime Minister of UK, [GRO HARLEM BRUNDTLAND] Ex 3 times Prime Minister of Norway and UN special envoy, [HILLARY CLINTON] about 6 months after announcing presidential candidacy, [JAN PETER BALKENENDE / TONY BLAIR] Dutch / UK prime ministers, in a joint letter, [JEREMY CORBYN] UK Labour Party Leader, [JOHN KERRY] as US Secretary of State, [M. LAURENT FABIUS] French Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, [MARY ROBINSON] Former Irish president and UN high commissioner, [NICOLAS SARKOZY] When President of France, [OBAMA] As a senator and US president, [POPE FRANCIS], [PRINCE CHARLES] heir to the UK throne, [TIM WIRTH] Ex-Senator / Under Secretary and UN Foundation President, [TONY BLAIR] As the UK prime minister, [152 MEMBERS OF THE US HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES] Comprising over one-third of all members and nearly two-thirds of all Democrats, in a joint letter, [ANDY ATKINS] Friends of the Earth’s executive director, [ANOTE TONG] President of Kiribati, [BILL McKIBBEN] Environmentalist and author, [DAMIEN LAWSON] Friends of the Earth Australia national climate justice coordinator, [DAVID SUZUKI] Canadian academic, science broadcaster and environmental activist, [ELIOT SPITZER] Former Governor of New York, former Attorney General of New York, [ELIZABETH MAY] Leader of the Green Party in Canada and Canadian MP, [ERIC MASKIN] US economist and Nobel laureate, [ERIK ASSADOURIAN] Senior Fellow at the Wordwatch Institute, one of the top ten sustainable development research orgs, [FATIH BIROL] International Energy Agency’s chief economist, [FRANK BAINIMARAMA] Fijian Prime Minister, [GEOFF MAITLAND] At April 2014 the incoming president of the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE is a global org with ~40,000 members), [IAN DUNLOP] Former Chair, Australian Coal Association & CEO, Australian Institute of Company Directors, [JAKOB VON UEXKULL] Former Member of the European Parliament and a leader of the German Green Party, [JEREMY BUCKINGHAM] New South Wales Green party mining spokesman, [JERRY BROWN] Governor of California, [KUMI NAIDOO] Executive Director of Greenpeace International, [MAITHRIPALA SIRISENA] President of Sri Lanka, [NATALIE BENNET] Leader of the Green Party in England and Wales, [NATIONAL CENTRE FOR CLIMATE RESTORATION] Australia, [PETER WHISH-WILSON] Australian senator, The Greens, [RICKEN PATEL] Founding President and Executive Director of Avaaz, a major global civic organization with the world’s largest online activist community, including over 43 million subscribers, [STEPHEN HAWKING] High profile physicist, [TIM RATCLIFFE] European ‘divestment’ co-ordinator for the campaign group 350.org, [TWENTY FOUR PROMINENT AUSTRALIANS] in an open letter the new parliament, [UK FAITHS] in a joint letter by all UK faith based communities prior to Copenhagen Climate Conference, [ANDREW SIMMS] Co-director of the New Weather Institute, [MALCOLM TURNBULL] as a shadow minister, not Australian PM, [MARK CARNEY] governor of the bank of England, [MINQI LI] Chinese political economist and associate professor of Economics at the University of Utah, [PETER SCHWARTZ] CIA consultant, in a report to the Pentagon, [SHARON BURROWS] General Secretary of the International Trade Union Federation, [SWISS RE], [TED KENNEDY] 2nd most senior Senator when he died in 2009 and 4th longest continuously serving senator in US history, [TILMAN THOMAS] Prime Minister of Grenada, [UNICEF], [ANTONIO GUTERRES] UN Secretary General, [ED MILLIBAND] Ex Leader of the UK Labour Party, [FRANK ACKERMAN]. Economist, [FRANK BAINIMARAMA] Fijian Prime Minister, [JOHN RITCH]Up to end 2012 Director general of the World Nuclear Association, [MUNICH RE], [OWEN JONES] Columnist, author and political activist, [PAUL KRUGMAN] N.Y. Times columnist, [PETER TURKSON] Cardinal, Catholic Church, [SCOTT WIGHTMAN] UK Ambassador to South Korea, [ZORAN MILANOVIC] Prime Minister of Croatia, [DAVID CAMERON] UK Prime Minister, [R.K. PACHAURI] Chairman of the IPCC, [ROWAN WILLIAMS] Ex Archbishop of Canterbury (leader of the Anglican Communion, the 4th largest Christian Communion), [JOAN WALLEY] Chair of the UK environmental audit committee of MPs, [RICHARD DI NATALE (& SARAH HANSON YOUNG)] Green Party leader in Australia, [MARTHINUS VAN SCHALKWYK] South African Environmental and Tourism Minister, [SUSHMA SWARAJ] Indian External Affairs Minister, [CAROLINE LUCAS] UK MP for Brighton Pavilion, former leader and co-leader of the UK Green Party, [EVO MORALES] President of Bolivia, [DAVID CAMFIELD] A founder member of Solidarity Winnipeg, [FRACK OFF] UK anti-fracking organization, [IAN ANGUS] Author and editor of Climate and Capitalism website, [JONATHON PORRITT] Program director, Forum for the Future, and chair of the UK Sustainable Development Commission, [NAOMI KLEIN] Canadian author, social activist, and filmmaker, [64 CHILDREN FROM 20 COUNTRIES] Attending Children’s Climate Conference in Sweden, [ÅSA ROMSON] Swedish Minister for Climate and the Environment plus Deputy Prime Minister, [ENDA KENNY] Prime minister of Ireland, [ERNA SOLBERG] Prime Minister of Norway, [SAULI NIINISTÖ] President of the Republic of Finland, [JEREMY LENT] Author and founder of the nonprofit Liology Institute, [JOHN BELLAMY FOSTER] ] Professor of sociology at the University of Oregon, and since 2006 the editor of the Monthly Review, the longest continuously published socialist magazine in the United States. [RUPERT READ] Dr (philosophy) and Author, 20+ years contributor to Philosophy department at the University of East Anglia, Chair of Green House UK think tank. Former Green Party spokesperson plus MP and MEP candidate, and councilor.

    …are here: https://curryja.files.wordpress.com/2018/11/footnotes1.pdf

    Liked by 4 people

  46. Andy:

    They are not lying when they say this, they truly believe it.

    Prove it. You can’t. More importantly, it’s a false antithesis. I would assume that there are many who do not ‘truly believe it’ but simply calculate that it’s not to their advantage to step out of line. So they don’t look into it at all deeply, such as visiting this thread!

    If mainstream science continues not to push back against this belief which it doesn’t support, how will they ever learn their error?

    Correct. Here the problem is both the money coming in from government (George HW Bush raising the annual spend from $200 million to $2 billion in four years was a crucial misstep) and the risk of being called Denier.

    I know you know all this. What you’ve been assembling on Climate Etc is both helpful and impressive and it’s only really on this thread that I’ve paid attention. My bad.

    Liked by 1 person

  47. Richard,
    Thank you. You are one of the few able to decipher my spelling excursions, lol.
    Yes, “silence” is correct.
    The unwillingness of Steve, who I do consider a friend, to apply the same energy towards the climate catastrophists as he does towards skeptics has been disappointing.
    What allegedly mainstream blog has provided strong critiques of crazy claims such as “Trump is responsible for Hurricane Florence”.
    Or a warmer ocean creates stronger cold fronts like a teapot? (It does appear that someone on the consensus side at least agreed with skeptics on that)
    Or busted Mann for the many times yesterday has claimed that a weather event is “climate change”?
    For starters.
    I see that andy west has created a rather long list of catastrophists narratives in the wider public square.
    Low hanging fruit for a science focused tough minded Luke warmer to debunk.
    Tom Fuller at least acknowledges that there significant consensus issues that should be addressed and actually tried.
    I look forward to more people joining him in the endeavor to hold the consensus accountable.
    Tom deserves the support, and the public square desperately needs more reason to be brought to bear.
    Scott Adams is on balance a similar voice for reason, if his work is read in context.

    Liked by 2 people

  48. Richard.

    “Prove it…”

    Indeed per all the other posts, not only does the social data point to the same kind of belief as religion (i.e. those who believe are not lying about their belief *despite* contradictory behaviour, this is a well-know group psychological phenomenon), to propose otherwise means that above entire leadership / authority list, along with millions of others, are coordinating within a vast network of conscious lying. This is conspiracy theory on the grandest scale 0: Of course there will always be a small minority of bad actors, and the same kind of belief as religion also means a fringe of noble cause corruption too (which is not lying about belief but lying about what is done to support it). Plus, when when the absolute numbers are so high, even a small minority will be a lot of people.

    Like

  49. “The unwillingness of Steve, who I do consider a friend, to apply the same energy towards the climate catastrophists as he does towards skeptics has been disappointing.”

    See his efforts at ATTP’s lately in trying to widen the viewpoints of folks there, and get them to at least perceive some areas of common ground.

    Like

  50. As much as I dislike offering any clicks to ATTP, it will be interesting to lurk there and see what you are talking about.

    Like

  51. Andy:

    Indeed per all the other posts, not only does the social data point to the same kind of belief as religion (i.e. those who believe are not lying about their belief *despite* contradictory behaviour, this is a well-know group psychological phenomenon), to propose otherwise means that above entire leadership / authority list, along with millions of others, are coordinating within a vast network of conscious lying.

    That restates what I called a false antithesis. There’s something in the middle that is neither belief nor lying. The ‘social data’ cannot be used to convince me to believe otherwise. (A joke but also true. There is part of your edifice I find very unconvincing.)

    Like

  52. In the linked video, Scott Adams starts talking about climate at about 24:30.
    It’s interesting to hear the view of someone who is clearly quite intelligent and thinks for himself approach the issue in a fairly objective way.

    He says there is a lot of BS on both sides.
    The way climate science is marketed looks like a hoax.
    But the sceptics are on the whole pretty unconvincing too.
    He says some of the models are ‘transparently ridiculous’.

    Liked by 1 person

  53. I can’t quite follow where Andy is taking his point, and I’ve been too busy today to catch up on this thread. However, my understanding of the gist, is that the proponents here contend that scientists are not responsible for media and politicians’ hype, and the excesses of one or two colleagues. Andy has answered the points with some detail.

    I came across this tweet.

    The physics professor’s twitter bio states,

    “Consultant, physics professor, atmospheric aerosols and methane research, forecasting 5-10y climate risk. 2019-2020 is a tipping point for climate and society.

    He retweets a second professor:

    It *is* scientists, and other academics that are driving the hype. From Apocalyptic tipping points to the censure of categeorically on-message journalists who deviated from the message, it’s all there, in academia, no less extreme in its intent to remodel the world than the Taliban. They merely lack the means (yet).

    Does it sound too dramatic? Well, what is academia for, if it is not debate?

    Liked by 3 people

  54. Richard,

    Ah, I see, I think… so you agree they’re not lying, but not that they ‘believe’ because:

    “There’s something in the middle that is neither belief nor lying.”

    So what is this thing?

    While there is much robust discussion and competing theories (which nevertheless share certain basics), and so not agreement yet on how group delusions (as occur in strong culture, religion being the most familiar template) work, the usual convention as far as I know is that adherence to these nevertheless does not constitute lying. The subverting of reason appears to occur at a deep level, and for instance some initial results from brain scans suggest that the part of the brain that hypnotists leverage, is involved. Out of various theories, some propose (in somewhat differing ways) that the brain is split in two, or maybe into a choir, and one part is lying to another part (or more than one part), which enables individuals to ‘believe’ the cultural narrative while (internally!) not actually taking it literally (and hence acting in a manner that would look like lying, if it wasn’t a cultural narrative in the group conditions that trigger this architectural mechanism). The strength of belief is indeed not digital, e.g. you can be ‘allied’ to a culture via another one, which is weaker than full-on belief, thus weaker biases too. But even in such a lesser state the biases are still subconscious, they work at a level underneath reason so would still not constitute conscious ‘lying’, only weaker belief, and so weaker support. So notwithstanding that none of this applies to the bad apples in the barrel anyhow, and per above you will also get some noble cause corruption, if there is not belief (subconscious channel), yet neither lying (conscious channel), what is left? Or are you proposing that the channels somehow mix? I’m not versed on this, but by definition folks don’t know what their subconscious is doing to co-ordinate with it, and I think honest brokers only show contradiction in domains of belief. I guess someone dishonest would be dishonest in any domain. While it’s also likely that main cultures such as religion or catastrophic climate culture will attract more than their share of bad apples because so much opportunity is on offer, that’s really a side issue.

    “The ‘social data’ cannot be used to convince me to believe otherwise.

    The disciplines that examines society and brain function are science like any other. They have data and evidence and use this to progress our understanding via proving or disproving theories in the normal manner. On topics where there is still huge progress to be made (and indeed there is, of course), and especially on the leading edge so to speak, one can of course contest a theory and suggest an alternate one that that explains the evidence better. Or indeed contest the evidence itself, if one can show (or even plausibly hypothesise) that the process via which it was collected wouldn’t collect what was described (i.e. outside even the stated range / description and error bounds etc. of the process aim). Yet unless I’ve misunderstood muchly, your short line above seems to imply that you would never even in principle be persuaded by any evidence or any social science. Surely I have got this wrong, so what do you mean?

    I guess I haven’t grasped where you’re coming from here 0:

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  55. Ben,

    I appear to be on a side-branch with Richard (which also I’m not sure I’m grasping).

    Main point is that all the above huge authority list are propagating a certainty of imminent (decades) global catastrophe (absent dramatic action). And indeed very much that the lack of serious push-back from mainstream science, which per AR5 does not at all support this narrative, is absolutely a big part of why so many hugely influential voices (including, until the exception of the current US admin. the highest authorities we have on the planet), have been able to slide into conviction. It’s no good telling a few skeptics with minor (throughout most of the timescale) influence that ‘X is only a projection’, ‘Y is only an experimental scenario’, ‘Z is a worst case test’ etc etc, when for decades most of the upper echelon have already been propagating something beyond even the worst case.

    Side-branch, is (I think), that my perspective on why this is happening would indicate that the majority of these propagators are not lying, they are emotively committed via cultural mechanisms, and so ‘believe’ the narrative in a similar manner to the belief in a religion. Richard challenges this, but I don’t really grasp the nature of the challenge, per above, although apparently based on a state in-between belief and lying.

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  56. I went to ATTP, lurked and then left. Steve is building bridges along with Unicorn stables. He is wee bit less cryptic than when reading skeptics his riot act, but doing nothing to temper the anti-scientific apocalyptic claptrap that dominates Ken’s hideout.
    And who from the allegedly sound science based consensus is going to stand up to pretentious kooks spewing apocalyptic idiocy with Twitter handles that always include their claimed Academic standing?

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  57. Andy:

    The disciplines that examines society and brain function are science like any other.

    Like physics? Like geology? Like climate science? I’d say those three are quite different from each other, for starters. But you believe this about “the disciplines that examines [sic] society and brain function.” From the little I know about those two (sets of) disciplines they are also pretty different from each other.

    I don’t believe, as you do, not yet anyway. What bothers me at this moment is that you are adding a layer of complication that becomes a barrier to the whole point of Ben’s original: that an ordinary person can easily see that there is something wrong with climate science and politics.

    I strongly agree that in climate, scientists should speak out against catastrophism that claims to be based on their science but isn’t. I also agree with Ben’s latest that a minority of scientists are some of the worst offenders in shutting down debate in the service of such catastrophism. I don’t think we need to complicate.

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  58. Andy:

    “There’s something in the middle that is neither belief nor lying.”

    So what is this thing?

    Let me just repeat what I said earlier, the first line quoting you:

    “They [non-scientists, including politicians] are not lying when they say this, they truly believe it.”

    Prove it. You can’t. More importantly, it’s a false antithesis. I would assume that there are many who do not ‘truly believe it’ but simply calculate that it’s not to their advantage to step out of line. So they don’t look into it at all deeply, such as visiting this thread!

    I choose to see the world of climate catastrophism with these three categories in mind, because it makes far more sense of the data we see every day. I don’t have a name for the middle category but it strikes me as blindingly obvious that many belong in it.

    I can cope with the fact you think two categories are enough. I restate that I think your work on this catastrophist narrative has been valuable.

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  59. Richard,

    “I strongly agree that in climate, scientists should speak out against catastrophism that claims to based on their science but isn’t. I also agree with Ben’s latest that a minority of scientists are some of the worst offenders in shutting down debate in the service of such catastrophism.”

    Yep and yep.

    “What bothers me at this moment is that you are adding a layer of complication that becomes a barrier to the whole point of Ben’s original: that the ordinary person can easily see that there is something wrong with climate science and politics.”

    Ah, okay. But I happen to think the opposite regarding complication 0: Because the same cultural mechanisms as per all the above, also show *why* large masses of ordinary folks can rightly detect that there’s something very wrong with the climate consensus, despite having no domain knowledge to speak of. And along the way in what circumstances the inbuilt BS detector that everyone has is disabled, as well as enabled, plus also why sometimes falsely triggered, which all reasonably match what is seen So this is both confirmation, and for me simplification at least in the sense of being explanatory.

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  60. “I would assume that there are many who do not ‘truly believe it’ but simply calculate that it’s not to their advantage to step out of line.”

    Ah, got you. Should probably read slower to start with. Yes there are such people; they are not typically the propagators, but the silent. Indeed they don’t believe the fairy story, but are restricted by their social position / circumstances in some way so can’t say so. Unless push comes to shove, e.g. to save their job, they aren’t lying either if they’re silent, they are after all inherently honest people (i.e. we’re not counting these in the bad apple section). But I don’t think this represents a formal in-between condition; they simply don’t believe. And I doubt whether any significant proportion of the avid propagators in the authority list above, plus all those unlisted but similar influencers, are in this category.

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  61. Points taken. Hypocrisy, in the David Runciman sense, is key to politicians of all stripes in democracies. That is also, I think, best differentiated from lying. I will soon come back to that on the post-strewth thread.

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  62. Andy,

    See his efforts at ATTP’s lately in trying to widen the viewpoints of folks there, and get them to at least perceive some areas of common ground.

    What sort of common ground are you envisaging? Also, given you apparent interest in reaching some kind of common ground, do you regard this site as one that welcomes those who might hold different views in the hope that some kind of common ground might be reached?

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  63. Ben says:

    “It *is* scientists, and other academics that are driving the hype. From Apocalyptic tipping points to the censure of categeorically on-message journalists who deviated from the message, it’s all there, in academia, no less extreme in its intent to remodel the world than the Taliban. They merely lack the means (yet).”

    This is correct. It is also correct that less radicalised scientists are not, in general, bothering to take to task the claims made by their colleagues in the media which stretch the current state of scientific knowledge on climate change to breaking point and beyond. Outlandish and often demonstrably false claims made with the obvious intention of promoting action on climate change, i.e. scientists engaging in political lobbying under the cover of ‘doing science’, using (abusing) their credentialed position to achieve a desired change in society. Contrary to what Adams says, the informed layperson is generally able to assess the credibility, if not the validity (or otherwise) of these claims.

    This is the focus of this post. It is not to establish ‘common ground’ between those who have different opinions, nor is it a platform for those who wish to discuss the ethics of whether (or not) those different opinions are entertained, here or elsewhere. I think, in this case, an insistence upon sticking to the subject matter of the post is a reasonable request.

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  64. Jaime,

    I think, in this case, an insistence upon sticking to the subject matter of the post is a reasonable request.

    My apologies, I was simply responding to a comment.

    Have you considered the possibility that some of the more alarming things are mentioned in the MSM are indeed possible and that the reason that scientists don’t push against the things that you regard as obviously alarmist is because they aren’t obviously alarmist? (is that on topic enough?)

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  65. Ken: “Have you considered the possibility that some of the more alarming things are mentioned in the MSM are indeed possible…

    Of course we have Ken. And we have given many reasons for our evaluation of those claims, here, in specific reference to Scott Adams’ claims, and ‘alarmism’ in general in hundreds of posts here, and on our own blogs, and elsewhere. (Point continues …)

    …”and that the reason that scientists don’t push against the things that you regard as obviously alarmist is because they aren’t obviously alarmist?

    (Continuing…) That’s a possibility. But then, again, so is the possibility that scientists and institutional science are not quite so free from ‘ideology’ as we might want them to be. We can see some very serious mistakes, particularly from alarmists, made routinely, casually, and the failure of their colleagues to pick apart the dominant alarmist narrative — a narrative, not coincidentally, which is not particular to any domain in climate science, not particular to climate science, not even particular to environmental science, and which predates global warming, sufficiently that we can state with confidence that alarmism is a increasingly notable characteristic of late C20th – early C21st institutional science, whereas the precise opposite picture of the world in MANY respects holds, in stark contrast to predictions and claims.

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  66. Ken, many things are possible. The issue is whether they are probable, improbable, extremely unlikely or demonstrably false – in hindsight.
    In response to your second point, Ben basically said what I was thinking.

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  67. Those mistakes need explaining, you see, Ken. It is not enough to say “oh, those scientists might be right”, and that when they turn out not to have been right to say, “oh, those were just one or two scientists”. The demand is for unscrutinised, unchallenged, and often very low-quality work to prevail over policy, and is for criticism of that political project to be sidelined.

    Without alarmist scenarios, it turns out that it is very difficult to make the case for ‘drastic’ climate policies. But ‘policies’ doesn’t really cover it. What is really being constructed is a transformation of the political order: the process of policymaking, and the relationships between people/institutions/etc, in society, their rights, obligations and of course, privileges.

    But this was a post about Scott Adams, and his claim, in particular, that lay people could not evaluate scientific claims. The two paragraphs above, and the preceding comment should help you to understand why I believe Scott’s claim is a problem, whether or not you agree.

    Hint. You are NOT going to be able to convince anyone that science — especially institutional science — is capable of excluding ideology by doubling down on the ‘science’, the alarmism, or the tu quoque.

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  68. Ben,
    I think that it is often difficult for lay people to evaluate scientific. However, as you say, there are examples where scientific claims have clearly turned out to be wrong. In one case (Arctic sea ice) this was a mostly outlier position that many scientists pushed back against at the time (and still do). I’m not so sure the polar bear situation is quite the kind of example that you seem to suggest, but I’m no expert at polar bears, so don’t know for sure.

    You are NOT going to be able to convince anyone that science — especially institutional science — is capable of excluding ideology

    I’m not trying to convince anyone of this, because it is almost certainly not true. Scientists are not really any better at being free of ideology than anyone else. That’s why it’s important to have some understanding of the overall position of the scientific community (or, the consensus, if you like). Of course, the scientific community can still hold a general view about the scientific evidence that turns out to be wrong, but this is likely to be less influenced by ideology than the views of individual scientists.

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  69. “What sort of common ground are you envisaging?”

    It was Steve’s vision, not mine. Neither physical climate science nor policy is my bag, only the social psychology side. So I don’t presume to know what bridges may be made in those areas. But I approved of Steve M doing attempting to do so.

    “…do you regard this site as one that welcomes those who might hold different views in the hope that some kind of common ground might be reached?”

    Unless a site is run by a single and very restrictive hand, it is the regular population upon whom strength of welcome or lack thereof is dependant, not the site itself so to speak. While such populations are a spectra and some folks will be more welcoming than others (and who is who in this respect may also change depending on particularly cherished sub-topic PoVs), clearly all sites within the domain (well all I’ve looked at anyhow) reflect average positions that their central interactors are more comfortable with, and so are less comfortable with what’s outside those bounds. And often that lack of comfort shows, at all sites. Though its an unusual case, the borehole at realclimate is not just where bad faith stuff goes, but uncomfortable stuff, which is censorship but with more plausible deniability as it’s not actually deleted, and this process is indeed the ‘site’ not the audience. And even where a site might straddle the boundary more, there’s a sort of accepted / institutionalised conflict. Assuming stuff is actually on-topic for a post, I personally don’t think anything should be censored that isn’t an act of bad faith, but that itself can be hard to judge sometimes and I don’t envy anyone who has to. I’m not involved in site admin here or anywhere else, though I believe the policy here is guest posters each manage their own discussions, hence there’s a range of approaches. Overall, I know of no way to measure these things (i.e. in some way independently of my own personal perceptions), but fwiw here appears no less welcoming for instance than your own place both relative to their central mark. And on my small part of ordinary citizen participation, you’re welcome here subject only to the above.

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  70. Ken — “In one case (Arctic sea ice) this was a mostly outlier position that many scientists pushed back against at the time (and still do).” —

    I know this. Hence it was not the only example I gave. I gave several others. And I ended up giving an example of a non-scientist — me — having a good faith discussion about the claims and counter-claims in currency, with a climate scientist. Our disagreements were not an impediment to that discussion. Yet, as we can see, though you claim there is a pushback from some scientists against some alarmist interpretations, this “push back” is…

    1. far from sufficient.
    2. possibly not even equal to the push back against *individuals* (within and out of science), who seemingly deviate from the consensus. (See the post about tweets).
    3. not at all visible at the institutional level unless you look very very closely.
    4. where it does exist at the institutional level, it achieves nothing.

    You admit to not knowing much about polar bear populations. Neither did I. That’s why I was surprised by Mark Brandon’s rebuttal of Nigel Lawson. So I looked for myself to discover that he had gone off reservation, and that in fact even the purveyors of the data had made claims that their own data did not support. The controversy now hangs on *some* (few, in fact) researchers’ claim that models of population dynamics reveal polar bears to be in trouble despite their growing number. That may well be a claim that is difficult for a lay person or non-specialist to evaluate. However, it makes it a different order of claim to something established concretely, that a specialist can be sure of, but which would be much more of a challenge for a lay person to acquaint himself with. This order of claim is speculative, and it emerges from a domain which is not bathed in glory, from a wider domain that has a long history of failed prognostications, and using a method which in many other scientific domains would have been abandoned as useless. Those are facts which the lay person is able to get a handle on, to form an understanding of the issues in currency, whether or not he has a grasp of the modelled population dynamics. Moreover, since the plight of the polar bear is given as a basis on which the layperson is expected to surrender political and material expectations, he is entitled to interrogate these claims. And this is key.

    This is interesting…

    –“Scientists are not really any better at being free of ideology than anyone else. That’s why it’s important to have some understanding of the overall position of the scientific community (or, the consensus, if you like). Of course, the scientific community can still hold a general view about the scientific evidence that turns out to be wrong, but this is likely to be less influenced by ideology than the views of individual scientists.“–

    I am glad we agree that scientists are no better protected from ideology in general, as individuals, than members of the general population. Where we differ is on the question of whether or not the “scientific community” (whose existence as a ‘community’ I would question, as such ) as institutional science is less vulnerable to ‘ideology’ than individuals.

    I disagree. I think it entirely possible for an institution to be more vulnerable to ideology than individuals.

    How many climate sceptics, or critics of environmentalism more broadly, do you think are welcome at the many scientific and multidisciplinary institutions that have been established in the last few decades to research ‘sustainability’/climate change and the such like? Do we really believe schools with Nick Stern in their chair, his entourage guiding the research, that those institutions are capable of producing research which challenges the agenda that Stern has done so much to identify? And why should any of us take it at face value? Can we imagine funding bodies, like the ESRC, which makes ‘sustainability’ one of its core topics, giving grants to researchers interested in exploring the concept of ‘sustainability’ critically?

    I think universities are perhaps the public institutions most drenched in ideology. Almost every terrible idea in history has its origins in the campus.

    That’s fine, where there is debate. Universities are a good place for ideas, good and bad, to be contested. But today there is only debate where it is permitted, or, rather, where the venue is as yet ungoverned by “consensus”.

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  71. ATTP,

    “…and that the reason that scientists don’t push against the things that you regard as obviously alarmist is because they aren’t obviously alarmist?”

    Not only the MSM, but many presidents, prime ministers, high ministers, UN elite, religious leaders, NGOs, economists, businesses and rafts of other authorities and influencers per the above example list, have for many years propagated a narrative of high certainty of imminent (decades) global catastrophe, that is not supported by the IPCC / mainstream science. A small number of vocal non-mainstream scientists who openly claim that the IPCC is way too conservative, do the same. Hence, this doesn’t come down to whether skeptics think it’s very OTT or not, *mainstream* science thinks it’s very OTT. Yet almost no push-back, certainly nothing that could have hoped to arrest the spread of this belief so pushed by authorities high and low. This catastrophe narrative is not only propagated by those authorities in the name of ‘the’ science (so falsely, without any need to ref any skeptic science, only mainstream science), it is generally cited as the main reason for action.

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  72. God knows what is motivation is, Hunter…

    Meanwhile, and speaking of Mark Brandon (et al)…

    Predictions for sea-level rise this century due to melt from Antarctica range from zero to more than one metre. The highest predictions are driven by the controversial marine ice-cliff instability (MICI) hypothesis, which assumes that coastal ice cliffs can rapidly collapse after ice shelves disintegrate, as a result of surface and sub-shelf melting caused by global warming. But MICI has not been observed in the modern era and it remains unclear whether it is required to reproduce sea-level variations in the geological past. Here we quantify ice-sheet modelling uncertainties for the original MICI study and show that the probability distributions are skewed towards lower values (under very high greenhouse gas concentrations, the most likely value is 45 centimetres). However, MICI is not required to reproduce sea-level changes due to Antarctic ice loss in the mid-Pliocene epoch, the last interglacial period or 1992–2017; without it we find that the projections agree with previous studies (all 95th percentiles are less than 43 centimetres). We conclude that previous interpretations of these MICI projections over-estimate sea-level rise this century; because the MICI hypothesis is not well constrained, confidence in projections with MICI would require a greater range of observationally constrained models of ice-shelf vulnerability and ice-cliff collapse.

    https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-019-0901-4

    … we can offer Ken some starting points for what *we* (as individuals, not as a group) believe alarmism is, and it’s problems.

    1. It emphasises outliers and extremes, single studies, uncertainty.
    2. It is not satisfied by arguments that put risks in any kind of context.
    3. It depends on risks (i.e. post-normal science) to exclude normal politics (i.e. democracy, etc).
    4. It fails to reflect on its recent and historical failures. (In this, it is deeply anti-science).

    That’s as narrow as I could get it over a cup of tea.

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  73. Ben,

    Regarding the characteristics of ‘alarmism’:

    “1. It emphasises outliers and extremes, single studies, uncertainty.”

    This is, of course, the premise of the precautionary approach, as enshrined in EU legislation and the various official enunciations of the precautionary principle. So, you say ‘alarmism’; they say ‘precaution’.

    “2. It is not satisfied by arguments that put risks in any kind of context.”

    Other than the costs of risk reduction, I’m not sure what contexts you had in mind. The one that seems most germane to ‘alarmism’ is the context that the delays required to reduce uncertainty may also increase risk, and that the posited impacts are existential. This is, of course, a presumption rather than an established fact.

    “3. It depends on risks (i.e. post-normal science) to exclude normal politics (i.e. democracy, etc)”

    Post-normal science is not characterized by decision-making under risk, it is characterized by risk management under uncertainty. If this manifests in the overturn of normal (democratic) process it is because the imperatives for action under uncertainty are presupposed to overturn the normal principles by which risk is managed. And as far as post-normal science is concerned, the science is settled when the policy-makers say so.

    “4. It fails to reflect on its recent and historical failures. (In this, it is deeply anti-science).”

    That’s the joy of working under uncertainty. It gives one the room to redefine ‘failure’.

    That’s as broad as I could get it over a cup of coffee.

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  74. John.

    The precautionary principle was never enough for alarmists. They needed stories. Narratives, Andy might say. The precautionary principle — and the constant recycling of B-movie catastrophe movie plots — is ‘risk assessment without numbers’, which takes us to #2. So, yes, costs and benefits. But any context. For e.g. numerical context — perspective, including historical perspective, which is direly lacking from climate science. The current alarmism about London’s air quality fails in both these regards. Ditto, climate alarmists resist putting their dire projections of climate impacts into perspective, such as the possibility (near certainty, in fact) of N projected deaths being mitigated by even business-as-usual development.

    I quibble slightly with your interpretation of my #3, which was an allusion to Beck & Giddens’ ‘Risk Society’, the key (for me) thing about PNS and the PP, being post-political/post-democratic, particular to the late C20th was the “values in dispute” component. Emphasis on risk seems seems to rescue public institutions from their crises. As Smith and Stern (also from the LSE) express it, “policy-making is about risk management” (though they also talk about uncertainty, they are ideologues). I think this was the big lie of Oreskes et al’s “Merchants of Doubt” hypothesis; it was always the “policymakers” (pka democratically-elected politicians) and their pet risk-mongers that benefit from “uncertainty”. hence 4, precisely as you call it.

    But all that said, Ken is coming at the question of ‘what is alarmism’ from the other side, where there is an inclination towards taking things such as statements of ‘risks’ at face value, and at all things arts-y with scepticism.

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  75. Ben,

    “The precautionary principle was never enough for alarmists. They needed stories.”

    I’m not sure that this isn’t a false dichotomy, since the precautionary principle is all about stories: Invent a storyline, and if it can’t be ruled out, then it must be ruled in. It is a world in which risk cannot be evaluated, because the probabilities are supposedly rendered unquantifiable by the levels of uncertainty. Without the likelihood component of the risk calculation, one is left with the description of impact, i.e. the story. So one bases policy upon the plausibility of the story and its ability to raise emotions that kindle the desire to act. The paradox is that, to imbue a story with the required cogency, the storyline will often deny the existence of uncertainty, even when it initially owed its existence to such. But I suppose anything is possible once rhetoric and emotion are in competition with logic and information.

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  76. It wasn’t suggested as a dichotomy, John. Just that the PP by itself as stated…

    “The Parties should take precautionary measures to anticipate, prevent or minimize the causes of climate change and mitigate its adverse effects. Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing such measures, taking into account that policies and measures to deal with climate change should be cost-effective so as to ensure global benefits at the lowest possible cost.”

    … isn’t sufficient.

    I think there are differences between…

    1. We should not emit CO2/use technology X, because we don’t know what will happen yet.
    2. We should not emit CO2/use technology X, because it may cause these harmful effects…
    3. We should not emit CO2/use technology X, because we cannot rule out the end of all life on Earth.
    4. Scientists say that increasing CO2 emissions/technology X could wipe out all life on Earth.
    5. 97% of scientists agree that increasing CO2 emissions/technology X will wipe out all life on Earth.

    As Andy notes, it’s a large number of the ‘parties’, but a smaller number of scientists, who take part in the horror-improvisation. It’s the parties and their process that reward the improvisers. As you note, at some point, trading on the precautionary principle ultimately means eschewing the precautionary principle, to turn uncertainty into certainty. The PP is written out of history, and then reinvented.

    Another more curious fallout from the PP was the way it divided and problematised the green camp, splitting it first into pro- and anti-nuclear greens, and then pro- and anti- GM greens. The PP, it turned out, was not enough to hold them together. But they all wanted to sustain their precaution cake and eat it, one way or another. Newly pro-nuke, pro-GM environmentalists now tried to lump their erstwhile anti-nuke, anti-GM comrades in with the climate change deniers. A paragraph of text from 1992 couldn’t have predicted such an outcome.

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  77. John: ‘… to imbue a story with the required cogency, the storyline will often deny the existence of uncertainty, even when it initially owed its existence to such.’

    Ben ‘…to turn uncertainty into certainty. ‘

    Yes, this is key. Cultures promote and police a consensus that contains certainty at its heart, belief in which defines the ‘in-group’. This is its only purpose, best accomplished via the most emotive cocktails and existential angles that can possibly be pumped into the message, and so which always becomes somewhat (weak culture), or completely (strong culture) divorced from the issues (and any reality) that initially triggered the arising of the culture.

    If a culture gets big enough and lasts long enough, schisms are inevitable, and any reference to a more realistic PP will as Ben notes help facilitate that, if only because it does imply a stronger (yet still not necessarily ‘good’) path to reality in some direction. And across a schism, each side can happily call the other ‘deniers’; indeed Oreskes called Hansen a denier for recommending nuclear. Yet the schisms are not yet that wide, I think. Afaics the overall narrative of a certainty of imminent global climate catastrophe, still seems to provide more coherence and identity than lesser profile internal spats about nuclear policy or whatever else.

    I presume I’ll be straying away from Ben’s perspective on causation here, but from my perspective… the main ‘job’ of a culture is to create certainty in the face of uncertainty, to morph one to the other. Because in our evolutionary past, pretty much everything was uncertain (and I guess very many things still are).

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  78. P.S. “the main ‘job’” : and because that was (to a large extent maybe still is) the only way to hold very large aggregations together.

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  79. Ben,

    I appreciate that there are different stories told by various parties (including false narratives of certitude). The question is: At what point is it legitimate to refer to the storyteller as an ‘alarmist’? Maybe, you and I would draw the line differently. The PP is a slippery beast since there is no single, universally accepted definition for it. However, following a review of the various enunciations, UNESCO attempted to capture the common themes by suggestion the following definition:

    “When human activities may lead to morally unacceptable harm that is scientifically plausible but uncertain, actions shall be taken to avoid or diminish that harm. Morally unacceptable harm
    refers to harm to humans or the environment that is:

    • threatening to human life or health, or
    • serious and effectively irreversible, or
    • inequitable to present or future generations, or
    • imposed without adequate consideration of the human rights of those affected.”

    That’s a pretty broad brush laden with value judgement. Is it ‘alarmist’ to accept ‘scientific plausibility’ as sufficient reason to say that ‘actions shall be taken’ when the above are suspected? I would say it is. That’s why I see the PP, rather than the certitude narrative, as the alarmists’ ultimate charter, although I accept that the stories told are contrived to leave no doubt in the audience’s mind that we are dealing with ‘morally unacceptable harm’.

    Andy,

    I think the certainty that matters to the consensus police is the certainty that action must be taken. The certainty of catastrophe is the clearest [though false] message available to them for that purpose, but the PP offers a pretext no less compelling to those who stay within the mainstream of science. Certainty? Uncertainty? It’s all the same to these people.

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  80. “…but the PP offers a pretext no less compelling to those who stay within the mainstream of science. Certainty? Uncertainty? It’s all the same to these people.”

    Yes. In the end, even a field of science subject to powerful bias necessarily retains more connections to reality than the wider community that a culture may occupy, and certainly does occupy in the climate case (including very many, and many high, authorities, which ultimately and cumulatively provide the political push behind policy). The mainstream / AR5 does not support a certainty of imminent (decades) global catastrophe, though bias is sufficient to keep the mainstream community from serious push-back against that narrative from authority (even though it is claimed in their own name). Plus, a minority of non-mainstream scientists who oppose the IPCC, do themselves propagate a certainty of catastrophe (absent dramatic action).

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  81. Ben:

    As Andy notes, it’s a large number of the ‘parties’, but a smaller number of scientists, who take part in the horror-improvisation. It’s the parties and their process that reward the improvisers.

    Horror-improv. Is that a new coinage of yours? Or Andy’s? Very helpful, anyway.

    John:

    I think the certainty that matters to the consensus police is the certainty that action must be taken. The certainty of catastrophe is the clearest [though false] message available to them for that purpose, but the PP offers a pretext no less compelling to those who stay within the mainstream of science.

    The first sentence is crucial for me. It’s all about the praxis (as in many variants of religion). It doesn’t matter if there’s not certainty, or anything like it, inside. Arguing against the prevailing praxis, as Lomborg does, for example, gets you labelled denier. I also agree that many scientists, rather than come out against the current policy consensus, take refuge in the PP rather than pretensions of certainty.

    If I’ve understood. No worries if not!

    Liked by 1 person

  82. Richard,

    I can’t lay claim to that coinage. Praxis is useful too; there are various conventions in religion that are geared to avoiding reality while maintaining the consensus on a fairy story, and indeed flouting these to any degree is the road to ostracism and earning the social ‘black spot’, aka denier label.

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  83. Andy: The importance of praxis to the wider category of worldview (with stories, questions and answers and other ingredients I don’t remember) was something I learned from NT Wright. His definitions, trying to get at the ancient Jewish worldview and its evolution, in order to understand intended meanings in the first century, but resting on a lot of other 20th-century scholarship.

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  84. Richard, I googled. Lots of threads, and interesting views for a man of the cloth, which place him in the crossfire of a different controversy.

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  85. Lots of different controversies! But the beginning of his 1992 book NTPG sets up what he means by worldview, praxis and the rest and is a very readable intro even if you have no interest in the first-century application.

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  86. Pingback: Scott Adams on Climate Persuasion, and Tony Heller’s top 5 | Climate Scepticism

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