William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Global Warming Hanger-On Says Ends Justify The Means

I among all men know what is best.

A question from the new SAT in Reading Comprehension was leaked: “‘The students rushed the platform to prevent the speaker from speaking.’ Were these students, (A) progressives, or (B) conservatives?”

Swap in “The protesters turned violent” or “The demonstrators resorted to vandalism, theft, and mayhem” and the answer, which everybody knows, remains the same.

A progressive is a man who, while beating you over the head with his “Support NPR” poster, simultaneously lectures you on the evils of violence. A progressive is a woman who chants “Free speech!” as she and the crowd she instigated rushes the dais. A progressive is an academic who looks upon a fallen world and would fix it by Theory, by preaching that the ends justify the means.

There is no philosophy more evil than that.

Meet Rod Lamberts, the “Deputy Director, Australian National Centre for Public Awareness of Science at Australian National University” and malevolent promulgator of evil. In an essay in The Conversation, which is rapidly becoming a rallying spot for would-be brutalists, Lamberts said, “What we need now is to become comfortable with the idea that the ends will justify the means.” Yes, comfortable.

His topic is global warming and how when it finally strikes—soon, soon—it will be “hugely damaging.” Lamberts is like many impassioned activists: keen, but not terribly well educated. From his official biography, he apparently has no formal background in any area of relevance to climatology. I’m sorry to keep repeating this list, but until we all have it by heart, it’s necessary. These areas are fluid flow physics, air-water coupling dynamics, land use, thermodynamics, radiative transfer, the statistical techniques of forecast verification, the mathematics of inverse problems, chaos, massive computer modeling, parameterizations, and so forth. I’m willing to bet five American dollars (Yours Truly is not rich) that the man couldn’t define vorticity or CAPE.

Lamberts is a psychologist. With a specialty in “science communication.” In other words, he is a reporter or journalist with a fancy title. Not having the talent or inclination to do the hard work himself, he collects lists of scientists whose world views most accord with his own, and then repackages the work of those scientists for the perusal of people even less well trained than himself.

If we consider that scientists are our modern-day priesthood, then this makes Lamberts a sort of nethinim, which were assistants to the priests in ancient Jerusalem. Men, that is, not holy enough to make the grade themselves, but who still wanted to make an “impact.” Feeling acutely their lack of status, these men often take to becoming more Pharisaical than any Pharisee. When caught in a mistake, not infrequent occurrences, their arguments become like the wife who knows she’s in the wrong but who is loathe to admit it. It’s not what you said but how you said it.

But you will have noticed the clarifier. I said “scientists whose world views most accord with his own” and not just “scientists.” There is some logic in a man polling scientists on a subject in which he is ignorant, but there is no sense in purposely eschewing from his poll those scientists whose conclusions he does not wish to be true.

Lamberts has not, for instance, referenced Yours Truly or any of the even more qualified but equally skeptical physicists who say (in essence) “Stop worrying so much.” If we skeptics are right, then Lamberts is out of a job, or at least out of a comfortable source of funding. If skeptics are right, then the world doesn’t need men like Lamberts telling everyone what to do.

And that is intolerable to him. We need to become comfortable with the idea that the ends will justify the means. We all know where words like these lead. Yet where is Lambert’s war, the war he so obviously lusts for, in the face of the true uncertainty that exists?

Update Apropos. “They doubtless believed—and found it easy to believe—that they alone knew what was good for society and that they would accomplish that good once their power was secure and unchallengeable.”


  1. There’s always a period when one side in a dispute realises they’re not making progress and decide that the failure is a result of not doing enough of what they’ve already tried.

    I thought the picture included at the head of the Conversation article said it all. A committed climate alarmist trying to communicate scientific fact by screaming it at a ‘denier’, without realising that, perhaps, the reason the ‘denier’ is wearing headphones is because he’s fed up with being screamed at.

  2. The answer to the question is “progressives” right? I’ve never seen conservatives swarm!

    The ends justifies the means is a time-honored way to impose very bad things on people who refuse to see just how enlightened you really are. One understands that! It’s also a blatant admission that the end is not in any way justifiable or that tactic would not be needed. When the tactic is employed, it screams “MY WAY” or else and get ready for we nasty people to try and pummel you nice people into doing things their way. It’s a time honored form of bullying, which we should be teaching in schools instead of lying to kids and saying bullying is bad. The bullies are just afraid some kids will grow up to “out bully” them.

    (Steve: Headphones are really good to block out the screaming!)

  3. RE: “A progressive is an academic who looks upon a fallen world and would fix it by Theory, by preaching that the ends justify the means.”

    THAT’s the “human condition” … nothing new there (there’s almost prehistoric records carved in clay & stone where priests/etc. made the same complaints about youth). About the only thing that changes is “the cause” the anger comes from inside those endorsing “the cause” — here’s an example from Black Sabbath (1971) when “the cause” was war & the threat of nuclear war:

    Revolution in their minds – the children start to march
    Against the world which they have to live in
    Oh! The hate that’s in their hearts
    They’re tired of being pushed around and told just what to do
    They’ll fight the world until they’ve won and love comes flowing through

    Children of tomorrow live in the tears that fall today
    Will the sunrise of tomorrow bring in peace in any way?
    Must the world live in the shadow of atomic fear?
    Can they win the fight for peace or will they disappear?

    Children of the Grave; 1971 album “Master of Reality.”

  4. Briggs, “these men often take to becoming more Pharisaical than any Pharisee”. Don’t you mean the Sadducee, who were the temple priests? The Pharisees were similar to and therefore in direct competition with the Christians.

    “It’s not what you said but how you said it.” What did you do now?

    I like the Apropos link. I alone, among all men know what is best. Maybe this is why you are in trouble.

  5. Well noted. There is much that is rotten in the campaign to scare us witless about ‘climate change’, and this sort of talk is an example of it. Thank goodness you still have your wits about you.

  6. You just have to marvel at how un-self aware some people are. Does it ever occur to them that what they suggest happen to others would be applied to themselves in different circumstances? My guess is that arrogance is blinding and they truly can’t recognize it.

  7. “To capture the public imagination, we have to offer up some scary scenarios, make simplified dramatic statements and little mention of any doubts one might have. Each of us has to decide the right balance between being effective, and being honest.” AGW advocate, Dr. Stephen Schneider

    Dr. Schneider later said he was not advocating lying. He sure fooled me because I thought he was.

  8. I agree and in part disagree with the notion that it is necessary to have a background in the formal disciplines of climatology (Briggs suggests “These areas are fluid flow physics, air-water coupling dynamics, land use, thermodynamics, radiative transfer, the statistical techniques of forecast verification, the mathematics of inverse problems, chaos, massive computer modeling, parameterizations, and so forth.”)

    There are three parts to the AGW claims. One has to do with the ‘science’ a second has to do with mitigation efforts, a third with ‘getting the message out’.

    I claim that I don’t need all the ‘background’ expertise to understand that the AGW thesis as propounded by the IPCC is wrong. Make a prediction, or a ‘guess’ in the immortal words of Richard Feynman, look at the observations and if the ‘guess’ is not supported you are wrong. Average temperature (whatever that is) has not increased in the way the IPCC claimed it would ergo the IPCC is wrong.

    There are something like 96 climate models which all disagree with the observations. Ergo they are wrong. I suspect they are useless because they don’t include a deep understanding of the fields of study that Briggs mentions. I care and don’t care. Right now they are wrong.

    I could aim at more precision but I am convinced the word ‘wrong’ covers all of the numerous examples I could dredge up.

    All the background I need to know is some understanding of the scientific method. This used to be taught in high school physics and chemistry.

    The second part of the AGW notion is that suitable ‘mitigation’ efforts must be applied immediately. The cost of these is enormous – in the trillions of dollars. I don’t need a background in any of the fields mentioned by Briggs to be able to show that spending trillions of dollars in the ways suggested by the AGW crowd will not have the impacts claimed. A simple cost/benefit study that includes all costs and benefits (including impact on net CO2 production/savings) is enough. A simple introduction to economics might help but is not necessary. Think windmills.

    The third leg of the stool is “to capture the public imagination.” We now know that this involves serious representation of the actual record (e.g., the incidence of hurricanes). In other words a continuous series of exaggerations and misrepresentations. Most of these I can detect by checking the record (e.g., for hurricanes over the last decades).

    One part of “capturing the public imagination” is to suggest that humans give up on the scientific method. The idea that insisting on the scientific method makes one a ‘sceptic’ or a ‘denier’ simply reveals those that make such claims to be the scoundrels they are.

    In conclusion, while it would be great to have the necessary background suggested by Briggs I simply don’t have the time to acquire such expertise. However, I can console myself with my conviction that I do have a strong sense of what doing science looks like, what a cost-benefit study looks like and sort through the different layers of AGW ‘scary scenarios’.

    What I do not understand is how the AGW ‘consensus’ has managed to survive as long as it has. I suspect the results answering that question would frighten me.

  9. Not a huge fan of ends justifying the means, but in the case of Climate Alarmism it seems to me that the ends are bad enough…

  10. 02 January 2014

    Equilibrium climate sensitivity refers to the ultimate change in global mean temperature in response to a change in external forcing. Despite decades of research attempting to narrow uncertainties, equilibrium climate sensitivity estimates from climate models still span roughly 1.5 to 5 degrees Celsius for a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration, precluding accurate projections of future climate. The spread arises largely from differences in the feedback from low clouds, for reasons not yet understood. Here we show that differences in the simulated strength of convective mixing between the lower and middle tropical troposphere explain about half of the variance in climate sensitivity estimated by 43 climate models. The apparent mechanism is that such mixing dehydrates the low-cloud layer at a rate that increases as the climate warms, and this rate of increase depends on the initial mixing strength, linking the mixing to cloud feedback. The mixing inferred from observations appears to be sufficiently strong to imply a climate sensitivity of more than 3 degrees for a doubling of carbon dioxide. This is significantly higher than the currently accepted lower bound of 1.5 degrees, thereby constraining model projections towards relatively severe future warming.


  11. Dr. Briggs,
    Psychological Scientific Communication (PSC) is a branch of science dedicated to the classification and dissemination of circumstantial evidence. They take very seriously the tongue in cheek comment once made by the naturalist and philosopher Henry David Thoreau who reportedly said, “Some circumstantial evidence is very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk.”

  12. Realist: Cutting and pasting the contents of an abstract does not count as demonstrating scientific knowledge. Nice try.
    Now, an actual explanation of how climate science works, in your own words.
    (You might want to pick an example that does not say things like “Despite decades of research attempting to narrow uncertainties, equilibrium climate sensitivity estimates from climate models still span roughly 1.5 to 5 degrees Celsius for a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration, precluding accurate projections of future climate.” Nature I’m sure does go on to argue it’s even worse even though we don’t know the uncertainties (or maybe they think we do and are going to make projections we have to wait 20 years to check), but it’s hard to tell why without access to the entire article.

  13. Sheri – I was just referencing some of the latest peer reviewed research, published in one of the most respected science journals, that has found estimates on anthropogenic global warming have been understated.
    If you have an issue with the inferences and conclusions, you are quite welcome to submit your contrary findings to peer review. Or, like Briggsy, you can continue to hide behind a blog.
    Tell you what, maybe you could even get your ‘research’ published in a fringe journal, like Energy & Environment, that has minimal peer review, lest you get rejected by something more rigorous. Then, voila, you can wave the flag of peer review to the simpletons and convince everyone else that all other publications are just ‘pal’ review (LOL).

  14. Briggs

    March 21, 2014 at 8:29 pm

    The Realist,

    And your list of peer reviewed publications is?

    And here you are writing comments on a blog that nobody reads?

    As you say, “LOL”.

  15. Realist: You were copying data from an abstract. Without the paper, you can’t know why they arrived at whatever conclusion the abstract states. You would also realize that abstracts often are not that representative of the actual paper. The certainty stated in the abstract is not what the paper actually shows. So, unless you paid for and read the paper, the information is basically without value.
    Actually, I was shocked to find out when John Cook published in a peer reviewed journal that you don’t even need a degree in what you are publishing in to submit and get papers published. Don’t know if it’s true, but more than one warmists shouted loudly that even though Cook’s degree was in physics and he was writing on marketing, that the peer-review covered the lack of degree. Imagine my dismay to find out peer-review exists for “citizen” science and anyone can submit and get articles published. When did “citizen” science become a substitute for real science? It appears that writing a warmist blog is considered a subtititute for a degree, doesn’t it? Look what blogging and drawng cartoons did for Cook. (Briggs has a degree in the field he published in–can’t say that for Cook.)

  16. The rate of sea-level rise

    Present-day sea-level rise is a major indicator of climate change. Since the early 1990s, sea level rose at a mean rate of ~3.1 mm yr−1. However, over the last decade a slowdown of this rate, of about 30%, has been recorded. It coincides with a plateau in Earth’s mean surface temperature evolution, known as the recent pause in warming. Here we present an analysis based on sea-level data from the altimetry record of the past ~20 years that separates interannual natural variability in sea level from the longer-term change probably related to anthropogenic global warming. The most prominent signature in the global mean sea level interannual variability is caused by El Niño–Southern Oscillation, through its impact on the global water cycle. We find that when correcting for interannual variability, the past decade’s slowdown of the global mean sea level disappears, leading to a similar rate of sea-level rise (of 3.3 ± 0.4 mm yr−1) during the first and second decade of the altimetry era. Our results confirm the need for quantifying and further removing from the climate records the short-term natural climate variability if one wants to extract the global warming signal.

  17. So cute. Another copy and pasted abstract. This one says that the naturally occurring El Nino–Southern Oscillation waas THE MOST PROMINENT SIGNATURE in the global water cycle. Not CO2. It also says more accurate quantification of and removing of the natural variability is necessary if you want to extract the global warming signal. Translation: We can’t find that CO2 signal in sea level rise but we won’t stop till we find it. Great piece of research if you’re on the skeptic side.

  18. What I find cute, Sheri, is that someone so critical of scientific peer review doesn’t even have access full papers. That means you’re not even a uni student, let alone an academic. LOL.

  19. If you have access to the full papers, why do you use the abstracts? And how do you know I don’t have access to the full papers? You assume this. I never said if I had access, I said the paper is behind a paywall and that you only pasted in the abstract. So are you not a uni student or an academic?

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