Faith In Climate Catastrophe

A recent article at Real Climate (linked from BoingBoing) informed its faithful that they, the writers and site leaders “Michael Tobis and Scott Mandia with input from Gavin Schmidt, Michael Mann, and Kevin Trenberth”, are none too happy with Larry Bell, a fellow who managed to sneak “Hot Sensations Vs. Cold Facts” into Forbes, a document which questions key beliefs shared by Tobis et alia.

Tobis and pals say that “Bell uses the key technique that denialists use in debates, dubbed by Eugenie Scott the ‘Gish gallop’, named after a master of the style, anti-evolutionist Duane Gish.” Using the word “denialist” signals that the effort to come will never reach above the juvenile. Proof of this is contained in the very sentence, where, via a cheap rhetorical trick, “denialists” are equated with those who would not only deny the Holocaust, but would question evolution itself, the later now the greater crime.

Bell’s minor mistakes are not especially interesting in the large scheme of climate science. And neither are the mistakes made by Tobis. For example, Bell claimed, “The Northwest Passage has certainly opened up before.” Tobis et al. countered, “This is untrue in recorded history. The traversals prior to 2007 were in very specialized boats and often took years. In 2007 and 2010, genuine shipping lanes opened up for the first time. It was possibly open in the mid-Holocene about 6,000 to 8,000 years ago and was certainly open millions of years ago. ”

This kind of non-debate—both sides actually agree with other!—is tedious. So what’s the problem?

Now, it’s no mystery why people Tobis and his mates duke it out with Bell. Bell stepped onto their playground and they tried to kick him out. There is also no conundrum why people like my pal Gavin Schmidt believe as fervently as they do. They work intimately in an area for a long period of time and have convinced themselves that their theories are true. They surround themselves with others who have worked as hard as they have and who believe as they do. They meet as a group and tell each other that what they believe is so. They do not often ask how they can be wrong, because it is so obvious to them that they are right. When we look upon this group of scientists—who are obvious experts and who may well be right in some of what they proclaim—we understand them. We say to ourselves, “This is human nature.”

But what forces account for people like New York Times columnist Paul “Republicans Are Evil” Krugman, an untutored man (climatologically speaking) so convinced that the end is nigh that those that disagree are treasonous? Why do “activists”, similarly ignorant of the Omega equation, flock to places like Copenhagen and Cancun and stage puppet shows? Why do journalists regularly repeat the idiotic phrase “The debate is over”? Why are others compelled to march on this place and that demanding “action”?

Why, that is, are so many people who have no especial training in climatology, who could never hope to derive the equations of motion, even assuming non-compressibility, who, that is, are ignorant of the most basic of physical laws, are so convinced that their worst fears are being realized? These folks are not appealing to the precautionary principle, as dicey as that theory is. Instead they are convinced even immediate action is too late. How did they become so assured?

They could have polled climatologists and found the balance in favor of climate catastrophe, and then operated in a majority-rule fashion. If just one percent more than fifty says doom, why, doom it is! But I know of none who has done this. Instead the (false) claim is that all scientists have said “It is worse than we thought.”

But even if that were true, even if they if the untrained did not acknowledge any alternate views (such as Bell cites), they must have been aware that all history of human thought argues for caution. Yet the debate was declared long over without the need for proof. It must, therefore, be the case that no or little evidence was required for most people to believe so fervently. Or, even better, the belief was already there, just waiting to be set free by any excuse.

This is why the debate almost instantly turned political and why it will remain so.

56 Comments

  1. Matt:
    Typo alert, e.g., “especial training”, “…even if they if the untrained”.

    In my case, the obverse is also true – namely that because so many political activists became so fervent with patently so little understanding, I smelled a rat and became even more skeptical than usual.

  2. The above is a succinct observation of “why the debate almost instantly turned political and why it will remain so” — and anyone interested in exploring that phenomena further would very probably enjoy:

    “Combatting Cult Mind Control,” by Steven Hassan: http://www.amazon.com/Combatting-Cult-Mind-Control-Best-selling/dp/0892813113 The monstic chant-like quality “believers” (those who have attained bona fide membership in any cult) display invariably includes some type of attestation of faith in the belief held. That, by itself, while not conclusive that a cult or cult-like mindset has taken hold, is nevertheless a hallmark of one very prominent of many cult-mind control techniques. And this one (mere attestation of one’s belief) in particular is a dominant tactic employed as it becomes self-initiated by the cult member. It is thus self-sustaining & very very effective. Compare that synopsis of this insidious type of manipulation with Briggs’ simple observation:

    “They meet as a group and tell each other that what they believe is so.”

    THAT kind of behavior is clearly cultish, or religious.

    What it is clearly NOT is scientific debate.

    Michael Crichton gives a nice summary of how environmentalism is a perfect 21st century remapping of traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs in his speech, “Environmentalism as Religion” (widely available online, including http://climaterealists.com/index.php?id=2049 ):

    “There’s an initial Eden, a paradise, a state of grace and unity with nature, there’s a fall from grace into a state of pollution as a result of eating from the tree of knowledge, and as a result of our actions there is a judgment day coming for us all. We are all energy sinners, doomed to die, unless we seek salvation, which is now called sustainability. Sustainability is salvation in the church of the environment. Just as organic food is its communion, that pesticide-free wafer that the right people with the right beliefs, imbibe.”

    This is why the ‘global warming’ (‘climate change’…’climate disruption’) debate is so politicized — its not about science, its about a new religion. Religions have always been a primary support upon which leaders (usually totalitarian of some type or other) have been propped up & perpetuate (aka “Divine Right of Kings” etc.). Sure, religion has been a way of explaining nature beyond where science ended…but…it has also been a key buttress supporting political power over others.

    And so goes the Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) movement. Its the new religion, for believers and politicians alike.

    Aside from the packaging, its really a very old & repetitive story.

  3. “…the Omega equation…” sounds very ominous. It would make a good title for the next opinion piece out of Climate Catastrophe, Inc.

  4. Matt – the only fault I find with your analysis is the very real possibility that this is NOT a case of a scientific debate turning political, but rather a politcal/social belief system corrupting science to advance its a agenda.

    Sort of a “chicken or the egg” thing.

    Whether its Eugenics, “Silent Spring”, the population time bomb, nuclear winter, or global warming, these are all things that arguable got their start on the political side, and bled into science.

  5. What we’re seeing today is desire coming up against budget reality. Ethanol is but one of a series a costly and failed public experiments. Proponents have had financial and/or political stakes in continuing the global warming story while the general public followed along because they believed “An Inconvenient Truth” and thought polar bears were cute. Now, local, state and federal governments are broke and taxpayers are finding more important problems that need attention. Like collecting garbage, fixing streets and paying for public education.

    The Copenhagen Concensus …

    The emphasis is on rational prioritization by economic analysis, justified as a corrective to standard practice in international development, where, it is alleged, media attention and the “court of public opinion” results in priorities that are often far from optimal.

    The 2009 conference, dealing specifically with climate change, proposed research into marine cloud whitening (ships spraying seawater into clouds to make them reflect more sunlight and thereby reduce temperature) as the top climate change priority, though climate change itself is ranked well below other world problems.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copenhagen_Consensus

    The conclusions of the Copenhagen Concensus are being echoed in city councils, state legislatures, the US Congress and NGOs around the world.

  6. James Annan (“a scientist involved in climate prediction, living in Japan”)
    writes in his blog …

    … the US has had a surfeit of rabid violent nutters for a very long time indeed. Of course there is little motivation for the politicians to attempt to tame them, because they serve a useful purpose in enabling intimidation and even assassination by proxy. Not that the politicians are necessarily above the latter all the time anyway, but it’s obviously more convenient and much cleaner if the trigger is pulled by some delusional nutcase rather than a directly paid operative.
    http://julesandjames.blogspot.com/2011/01/us-nuttery.html

    Not my first choice as a rational practitioner of science.

  7. Speed – thanks for that link.

    Wow.

    One doesn’t quite know where to start.

    Me thinks Dr. Annan is very nearly one of the unhinged conspiratorial nutters he rails against.

  8. History shows that there were many otherwise gifted and brilliant western scientists who were enamored by Lenin, Stalin and the Soviet experiment and became ardent supporters. Nobody should be surprised at the naivete, hubris and delusional certainty of those who have such a tenuous connection to the everyday world. Kevin Trenberth’s recent diatribe, http://climateaudit.org/2011/01/13/trenberths-bile/, provides an excellent illustration of this condition. I am sure Kevin is a very nice guy.

  9. This has gone too far. Now I’m receiving unwanted mental images of mssrs. Tobis, Scott, Mandia, Schmidt, Mann and Trenberth, et al, wearing the next stage of Real Climate’s groupthink evolution – approved self-identifying religious headgear similar to a Biretta, Camauro, Saturno, Yarmulke, Taqiyah or Tufi. I hope its just me, but won’t it be fun when this vision of the future becomes fulfilled?

    Or maybe distinctively hued “scientific collars”? The mind boggles. Which color-scheme will Gaia choose?

  10. So, um, “Using the word “denialist” signals that the effort to come will never reach above the juvenile.” And so there’s no need to actually address the content of the complaint?

    I suppose we need some other word for people who, like the bishops facing Galileo, refuse to look through the telescope for fear of what they might see. The link to holocaust denialism is a fabrication. As a direct descendant of three holocaust survivors and one victim, I do not make analogies to that historical event lightly. It is true that those deniers are like any anti-science denial ideology, they are very selective in the evidence they are willing to address. But we need a word that cuts across disciplines and identifies the techniques. The word “denier” appears in conversations about anti-evolutionary nonsense and anti-vaccination nonsense and others as well. Certain propaganda techniques are common to all of them despite their differences. Using words for what they mean is not juvenile.

    The gist of the article is not that Bell was wrong about this or that of his many points. Though he was wrong enough on a couple of points, he was technically correct on the others. The gist is that he was systematically misleading. The evidence that unconstrained emissions will lead to a terrible end to this century and a very long recovery thereafter is compelling if not unequivocal. Argument to the contrary is serious and consequential business, as indeed is argument in support. It really should not be undertaken by those who don’t have some grasp of the balance of evidence.

    The rest of the world really would do better to have some confidence in the IPCC position, which has been endorsed by every major scientific body, including the National Academy of Sciences, the Royal Society, the national academies of all countries with major scientific communities, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, The American Geophysical Union, The American Meteorological Society, The American Physics Society, etc.

    Is this an argument from authority? Arguably it is. But scientific authority is the best place for a non-participant in a given science to get scientific advice.

    So what should any reasonable discussion of the matter concede? I refer you to Andy Dessler’s op-ed in the Houston Chronicle:

    ====

    • • The global climate is changing.

    • • Human activities produce heat-trapping gases.

    • • Heat-trapping gases are very likely responsible for most of the warming observed over the past half century.

    … despite years of intensive observations of the Earth system, no one has been able to propose a credible alternative mechanism that can explain the present-day warming without heat-trapping gases produced by human activities.

    • • The higher the levels of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere, the higher the risk of potentially dangerous consequences for humans and our environment.

    ===

    That’s not alarmist or extremist or political. Those are simply facts that are about as well-established as anything in science. Any discussion that does not concede these points had better have very compelling evidence behind it, not just a pile of loose facts and innuendo.

    There is indeed a spectrum of opinion on how urgent and serious the risks are. But there isn’t significant informed opinion that disagrees with the above.

    Dessler et al conclude:
    ====
    The reality of these key points is not just our opinion. The national academies of science of 32 nations, and every major scientific organization in the United States whose members include climate experts, have issued statements endorsing these points. The entire faculty of the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at Texas A&M as well as the Climate System Science group at the University of Texas have issued their own statements endorsing these views http://atmo.tamu.edu/weather-and-climate/climate-change-statement ; http://www.ig.utexas.edu/jsg/css/statement.html .

    In fact, to the best of our knowledge, there are no climate scientists in Texas who disagree with the mainstream view of climate science.
    ====

    The naysayers have yet to come up with a single Texan scientist willing to take exception to the above, and we Texans are not known as a shy or retiring bunch.

    This is why articles invoking peripheral issues and slyly implying that the basics are still in question are irresponsible.

  11. “One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back. ” Carl Sagan

  12. ” … people who, like the bishops facing Galileo, refuse to look through the telescope for fear of what they might see.”

    Or might not see.

  13. Well, I think MT’s post in this thread pretty much guarantees that the question I submited for “What single question would you ask to separate a global warming skeptic from a non skeptic” will be the winner. 😉

    And Michael, what does Texas (or Texans) have to do with any of this, anyway?

    And it’s kind of funny, in the context of a discussion on a prior post on this site regarding the Pope and the Big Bang, how you’re so wrong on the facts regarding Galileo. Oh well, you seem quite satisfied with yourself, so carry on.

  14. It’s obvious what forces journalists onto the bandwagon: money. Bad news sells and good news is rarely good because it doesn’t sell as well.

    As for people in general: I think most people are joiners. It’s built into all of us. It doesn’t hurt to join something that is personally profitable. Today’s current activism is an extension of the activism of the 60’s. That activism had an underlying motivation — at least among those eligible for the draft. And when the war ended, those with vested interest in it, i.e., those most devoted, suddenly found themselves with nothing to do and just as suddenly there is an increase in the green movement. Even so, that activism had to be sold. And one of the lessons learned was that it must be sold like religion.

    The fight against climate change (or whatever it’s being called this week) must revolve around something that can be “fixed” or it simply would be a campaign against the weather. Therefore it HAS to be human-caused and it needs action NOW because the consequences are dire. Sounds a lot like “Stop sinning or end up in Hell” doesn’t it?

    Note this from the RC link:

    The strategic point is to divert attention from what most scientifically informed people consider the key facts: the climate is changing as a result of human intervention. The longer we delay taking policy action, the more damage we will take and the more an effective policy will cost.

    Apparently we must do so even though the key “facts” have yet to be proven — just considered true by “most”. It can’t be proven that any of the recent observations of bad weather are human-caused nor can the effects of the observed warming trend be proven as well. Even the “most” part is hard to prove. All of it MIGHT be true therefore: We MUST act before it’s too late.

    We gotta be good because there really MIGHT be a Hell.

  15. ?… despite years of intensive observations of the Earth system, no one has been able to propose a credible alternative mechanism that can explain the present-day warming without heat-trapping gases produced by human activities.”

    Michael,

    You should know better. Not having an alternate mechanism is hardly proof of existence. For may centuries, the ways of the world were attributed the actions of gods simply because of the lack of an alternative.

    As for the basis revolving heat-trapping gases, it has yet to be proven that it is adequate explanation for the observations. You might point to the models but I note that the models need constant updating and selection to agree with the past and none have been shown to able to predict the future.

  16. Tobis is incorrect about the North West passage being open. In 1944, teh ship St. Roch sailed through an open NWP passage without hindrance.

  17. “…despite years of intensive observations of the Earth system, no one has been able to propose a credible alternative mechanism that can explain the present-day warming without heat-trapping gases produced by human activities”

    This is a correct yet incomplete statement. The correct statement would be that:

    : no one has been able to propose a credible mechanism that causes the cycles of glaciation and interglacials.
    ::No one has (credibly) been able to characterize the extent of the common variability in climate that we have seen during any particular interglacial period.
    :::As a result, there is no credible data to suggest that the current level of variability lies substantially outside of what one would expect during any interglacial period.

    To suggest, therefore, that “[h]eat-trapping gases are very likely responsible for most of the warming observed over the past half century” is without scientific foundation — instead, it’s an article of faith.

  18. MT sez, “I suppose we need some other word for people who, like the bishops facing Galileo, refuse to look through the telescope for fear of what they might see.”

    And I suppose we need some other word for people who, like MT, refuse to learn the inconvenient facts about history, whether the climate of the past, or the involvement of the church in studying the solar system.

    Just because a bunch of scientists believe it, doesn’t make it so. Facts are facts. Enjoy!

  19. MT: “The link to holocaust denialism is a fabrication”.

    On March 19, 1989, Al Gore wrote: “[unless we] profoundly change the course of our civilization, we face an immediate and grave danger of destroying the worldwide ecological system that sustains life as we know it.” Followed by: “In 1939, as clouds of war gathered over Europe, many refused to recognize what was about to happen. No one could imagine a Holocaust, even after shattered glass had filled the streets on Kristallnacht. World leaders waffled and waited, hoping that Hitler was not what he seemed, that world war could be avoided. Later, when aerial photographs revealed death camps, many pretended not to see. Even now, many fail to acknowledge that our victory was not only over Nazism but also over dark forces deep within us.” And, “In 1989, clouds of a different sort signal an environmental holocaust without precedent. Once again, world leaders waffle, hoping the danger will dissipate. Yet today the evidence is as clear as the sounds of glass shattering in Berlin.”

    Several days later, on March 27, 1998, Deborah Tannen, a linguist appeared on Jim Lehrer’s Newshour stated:

    “Holocaust denial has had far more success in the United States than any other country. In our eagerness to show both sides, sometimes that means giving a forum to people who claim that the Holocaust never happened. A woman broke a book discussing their tactics–the Holocaust denier’s tactics–and she was invited on television if she would also allow them to invite deniers and debate them. She said, but there’s nothing to debate; this is history; it’s fact. And she was told, don’t you think the audience has a right to hear the other side. So often we give a platform to marginalized or even totally discredited views in our eagerness to show the other side. This also is why global warming everywhere in the world is accepted as a problem, and the question is: How do we approach it? Just the other day I mentioned global warming to a taxi driver, and he said, ‘Do you believe that? There’s no such thing.’ Only in the United States have we given a lot of air time to just a few discredited scientists who say this isn’t a problem, just so that we can show the other side.”

    The effort by political pressure groups to link people who disagree with them on the subject of global warming with holocaust deniers is clear. You are simply not in command of the facts.

  20. “• • The global climate is changing.”

    Yes, but it always has.
    Yes but we don’t really know how much because all the instrumental data sets have been manipulated, homogenized, tweaked, etc. to the point where the actual instrumental data comes with error bars wider than the proposed temperature drift. We can’t agree on UHI, but we know that a large number of surface stations are located where urban growth has been significant. We’ve added, subtracted and moved so many surface stations that who can say if we’re measuring the same thing we were years ago. We see a far too large number of surface stations that don’t even comply with the guidelines set forth for such things. We have no good reason to believe that temperature measurements are taken uniformly across both time and location, at uniform times of the day and night, and in a uniform method. Data, including metadata, code, etc. is still, even after climategate, kept secret from outsiders.
    Yes but we don’t know if the recent changes are outside the norm for our planet over medium, long, very long or extremely long timeframes. We have climate reconstructions that sincerely tell us that known historical short term climatic events didn’t occur for chrissakes. And we’re supposed to believe that the year 1998 was hotter than any year in the past 1000? Oops, sorry, 1934 was hotter. Oops, no it wasn’t, 1998 is it again.

    Skeptical? You bet until some of the doubts have been cleared up.
    And don’t even get me started on climate models.

  21. Tobis opines about the IPCC and it authority on all matters ADW, One should believe this group because of their knowledge of climate science, However the famous hockey stick has been debunked and the IPCC and the climate science establishment cannot bring themselves to accept the debunking. This is not an unexpected thing to do for an establishment group,. However it does detract markedly from the credibility of the IPCC and climate scientists in general, Why should one believe their authority if they support a finding that has been decisively debunked? How can one accept their authority if they publish findings based on statistical errors in prominent journals?

    AGW is a vital issue. Science has not failed us on it. Scientists have.

    PS

    My IQ was measured in school and I am very smart. Not many scientists would be smarter than me. According to Tobis, you should believe and obey me. My word should be unquestioned. I am also dyslexic. so how does my natural authority in all matters relate to my dyslexia.

  22. I see what the professor means when Briggs says something similar to, “….they have way too much confidence..” in – whatever.

    A scientist incapable of acknowledging a scintilla of doubt in his/her hypothesis has given up on the scientific method, and – ergo – should technically no longer be called a scientist. Instead, they’ve morphed themselves into becoming educated spokespersons – which is a nicer, more modern term for what our forefathers knew as ‘snake oil salesmen’.

  23. Tom Gray,

    There have been multiple crossings of the North West passage since the St Roch, many of them in non specialised boats, so Tobis is indeed wrong in his assertion.

    It is also interesting that most of the earlier attempts(16thC – 19th C) at the crossing that failed were coincident with the LIA and used ships that were not specialised in any way for that job. Ships such as ice breakers were then developed in the early 20thC using more modern technology. All this time of course the the Arctic was recovering from the LIA.

    So Tobis is really comparing apples with oranges.

  24. Michael Tobis walks in and demonstrates the capabilities of his brilliant mind by promptly using an appeal to authority and argumentum ad ignorantium. Well done, and you wonder why people have a hard time believing you. Some of us paid attention in school, what did you do?

    Mark

  25. Michael Tobis’ argument lacks the specificity one normally associates with scientific discourse. I for one have little reason to doubt (a) since 1970 it has been getting somewhat warmer, (b) man has the capability of influencing climate and (c) CO2, a GHG, is increasing due to human use of fossil fuels. However, agreeing to the above – which is essentially what Tobis’ Texans appear to agree on – does not translate into the catastrophic scenarios that Tobis believes to be highly probable. In fact it is about as scientific as Marx’s theory of the inevitability of the collapse of captialism.

  26. Michael Tobis,

    Interesting you should repeat the Galileo myth. The pair who refused to look

    were not churchmen at all but two of Galileo’s scientific rivals, the scholastic natural philosophers Cesare Cremonini and Guilio Libri, who embraced the then popular view that telescopic observations were a superfluous amendment to the complete adequacy — or so they thought — of Aristotle’s physical system. Ironically, the two priests who did look through Galileo’s telescope, Frs. Clavius and Grienberger, were converted by the experience to Galileo’s Copernican position, but this is only mentioned in scholarly histories. [Source; emphasis mine.]

    This starting to feel familiar?

  27. MT:

    So, um, “Using the word “denialist” signals that the effort to come will never reach above the juvenile.” And so there’s no need to actually address the content of the complaint?

    I suppose we need some other word for people who, like the bishops facing Galileo, refuse to look through the telescope for fear of what they might see.

    ######
    hmm. Let’s see.

    Willis Eschenbach wanted to understand how Phil Jones calculated a UHI effect of .05C so he
    requested to look through the telescope to see the actual data that CRU said it used.
    Steve Mcintyre wanted to understand why he could not reproduce the results produced by Jones so he asked to look through the telescope to see the actual code and data Jones used.
    I wanted to understand The ‘adjustments’ CRU made to raw data so I requested to look through the telescope and get access to the data and code.
    Warwick Hughes wanted to look at data..
    Magickjava wanted to look at the code for process satillite data
    I wanted to look at MODIS data on urban extent….

    Denied.Denied.Denied.Denied.Denied.Denied.Denied.

    The sad fact is that use of the word “denialist” hurts the cause of people like me MT, people who actually want to do something to save the planet. So please get off the team of those who believe in AGW, you are not helping the cause.

  28. To me the main issue is one of runaway positive feedbacks. Tobis didn’t really address that in his comments, which is a shame.

    The earth has been warmer and CO2 levels have been higher. That is not in doubt. Why didn’t the system go tilt like a pinball machine then (pardon the crude simile)? This should be a pretty vexing question.

  29. “The global climate is changing.”

    Yes. And in the past (according to the Vostok Ice Cores), on a regular basis, interglacilas last 10,000 – 12,000 years have occurred and then they came to an end and we plunged back into a period of glaciation.

    1) It should be warm now … until it stops.

    2) What made it warm 12,000 years ago and what made it cold at the end of each interglacial (alt least for the last 800,000 years)?

    3) If, by some weird stroke of luck, burning fossil fuels postpones the end of this interglacial, should we not burn as many of them as possible? Don’t we owe it to the children?

  30. I would like to say we’re at a point where global warming is impossible to deny. Let’s just say that global warming deniers are now on a par with Holocaust deniers, though one denies the past and the other denies the present and future.

    Ellen Goodman
    Boston Globe, Op-Ed, February 9, 2007

    I believe this was the same op-ed in which she bragged about buying some curly light bulbs (aka “dimbulbs”) so she could do more than just “pull the cover over her head.”

  31. “3) If, by some weird stroke of luck, burning fossil fuels postpones the end of this interglacial, should we not burn as many of them as possible? Don’t we owe it to the children?”

    Yeah, imagine Canada perpetually covered with massive sheets of ice and snow. Nary a grain of wheat is going to grow in that climate. What are they going to eat then? Their free health insurance policies? Chunks of ice? Frozen clumps of tundra?

    It is interesting that the earth’s climate has recently gone threw periods where the cooling was quite severe. We’ve yet to see the reverse, though.

    My bet is that we will see an ice age before we see a hot house.

  32. Michael Tobis tells us we should unthinkingly trust his experts. Of course, his experts have a long and sordid history of screwups, mishaps, lies, and sloppiness run amok. As Mosher points out, his experts don’t seem to have any interest in explaining their expertise — even to people who are actually more intelligent than his experts. And when outsiders actually get a chance to examine some portion of the ‘work’ which serves as the basis of the vaunted “expertise”, it has the curious habit of unraveling. Often in fact, we find that the work is simply incompetent.

    Michael, if your experts are so ‘expert’, they should be capable of explaining the scientific basis of their opinions without all the incompetence, fraud, and obsfucation. Perhaps you should tell them to have enough pride in their work to let the world see it. And answer questions about it! Surely the combined brilliance of all the world’s great scientific bodies should be capable of preparing a scientific explanation which is accurate, competent and supported by evidence. If the science is compelling and the experts are so brilliant, this should be pretty easy.

  33. If you or Mosher were really interested, you would start without a presumption of fraud, incompetence and obfuscation. There are plenty of serious efforts to explain the grounds for concern and the confidence bounds around them.

    Alternatively, you can always pick somebody to go after and nag them until you either find some i they didn’t dot, or they get fed up and tell you to go to hell because they have work to do. You can always attribute this to fraud, incompetence or obfuscation. Remember it is a small field with limited resources and tightly allocated funding.

    There really is no motivation for fraud or obfuscation. Your model of what we are up to requires a very peculiar understanding of scientific culture.

    As for incompetence, I suppose you will find some relatively weak people if you go looking for them but that is a rather ridiculous approach to science, isn’t it? I’ll put the strongest people in a league with the smartest people I’ve met in other fields, and for what it’s worth, I have met some very smart people in engineering and computer science.

    Nobody is asking you to act unthinkingly or on faith. (Compare, e.g., economists.) But it might be better to start with a presumption that we are acting in good faith. I’d also ask you to recognize that the number of people with truly deep and broad understanding (I am only claiming acquaintance with them, not membership) is rather small, and therefore to treat their time and attention as the rare and valuable commodity it is.

    Any explanation can be rejected at some level, but there is nothing special about this field in that regard. It’s too shallow, it’s too deep, there’s too much attention to this when I want to understand that. The whole array of outrage directed at the field is manufactured and ultimately baseless. Insofar as I know there hasn’t been a single incident in climate science that would get anyone in trouble with their parent institution (or the law, Cuccinelli notwithstanding). We hear constantly of real genuine fraud in medical research, but you still go to the MD when you need medical advice.

  34. MT: “There are plenty of serious efforts to explain the grounds for concern and the confidence bounds around them.”

    1) There has never been runaway global warming.

    2) The end of this interglacial will come if the last 800,000 years of Vostok Ice Cores mean anything.

    Anyone who writes about AGW without mentioning #2 is a fraud.

  35. “If you or Mosher were really interested, you would start without a presumption of fraud, incompetence and obfuscation. There are plenty of serious efforts to explain the grounds for concern and the confidence bounds around them.”

    Where has Tobis been the last five years? Not reading Climate Audit, at any rate, or he’d know that the presumption had not been fraud, incompetence and obfuscation. In fact, those were the conclusion after taking years of evidence.

  36. “Remember it is a small field with limited resources and tightly allocated funding”

    OK. And the point is… what? That the field is easily manipulated and susceptible to funding biases.

  37. So who is the denier? Those that don’t believe in AGW and know that this the 33 naturally occurring global warming cycle since the last ice age is normal and will soon cycle into the 33 natually occurring global cooling cycle since the last ice age? Or is it the pseudo-scientist who denies this fact and proposes a theory with no proof?

  38. There have been several broad “waves” of new cultures over history. The industrial revolution and the western enlightenment were a new wave that went beyond the old beliefs in hierarchy, church, and king. The industrial modern mindset said, “think for yourselves” and this freed individuals to be industrious self made men and women. We have had 200 years of tha in the west, with tremendous success. The sixties started the beginnigns of another wave… but it was just a beginning. More of a reaction against modern life and its ills (alienation, ecological damage, corporate power, nuclear weapons, etc.) However, these ills are just some problems associated with the modern world. Whilst people react against modern life, they throw out the baby with the bathwater and imagine all of modernity and industrialisation to be bad. We imagine modern man to be a cancer, and that things would be better, more natural if only we returned to nature, and lived more like simple animals in tribes. What we have forgotten is that tribal life was more brutal than we can imagine, more violent, and more miserable. However, as I say, people are reacting against modernity, running away from it, without knowing what they are running towards. Vague notions of balance and harmony. So they would throw out modernity altogether. But this has happened before… when modernity first arose, the path to a better life was mostly found in religion (ordinary real life was hard and miserable, so salvation lay in transcending the real world, in reaching a higher plane). But the early scientists, philosophers, were also doctors, and they realised they could use technology to help improve people’s lives in the real world, not in some other world. So they jettisoned religion and spirituality entirely. That was a mistake. People always wonder, “what is the meaning of my life?” People always ask, “why am I here?” And the modern answer has been, “don’t ask, and stop being silly” Unfortunately that answer doesn’t satisfy many people, especially when they recall their mortality, so actually whilst abusive oppressive belief systems like the old churches could be jettisoned, spirituality in the broader sense ( why am I here? what is love? how should we treat each other, is there a higher purpose I can dedicate myself to?) these broader “spiritual” questions never go away (and if you say, “don’t ask”, or if you answer “to have fun”, you are still engaged in the question — the question is human nature, every human has it). So, after modernity you have this combination of factors: people want a higher purpose to life; modernity has been around long enough for us to notice some of its problems and some people react aganst it, so modernity is no longer a purpose in its own right; religions were jettisoned so there is a void people are trying to fill for their meaning making. As an atheist green friend of mine put it, “if there is a god, it is Nature” . The devotion to the protection of nature by humans becomes the higher purpose and spiritual dedication, however, it is not labelled “religious” or “spiritual” because modern scientific minds don’t like that, however, it fills a “rational” “scientific” higher purpose — “the science says we must act and change people and actually change people’s lifestyle and morality” — a role that was traditionally the job of the church!! It is spirituality motivating humans working as scientists to interpret data in a way that fits their new worldview. The moral certitude of the commitment to a higher purpose in Nature, ensures that they are passionately convinced that they are right. That’s my view.

  39. Michael Tobis writes:

    ==================
    . There are plenty of serious efforts to explain the grounds for concern and the confidence bounds around them.
    ====================

    And its is also true that there have been serious efforts to exclude views contrary to the preferences of eh authors from IPCC reports. Serious peer reviewed work has eirehr been excuded from or distorted and dismissed in IPCC reports

  40. Michael Tobis says:
    15 January 2011 at 12:19 pm

    If you or Mosher were really interested, you would start without a presumption of fraud, incompetence and obfuscation. There are plenty of serious efforts to explain the grounds for concern and the confidence bounds around them.

    #######

    Michael. I most certainly did start with a presumption of fraud. When I got the mails, Anthony asked me to see if I could prove that they were real. To do this I called people mentioned in the mails to see if they had sent the mails ( Mcintyre) I also checked certain facts in the mails.

    In the final analysis I concluded that there was no scientific fraud. I published a book claiming there was no fraud. i published an article on a right wing Blog stating the same. So, when you say that I start with a presumption of fraud you are.
    A. Too lazy to google fraud mosher climategate
    http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/climategate-not-fraud-but-noble-cause-corruption/
    B. A sloppy writer
    C. A liar.

    dealers choice.

    On Incompetence. I likewise did not start with a presupposition of incompetence. When I started my look at things I focused on one and only one area of the science. And to this day i confine myself to that one area. The surface station record, the metadata of that record, and the code and algorithms to produce it. I think what I have documented is a record of incompetence. Incompetence in record keeping, documentation, quality assurance, communication, and public relations. None of the flaws I have found has any great scientific
    importance. I did not expect to find something of scientific import. I expected to find bad engineering and I did. My recommendation to Parliament was to improve CRUs ability to manage its records and improve its software development.

    Obsfucation.

    I did not start with a presupposition of obsfucation. My first exposure to climate science was on RC. My first interest was the SRES. My first question was about whether the harms caused by climate change could be fed back into the emission scenarios that drove the models. I believe you yourself have contemplated such a super model. What I found was that I could not even ask these questions on RC without having my loyalty questioned, without having people accuse me of being steven W mosher and without having my comments banned.
    So, I discovered the obsfucation. That continued. It continues to this day as I am denied data that I have paid for with my taxes.

    Like you I believe in AGW. Unlike you I am unwilling to accept anything but our best scientific efforts. inside science and inside the public arena.

  41. MT: “If you or Mosher were really interested, you would start without a presumption of fraud, incompetence and obfuscation.”

    You’re joking, right? For years, RC and its extended team have visited vicious, personal attacks upon anyone who dare question any aspect to your (their) work. You liken us to holocaust deniers, oil industry shills, anti-science right wing religious zealots. Trenberth’s new AMS paper is dripping with such ad hominem. Your own comments on this very thread accuse us of acting out of ignorance, writing “[i]t is true that those deniers are like any anti-science denial ideology, they are very selective in the evidence they are willing to address…. The word “denier” appears in conversations about anti-evolutionary nonsense and anti-vaccination nonsense and others as well. Certain propaganda techniques are common to all of them despite their differences. Using words for what they mean is not juvenile.”

    I’m sorry, until you are willing to “address the content” (to use your words) I am going to assume you and your PR team are acting as political partisans and not scientists.

  42. Michael Tobis – you wrote:
    QUOTE
    • • The global climate is changing.

    • • Human activities produce heat-trapping gases.

    • • Heat-trapping gases are very likely responsible for most of the warming observed over the past half century.

    … despite years of intensive observations of the Earth system, no one has been able to propose a credible alternative mechanism that can explain the present-day warming without heat-trapping gases produced by human activities.

    • • The higher the levels of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere, the higher the risk of potentially dangerous consequences for humans and our environment.

    UNQUOTE

    I would like to take issue with you on these matters.

    As a preliminary, I advise that I am a mere member of the general public, not a climatologist, but I have read extensivily on the matters that you discuss and I do have some knowledge of statistics, which means that I can follow the arguements of the various professional statisticians that have made mincemeat of the so called facts that you support.
    Now to some detail.

    In relation to the changing climate, it would be useful if you could provide some baseline for the natural variability of the climate, so we can all see by how much, if any, the recent variability exceeds those natural fluctiations.

    I do not think that anyone doubts that humans emit various so called “greenhouse” gasses, so that is not an issue under discussion.

    However I would very much like to see the evidence supporting your claim that “Heat-trapping gases are very likely responsible for most of the warming observed over the past half century”, as I have not seen any evidence proffered by any of the proponents of AGW.

    There is also now good evidence that the global indexes of temperature are not as accurate as would be preferred and that the likely error is in one direction, an exageration of the level of warming.

    There is also good evidence that the impact of UHI is alone sufficient to explain the reported rise in temperature.

    Now your claim that “no one has been able to propose a credible alternative mechanism that can explain the present-day warming without heat-trapping gases produced by human activities” is just heart stopping, amazement making balderdash, if I can put it politely like that. There is a complete theory that explains, not only the current climatic conditions, but also how these have evolved through billions of years. This theory is currently being tested in a massive long term experiment at CERN. In addition solar physists are daily increasing our knowledge of the climate of the sun, its magnetic and electric connections to the earth and the likely effect on our earthly climate. Where oh where have you been for the last few years that you theories do not encompas modern climatological knowledge?

    Finally you said “The higher the levels of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere, the higher the risk of potentially dangerous consequences for humans and our environment”. As I am sure you well know there have been times in the past when CO2 levels have been far higher than at present and far higher than are likely to be reached in the next few hundred years. Would you please advise which historic records indicate that such periods of high CO2 led to “dangerous consequences”? To my knowledge, the only times that human existance has been challanged were those when the climate turned very cold.

    A failure to answer such questions squarely plus a failure of climatologists to make their methods, computer code and data freely available, plus changing the storyline at each turn of the climate is what makes skeptics and is why the AGW cult is loosing its grip on the global population.

  43. We live in very interesting times.

    We already know that the AGW hypothesis has no predictive power – its forecasts made 20 and even five years ago are now laughable.

    However, the Cosmic ray theory of cloud formation as a controller of temperature, as modulated by fluctiations of the solar climate, is currently being tested in two quite different ways.

    The first is at CERN where we await their first progress anouncement with some anticipation.

    The second is in the sun itself, which had obliged by going quiet. We again wait to see if that wil produce a marked long period of cooling.
    Events of the last three northern winters and Australia’s progressive change from extended drought to excessive rainfall may, or may not, be precursers to a significant, long term downward shift in the climate.

    Yes, we certainly do live in interesting times and we are priviliged to have box seats for the show.

  44. I wonder if friend Tobis has misjudged his audience?
    That might explain his rather “interesting” post.

  45. “Denialist” implies corruption and bad motives and a conspiracy of disinformation.

    So we can all agree that disinformation, corruption, and bad motives exist. Right?

    The next issue is accurately locating where the disinformation and corruption and conspiracy is located.

    This is all a question about reading people’s motives, right? It is about reading people.

    Which disciplines pride themselves on undertstanding people? It isn’t statistics, or climatology, or physics. It is psychology and sociology. So most people who are looking for bad motives are not thinking about hard sciences, they are resorting to psychology and soft interpretative faculties.

    Anyone here do psychological shadow work? What is the first rule of shadow work? You worry about your own shadow, not the other person’s.

    Either way, “denialist” is not physics, it is not science, it is purely an interpretation. Why are so many scientists busy making this interpretation? Where in their science book is the chapter on the equation for identifying denialism?

    Second, the other psychological study is about how people are embedded in culture and culture the the filter through which people see and think. What you may think is a product of the culture in which you are embedded. Many otherwise decent and caring whites who happened to live in South Africa thought that Apartheid was OK. They were living inside it.

    Now this is the core of the “denialist” accusation. That many people are living in the benefits of modern industrial oil dependant lifestyle and they think it is OK. So they deny the problems.

    But as everybody is embedded in a cultural context — EVERYBODY — what is the cultural context in which the AGW scientists and ecologists are emvpbedded? Can they tell us?

    Everybody is in a cultual embedded context which is the lens of what they may think, and everybody has a shadow side. If you want to talk about denialists, then you are INVOKING this topic, you are eliciting a shift to focus our cognition on the problems of cultural embeddedness and shadow issues. So here I am wandering past this blog, I recognise y’all talking about embedded culture and shadow and so I add this post.

    Everybody is embedded in a culture and everybody has shadow issues, and that’s the problem with the term “denialist” as it is being used in this form. We know the accusation is that one side has a vested interest in preserving dependency on oil and big business and consumption and so on. If you ask me that is a superficial analysis as most people with shadow can’t see their shadow — that is why it is called shadow, because it is not visible to you.

    How many people here would happily own up to being dependent on oil, on cars, on a lifestyle that uses this much energy, to further your own desires, and how many people here are fairly OK with owning your greed? I am guessing most of the skeptics are OK with owning your American fat asses. You know it, it is true, isn’t it? Ergo this is not your shadow we are dealling with. Your real shadow is hidden, and not easy to own.

    OK so now with the AGW so-called “warmists”. What is your shadow? What is the culture in which you are embedded!? I’m guessing you find this question silly and your brain just turned away to think about something important instead. Right. That’s resistance. Right? You have been accusing others of failing to see their own selfish need to keep using dirty oil, you are OPENLY calling them on their denialist shadow ( the skeptics keep insisitng they are being rational, but you can see they are not, so they must be gripped in a denialist shadow — this is the core of your message and you really wish they would just kindly stop and see this, right? ) You accuse them of not seeing their shadow, and everybody has a shadow. Right?

    A shadow can also be positive qualities, by the way. So you “warmists” as they call you, what is the cultural context in which you are embedded, can you describe it? And can you start to look at owning your shadow? You call them “denialists” and oil shills. You see their shadow, right? What is yours? Or do you think you don’t have one? Do you believe you are independent of any cultural context? You spend a lot of time criticising Western modern industrialised culture, the way it alienates people, the poor, the environment. That is a critique of the culture. What is your culture? What are you trying to change in people? It is all about culture. It is about creating a new culture where the people will be, via their embeddedness in it, start to choose to protect the environment and diminish their personal greed. So do you see, the broad cultural project you are engaged and embedded in? Can you step back from it and critique your own embeddedness and shadow, the way you ALREADY DO against Western oil culture? Hmmmm….????

  46. Michael Tobis says:
    14 January 2011 at 2:41 pm

    “The evidence that unconstrained emissions will lead to a terrible end to this century and a very long recovery thereafter is compelling if not unequivocal”

    Please present your evidence that economic substitution will not occur as a result of the 400% increase in global coal prices that occurred between the years 2002 and 2010.

    At $120/tonne for 5500 kcal/kg steam coal nuclear power is cheaper. The Chinese have placed $500 billion in a nuclear build budget. It’ll take them 10-15 years to build the necessary infrastructure to spend that $500 billion.

    So all we know that’s unequivocal is that the major Asian economies, where 2/3rds of the worlds coal is consumed are spending enormous money in order to facilitate economic substitution.

  47. Briggs, I am so glad you pointed out the Galileo myth that is taken for fact by so many today, often in scientific circles by the so-called fact based smarties. Another oft repeated, false historical notion is the assertion that people in Columbus’ day believed the Earth to be flat. I had a professor at the university I attended who challenged anyone to bring in just one credible account where this position was held by anyone who was educated.

    As to not associating the label “denier” with Holocaust deniers — Michael Tobis above calls it a “fabrication” — talk about being ignorant of a easily researched item. By the way, to use this term to associate people not in the CAGW echo chamber as people who are willingly and malevolently joining in with the future death of millions, if not billions of people, along with much of the animal kingdom. many terms can be thrown around to describe this sort of libel. Follow the logic and what else could you conclude. “Skeptic” is a label that just observes you do not find the evidence (or lack thereof) convincilng. “Denier/denialist” associates the same with mass murderers of the planet. And you wonder why the anti-CAGW crown finds it so offensive.

  48. All,

    Back Stateside and catching up.

    mbabbitt,

    I am still awaiting the word or term Tobis has for rival scientists (representing The Consensus) who refuse to look at contrary evidence. Perhaps I will expand on this.

  49. “I am still awaiting the word or term Tobis has for rival scientists (representing The Consensus) who refuse to look at contrary evidence. ”

    Employed, which begins the circular reasoning.

  50. mbabbitt: ‘As to not associating the label “denier” with Holocaust deniers – Michael Tobis above calls it a “fabrication” – talk about being ignorant of a easily researched item.’

    Not all that easily. Climapocalyptists prefer to allude to the parallels between climate- and Holocaust-denial rather than spell them out in easily Googled language. E.g. for a while in the mid Noughties, Aubrey ‘Contraction & Convergence, TM’ Meyer was fond of playing the theme from Schindler’s List on the violin while showing pictures of the imminent climapocalypse. (Video on request.) The closest I can find to an undeniable written comparison by Meyer is this, from 2003: ‘The thing is that we all do C&C at a rate that avoids the holocaust of climate change and to do that we must deny space to the holocaust deniers.’

    Meyer’s pal George Marshall has also flirted with the parallels between climate- and Holocaust-denial (see ‘The psychology of denial, The Observer, 28th October 2001) but he seems to be a more thoughtful chap who genuinely believes that all such denials are rooted in ordinary human behaviour rather than in evil or stupidity.

    Then again, Marshall said recently that a distinguishing characteristic of deniers is their poshness, so what does he know? (Posh Greens: three-quarters of the Climate Campers, half of the Ratcliffe defendants, Monbiot, Goldsmith, Meyer, Marshall himself, Lynas, Nick Clegg, David Cameron, Tony Blair, the whole of the Foreign Office, No Impact Man – oh, I can’t be arsed. They’re *all* posh. Posh deniers: Monckton.)

  51. Vinny: Thanks for pointing out some of the subtleties of how the denier libel can be obfuscated, but I would beg to differ about the ease of investigating the association of Climate Change deniers with Holocaust deniers: Just now, I simply put into Google, “Climate deniers equal Holocaust deniers” and got plenty of links to start a pretty good thread for demonstrating that it is easily researched. (Try variations to that phase too.) I would not give the count as many of the links are from skeptics who are objecting to this libelous label. Even the Paul McCartney quote comes up downstream. Within 15 minutes one could easily see that there is quite a well established connection often mouthed or penned by the CAGW crowd. And if I was a person who had relatives who died in the real Holocaust of the late 1930’s and 40’s and truly felt emotionally wounded by the memory, I would be very hesitant to -repulsed from the use of a term that in any way comes close to drawing a cheesy parallel between a scientific disagreement and the mass murder of millions of innocents. It is pure laziness (or lack of imagination) by those who deny that the term “Denier ” has an intended Holocaust connection.

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