02 December 2011

About Those Skeptics

In last weekend's FT, Simon Kuper had a provocative and on-target column about the role of so-called skeptics in the climate debate.  Kuper writes;
It’s tempting to blame “climate sceptics” for the world’s inaction on man-made climate change. (The United Nations’ latest summit, starting in Durban on Monday, won’t save the planet either.) Greens often talk as if the enemy were not climate change itself, but a self-taught band of freelance sceptics. No wonder, because fighting culture wars is the fun bit of politics. However, this fight is pointless. The sceptics aren’t the block to action on climate change. They just wish they were. Instead, they are an irrelevant sideshow.

Sceptics and believers quarrel about the science because they both start from a mistaken premise: that science will determine what we do about climate change. The idea is that once we agree what the science says, policy will automatically follow. That’s why the Nobel committee gave Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change a peace prize.

Mysteriously, though, the policy still hasn’t followed the science.
I would go even further than Kuper to argue that the demonization of skeptics is a key strategy in elevating the importance of science in the political debate. If it wasn't for the alleged risks that skeptics pose to our future, we'd have to instead be arguing about things like values, goals and priorities, which are messy and carry with them none of the imputed authority of science. It is in the interests of both skeptics and their opponents to argue about science, because it suggests that their debate is somehow directly relevant to policy action. It is not.

The debate over climate science is over and has been won by those who assert a human influence on the climate system. This then is what victory looks like. (For supporting evidence on the science and opinion, see chapters 1 and 2 of TCF). The larger reality of course is that global climate policy is no longer about science, if it ever was, and is today about far more practical topics.

Kuper concludes:
The sceptics and the apathetic will always be with us. There’ll never be full consensus on climate change. But if governments could only act when there was unanimity, no law on anything would ever be passed. The US invaded Iraq, bailed out banks and passed universal healthcare with much less consensus than exists over climate change. In short, the sceptics are not the block to action.

Rather, the block is that the believers – including virtually all governments on earth – aren’t sufficiently willing to act. We could do something. But shouting at sceptics is easier.
He is right.

I am often asked why I don't spent more time bashing skeptics (the answer is obvious). For those who wish to engage that topic or bash skeptics themselves, this post is for you.  Have at it!


Sean Peake said...

Your comment that the debate over climate science is over is rather distressing because now I will have to worry about increase in the number and the intensity of hurricanes, tornadoes and other violent weather. If only the experts were wrong and I wouldn't have to pay for ever increasing insurance premiums to cover the increasing risk of disasters my insurance company says are inevitable.

Marlowe Johnson said...


Isn't economics a science? How do we argue about the costs and benefits of mitigation/adaptation policies without any reference to economics? All you're really suggesting is that locus of authority is migrating from one group of experts to another.

"If it wasn't for the alleged risks that skeptics pose to our future, we'd have to instead be arguing about things like values, goals and priorities, which are messy and carries with them none of the imputed authority of science. It is in the interests of both skeptics and their opponents to argue about science"

I strongly disagree. Proponents of mitigation would like nothing more than to 'move-on' from a discussion of the science. Your suggestion that the two 'sides' are somehow equivalent in their desire to keep the discussion focused on the physical aspects of climate change is without merit. If you have any evidence to suggest otherwise, I'd love to see it.

Your suggestion that the battle over the science has been 'won' is also questionable. How does one define 'winning' in this context? Is it simply a matter of 50+1 % of the population believing that we are altering the climate? Surely not. I'd suggest that 'winning' the science aspect of the battle occurs when the basic facts are normalized into mainstream thinking, in much the same way that debates about smoking and cancer have been normalized. It is no longer politically acceptable to question the basic medical research that shows a link between smoking and cancer (unless you're tenured at MIT perhaps). Then the debate can move to what to do, how much to spend, etc.

Your repeated suggestion that denialism plays little to no role in the politics of climate change is bizarre, particularly in the u.s. context where it figures so prominently.

Harrywr2 said...

I spend a bit of time over at bravenewclimate.

Questioning 'climate change' is forbidden. The discussion however is quite lively over wind vs solar vs nuclear plus the inevitable discussion of 'how much is this all going to cost'.

Bashing sceptics is far easier then sitting down and drawing up a realistic, affordable, and politically sell-able plan to address CO2 emissions.

On the one side is a group claiming 'the wind always blows somewhere' and on the other side is a group that points out that 'somewhere' could be on another continent.

Then throw in the people who believe every press release issued by green technology startup companies resembles something other then 'extremely optimistic' thinking.

*Side note - GM is not going to meet it's 10,000 Chevy Volt sales target this year.

maxwell said...

Sean's comment is a great example of both the point of this post and FT article.

Instead of using the uncertain and nuanced conclusions that Roger has put forth in numerous posts here and publications elsewhere, it's much easier to just attack a claim with a broad club.

It's my interpretation (and Roger should feel free to correct me if I'm wrong) is that Roger agrees that hurricane intensity will increase, as has been predicted in the literature many, many times. It's that such an increase has not been measurable in the data on hurricanes so far and may not be resolvable from this noisy data for many decades.

It may that floods, droughts and other types of violent/extreme weather events will increase as well. We simply don't know for sure yet.

So this is not an either/or type situation. It's not as though we can either worry about climate change or not. It's that there are a variety of factors that impact individual, community, state and federal decision making processes when it comes to adapting and mitigating risks associated with weather and climate.

Arguing about the science presumes some sort of binary situation in which either the well-enough established risks pass some sort threshold or not. At the FT article points out, this is NEVER the case in terms of policy so we should stop pretending that because we can agree that people are increasing the overall, globally-averaged greenhouse effect means that we agree with every other conclusion that scientists present.

And I agree with both the conclusions of the FT article and Roger's broad message that all of this 'arguing' is really just getting in the way. Sean's mistaken point on interpreting a fact as support for every claim associated with violent weather does not bridge gaps, create an environment for compromise or makes clearer the real options we face with respect to decisions related climate change in democracies.

And I'm really getting tired of it.

eric144 said...

"The debate over climate science is over and has been won by those who assert a human influence on the climate system"

Yes, but do we need and Enron created criminal, carbon trading system to fix something that no one can quantify ?

If you want to see a consensus, watch an army or a class of school children. Does it mean all these people are of one mind ? No it doesn't. They are under an external influence.

A computer modelling technician is not an Einstein or a Lord Kelvin. He may have no opinion on the implications of the state of his models.

papertiger said...

In your dreams, the debate is over.

Never happened, would be more accurate.


There is a good paper at Science express. That's the pre pub for Science http://www.sciencemag.org/content/early/2011/11/22/science.1203513.abstract This seems to move the temp increases towards the low end of the range of climate sensitivity.

Harrywr2 said...

Marlowe Johnson said... 2

Proponents of mitigation would like nothing more than to 'move-on' from a discussion of the science.

I seriously doubt that. As soon as you start making plans for more then a 20% reduction in CO2 it all gets complicated and messy.

A 20% reduction is easy with windmills tied to natural gas CCGT plants. Beyond 20% involves 'emerging technology' which may or may not emerge or nuclear.

Joe Romm and James Hansen are on opposites ends of whether nuclear is needed. The 'coalition' advocating mitigation quickly falls apart.

So the mitigation advocates fall back on a 'CO2 tax' will magically answer the question of 'how to achieve' the reduction. Of course a CO2 tax achieving anything useful other then raising taxes has yet to be demonstrated at scale.

Gerard Harbison said...

Your repeated suggestion that denialism plays little to no role in the politics of climate change is bizarre, particularly in the u.s. context where it figures so prominently.

Cart before the horse. Denialist politicians are denialist because they don't like the policy prescriptions, not because they don't like the science. Think Inhofe is competent to discuss the science? Same goes for creationists; they really aren't competent to judge the science of evolution; it's the consequences they dislike.

jgdes said...

The convinced like to denigrate the unconvinced because it makes them feel morally superior without actually being any more green than their opponents. They never consider that far more harm than good may be done by carbon reduction because that would make them the baddies so it just can't be true, regardless of reality. Hence the fiction that we can't possibly lose by going low carbon; all we need is the "will" to do it rather than vast amounts of cash. Apparently all we need is a tax and somehow magic will happen.

The plain fact is that Copenhagen never failed because of skeptics, but because at some point everyone has to discuss how much it will all cost, and at that point everyone decides to kick the can down the road and blame skeptics rather than the grim reality that there is no cost-effective alternative to fossil fuels and won't be for some time.

The Montreal protocol happened because it was relatively easy to do, regardless of the science or skeptics. This one is different.

sien said...

It's correct that skeptics have not been the major reason there has not been and very probably won't be global action they are still significant.

In the US skeptics have convinced a majority of people who vote Republican that global warming is a scam. To say that this doesn't matter is silly.

However, the big reason for the failure of global action is Pielke’s Iron Law of Climate Policy and the enormous cost of C02 emissions reductions.

But there is a problem with the DO YOU BELIEVE ‘THE SCIENCE’ or not style of things and it is a component in the failure of talks to reduce emissions.

The Hockey Stick does matter, it is very weak and the continued drilling over at Climate Audit has led to more and more people looking at it. This has led to people looking at the biases of the IPCC and collapse in trust of it.

The failure to be able to deal scientifically with dissenters like Judith Curry, Hans Von Storch, Richard Lindzen, Pat Michaels, Roy Spencer, John Christie, Roger Pielke Snr and others shows that there are real problems in presenting an unbiased summary as the IPCC states it does.

What is ‘the science’ on extreme weather events? Wouldn’t that put you (Roger) as a skeptic? It seems to amongst the Climate apparatchiks like Joe Romm.

The amount of warming from a given amount of C02 is also very important and is not settled. If the warming due to C02 is, say 1.5 K then while it may be undesirable it may not be a catastrophe.

But, the scientific problems could be addressed and a reasonable case for action made. If a zero cost solution was found it would be adopted. People who advocate action on global warming would be well advised to read ‘The Climate Fix’ and reassess the reasons for their failure to get action in a sizable majority of the world.



I made my previous post #7 because I believe there is an inflection point where adaption is cheaper than mitigation say <2C. That makes for political possibles. and mutes the skeptic v. believer hopefully mute.

Menth said...

"The debate over climate science is over and has been won by those who assert a human influence on the climate system."

Isn't this the type of characterization that skeptics often angrily dispute and that they acknowledge a human influence but are skeptical of whether it will be uniformly disastrous? It's one thing to say that climate change is real and merits the type of carbon tax you prescribe in your book and another to say that climate change is REAL and merits the type of solution that Naomi Klein and Bill McKibben champion (which is easy to laugh at but many educated people somehow think is a viable approach).

So if the science suggests we do "something" about it and people of various political and economic persuasions come out of the woodwork to propose solutions that they would favor anyway regardless of the problem, isn't it natural that people would go back to the science to examine what degree of response is required? Wouldn't a climate sensitivity at the lower end of the scale merit a different response than at the high end?

I certainly agree that it's silly to think that Steve McIntyre and Anthony Watts or even Inhofe are what's stopping meaningful progress at these climate summits when in reality it's just very difficult to mitigate the byproduct of a resource that has been instrumental in the flourishing of humanity over the course of the past 200 years. As Walter Russell Mead put it recently a global treaty banning carbon emissions has as likelihood of success as the Kellogg-Briand Pact had at banning war.

stan said...

Roger, never would have figured you for one to argue that the science is settled. [If the science isn't settled, the debate cannot be over.]

The debate isn't over any more than Gov. Perry is the odds on favorite for the GOP nomination because some poll had him in the lead not long ago. Polls aren't set in stone and answers to poll questions do not measure the intensity of belief. We know the US public isn't convinced of the science. When asked to put their money on the line, a heavy majority in the USA said no. And their elected representatives listened very carefully despite the most massive and expensive lobbying effort in US history on behalf of the alarmists.

You can believe any poll you want. The most attentive and seriously invested pollsters in the nation occupy DC. They conducted the most extensive and important poll ever taken on the issue. I'd say their results are the most accurate view of real voter sentiment.

Joshua said...

Roger -

Who asked you to bash skeptics?

n.n said...

People's dreams of physical, material, and ego instant gratification through redistributive and retributive change are principal corruptive factors for individuals and society. When they are conducted by incidental feature or through involuntary exploitation they promote dysfunction and devaluation of human life.

If you are right, Roger, it appears that authoritarian interests supported by both their benefactors and beneficiaries will be, once again, the victors, despite any wisdom that humanity may have glimpsed during enlightenment.

Whereas before it was religions or cults that exploited their authority through faith to consolidate wealth and power, today it is achieved through the exploitation and abuse of the democratic process and defended by experts.

Oh well, science has predictably become possibly the ultimate platform to reestablish the regressive notions of superior or exceptional dignity.

On the other hand, there remain powerful competing interests, and individuals of integrity, who will not voluntarily defer their dignity to another and will not readily submit.

This latest effort to rule through consensus has all the hallmarks of disastrous historical cycles. Neither a tyranny of a minority nor a tyranny of the majority is desirable.

If our latest effort to identify and establish a reasonable compromise between individuals who do not all share the same dream; who compete for finitely accessible resources, both natural and human; fails, then hopefully our descendents will have better fortune. At least we tried, I suppose.

In the meantime, we will denigrate individual dignity and devalue human life. We will be subject to totalitarian policies justified by limited, circumstantial evidence, which at times is a permanent condition. This must be what a significant number of people really desire. The historical cycles of creation and destruction seem to be inevitable.

papertiger said...

"and blame skeptics rather than the grim reality that there is no cost-effective alternative to fossil fuels and won't be for some time."

Why the long face? In case you haven't noticed the "co2 is dangerous" crowd is populated with misanthropic scum, 'never let a crisis go to waste' crooks, and convicted liars.

You think they didn't maybe stretch the truth a bit, taking us from there to here?

ngapaki said...

'Rather, the block is that the believers – including virtually all governments on earth ...'

Sorry Roger, but belief and government action are seldom sympathetic. Particularly at this point in time when the massive redistribution of income that purchases the power they desire (by bribing us with our own production) is collapsing under its own weight. i.e No opportunity to tax will be left to die wondering. Belief be buggered!:-)

Salamano said...

I think one of the big problems is that many of the scientists that put forth the science have also gotten involved in the policy debate as well, ascertaining which policy suite addresses the needs their research highlights (and therefore needs to be pursued), and which do not (and therefore need to be rejected).

To wit, specifically referencing the numerous back-and-forths that has gotten Roger the "most thoroughly debunked scientists ever in the history of the world ever" label by Joe Romm (a place co-shared by Judith Curry and a host of others-- in truth this is really the only level of 'debunked' that exists over at CP)... The main problem with anything Roger says is that any possible policy recommendations that Roger indicates is politically possible are labeled not-sufficient to get the job done as indicated by the science--- and therefore must not be allowed to exist as a viable option.

What are we left with then: many options that could address the science needs but that will never happen politically.

Seems like quite an impasse.

Perhaps the only hope we have is that politically acceptable "half-measures" (or "no-measures" depending on who's denigrating them) may yet not cause the same disastrous effects as "doing nothing". I'd have to think that "something" is better than "nothing", but it depends on how "not-enough" that "something" is :)

jae said...

Roger, you say AGAIN AND AGAIN:

"The debate over climate science is over and has been won by those who assert a human influence on the climate system."

Prove it! Just saying it over and over means nothing and is certainly not "scientific."

jae said...

No answer. Crickets...

Roger, sometimes you piss me off, and this time I just have to respond.

I just wonder just how the HELL you think you are sufficiently knowledgeable to keep making that stupid and supercilious statement. What qualifications could you POSSIBLY have to be so sure that the "DEBATE IS OVER?"

I agree mostly with your observations about politics vs science, but you seem to be going WAY out on a limb where you don't belong and where you will fall, when you start decreeing which part of climate science is true and which part of the really, really, really flawed climate science is not true.

Dig it?

Sean Peake said...

@maxwell: I made no mistake and thus is clear you missed the point of my post. I'll aim lower next time.

Josh said...

What science? ;-)

Roger, I hope you have read Donna's book, The Delinquent Teenager.

Matt said...

-4- maxwell,

"It's my interpretation (and Roger should feel free to correct me if I'm wrong) is that Roger agrees that hurricane intensity will increase, as has been predicted in the literature many, many times."

But what about the parts of the literature that don't say that?

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

Here is a nice column by Dan Botkin on why we should learn to live with uncertainty:


Also, I am happy to discuss the science issues but would prefer to have a concrete discussion. So, for instance, JAE, who is really pissed off ;-) (or anyone else) ... what do you disagree with in my Chapter 1 or Chapter 2 of TCF? (Where I discuss the science and the fact that as far as the public are concerned the debate is over).


melk said...


Given that you agree with Kuper's criticism of "skeptics" and given that you are regarded as a "skeptic" by the likes of Joe Romm, might it not be useful for you to provide us with your definition of a "skeptic?" Clearly there are lunatic skeptics who deny everything and then there are skeptics who might have written significant parts of the recent Kampala IPCC summary!

JMV said...

I am constantly amazed at how little people read and comment on what was actually written. I don't see where Roger said the "science" was settled. He said the "debate" is over. No one seriously question whether global warming is real, at least not in a scientific reasoned way. It's the details that they cannot agree on.

OT - Roger, I wonder if you would like to comment on Christopher Landsea's opinion piece at NOAA

Ben Pile said...

Kuper is right to say that "the block is that the believers – including virtually all governments on earth".

I've been saying this much for years.

What he doesn't get right is why this failure happens. On his view, they "aren't sufficiently willing to act. We could do something."

In this respect, he is naive. There is too little coherence to the arguments about what an 'act' could/should be. There is too little agreement about what kind of a problem climate change is, and how it should be addressed. For some, it's an indictment of advanced capitalism. For others, it's about undoing the injustices inflicted on the world by empires past. For others, it's about building new empires, and locating ground for a new form of supranational politics, largely to overcome domestic political problems. For some it's about finding 'balance' and 'harmony' with nature. For many politicians it's a vehicle for their careers, or nothing more than an opportunity to legitimise their functions in lieu of any substance that might help them connect with an ambivalent public.

In order for there to be 'progress' to an agreement, these conflicting agendas would have to be resolved. And even then, the reality of those agreements would begin to have material effects felt across the world -- much as the UK's climate and energy policies are being felt in the UK. It wouldn't last long.

dagfinn said...

"The debate over climate science is over and has been won by those who assert a human influence on the climate system."

Roger, you forget your own insights. The debate (I think) you are referring to had the linear model as a premise. It was won by those who believe in all the basics of current climate policy: AGW, emission targets, carbon credits, etc. You're defining the debate in terms of a distinction between science and politics that was absent in the debate itself.

You were on the losing side, Roger.

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...


"You were on the losing side, Roger."


maxwell said...

-22- Sean,

Sorry, I didn't think your comment had a point. I read it as little more than nonsense. Maybe the problem is that you're not aiming high enough.

Maybe you could just tell us explicitly what your point was.

-24- Matt,

do you mean this research, which Roger has cited many times and shows that, IN THE FUTURE, there will be an increase in the frequency of hurricane? This conclusion also comes with the caveat that such a signal may not be detectable for many decades to come.

So again, rather than look at the entire context of my quote, someone decides that it makes a better argument to take it out of context.

Well great!

Here's the entire quote from my above comment,

'It's my interpretation (and Roger should feel free to correct me if I'm wrong) is that Roger agrees that hurricane intensity will increase, as has been predicted in the literature many, many times. It's that such an increase has not been measurable in the data on hurricanes so far and may not be resolvable from this noisy data for many decades.'

So not is your broader point incorrect, as the linked paper above shows, the link you've provided makes THE EXACT SAME POINT I ALREADY MADE!

If people made more of an effort to read something three times before commenting on the internet, I feel like blogs would be much more useful places.

And the fact that Roger has not corrected my interpretation should be telling about where the literature on this topic stands. I think that he is very level-heading and honest when talking about what's actually there.

Josh said...

Dont worry guys, Roger, is just messing with your heads. I don't for a moment believe he thinks the real debate/science is over/settled. But he is always brilliantly precise in what he says so I need to study TCF!


That policicians and the public will not act (dream on, Durban) is, I would suggest, proof that the debate is indeed over and they/we simply don't believe the science, whatever that 'it' is supposed to be.

And no wonder when a cabal of some of the climate scientists concerned appear, from even more emails, to prefer back stabbing zeal to a dedication to seek scientific truth.

Looks like the world is turning sceptic to me.

dagfinn said...

- 30 - Roger

To be more precise (since I don't know exactly what opinions you have held at all times) you are now on the side that lost. Everybody who does not believe in the sanctity of currently fashionable climate policy is.

In fact, you have an even stronger case against this kind of climate policy, and that makes you even more annoying to the climate establishment.

You agree with me. You just don't know it yet. ;-)

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...


You've lost me ;-)

John M said...

"The debate over climate science is over and has been won by those who assert a human influence on the climate system."

This is no more useful than saying "The debate over whether Tim Tebow is a great quarterback has been won by those who assert the ball moves forward when it leaves his hand."

The trivial nature of both of the sentences above aren't very illuminating.

They are merely related in some peripheral way to debates people actual care about.

Matt said...

-31- maxwell,

I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you skimmed my link. Here are some quotes that caught my eye:

"These findings indicate that other important factors govern intensity and frequency of tropical cyclones besides SSTs."

"These findings highlight the complex nature of hurricane development and weaken the notion of a simple cause-and-effect relationship between rising SST and stronger Atlantic hurricanes."

Yes, I am well aware of the full context of your quote, which leaned heavily on weaseling out of any verification. So, I committed the heresy of valuing actual observations over modeling. Or, if you were referring to something other than modeling, then observations that don't agree with those to which you're referring.

Either way, my point stands, and the papers MAKE A DIFFERENT POINT THAN WHAT YOU MADE. I hope that is stating my point explicit enough for you.

Sorry for only linking to the page in my original comment.

jae said...


As I recall, your book relies on polls to support who "won" the debate. You of all folks should know that the polls are fickle, and are now going the other way, especially after more disgusting emails from Climategate2. Kyoto is dead. The "movement" is moribund, despite SO much gov't money and stupid "journalism" supporting the scam (God bless the internet!).

Then we have the FACT that there is no good empirical evidence showing any association between CO2 emissions (and other human activities) and "climate change." Hell, there are no "multiple lines of evidence," but there's not ONE line of evidence that I know of. Game over.

Your claim that any debate has been "won" is just wrong, IMO. It's akin to saying that the debate was won by the Pope and friends when he was arguing with Copernicus. Your book just might need an addendum.

MZ said...

More or less the argument of a piece I just had come out and which rehashes what Daniel Sarewitz wrote in 2004.
This isn't to say I think skeptics are irrelevant. I think culturally they are very relevant, they just haven't had the geopolitical impact that both many skeptics and their opponents have claimed.
Both sides want to capitalize on the authority of science, but it seems clear that science isn't enough for meaningful action. If we truly had a scientific priesthood to make compelling declarations that could override existing interests, then we could pretend to make political decisions on a scientific basis.
The big question is... if it's true that while the science isn't settled, it is "good enough" - then now what?

Huni-miaka said...

The debate on climate sensitivity is over?

Then what is the point of Schmittner et al being funded to produce further papers proving the right number is 2.4°C?

And, if that is the right number, just how much more threatening is this than the official target of 2°C?

If that debate is over, where can I read about it?

Stephen Pruett said...

"The debate is over"? With the new information on hiding the decline and admissions from "Team" members themselves that Mann's 1000 year temperature reconstructions are problematical, it seems to me that it has not been firmly established that current warming is unprecedented. If it isn't, attribution becomes difficult. Physics indicates that, all other things being equal, more CO2 leads to higher temperatures. However, sensitivity is not know, and it is obvious that factors other than CO2 are driving the "pause" in warming since 1998. No one seems to have a clue as to what those factors might be, which illustrates how much we do not know about the climate system.

dagfinn said...

34 - Roger

I think you're the one who's lost me and everyone else. I'm unable to make useful sense of your statement. I've read TCF and I think it's brilliant, and I'm sure I agree with 95 per cent of it. For all I know, you've used those exact words in the book and it may have made sense in context.

"The debate over climate science is over" presupposes that there is a single debate that can be settled one way or the other. Given the complexity of climate science, never mind climate policy, that's a ridiculous assumption. And I know that you know that.

If you can tell us which debate you are referring to, we might be able to start communicating.

Reiner Grundmann said...

Just glancing over the comments I get the impression that those denying the statement 'the debate is over' are enraged. They seem to think that climate policies are not justified (on science grounds) and that science could still be invoked to stop them. But this is a minority position (and wishful thinking, too) -- to my knowledge no big player in climate politics clings to scientific information in order to justify inaction. This may have been different in the past: Bush withdrew from the Kyoto process in 2001 quoting economic arguments and scientific uncertainty. The situation today is different.

Frontiers of Faith and Science said...

Please let me know if you are either not receiving my posts or choosing not to approve them.
If the latter, that is OK- it is your blog.
If the former, I will check my settings.

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...


I think I've been approving everything that has come in on this thread, but I don't closely track which thread comments come in on when I approve them, so maybe not ... Also, Blogger has been known to eat comments, but at the same time, you've been known to cross the line of civil discourse on occasion ;-)

So longstoryshort please resubmit and I can let you know ... Thx!

maxwell said...

Matt -36-,

I still don't see where either of those papers says explicitly states that rising surface temperatures will not cause an increase in the frequency of hurricanes. Since that was the original point of my comment, it seems that you're even making a point irrelevant to my comments.

You're just saying that this papers points to a complex relationship between environmental factors and hurricanes.

Where do those papers make an explicit conclusion about the predicted frequency of hurricanes? If they don't, then it's not that you're making the same point I did. You don't have a point.

I also like,

'So, I committed the heresy of valuing actual observations over modeling.'

which, as an experimental physicist, I found very amusing. As far as I understood the situation, there is no observational evidence for future hurricanes, so, again, your comment has little to no value.

You're really undervaluing the necessity to make explicit predictions about the future, in any science. Hurricanes are no different.

Because a handful of scientist studying this and other factors of climate are willing to overemphasize specific results from models DOES NOT mean that predictions from models are bad or wrong. It means that they should be better tested against real world observations. Observations we're still waiting on.

Mark said...

to my knowledge no big player in climate politics clings to scientific information in order to justify inaction.

What politicians say they think, and what they do think are two very different things.

If all the politicians believe in imminent thermageddon, why are none of them much interested in doing anything real (as opposed to posing)?

Or are they saying the right things, to avoid being publicly flamed by a core of activists and scientists, while actually doubting all along?

My bet is almost no-one really believes in the really alarmist position on CO2, but that it is useful stick to achieve the desired political aims. Does anyone actually think that in "100 months" we will have reached the point of no return?

(Don't believe people are that duplicitous? Well how is it that no-one much admits to being racist, yet so many people actually are? Some things are socially unacceptable, yet common.)

Matt said...

-45- maxwell,

Yes, the papers say there is a complex relationship, and that there is no simple correlation between temperatures and hurricanes.

They don't say anything about the need for predictions, but they do say that if you're going to base your predictions on what you think temperatures will do, you're using a predictive model that isn't supported by what we've actually observed.

My point was based on your claim about "the literature," which gave an impression that "the science is settled," to reuse a phrase.

We should understand the assumptions that go into the predictions. When those assumptions are questionable, we should also question those predictions. Or at least not simply assume that they are correct. Especially in relation to policy.

Yes, in a scientific endeavor, we make predictions, and then test them. But when you discover your assumptions behind your prediction are wrong, does your confidence in your prediction stay the same before you get experimental evidence?

Reiner Grundmann said...

Mark # 44

I did not use the word 'think' but 'cling', which makes a difference. The fact that today no one cites scientific uncertainty as a reason for inaction is noteworthy, don't you think? (and here I mean 'think' ;-))

maxwell said...

Matt -47-,

'My point was based on your claim about "the literature," which gave an impression that "the science is settled," to reuse a phrase.'

No, you INFERRED that re-phrase. And this is the problem I identified in my first comment and my first reply to you. Rather than simply reading what I wrote, you inferred a specific meaning that I did not explicitly state, because doing so made a better argument in your mind.

I never claimed in any place that the 'science is settled' respect to hurricanes. Nor did I imply that in any way. If you thought I meant that, instead of making an argument against such a stance, you should have asked for clarity.

I could have easily told you 'no', I did not mean that in any way.

Then you would have found out there was no reason to say anything because, by and large, you and agree on all these points. As it stands now, most readers would think that there is an actual argument abound. There is not. You took part of my comment out of context, then made a poor inference and tried to refute it, all despite the fact that I made exactly the same point you have.

And during this entire foray, the actual climate scientist (Roger) whom I asked to correct my stated interpretation of his position on the prediction of changes in hurricane frequencies has not. That means much more to me, and should also to other readers, than your broad-brushed blusterings about 'assumptions in predictions'.

Matt said...

-49- maxwell,

I'm sure it will surprise Roger to learn that he's now a climate scientist.

We've gone beyond my original point, which was just that the literature doesn't all predict increasing intensity.

Mark said...

The fact that today no one cites scientific uncertainty as a reason for inaction is noteworthy, don't you think?


Politicians decide what they want to do. Then they dress it up for the public.

If they don't want to decarbonise, they can cite scientific uncertainty, sure -- only to be shouted down by those who insist the science is settled. It becomes a stupid argument based more on politics than science, and essentially unwinnable for the politician. If they play along, pretending to want to decarbonise but not actually doing so, they can't be shouted down as deniers, but don't offend the non-believers either. That's a much better strategy for all moderates. So that's what they all do.

The only reason for coming out and deliberately opposing the warmists is to establish a particular sort of anti-establishment position -- hence some Tea Party types will actually do it. And when they do, they aren't lauded as taking a sensible stand for no action while uncertainty remains, but tarred as totally "anti-science".

The lack of politicians unwilling to walk into a firestorm without back-up for essentially no votes is not even remotely surprising. Just as most pro-abortion Republicans keep a low profile about it, and most pro-life Democrats the same.

Reiner Grundmann said...

unless I completely misunderstand you, you confirm the point I am trying to make.

JS said...

Humans have an influence on the climate system. No question. So do ants, fishes, mountains, the sun, the solar system, and the galaxy - to name but a few. But this does not get us very far. The questions of 'how much?', 'in which ways?', and 'how will we know?', still remain to vex us. Some seem convinced that industrial CO2 production is a control knob for 'average temperature'. Some of those say more CO2 will turn temperatures down, others, more influential, insist it will turn them up a lot. Others say it will be hard to tell one way or another. Agreeing that there is a human influence does not help resolve this one tiny little bit.

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...


"Agreeing that there is a human influence does not help resolve this one tiny little bit."

Sure it does. Is this information sufficient? No. Does it help us at least "one tiny little bit"? Sure.

Josh said...

A bit more 'debate is over' for you.


Roger Pielke, Jr. said...


You are talking about the political debate -- that is over too;-) People were never going to pay high prices for climate policies.

Josh said...

Yes, of course, but many of us we elide the two. so "I wont pay for that because I dont believe it is true/it matters/I can afford it."

Josh said...

Oops corrected!

Yes, of course, but many of us elide the two - so "I wont pay for that because I dont believe it is true/it doesn't matter/I cannot afford it."

DeepNorth said...

JS: "Agreeing that there is a human influence does not help resolve this one tiny little bit."

RP: Sure it does. Is this information sufficient? No. Does it help us at least "one tiny little bit"? Sure.

DN: ??? Nope. Not even one itsy bitsy teensy tiny little bit. Acknowledging that molecules, gravity and ants footsteps have an influence tells us nothing at all about whether that influence is even meaningful, let alone how it might be meaningful.

This is just one more example of the utterly hopeless state of 'climate science'. They pounce upon an unremarkable 'fact' and use it to incorrectly extrapolate something silly.

All anthropomorphic influences on climate are likely small. They are also likely net positive, not net negative.

A tiny amount of warming like a hundredth percent a decade is not likely net anything. The real scale for heat, that starts at zero, is Kelvin. There is plenty of heat in the environment and it fluctuates plus or minus 10 percent annually where I live. The 'global warming' signal is too small to even see on a graph with a scale that shows ordinary fluctuations. You need a microscrope to see it with a y-axis at zero.

It is OK to use 'anomalies' as a measure to visualize the tiny climate signals over decades and centuries, but most people seeing the graphs do not know what they are looking at. The graphs are misleading to people without maths and sciences. That includes, apparently, the 'climate scientists' themselves.

The shadowy signal we tease out of 'anomalies' is not unusual in the context of the long times over which it changes. It looks like past signals. It is not even visible when graphed along with the rest of the measurable changes. Presented properly, it is quite ordinary.

A *ton* of money created this fictional enterprise. Even the *reasonable* 'climate scientists' in this fake discipline assume, a priori, that dangerous climate change exists. Only believers join the 'climate science' priesthood. Even heretics only discuss the nature of dangerous climate change. None question its existence or importance.

If 'climate science' were real science, the 'hockey stick' would not have seen the light of day. It is wrong on its face, crumbles under even casual analysis and was proven incorrect years ago. The 'hockey team' has still not 'fessed up' to this.

If there was a shred of legitimacy to the alarmist position they would not have to continually rely upon subterfuge, faulty arguments and outright lies to make their points.

After all the squandered time and money, 'climate science' is worse than ever. Skeptics have exposed the entire bogus enterprise and as the experiment plays out in realtime, alarmists predictions fail. Meantime, even though the burden of proof does not at all rest upon them, skeptics have provided a better picture of what is actually happening.

The planet is warming. So what? It is a tiny fraction of what we are adapted to and it was expected. I doubt it will warm in the next few decades, but even if it does, we should not reduce the critical plant nutrient CO2. It make no sense to destroy the world in order to save it.

Alarmists must prove, enough to bet a Trillion dollars, that the earth is warming catastrophically due to CO2 AND that mitigation is possible AND preferable to adaptation. They are not even close. Anyway, they are so innumerate, it might as well be a 'jillion' dollars, for any sense it makes.

There is a place for a study of climate. However, that place is similar to what it has been historically and the people studying climate need to be legitimate, not academic also-rans like 'climate scientists'.

This is just really starting to get to me. I wish we could finally get to the serious business of slapping the stupid off of these guys.

DeepNorth said...

I was harsh in my comment above and I apologize to Roger for that. Roger Pielke is somewhat of a 'high water mark' in this dreadful 'discipline' of 'climate science'. My ire, real enough, is directed at the bad guys and their willing dupes -- the IPCC, the 'hockey team', compliant media, a broken education system, negligent institutions, organizations claiming to speak for scientists and a passive, poorly educated and uninformed general public.

Of all the people I know who have a technical background, not one thinks there is any merit to the global warming scare. The more crucial a person's predictive accuracy to occupational success, the less respect they have for 'climate science'.

The promoters of apocalyptic CO2 hysteria have been stealthy with evidence and elucidation of theory. They deal in 'forcings' and 'anomalies'. They validate their mysterious conclusions with appeals to the authority of a manufactured scientific consensus. Rather than answer with evidence and argument, they mount elaborate ad hominem attacks on critics. They turn attention away from the demands for evidence by insisting the argument is over; that it is 'settled science' and anyone who would dare to question must be evil.

There is plenty of incompetence in the organizations involved. However, to borrow a construction from Arthur C. Clarke:

- Any incompetence sufficiently advanced is indistinguishable from malice. -

The persistent, organized and willful incompetence in the world of 'climate science', if not malicious in intent, is still malicious in its effect.

The house of 'climate science' is not solely responsible, but is very much implicated in bringing the houses of real science and real education into complete disrepute. The rot was there before 'climate science' knocked it over, but 'climate science' gave them a mighty big push. It has been a champion of ignorance in political and social life.

'Climate science' may be a fake, but the damage it does is very real.

BTW, the 'scare quotes' are there because 'climate science' is not (seriously not even a bit) scientific in any meaningful sense. Using the term 'climate science' is ironic, not realistic.

You would think that challenging the orthodoxy is for people with tin-foil hats. Can all of officialdom -- government, education, media and leaders of science -- be lying or delusional?

"When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth" -- Sherlock Holmes

Yes, as improbable as it seems, they are lying or delusional. Many of the more intelligent feel that their dissembling is justified because the ends (a clean environment, transfer of wealth to the third world, renewable energy, green jobs, etc) justifies the means. Those people are both lying *and* delusional.

Fraud on this scale seems impossible, but so does an unanticipated multi-trillion dollar breakdown of the world economy or the U.S. senate voting 93 to 7 in favor evaporating law that goes all the way back to the Magna Carta. [They may blame the Internet and have to shut it down 'for great justice'.]

The madness of crowds and dysfunctionally orthodox bureaucracies force scientists to look to empiricism and sound reasoning when assessing the world. The universe might be inscrutable, but it cannot lie.

The dishonesty in 'climate science' is disappointing; the banality more so, but it is the sheer illiterate stupidity of it all that grates on my nerves.

Unknown said...

So let's talk about values - forget for a moment that your science is unconvincing to the point that you can be losing the PR battle with a rag tag group of poorly funded bloggers. Where is your argument that economic growth is less important than climate change abatement? You're not going to be able to point to a mythical consensus of 97% of some small survey of scientists for that argument - you're going to need to line up a whole new crew to argue the policy and economic implications of what you're advocating. Meanwhile... the world moves onward and upward. And towards what it has always moved towards since the advent of the industrial revolution - a world that consumes copious amounts of energy and deals with the problems as they arise.

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...


"Where is your argument that economic growth is less important than climate change abatement?"

Where indeed. Irony. ;-)

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