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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Talking to contrarians. Why do you do it? Or why not?

Sou | 5:06 PM 103 Comments - leave a comment

My short and "boring/mundane" article a couple of days ago generated a lot of interesting discussion, some of which related to the hows, whys and wherefores of directly engaging with people who reject climate science.  I hope the people I quote here don't mind my doing so.  Let me know if you do.


What are you hoping to accomplish?


Don Brooks asked a question, which a lot of us ask ourselves whenever we respond to contrarian comments:
...what is it that you're hoping to accomplish by engaging with the contrarians? 

What are your experiences?


K.a.r.S.t.e.N echoes some of my experience in face to face discussions with climate science deniers about science.  Some extracts:
... Being a working scientist in the UK (but not British), I do have the impression that many of my colleagues are fairly open-minded when it comes to discussion with "Sceptics". I admire their patience, but I haven't figured what keeps them going. I started to engage with "Sceptics" more than three years ago, and it took me quite a while to get into the "game". Tried polite, tried snarky, tried ironic ... to no avail in most cases. Went further meeting one of the self-proclaimed "lukewarmers" (twice) in order to figure how they think. Despite the fact that we get along very well on a personal level, it's a hopeless enterprise when it comes to the science. He just wouldn't trust me. That's the point where I finally gave up. I don't see any point in discussing the science with someone who clearly doesn't know the science well enough, but isn't willing to learn (regardless of the reason) at the same time. Hence my strict rule: No science argument with ANYONE who is unwilling to listen, while I can't learn a shred for myself from them in return. Ruthless ignorance! Works very well for me. There are other things than science which we can still talk about ;-). ...

I've had (short) discussions about climate science with people with whom I've worked who reject climate science, including people for whom I have a lot of respect.   I found the same as K.a.r.S.t.e.N.  We are talking at cross-purposes.  I find their thinking process on that topic is emotional, trapped by their ideology or world view or whatever, which makes reasoned discussion impossible.  If I were a climate scientist I would be wary of having any discussion about climate science with a professional disinformer like David Rose or Andrew Montford or Marc Morano.  I would assume ulterior motives based on what they've done in the past.

When it comes to virtual conversations, here is K.a.r.S.t.e.N's comment about "sceptic" blogs:
However, I have to point out one important aspect: I never even bothered to go to a "sceptic" blog to have a "discussion". Rather, I kept engaging in a fairly neutral forum (knowing that at least lurkers will learn something). How some colleagues endure the hostile tone in "sceptic" blogs or on twitter towards mainstream science and scientists is waaaaaaaay beyond me. Based on the experience I had in the past couple of years, I would probably watch the "sceptics" in their "home ground" a while in order to learn more about particular psychological conditions, but I would certainly not waste my time trying to have some sort of reasoned debate. Ideology and reason is mutually exclusice. If other people have a more optimistic point of view in that regard, fine with me. I'm afraid I can't share it. Most importantly, I am not willing to accept the smear and the utter disrespect from many contributors there. Smear and disrespect against the science, the scientist, and, sure enough, myself. Again, if some of my colleagues don't have a problem with it, perfectly fine with me. I do have a problem with it! And they shouldn't be surprised that others have a problem with it too. Disclaimer here: The problem is not with the particular person who makes weird claims, but with their opinion, which I am sure you agree are two seperate things....

What tactics work and do they "really" work?


John Russell also raised some good questions:
...I'm interesting in exploring why some scientists like Tamsin Edwards and Richard Betts have, let's say, a 'working relationship' with contrarian/sceptic/denial websites; while the relationship, both ways, between those sites and scientists like Mike Mann is akin to warfare.
Let's say first that I completely understand why the latter warfare exists. I guess I've been part of it myself as I cannot (I readily admit) keep my cool when dealing with people who are in denial, once they start making snide comments in my direction. For Mike Mann, to read the vitriol heaped on him by people who are frequently uneducated must be unbearable. To me his robust stance is very understandable.
When it comes to scientists like Tamsin and Richard Betts who are willing to engage, I have always admired their willingness to, let's say, 'build bridges' with the bloggers and commenters who create/frequent those sites. I think I understand their tactic and indeed I hope they are successful.
I'll interrupt here to ask Don Brooks question again.  For people who engage with climate science deniers on their own turf, what is it you are trying to achieve and how do you judge whether or not you've achieved it?

John continues:
But it does raise the question as to what gives them the ability to interact with these sites when other scientists cannot/will not. Given their unquestionable scientific knowledge and their input into the IPCC reports they surely must accept that one possible outcome—should the long-term worst-case climate projections turn out to be the most accurate—is a prognosis for society that is, at least, somewhat compromising. I know they won't be drawn on policy as scientists but do they, just as members of society, have concerns and worries about what the future might hold in a worst-case scenario? And if they do, how do they manage to keep civil when dealing with people whose agenda is to play down the possibility of human caused climate change doing it's worst and stall action to deal with it?

In my case, I credit engagement with "contrarians" for learning much of what I have about climate science. (My disposition is such that I have a thick skin when it comes to being attacked.  Got much thicker through lots of flames from climate science deniers.  These days I'm more able to choose whether or not to be civil rather than let my emotions dictate.)  I began discussing climate science on a share trading website, HotCopper, until eventually being banned from there (basically for not conforming to management's right wing extremism).  That led directly to HotWhopper.

My experience with WUWT is known to some of you.  It takes very little for Anthony Watts to ban people.  I speculate (based on observation) that he has an unwritten quota for people who accept science. No more than two at any one time.  Any more and he picks them off and bans them.  It's simply a numbers game with him.  He needs one or two because it helps stoke the flames of denial.  It gives his mob an extra target.  Much more than that and he fears losing control, so he bans people he deems least useful for his purpose.

Nick Stokes is an example of someone who manages to post comments at WUWT and only rarely responds to all the vile comments and personal taunts directed at him, and even then he responds in a calm manner and refers to science.  He doesn't sink to the level of the WUWT regular.

When I thought about it, the reason for my commenting at HotCopper was twofold:

  • Researching comments was a really good way to learn about climate science.  The denier myths provided a focus for my reading.  
  • I figured it would help inform lurkers who were interested in climate science. Not everyone at HotCopper was an extremist science denier, though you would not know that if you went by the comments on the board or by the attitude of the forum moderators.  

I learnt a few things, some to my chagrin.  For example:

  • Lurkers do learn from good comments.  I got some positive feedback from people who said I helped expand their knowledge and prompted them to learn more about climate science.
  • Don't be fooled.  I'd often respond to people's questions and get into a long discussion in which they hinted that they understood and accepted a facet of climate science.  I'd give myself a pat on the back.  But it's like finding mica and mistaking it for gold.  Next thing those same people are back to libelling climate scientists and talking nonsense.  It's like their minds sometimes bend a little to accommodate a rational thought only to have their brain spit it back out again at a later time.  Climate science doesn't fit their ideology so it's rejected. I doubt I made any difference at all to the ideas of hardened science deniers.

So although more than one of my staunchest foes at HotCopper were subsequently complimentary, in private and in public, and said they missed my posts, being "liked" or "admired" is not sufficient to affect the opinions hard-core deniers have about climate.

There are a lot of theories being bandied about in the cognitive science arena, including research by Stephan Lewandowsky and Dan Kahan.  "Talking with contrarians" may or may not do anything to change the mind of contrarians but, depending on the topic, it might make a difference to people who haven't much knowledge of the subject.

I think the best fora these days for public comment are probably the discussions sections of mainstream media or letters to the editor.  As well as adding to discussions on proper climate discussion boards at places like realclimate.org and skepticalscience.com.  Discussions on climate blogs help tease out the details of climate science.  For climate impacts, climate policy and climate solutions there are lots of excellent avenues like ClimateProgress, the Conversation, mainstream media etc.  In Australia two good places are ClimateSpectator and RenewEconomy.

In my view, commenting at niche denier blogs does not provide a lot of "value for money".  I rarely visit them except for WUWT.    Having said that, I'm not suggesting they be avoided.  For example, it pays to keep Anthony Watts' quota filled if only because sometimes normal rational people accidentally stray there  :)


How do you judge success? What works and what doesn't?


Getting back to Don Brooks' question - why do other people engage with contrarians and where?  What do you hope to achieve? What have you found that works and what doesn't? If you don't engage, then is that a deliberate decision and if so, why don't you?

I'm not referring to outlets that are primarily an information resource on climate science.  I'm referring more to people who do more proactive outreach.  Who comment on contrarian/disinformation blogs (eg Judith Curry, CA), science rejecting/conspiracy blogs (like WUWT or Jo Nova or Bishop Hill) or in the mainstream media, or who respond to tweets from hard-core "skeptics".

Finally, if you do engage with contrarians, how do you judge how successful your efforts are?  That question pre-supposes you've got a specific objective for your engagement, so it would be good see the different objectives people have too.  For example:
  • To change people's thinking - that of lurkers or posters
  • To change the "flavour" of a thread - playing the numbers game by inserting posts about science into an anti-science discussion - shifting the "balance"
  • Other reasons.

103 comments:

  1. Sou, My reasons for engaging with climate science critics is primarily because I am concerned about global warming and I feel frustrated by the lack of action on the policy front. But the events of this week have made me feel a bit jaded and I'm beginning to ask myself "why bother". That climate scientists (who I am forever sticking up for) should themselves be telling climate science critics that "They all (scientists) agree the Mann analysis is wrong" just makes me want to bang my head against a wall and then forget about the whole issue all together. Perhaps I will feel differently next week, but at the moment, I've had enough.

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    1. I hope you don't give up, Rachel. You have a lot to offer and a particularly engaging style. (How's that for flattery - but I mean it.)

      I understand how you feel. I take the attitude that scientists themselves can't be expected to be perfect and such things happen. But stepping back and looking at the wider scheme of things that event is hardly a bump, isn't it. The issue is bigger than scientists or science. Science is how we know what the issue is, but it's really about how we solve the problems we've got ourselves enmeshed in.

      I suppose what I'm interested in is where is the biggest "bang for buck", given that we all have limited time and different strengths.

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  2. Cheer up, Rachel. :-)

    That is a tiny subgroup of all scientists. I am actually surprised that there are not more of that. Scientist are by nature contrarians and skeptical.

    Furthermore, specific fields of science are in competition for funding. For me personally, all the nonsense at WUWT about the quality of station data is the best thing since sliced bread. That helps in arguing with funding agencies that we need to study the quality of this data better. There is a disproportional number of scientific papers on the influence of urbanization on the observed temperature signal. It would be best to keep my mouth shut or even to encourage this stuff. However the WUWT nonsense just makes your brain hurt.

    Anthony Watts has the bizarre idea that scientists aim to proof the consensus right. He couldn't more wrong. (Well, ehhm, he could, and is, on other topics.)

    My articles on clouds typically started with a sentence like "the cloud feedback is the largest single source of uncertainties in current climate projections." Would we understand clouds sufficiently well for climate studies, a lot less people would work on it, get funded and getting published would be harder.

    Now that I work on homogenization of climate data, my interest would be create a lot of noise about the quality of stations data, WUWT-style. However, a good scientist is dedicated to the truth and the rest at least fears for their reputations if they would spout unfounded nonsense the way WUWT does.

    Why do I talk to contrarians? I like discussing and its helps the lurkers finding their way to reality. I have no illusion that it will change climate policy.

    The best way to do so is to focus on a clear statement, if they accidentally make one. Ostriches like presenting new challenges every single comment because the hate a detailed discussion like anything. They know that they will lose such a discussion. Not to let the new challenges distract from the discussion, but also not ignoring them, it is a good idea to link to the SkS answer to the typically standard "questions".

    I just had a nice chat with Eric Worrall, about his claim that the temperature is decreasing. That is a clear statement and then you can clearly show (the lurkers) that the climate ostriches are ignoring all the evidence and cannot be taken seriously. I admit that that was an easy one, typically the claims are more vague and thus harder to refute.

    Steve Bloom kindly found it a good example of engaging ostriches. Never ending Audit Willard would probably still subtract some style points. :-)

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    1. That exchange was a really good example of using an erroneous statement (by Eric) to highlight a number of useful scientific observations.

      (I'll point out that when I used a similar tone at HotCopper I was often accused of being condescending. That's a not uncommon tactic of contrarians, which Eric might have used had he thought he had an audience of people like himself. I only say that to highlight the difficulties of engaging with fake sceptics.)

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    2. Such a accusation is okay. Not everyone has to like me, it is sufficient if I am liked and regarded by people I like and respect. If such accusations are their last line of defence, they have lost the argument.

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    3. Very nice exchange with Eric, Victor. I wonder whether he'll respond. I can't believe he's written an iPhone app that contains all the climategate emails. Isn't there some sort of copyright/privacy issue with those emails? I mean, I know they're in the public domain now but they were still hacked illegally. I'm surprised Apple approved the app. Personally, I don't feel it's right to read them.

      Someone said to me recently that climate sensitivity is only 0.7C as per Lindzen et al and I responded that I thought it implausible since we have already reached 0.8C and we're not yet double preindustrial. They responded by saying that the 0.8C includes natural variability and so 0.7C is still possible. What would you say to that? Don't estimates of climate sensitivity include this natural variability element as well?

      I think probably I am just a bit out of my depth but at least I can recognise that while I think the WUWTers can't.

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    4. I hope he will respond. If we stay on topic, it may give the opportunity to understand where these strange ideas come from.

      A climategate app sounds clearly illegal to me. Complaining about it would be a perfect task for a non-scientist. A scientist would be punished by a flood of FOIA requests.

      Your question is about attribution of the temperature change, about the reason for the change. That is a lot more difficult as just the change itself and also not my expertise. However, the numbers you quote from Lindzen are very extreme.

      Not only is the CO2 not doubled yet, we are also not yet in equilibrium. Even if the CO2 concentration would stay constant at the current level, the warming would continue. Thus there is a huge gap between the 0.7 and the 0.8 even if the numbers look similar.

      Thus for the number of Lindzen to be right, almost all warming must thus have been due to "natural variability". This natural variability is the internal variability of the climate system that would also happen without changes in the forcing (CO2 or insolation, etc.). Normally this natural variability is so small that is is treated as noise, as something statistical.

      However, naturally it does have cause, mainly how the energy in the climate system is partitioned between the ocean and the atmosphere, but also changes in clouds and vegetation (albedo of the Earth). If natural variability were so large as your fans of Lindzen claim, then they should also explain the cause of it, otherwise it becomes magical thinking as Dana recently put it nicely. The pause in the surface air temperature could be due to natural variability and the size is getting so large that we start to be able to study it, as recent studies on El Nino have done.

      Many estimates of climate sensitivity do not use the current temperature change directly. The main problems are that we are not in equilibrium yet (the temperature would still increase if we kept CO2 at current levels) and that the change is still rather small, which makes such a computation sensitive to other forcings (changes in aerosols and insolation) and natural variability. Scientists do their best to compute the compute the climate sensitivity from the current temperature change, to have an additional independent line of evidence. However, currently I would feel that the more reliable estimates for climate sensitivity come from basic physical considerations, climate models and from paleo climate data.

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    5. Thanks, Victor and thank you Sou too for your kind words.

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    6. @ Rachel

      They responded by saying that the 0.8C includes natural variability and so 0.7C is still possible. What would you say to that?

      It is incompatible with known paleoclimate behaviour - that's what I'd say to that!

      Paleoclimate behaviour becomes very difficult to explain if S/2xCO2 (or a roughly equivalent forcing change) is below about 2C, and it fits best with a value for S of ~3C.

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    7. Rachel: Isn't there some sort of copyright/privacy issue with those emails?

      Maybe, maybe not, but there's definitely a mental health issue. When a person takes their obsession with these emails past a certain point by, for example, investing a ton of time to create a portable searchable database, we're clearly seeing the transition from dilettante to something more dire.

      Let alone what it must be like to share space with that person. Imagine the scene at the dinner table, as the iPhone is whipped out and consulted. "Wow, the weather's been really hot recently" leads to a frenzied monologue on "The Team." Scary. :-)

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    8. Still no answer from Eric Worrall.

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  3. My interest in weather & climate founds in early 1975, when I was eight, and travelled through Darwin which was virtually wiped off the map a month or two earlier by Cyclone Tracy.
    Renewed interest in Holland after remigration in 1976 led to my university studying of the subject. Didn't finish that, because I became attracted to 'chaotic' dynamical systems generally and switched to mathematics. Whereafter life took me to ICT rather than weather. But I kept pursuing the old interest until and including today and could find a job as an operational meteorologist if I went for it.
    This is part one.

    Part two is my other, possibly even bigger subject of interest - and oh, what means pursuing a subject being endowed with the talent of Asperger? (just sayin' :) )
    It is war and genocide.
    From this came dogged research into public opinion formation and into the 'fascist way of thinking', I mean anti-intellectualism, anti-science, anti-fact; lower belly paranoid and/or ultramaterialistic, ethnocentric and egotistic 'reasoning'. Related: right-wing authoritarianism, et cetera.

    I chose two matters to confront debates and blogs with: the Middle-East/Palestine/Israel problem, and AGW.
    The latter began as a satisfaction for part 1 only, and was even meant to be a diversion from the emotionally demanding conflict subject.

    So re AGW I set out on an educational mission, for me and from me to others. It soon occurred to me that some, or rather many people would learn nil from what I tried to explain to them about climate and c-change. They would repeat their nonsensical arguments, know today as 'denier memes'.
    Given their total ignorance on the subject they couldn't have thought those memes - like 'one volcanoe spews more CO2 than man in years' - up by themselves. There had to be source for them, and it even had to be a small source given this kind of likeness in those memes and people's behaviour with them.
    At this point, and shortly after its publication, 'Merchants of Doubt' (Oreskes/Conway) was played into my hands and I understood all.
    Unfortunately, so I discovered, the climate 'debate' belongs to my interest part two: the fascist way of thinking et c, and not at all to part one: meteorology and climatology or non-linear partial differential equations and fractal dimensions, or Gödel.

    The reason I join debates even on lower level fora on the Middle-East and AGW is to study memes. I poke and watch what happens. At what point will certain people leave a subject and begin ad hominem, and what prompts himr to do so? Are facts really taboo - and I mean the powerful thing with that - as I often declare in jest? Is logic really poisonous for those who hold clearly conflicting positions, like those who apparently believe that CO2 is a GHG but is not a factor in air temperature? How can anyone stick to such antithetic convictions?
    And this happens all the time (also, I know I am myself not immune at all).
    I need insight into this way of thinking in order to get a perspective on questions like 'how come Shoa?'.

    I am actually totally not into this to convince anyone, though I treat my subject matter absolutely honestly according to my personal opinions about them.
    My moments in life are when someone takes in some facts and checks them then gets convinced solely from the facts what the case really is - and e.g. feedbacks a question that demonstrates he really understood the thing.
    Additionally I feel I have learnt a lot of what I was trying to understand re part two, and memes, though much of that has saddened (or sobered?) me. Sad, for instance, is my meme:
    - The lesson will only be learnt thru confrontation, thanx Sandy.



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  4. "I'll interrupt here to ask Don Brooks question again. For people who engage with climate science deniers on their own turf, what is it you are trying to achieve and how do you judge whether or not you've achieved it?"

    I think that in the previous thread and in her tweets, Tamsin, at least, provided some information as to her answer to that question.

    "trying to detoxify the debate, & for the most part ppl seem to agree it's working (scientists 2)""

    She believes that engaging with "skeptics" in the way that she does reduces the toxicity. And, she said:

    "Please let's stop viewing it as them and us, black and white."

    So it seems that she thinks that the way to reduce the toxicity is to find points of agreement with "skeptics" on their turf.

    I respect that as a strategy. I do think that finding points of agreement is the way to reduce toxicity. Where I disagree is with Tamsin's tactics. I don't think that the way she is seeking points of agreement nets any substantive agreements or any measurable and substantial benefit.

    Tamsin clearly believes that her efforts have reduced the toxicity, so like you, I would like to know by what measure she believes that she has achieved, at least to some degree, her goal. Since she hasn't answered those questions in detail, I can only speculate:

    Presumably, she feels that a metric she can use is that she can engage with "skeptics" in discussions where they aren't overtly hostile to her (at least some of them aren't), But in what way is that a substantive achievement? Is that an achievement that on any meaningful scale reduces the overall toxicity? Does it mean that on a wider scale, combatants are any closer to reaching agreement on policy implications? Well, it would be odd for her to consider agreement on policies as a larger goal since she thinks that scientists should not be directly engaged in advocating for policy development.

    It seems to me that Tamsin's measurement is pretty much an end unto itself. Because she, as an individual, and a few other individual scientists, can have civil discussions with "skeptics," she feels that progress has been made. Thus, she feels there is less toxicity and less limitation to a "black and white" paradigm. So I think that we know Tamsin's answer to the question.

    But I, personally, think that her answer is fairly meaningless.


    So then I have another question, to Sou and others here. Given the situation that we have in the climate wars, what would be a reasonable goal, what would be reasonable strategies towards reaching that goal be, and how would progress towards that goal be measured? Would the strategies and goals, necessarily, be based on the assumption that any progress that takes place will not include successful communication with "skeptics?"

    Would success only occur if "skeptics" agree with "realists" on the scientific points and therefore agree to the policies that "realists" think are advisable? Is there any chance of that happening? I think we agree that there is no such chance. So, therefore, is it true that you think that the only tactic that would work is to marginalize "skeptics" and prove that "skeptical" views are inherently illegitimate?

    Personally, I think that Tamsin's strategy will not work, but neither will stragegies/tactics that require marginalization of "skeptics." IMO, the only tactics/strategies that will work are ones that result in finding meaningful and substantial common interests.

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    1. You ask a good question Joshua and not one that I have the answer too. I agree that Tamsin's strategy is not going to work and I actually think she is doing more damage than not. I still can't believe she'd write on a contrarian blog that all the scientists agree the Mann analysis is wrong. What was she thinking? I can't help but liken the whole scenario to a schoolyard where the nerdy kids have to do the homework of the bullies in order to be liked. Perhaps this is an unfair assessment but it's the first thing I thought of when I read some of her comments. She wants to be liked.

      I think Bill McKibben has the best strategy: divestment. This is where we should be putting our energy. Pressuring our superannuation funds, our banks and universities and so on, to divest from shares in the fossil fuel industry.

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    2. Rachel -

      I think that it is likely that Tamsin thinks that being more well-"liked," as a scientist who accepts certain basic tenets of the climatic impact of ACO2, is a strategic goal that nets a benefit .

      I don't agree (if that is her thinking), but I think it is important to differentiate that goal from wanting to be liked in the sense of someone who wants friends.

      Do you think that divestment as a strategy necessarily implies that efforts need to be made to marginalize "skeptics."

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    3. Changing your bank is easy, there are many good banks to chose from.

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    4. Joshua, there is probably no clear answer. Yesterday's thread got me thinking tho'. We'll never get the hard core science disbelievers to shift, even if their house floats away or burns down. To them it will still be 'weather' and 'natural'. That doesn't mean there will be no points of agreement. For example, there is overlap when it comes to energy solutions and other mitigation strategies. So perhaps effort into policy solutions is one way to move forward. The why doesn't matter so much as the what.

      I recall dealing with social issues such as gender equity, use of public transport etc. People will come to the table with their own notions that are entrenched and can't be shifted. However they can be bypassed. Solutions can be arrived at for a variety of reasons. Eg clean air regs have a lot of support. No-one likes smog. I recall when in the USA in the early 70s people were saying to me that seat belt regs, motor cycle helmets etc infringed their civil liberties, but I doubt they would say that today.

      I believe the time will come when most people will recognise coal as being a very outdated and dirty source of energy. And when people will view petrol-powered vehicles in the same way as they view tobacco smokers. And it won't be too far in the future.

      I do think it important that as many people as possible know why we must shift to a cleaner future. But I know that there will always be some for whom accepting the science is simply not possible.

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    5. What frustrates me about the attempts to turn the tide of public opinion on climate change is the number of very informed and very smart people who either spend their time arguing climate science with cranks, deniers or lukewarmers (they are all the same at the end of the day) or spend all their time online talking to likeminded people.

      Folks. There are sites out there like The Conversation which have 1,300,000 readers per month, lots of articles on climate science and is trolled to death by the most god awful cranks. How about using your skills to help fight off the cranks and post comments informed by the science where the public is likely to encounter them. TC is not the only site. There is hardly a public facing site on the science that is not heavily trolled.

      The cranks have it worked out. They have an army of Orcs who check in the WUWT et al to get the latest talking point and then plaster it over the internet where the public can read it.

      I am not bagging this site or any of the other climate reality blogs. I rely on them heavily to keep up to speed with the latest crank talking point. And it is not either/or.

      But FFS, why would you waste your effort trying to persuade a climate crank. They are ideologues. I have never ever seen one change their mind.

      On the lukewarmers. Our PM Abbott used to say "climate change is crap". He now says "Climate change is real", **but**. He has not changed his mind, and neither have most lukewarmers including self-proclaimed "lukewarmer", A Watts.

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    6. Sou -

      "People will come to the table with their own notions that are entrenched and can't be shifted."

      Sure - some folks fit that category, but I think that many people who advocate for diametrically opposed positions can find common interests through stakeholder dialog. There are examples of participatory planning and deliberative democracy working, and I think that as difficult as it is to pull off, and as difficult as it is to visualize a collaborative process w/r/t discussions about climate change, it is more likely to be successful than the current, zero sum gain path.

      The thing is, though, that success in those kinds of processes can only occur among participants who are engaging in good faith, and that has to be on both sides. Such an approach is not compatible with the view that success will come through an end-around approach or a belief that those with opposing views need to be marginalized. The two approaches are mutually incompatible.

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    7. Yes, I believe we are saying the same thing, Joshua. There are many examples I could cite where groups that are arguably on different sides of the fence ideologically join forces for common goals, even if the "why" they each have the goal may differ. They come at the same solution from different angles. It requires effective dialogue and building of trust. A bit of smooching from both parties :)

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    8. Never anything wrong with smooching.

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    9. I think MikeH has a good point - if we really want our efforts to have a practical effect it would probably be better to focus on more general political blogs rather than climate specific ones because there tends to be more people there who have less fixed ideas on climate change and so are more open to reasoned argument on the subject. Although we can't know for sure, and it's always good to see bad arguments debunked, I do wonder how many "unconvinced" lurkers there are at specialist climate blogs, given their somewhat specialist nature and often partisan views.

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    10. I have no problem at all with working with people with whom I have considerable idealogical differences. For example outside of climate change one of the issuess I take a particular interest in is civil liberties and in recent years I've often found myself on the same side of the argument as Libertarian types arguing against people on the Left with whom I would normally have much more in common.
      On climate change though it is hard to see any reasonable common ground between my views and those who are convinced hat there is no problem and/or there are no reasonable steps which can be taken to prevent dangerous AGW which would not destroy our economies.
      It is especially difficult given the scale of the actons needed to drastically reduce our GHG emissions - I struggle to see a "reasonable" half way point which would satisfy everyone but at the same time still have a meaningful impact on climate change. As it is the most comprehensive response from our policymakers which is imaginable would still be a compromise.

      Delete
    11. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    12. "It seems to me that Tamsin's measurement is pretty much an end unto itself. Because she, as an individual, and a few other individual scientists, can have civil discussions with "skeptics," she feels that progress has been made."

      Yes, indeed. She actually tweeted to David Rose that his telling her that she has an effect on him because "reason rocks" ... shows success!!! This is a combination of naivety and narrow focus on the immediate that I barely thought possible in a scientist. And I'm not saying she's not a good scientist; she clearly is, which makes it all the more baffling.

      Delete
    13. jqb,
      I followed Tamsins exchange with Rose on Twitter yesterday as well. I agree with you. Rose simply twisted her around his finger (he perfectly knows what she wanted to hear). In making her believe that her approach worked with him, she keeps doing it. If she can't see the glaringly obvious reason for him to do it, it would truly be sad. Hope it isn't so ...

      Delete
    14. Tamsin says her other possible career path was to be a mediator. For her, evidence as to whether her efforts are working is a little beside the point. It's more of a life choice.

      Delete
    15. But Steve, the point is that she *claims* that it is working, and she wrote an inflammatory piece that attacked practically the whole cli sci community that was based on the unsubstantiated notion that it works.

      Delete
  5. Like others I've dabbled with responding to deniatribes and comments at WUWT, and managed not to be banned—though I also tried to stay robust in my answers. I think Sou has it spot on when she says Anthony likes a few 'warmists' around to provoke his crowd but bans those who are too good at putting his crowd of followers in their place and/or know too much science. So in the end if you manage not to be banned and can remain reasonably civil, you come to the conclusion you're being used as bait.

    On the wider point of what does one achieve by taking point in dialogue on those sites, I think the answer is one will never know. The people you might influence are the silent onlookers. Those in denial who comment are set in their ways and will never be changed until global warming rises up and bites them in the bum; which will happen at some point in the future, whether it's a bush fire or their furniture floating down the street in a flood.

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  6. Joshua,

    No, I don't think anyone should be marginalised. Do you? I think it's fine to communicate with "skeptics" using courtesy and respect and indeed this is how it should be done but not by throwing other people under the bus. Saying that "everyone says the Mann analysis is wrong" is to use Michael Mann as a tool in order to be accepted by the "skeptic" community. This is clearly wrong.

    I once saw Stephen Schneider engage with a room full of "skeptics" and he did it really well. He was polite and courteous but when they were wrong, he said very clearly, "you're wrong".

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    1. It is not a nice term, but let's say: It should be just as likely that a climate ostrich is asked to comment on climate science as that a creationist is asked to comment on the latest Nature article on the role of introns in chromosomes.

      Delete
    2. I am a working scientist but not in this area. I do follow some of the blogs on both sides of the fence. I only lurk in WUWT and BH, but I occasionally contribute to Wott's blog, here, and - very occasionally - RC.

      Honestly, I was a bit disappointed to see UK-based climate researchers becoming involved in this way. The BH site has a very clear agenda and it isn't to get to the bottom of the climate science. In fact, if one reads between the lines it looks as if climate change is almost a dog-whistle issue. Really, it is a political blog with a very distinct view, just look at the sites in the recommended links.
      And that is what worries me. When scientists make iconoclastic statements about politically charged science on such a site, I think they have to be very wary; they automatically become "political advocates."

      Delete
  7. For a sad example of an attempt to have a useful dialog with a contrarian (not just a crank in this rare example) see Wotts' interaction today with Pielke Sr.:

    Okay, Roger, an acknowledgement

    Bad faith trumps grace, always.

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  8. Sou,

    I think George Marshall solves everything:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qp-nJKBwQR4

    Notice the title. This ain't about tone, nor about becoming a carpet.

    More generally:

    http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com/tagged/abouttalking

    ***

    Most episodes of ClimateBall are about social norms. Take this one:

    > @ClimateOfGavin @keithkloor The presentation was called dishonest, there was no sentence that linked a name with the word dishonest.

    https://twitter.com/curryja/status/392694623153291264

    "You should not say that a presentation is deceptive". "Yes, I can: it's not an ad hom". This is a struggle to find a social norm about an online practice.

    (Saying that a presentation is deception is a figure of speech called **personification**, BTW.)

    Most of these discussions are about establishing social norms. This is why I call this ClimateBall: we invent new rules as we go along. There are recurring patterns, like comedies of menace (hi, Barry) and waiting for Godot (hi, me).

    I think there are studies in social norms, if Joshua is interested.

    ***

    As I said to O. Bothe, I don't believe in factions. He replied something I think rings true:

    > @nevaudit yes, better to view it on the level of individuals - something I often forget.

    https://twitter.com/geschichtenpost/status/393389912411500548

    But we have to go even deeper:

    > Even at this level, @geschichtenpost, we should beware that people may have many "voices", hence personas. Perhaps by "people" I mean "me".

    https://twitter.com/nevaudit/status/393391756370141184

    If you look at it as a playwright, I think everyone can recognize the voices to which I'm referring. I might be biased. Anyway.

    My point here is not to have an argued point. There's no real argument, it's just a discussion. I offered resources, ideas, and some hope, I hope. This may explain why I sound confusing at times. Or not. It's just a comment, really.

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    1. Thanks for the link to the George Marshall video. His ideas are good when talking about climate with people you know and respect. Friends, family, workmates or even people you just bump into.

      It's hard to build a rapport with the normal inhabitant at WUWT though :(

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    2. > His ideas are good when talking about climate with people you know and respect.

      Exactly. Marshall's conditions are exactly the answer you're looking for: one wishes to talk to contrarians:

      - to establish a good enough common ground for peerage;
      - to seek reciprocal respect;
      - to present and hold your own views;
      - to share something personal, which is a human basic need;
      - to adapt your message so that it fits the Otter worldview.

      There might be other conditions, since there are other reasons why one would talk to contrarians. Think of klout: to mix with contrarians helps your voice be heard, as it's easier to get mediatic prominence that way. With enough klout, you can even become their champion, which leads to a mutual gain.

      Of course, all this is not really necessary. There are still ways to have debates about conflicting viewpoints. And there is a place for satire and snark.

      As long as one distinguishes between saying *to* and saying *of*, all should be well.

      ***

      Oh, and for those who'd like to investigate the Discourse on the Otter:

      http://discourseontheotter.tumblr.com/

      And if I had to wrap everything up, I would leave it to Leonard Cohen:

      > If one is to express the great inevitable defeat that awaits us all, it must be done within the strict confine of dignity and beauty.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VIR5ps8usuo

      Goodbye,

      w

      Delete
    3. That is an interesting video, Willard. I have made a post out of it to give it some more prominence. Thanks.

      Delete
  9. Thanks Sou for highlighting my comment :)

    I might add a few point. While I consider arguments with contrarians (perhaps worth another late disclaimer: I'm always speaking of those who have demonstrated their incapability to accept the science a thousend times before) utterly useless (it would only raise their own profile), commenting on contrarian blogs in a mere technical fashion as Nick Stokes, Leif Svaalgard and others are doing is perfectly fine. As long as you keep ignoring any contrarian comment, you can be sure that lurkers who are truly sceptical will easily be able to figure who is more trustworthy. Needless to say, make sure there are potential lurkers where you are posting ;). I'm quite sure by now that this is the best strategy when in comes to communicating the science. The neat part of it is that you implicitly avoid the impression of partisan salesmanship.

    Personally, I honestly feel sorry for all those people who will never understand how the world really works (weather/climate is only one of many examples) because of some sort of ideological blindedness. Why would I bother to convince them. I'm past the stage where I want to convince anyone of anything by a million miles. Different story of course when it comes to convincing some of my colleagues of the trivial fact that aerosol effects matter a lot ;). At the end of the day, I'm just happy to share what I've learned and I think it is a worthwhile exercise to communicate this knowledge to those who also like to learn something. If only they knew how much of a joy it is for me to understand the science and, ultimately, to understand what keeps our planet spinning. If only they knew how amazingly satisfying it is to turn neverending curiosity into (profound) knowledge. If only they knew how stupid I'd have to be to fool myself deliberately day in and day out on the way to more insight. What could I possibly gain if I were to do that? I'm quite convinced that I share these feelings with most of my colleagues.

    P.S. @Victor: I owe you a comment re my perception of the AR5 conclusions ... will catch up soon.

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  10. KR

    I used to post on 'skeptic' blogs quite regularly, in the hopes of presenting a fact-based alternative to their regular posts. Over time I've decided I don't have a large enough shovel for the, um, 'discussion' presented, and have limited my time thus spent. I feel that if the environment is one of monkeys throwing poo, undecided passers-by should be able to detect that level of conversation - and value it appropriately...

    As an exercise (which I've gone through): look at the last 20 entries on the blog(s) in question, and rate them as ad hominem, cherry-picking, misrepresentation, irrelevant, or actually containing some scientific content over and above that given by fringe emeritus professors associated with think tanks. If less than 1 in 20 qualifies as actual scientific discourse, well, there's a statistically significant separation from the null hypothesis of "content" :)

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    1. I used to post on newspaper discussion sections, amongst other places, because the anti-science brigade needed push back. And very occaisionally someone would say "THanks for posting all that I learnt a lot" and you'd know that there were silent witnesses reading it and some getting the correct idea, that denialists are scum with no brains or ethics.
      Going to denialists own blogs, however, is a waste of time because they are echo chambers. Hence why you don't have a big enough shovel.

      Delete
  11. I almost never commented on denier web sites because I seldom visit them. If it wasn't for Sou I'd have no idea what was going on at WUWT. But I do respond to denier posts on more general web sites like Slashdot and my local newspapers' sites. I have no illusion that I'm going to change the mind of the person I'm responding to. I respond to balance the picture and give the lurkers a scientific viewpoint to consider.

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    1. I rarely took any notice of WUWT before I took up blogging. I knew it was a source of denier memes but it seemed to silly to take seriously.

      Blogging about it here seems the most efficient way of keeping up with the latest recycled meme. There is rarely anything new. Skeptical Science has them well covered, but I figure it's handy to know the flavour of the day. And to see what angle fake sceptics take on new research when it gets published, who is their anti-hero of the month etc. And sometimes there is a spate of gems, like the insects, Greenland ice sheets and airport UHI disease :)

      AFAIK all the denier blogs mimic each other so if you've got one covered you've covered the lot. (Just do a google search on words in any of the copy and pastes on WUWT and you'll see how many websites each article appears on. It's a lot.)

      I mean, how many ways can you say "an ice age cometh"? Or "it's the sun"!

      Delete
  12. I've just read Russell Brand's essay in New Statesman (http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2013/10/russell-brand-on-revolution) and it's surprisingly excellent. It's not really about climate change as such but he does say some things which made me think of another strategy for getting opposing groups to better communicate. When describing himself, he says, "...but first and foremost I want to have a fucking laugh." Who doesn't want to laugh, right? Don't we all want to laugh and have fun? If we could approach the climate change problem with humour we might find that people start playing nicely together.

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    1. The trouble is, there's exactly nothing funny about the delusional and the downright dishonest pushing their self-serving craziness. Nor will humour bridge the gap between the open mind and the closed.

      Incidentally, Russell is being slightly disingenuous. He might better have said:

      "First and foremost I want to have a fucking audience".

      Delete
    2. Sometimes, all I can do is laugh, so I'm not sure it's going to help :-)

      Delete
    3. Lot's of 'humour' on e.g. the threads of Deltoid - but that's because it's open warfare there. Impossible to take seriously what happens there. Alas, that's all the humour there is or can be.

      I'll put in my version... "First and foremost I want to have a fucking ants' nest to poke around in" (o, will someone pass me the can of napalm?).

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    4. It might be hard to find something that both parties find funny. I'm thinking of that cartoon of the polar bear with his legs burnt off due to an acidic ocean. I don't think contrarians found that one funny.

      Delete
    5. Rather, contrarians, often being of the conservative/paranoid persuasion, have no sense of humour at all. So forget fun when communicating with them. Or let them be their own cartoons (which they will not find funny).

      Delete
    6. > I don't think contrarians found that one funny.

      That depends:

      https://twitter.com/BarryJWoods/status/393868882676416513

      See the following discussion, with Sou's favorite joining in the fun.

      Delete
    7. Um, have you ever seen a Josh cartoon? Finding them 'funny' is one of the most inexplicable of denier behaviours...

      Delete
    8. Willard, what do you think the "oh dear!!" means? Is he shocked that I find that cartoon funny or shocked that I would assume that contrarians do not find it funny?

      Delete
    9. Yeah, I don't think that was at all obvious, either! Oh, I see you've asked him. His reply's a bit, well, equally cryptic, don't you think -

      honest. cartoon is funny and if josh had drawn it= satire. But overall public probably shrug indifference

      Which to me appears to parse as -

      To be honest? It is funny (whereas it had just, in the previous tweet, been 'ridiculous', which is not even a bad thing in a cartoon, surely?) and if Josh had drawn it it would be satire (Josh does satire? Who knew?). But overall the public probably shrug with indifference (Because it's a funny cartoon? Because it would have been satire had Josh drawn it? Because it's illegitimate to depict a polar bear dissolving in an acidifying ocean? In a cartoon? But, surely, in the golden words of Ren Höek; 'cartoons aren't real - they're just puppets'!)

      So why 'oh dear' in the first place?

      Ah, and BK's still going! Frankincense and myrrh, this instant!...

      Delete
    10. Bill, yes, I'm still a bit confused. He did say sorry though and it seemed to be sincere. I know that we all find different things funny so I was genuinely curious about whether he thought it was.

      Delete
    11. Rachel,

      To know what Barry means, you might need to read back his tweets from the last week. You should see the Barry indulges in a comedy of menace:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comedy_of_menace

      Since it's a comedy, it must be funny, right?

      Delete
    12. Yes, Willard, it's a tragic comedy.

      Delete
  13. Why do I 'talk' with contrarians or more correctly 'did'? It probably comes down to a mixture of reasons which are likely linked to an underlying psychological problem best summed up as 'white knight syndrome'. When non-scientists criticise the work of scientists because they, the non-scientists feel they know better, on goes my suit of armour, etc. But, after 40 years of doing this, with 'colleagues' who rarely have any science background, I'm feeling like Don Quixote, i.e. tilting at windmills, as contrarians engage in an 'argument of millions' while holding various conflicting views that are continually changing to suit the occasion. The contrarian view of a debate is to select or adjust data that suits their argument while ignoring or deprecating any inconvenient data. In this regard they're more like lawyers acting on their clients' instructions or in their clients' best interests.

    It could be elitism but I have a personal dislike of the arguments of science illiterates who disdain the work of scientists because they, the illiterati, know better per medium of commonsense e.g. the contrarian-type that's typified by: "Climate science? How hard can it be?". What need for atmospheric physics, etc as philosopher contrarians revert to Aristotelianism? Seeing long discredited contrarian memes in the comments for online newspaper articles or opinion pieces gets my goat e.g. When will contrarians get the message that Galileo was not a skeptic, he was a scientist pursued by skeptics (parallels with Michael Mann?)? To that extent, engaging with contrarians is an attempt, most likely futile, to educate them, (Oops! edumacate them). But, as has been expressed by others, that attempt to engage is more aimed at ensuring the casual reader doesn't get the idea that contrarian views hold sway or are correct.

    It's also rankles hearing radio shock jocks disparage the role of carbon dioxide in global warming when they make unknowingly, ironic statements like, "Carbon dioxide is plant food. That's Year 6 science." Ditto for rightwing politicians, like the Australian one talking through his backside while making his "talking through her hat" comment when referring to a UN official linking increasingly intense bushfires (and extended bushfire seasons) to global warming.

    As for contrarian scientists, not mentioning any names, I take comfort in a 'Science advances one (contrarian) funeral at a time.' variation of Max Planck's original statement.

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    1. George, the knight in shining armour syndrome is one of the too human motives that I relate to :) The other 'too human' impulse is correcting something wrong, which I catch myself out in all too often :(

      To balance that is the oft (mis)quoted idea of of evil triumphing if good women and men do nothing.

      We humans are fallible creatures with all sorts of mixed motives, muddling our way through life trying to on balance do more good than harm :)

      Delete
  14. Lots of interesting comments. Thanks to everyone.

    One approach I've seen on talking to contrarians is: you don't.

    The idea is that the average person has hundreds of things competing for their attention. The news is this great cacophony of Syria and NSA bugging and climate change and Obamacare and all the rest, so on most issues they have a broad impression and don't know the details. An excellent example in the U.S. is recent polls show that Americans oppose "Obamacare," but when asked about the specific provisions of the act without mentioning the Obamacare label there are solid majorities in favor of all but one, where there is about an even split.

    Getting back to climate change, when scientists debate contrarians the message that much of the public takes away is "scientists disagree." The argument is that we treat contrarians the same as flat earthers and (to a lesser extent) creationists, i.e., their ideas simply aren't worthy of a scientist's time.

    I'm not sure I agree with that approach but it's worth considering. Genuine scientific skeptics, who are willing to listen and learn, are a different story. But those are almost nonexistent in the blogosphere.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Quote from Rachel above , ref Dr Tamsin Edwards

    "I still can't believe she'd write on a contrarian blog that all the scientists agree the Mann analysis is wrong."

    Perhaps that is because all the scientists she knows, agree that Mann's analysis was wrong??"

    simple really..


    but to be sure, do you have a link for where she said that, you might have accidentally misunderstood or misquoted..


    Mann is but one scientist, others disagree with him, including Rob Wilson it seems... I wonder what Dr Edwards thinks of Prof Kewandowsky's work..

    I know that Proff Betts described a paper of Lewandowsky's as delusional....(see his twitter timeline) we also talked about it elsewhere.

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    1. That is supposition without basis in fact.

      As for your last comment, did Richard Betts say that? Do you have a link?

      I hope you aren't implying that Richard Betts is unreliable when it comes to his own area of expertise despite whatever he may or may not think about topics outside his own field of work. Likewise, even if Tamsin had formed her own view of findings in cognitive science, given her stated position on how scientists should behave in public, I doubt she'd express an opinion.

      Delete
    2. Have you ever considered that both of those statements might be true and that rational people could find them to be true? If not, you are pretty closed minded.

      Delete
    3. deluded - not delusional (which is worse?)


      richardabetts @wattsupwiththat @lucialiljegren @aDissentient Here http://t.co/dyeFLpilTp at Aug 31, 2012 at 9:00 PM. Lewandowsky et al clearly deluded!

      http://twitter.com/richardabetts/status/314522325909377024

      we have chatted as well...

      Delete
    4. I think Richard is very competent in his area of expertise. You do not have to expert, to point out basic factual errors, on other areas of work.

      try this one..
      http://judithcurry.com/2013/10/25/misinformation-disinformation-and-conflict/#comment-404078

      Is Tom Curtis of Skeptical Science (albeit a non expert) wrong to pull up Lewandowsky on factual errors in Lewandowsky'w work

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    5. unsettledclilmate

      Perhaps that is because all the scientists she knows, agree that Mann's analysis was wrong??"

      simple really..


      Obviously we should look to the latest findings.

      PAGES-2k reconstruction is compared to MBH99



      PAGES 2k Consortium (2013) Continental-scale temperature variability during the past two millennia

      Past global climate changes had strong regional expression. To elucidate their spatio-temporal pattern, we reconstructed past temperatures for seven continental-scale regions during the past one to two millennia. The most coherent feature in nearly all of the regional temperature reconstructions is a long-term cooling trend, which ended late in the nineteenth century. At multi-decadal to centennial scales, temperature variability shows distinctly different regional patterns, with more similarity within each hemisphere than between them. There were no globally synchronous multi-decadal warm or cold intervals that define a worldwide Medieval Warm Period or Little Ice Age, but all reconstructions show generally cold conditions between ad 1580 and 1880, punctuated in some regions by warm decades during the eighteenth century. The transition to these colder conditions occurred earlier in the Arctic, Europe and Asia than in North America or the Southern Hemisphere regions. Recent warming reversed the long-term cooling; during the period ad 1971–2000, the area-weighted average reconstructed temperature was higher than any other time in nearly 1,400 years.

      Delete
    6. The link to Tamsin's quote is in the other thread about this (Steve Bloom linked to it) but I'll give it here again. Go to http://bishophill.squarespace.com/blog/2011/9/28/dellers-on-reason.html?currentPage=3 and scroll down to comment number 14 and paragraph 9. Here's a copy and paste:

      "They agree Mann analysis was wrong, and would agree on lots of other things like "All models are wrong" ("but some are useful" :) )"

      If I have misunderstood then I'm happy to have done so.

      Delete
    7. Agree with Rachel, that comment turned me off to Tamsin. Didn't like the Tweets that sparked this thread either.

      Delete
    8. I'd be very keen to hear Tamsin's view on what she meant. For example, "all models are wrong, but some are useful" is probably a true statement, but doesn't convey the subtleties well. Models can tell you a lot. Models can get very close to representing reality. Models can, however, never completely represent reality so therefore "all models are wrong, but some are useful" is probably a statement that's always true, but not particularly meaningful.

      Similarly, when Tamsin says "They agree Mann analysis was wrong" does she mean, we now know a better way of doing it? Does she mean that Mann actually made a major mistake that he could have avoided? Does she mean that the analysis was so wrong that the results are invalid but, just by chance, happen to match - or at least be close to - what more recent work is producing? Does she mean something completely different to the options that I've presented? Is it that Tamsin is simply being too honest with people who don't appreciate these subtleties, or is there more to this?

      Delete
    9. I would also be very keen to hear the answers to these questions.

      Delete
    10. Oh, I recall that incident. The "deluded" comment was not in relation to that paper as a whole, Richard Betts was referring to a reference in the supplementary material to a comment he himself made. That's all.

      Delete
    11. Wotts, I would have written the same. Except that my last sentence may have been less civil.

      Delete
  16. I think talking to contrarians on blogs like WUWT may actually be actively counter-productive. This is because it's a setup. They debate with you just long enough to make a point that looks half scientific, then they censor your replies so it looks like you've run away with your tail between your legs. They also do that when the pile-on starts, so you look like a coward and can't take the heat. If you're too pushy or a few too many clever comments somehow get through, they start hunting out your identity. They certainly loved doing that to Tamino and recently did it to Sou. Even if it's not directly bad for that person to be outed, it is threatening in a deeper way: they are saying that they are willing to do bad stuff to people they disagree with. So the endpoint of debating with them is that you set yourself up to be bullied and, ultimately, silenced - and lurkers don't always see the reason you've been silenced, so think that you've given up the debate.

    I think sou's approach of taking the piss here is a much more effective one. Links to sou's posts are starting to appear in WUWT threads, which means that people there are reading here. As sou's popularity grows she will start to appear under the WUWT links on google searches ... and people see the alternative view fully put.

    I think sou's approach is a really worthwhile and effective one. Debating them in their space - not so much.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Another two parter...

    I've skimmed this, and yesterday started writing a blog post about my motivations and how I measure success. I'm not sure when I'll finish and post it, but I'll try to remember to post a comment here if/when I do.

    But I thought I'd better address this "They agree Mann analysis was wrong" quote now.

    You may have noticed this is not a quote I made in the context of this week's Twitter discussions, but something I wrote about two years ago. In fact, I wrote it 17 days after my first ever comment at Bishop Hill. The reason this quote has started surfacing now is, as far as I can tell, because Steve Bloom recently searched for my name and "Mann" in the Bishop Hill site, so as to find other things I'd said about Michael. I don't believe sceptics ever used this comment as support for anti-Mann attacks; for example, I still get asked a lot what I think of his work.

    You may also have noticed the time of the comment is midnight, and the start of the comment says: "it's probably a bad idea to comment because I'm tired and have had a couple of beers", and the end says "I have typed this all on my phone with one eye shut lying in bed and desperate to sleep (after doing 12-16 hour days most days in the last two weeks".

    If I had (a) not been very new to online commenting, (b) not been extremely tired and perhaps a little tipsy, and (c) known that someone would search for my quotes about Mann over two years later, I would have said something that more accurately reflected my views: "It is not controversial to state - as many proxy experts and statisticians would agree - that the methodologies in the original Mann reconstructions were flawed".

    (cont. below)

    ReplyDelete
  18. (cont.)

    Some explanation. I was one of 2-4 main authors that drafted a long paper on the limitations of inverse methods (jumping directly from proxy measurement back to climate) in palaeoclimate reconstructions, and how to do it better with forward modelling (trying to describe the full set of complex processes from climate -> climate-sensitive system -> archiving -> proxy measurement). It was never published: many of the ideas were gazumped in a paper by Martin Tingley et al., and we lost momentum.

    One reason I made that (overly-simplified) statement about "Mann analysis was wrong" is that an early draft of that paper - which I'm sure was written by one of the three main statisticians involved, John Haslett, Caitlin Buck and Andrew Parnell (who is on Twitter), contained the following:

    "The influential ‘hockey-stick’ paper of Mann et al. (1999), referred to below as MBH99, inferred an aspect of palaeoclimate (mean northern hemisphere temperatures for the past 1,000 years) using a simple correlation-based methodology. They extrapolated to the past the (northern hemisphere ) correlation observed in the last 150 years between indices derived from environmental proxies (primarily tree rings, ice cores and coral reefs), bore-hole temperatures and the limited instrumental record in the. MBH99 was cited heavily by the IPCC report in 2007 (see also Mann et al., 2008). Nevertheless, their methodology spawned a heated debate concerning their inferences and the associated uncertainties (National Research Council, 2006). The method was essentially a (multivariate) multiple linear regression with normal errors, and thus very limited in scope. It could not form the basis of the research to which we here aspire, nor would it claim to. It focussed on just one dimension of climate; the uncertainties were stated separately for each of the years rather than for all years simultaneously; the dating uncertainties were ignored and autocorrelation was not addressed. The very narrow inferential basis of this methodology left it vulnerable to criticism and difficult to extend to climates further in the past."

    "Vulnerable to criticism" is, as you might expect, a relatively strong phrase in scientific writing. It's this that I based my "wrong" statement on, though I should really have said "flawed".

    One important thing to note, of course, is that one can criticise methodologies as flawed or improvable without "denying" their conclusions. As I said, I'm a mainstream climate scientist in my views. I might think a study's uncertainty assessment is incomplete but think the signal is pretty robust and the conclusions basically valid, provided one knows the limitations of the study. I'm no longer as involved with reconstruction methodology assessment as I once was, so I defer to fellow experts in the community - not only Michael, but also Rob Wilson, Keith Anchukaitis, and many others. I believe Keith tweeted wottsupwiththat recently about how difficult it is to briefly summarise the strengths and weaknesses of different reconstructions, and Rob commented on wottsupwiththat's blog too:

    http://wottsupwiththatblog.wordpress.com/2013/10/23/hockey-sticks-and-things/

    Please, I really don't mean to put anyone off defending climate science or climate scientists. I just personally believe that the public should see scientific disagreements in public, and also that if we have views we should be prepared to state them - and defend them - in public (whether on blogs or in open access preprints and papers). Downplaying scientific disagreements so as not to provide fodder to sceptics is a dangerous road indeed.

    Tamsin

    P.S. I am posting this comment under the 2011 thread at Bishop Hill to clarify that statement.

    ReplyDelete
  19. N.B. I didn't ask John, Caitlin or Andrew's permission to reproduce that text so I'd rather you didn't quote it verbatim elsewhere, please. It was *draft* text of an unpublished paper and I put it in the public domain purely to clarify my views at that time, not as an official, final, scientific statement about that work. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Um...has part 2 of 3 been lost? Posting again...


    Some explanation. I was one of 2-4 main authors that drafted a long paper on the limitations of inverse methods (jumping directly from proxy measurement back to climate) in palaeoclimate reconstructions, and how to do it better with forward modelling (trying to describe the full set of complex processes from climate -> climate-sensitive system -> archiving -> proxy measurement). It was never published: many of the ideas were gazumped in a paper by Martin Tingley et al., and we lost momentum.

    One reason I made that (overly-simplified) statement about "Mann analysis was wrong" is that an early draft of that paper - which I'm sure was written by one of the three main statisticians involved, John Haslett, Caitlin Buck and Andrew Parnell (who is on Twitter), contained the following:

    "The influential ‘hockey-stick’ paper of Mann et al. (1999), referred to below as MBH99, inferred an aspect of palaeoclimate (mean northern hemisphere temperatures for the past 1,000 years) using a simple correlation-based methodology. They extrapolated to the past the (northern hemisphere ) correlation observed in the last 150 years between indices derived from environmental proxies (primarily tree rings, ice cores and coral reefs), bore-hole temperatures and the limited instrumental record in the. MBH99 was cited heavily by the IPCC report in 2007 (see also Mann et al., 2008). Nevertheless, their methodology spawned a heated debate concerning their inferences and the associated uncertainties (National Research Council, 2006). The method was essentially a (multivariate) multiple linear regression with normal errors, and thus very limited in scope. It could not form the basis of the research to which we here aspire, nor would it claim to. It focussed on just one dimension of climate; the uncertainties were stated separately for each of the years rather than for all years simultaneously; the dating uncertainties were ignored and autocorrelation was not addressed. The very narrow inferential basis of this methodology left it vulnerable to criticism and difficult to extend to climates further in the past."

    "Vulnerable to criticism" is, as you might expect, a relatively strong phrase in scientific writing. It's this that I based my "wrong" statement on, though I should really have said "flawed".

    One important thing to note, of course, is that one can criticise methodologies as flawed or improvable without "denying" their conclusions. As I said, I'm a mainstream climate scientist in my views. I might think a study's uncertainty assessment is incomplete but think the signal is pretty robust and the conclusions basically valid, provided one knows the limitations of the study. I'm no longer as involved with reconstruction methodology assessment as I once was, so I defer to fellow experts in the community - not only Michael, but also Rob Wilson, Keith Anchukaitis, and many others. I believe Keith tweeted wottsupwiththat recently about how difficult it is to briefly summarise the strengths and weaknesses of different reconstructions, and Rob commented on wottsupwiththat's blog too:

    http://wottsupwiththatblog.wordpress.com/2013/10/23/hockey-sticks-and-things/

    Please, I really don't mean to put anyone off defending climate science or climate scientists. I just personally believe that the public should see scientific disagreements in public, and also that if we have views we should be prepared to state them - and defend them - in public (whether on blogs or in open access preprints and papers). Downplaying scientific disagreements so as not to provide fodder to sceptics is a dangerous road indeed.

    Tamsin
    P.S. I am posting this comment under the 2011 thread at Bishop Hill to clarify that statement.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tamsin, that's a very detailed and clear reponse. Thanks. I don't disagree with what you say about the public seeing scientific disagreements. It is a healthy part of the scientific process. However, not all understand this and not all are representing this as honestly as they might (in my opinion at least). Do you at least recognise why some of us have been confused by some of the engagements on BH? I'm not trying to get you to justify or motivate what you do and I'm not referring to you alone either - I do think that what you're trying to do is worthwhile. It is, however, somewhat confusing for those of us who are not engaged directly in some of this research to see climate scientists saying things that appear to play into the hands of contrarians. It's one thing to air scientific disagreements in public, it's another to have these disagreement then mis-represented by those who appear to have agendas (as I would argue they have been).

      Delete
    2. Tamsin,
      while I wasn't concerned with your statement about Mann's earlier work at all (scientists who work in the field have every right to critique other colleagues work, which should go without mentioning), I'm concerned that you often let most of the vitrol against Mann (implicitly and often explicitly accusing him of scientific misconduct and/or deliberate manipulation of the data) at Bishop Hill and elsewhere surprisingly unchallenged. It comes across as if you'd be in agreement with their absurd conspirational idea of deliberate wrongdoing on Mann's part. At least that's how I perceive it. I'm afraid that this is what provides fodder to "sceptics" and is hence not a less dangerous road to go.

      Delete
    3. Hello Tamsin

      Perhaps you will remember me from Bishop Hill. I was banned some time ago for persistently pointing out that most of what was said there was misleading and incorrect.

      I would simply like to echo Karsten's remarks above. I find it quite impossible to believe that you (and Richard Betts) are unaware of the way in which your statements are used by "sceptics" (see 'unsettledclimate' above for example).

      I would urge you to take the very greatest care to be *clear* about the detail of any criticism you make of other researchers. I would urge you to refrain from such unless absolutely necessary because it will be misrepresented by the "sceptics" anyway, even if carefully expressed.

      Finally, I would urge you to criticise the "sceptics" more vigorously and more often for their egregious behaviour.

      Delete
    4. Tamsin:
      You do know that the critique that caused the furor over MBH, i.e., McKintyre & McKitrick(2005) relied on:
      a) Bad statistical properties, i.e., using a process with over-long persistence.
      b) And an explicit 100:1 cherry-pick in which they sorted 10,000 generated curves to get the most positive hockey-sticks and then sampled those. The Wegman Report used the ~same R code and curves to claim the MBH procedure found hockey sticks in noise.
      (Among other issues).

      This is not to claim MBH99 was perfect ... but the main counter to it seems outright fraud, since a sort/1% cherry-pick doesnt' happen by accident.

      http://deepclimate.org/2010/11/16/replication-and-due-diligence-wegman-style/
      http://moyhu.blogspot.com/2011/06/effect-of-selection-in-wegman-report.html

      I assume you also know that Essex+McKitrick were recruited by Fred Singer, brought to Washington in 2001 by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, coached by CEI and then George Marshall Institute. McIntyre got added in by 2003, again brought to Washington, coached and encouraged by Singer, Pat Michaels, CEI, GMI. The MM05 paper got front-page-coverage in the Wall Street Journal. The "bluepirnt" for the Wegman Report was a May 11, 2005 talk given by M&M for GMI&CEI in Washington. The use of the IPCC(1990) schematic derived from Lamb(1965) to claim that the hockeystick was invented to hide the truth, was started by John Daly, a nonscientist who was a "scientific advisor" to the Western Fuels Association (Wymoning coal).
      That was later picked up by McIntyre in 2005, although he claimed the figure had come from IPCC(1995), a common falsification, and he didn't even get the image from the IPCC.

      Aside from the legitimate arguments over methods within science, msot of the "furor" over the hockey stick was a political construct organziaed in the US by CEI, GMI and allies.

      Delete
    5. You're very clear, Tamsin, that you will not comment on policy; however you choose on occasions to post comments on sites that repeatedly make misrepresentations of the work, and accusations against, your fellow climate scientists. In making comments on those 'contrarian' sites which appear to lay-people to be critical of other scientists' work, it could be argued that you are, in effect, in danger of aiding and abetting climate misinformation. This problem is enhanced by the 'reasonableness' of your manner (which would be considered admirable in other circumstances). Your comments, coming from a credible climate scientist, when juxtaposed amongst the often ignorant and ad hominem remarks of those in denial, do tend to legitimise the websites concerned—as far as the lay audience sees it—and play into the hands of those who seek to stall and delay climate policy decisions.

      Consequently it could be argued that you are, perhaps unwittingly, influencing policy more than you realise, or would like.

      Delete
  21. How about my own quote

    Lewsndowsky lied to me personally about his data and work. Then I get named in his fury paper... as did other critics of his

    Total ethical judgement fail.(he was totally ethicaly conflicted in writing that paper) If you want to understand why, lew was described as deluded, by Richard and myself and others

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, I read at WUWT how it was all a conspiracy involving UWA, the guvmint, Julia Gillard, the IPCC, the man in the moon, Al Gore and the lizard men (did I leave out anyone? Michael Mann perhaps?)

      (These conspiracy theorists are real gluttons for punishment!)

      Delete
    2. no.. I'm not referring to anything on WUWT.

      I am referring to when I personally asked Lewandowsky for the survey links and his data, he lied to me that he had the survey url for Skeptical Science and had lost it..

      but the survey had never been posted on Skeptical Science, when the paper was finally published, it was discovered that a major claim of the paper rested on it. The authors were informed of the error, 5 months before the paper was published by Tom Curtis, given them plenty of time to correct it..

      Please note. Tom Curtis- who is Skeptical Science author, contributor AND moderator. confirmed this here on his blog (why not read it):
      http://bybrisbanewaters.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/skeptical-science-and-lewandowsky-survey.html

      If I am a conspiracy theorist, then so is Tom Curtis (and Richard!)

      principles in science matter, this is a matter of principle, at least Tom sees that..

      As when the paper was finally published Tom Curtis wrote to Steve Mcintyre and described it as a substantial issue, because a key claim of the paper depenedd on the survey being seen at SkS, when in fact it never happened.

      The 'error' is described here, and the implications for LOG12.
      http://www.shapingtomorrowsworld.org/lewandowskyFAQPLoS1.html#3108

      So later when Lewandowsky, researched people he had interacted with, who were critics of his work, and recruited Marriott, and Cook to be researchers on 'Fury' who at the time were publically attacking critics of his work, that was a huge error of judgement. Psychology must be perceived as neutral with respect to its research subjects.

      This is why (amongst a number of other reasons) , the editor at Frontiers, when the ethics issues were pointed out pulled 'Recursive Fury' off the Frontiers website, half an hour after I spoke to him..

      http://www.frontiersin.org/personality_science_and_individual_differences/10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00073/abstract

      This comment at Retraction Watch,by Toby White explains the ethics problems very eloquently..
      http://retractionwatch.wordpress.com/2013/03/28/why-publishers-should-explain-why-papers-disappear-the-complicated-lewandowsky-study-saga/#comment-52861

      extract:

      "First, the senior author has an extraordinary conflict of interest. The behavior under study is precisely public criticism of the author’s professional competence. Psychology in particular has a deep concern with the distortions caused by even relatively trivial conflicts of interest."

      so Sou... am I a 'conspiracy theorist' - the error in LOG12 is a matter of fact.

      Delete
    3. None of which has the remotest bearing on radiative physics and climate policy, which is why you are happy to rattle on about it endlessly.

      It. Doesn't. Matter.

      Physics does matter. And that is where the wheels come off the "sceptic" bandwagon.

      Delete
    4. Ummm..are you a conspiracy theorist? That's easy!

      Are you OT? That's easy!

      Are you long-winded? That's easy!

      Isn't it about time you've moved onto another conspiracy? And not in this thread? That's easy too.

      A: Yes.

      Delete
    5. Are contrarians whiney? Yes, they are.

      Delete
  22. There are at least 3 points here:

    1. Indeed Tamsin joins a long line of people who were willing to state in private that Mann's reconstruction was of low quality and probably "wrong." The climategate emails are full of it. The obsession to defend Mann is indeed quite counterproductive in the long run.

    2. The concern about how true statements "might be misused" by the enemy is a classic propagandist's concern. Adults tell the truth as they see it and recognize that some will get it wrong, quote them out of context, or misrepresent what they say.

    3. Tamsin is a grown up and I suspect doesn't need advice about what she can or should do in public. It further shows how politicized this whole matter has become.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So, you don't have any issues with Rob Wilson very clearly stating that when he said "crock of xxxx" he was only referring to Mann's recent work on missing tree-rings, and then BH promoting a cartoon with crocks of xxxx in the shape of a hockey stick and calling it a "crockey stick". To be fair, it's just a cartoon, but one that fairly represents what was said - I think not.

      Delete
    2. @ anon

      The concern about how true statements "might be misused" by the enemy is a classic propagandist's concern.

      The claim that MBH99 is seriously flawed is *false*, not a "true statement". Therefore you are the propagandist here.

      Delete
    3. @ anon

      Please read the thread properly before any response.

      Especially note this.

      Delete
    4. Anonymous, I wonder whether you might realize how upside-down, scientifically-speaking, your complaints are.

      Mann's 1998/1999 paleoreconstructions are now nearly 15 years old. They stimulated a very large subsequent research effort that has yielded an assessment of current N. hemisphere (and subsequently global) temperatures in the context of the last millennium and beyond which is broadly consistent with the original Mann et al analysis.

      So clearly Mann's original reconstruction was not seriously flawed, although it would be silly to expect that it hasn't been improved upon in the intervening years (including by Mann's later work).

      I've been a scientist for more than a couple of decades. I have never encountered a group of people that obsess, as you seem to be doing, about a landmark paper, the conclusions of which have been broadly validated in the intervening years, as if it is of the utmost importance to their psyche to embrace a vision of disrepute. Can you explain what's going on there from your personal perspective?

      Clearly there have been some appallingly flawed analysis in relation to the so-called "hockey-stick", most notably the disgraceful efforts to trash it by McIntyre and McKitrick that John Mashey, for example refers to further up the thread. Happily for us (and that includes you!), science has strong elements of objectivity, based as it is on evidence, and generally prevails against creepy efforts to misrepresent realities.

      Getting back to the topic of this thread, a question that I'm am curious about is why a small number of scientists choose to give a free pass to rather nasty efforts at misrepresenting the work of other scientists.

      Delete
    5. Yo, Chris: clap, clap, clap. Spot on.

      Delete
    6. One of the most illuminating aspects of the silliness around MBH99 is very simple: the original paper has gray shading for 2 standard error limits. Those may or may not be correct. but large numbers of people seem not to have any idea what that means. For example, see Strange Scholarship, p.13, 140-142. I dislike spaghetti graphs, much prefer AR4 Fig 6.10(c), copied on p.142 of the above. That much more strongly conveys the idea that we know reality is in there somewhere, but there's nothing magic about one line in the middle.

      Delete
  23. Regarding Mann's original hockey stick graph as I understand it it was one of the first attempts to produce such a graph. So even if it wasn't perfect it was a significant advance in the field and lead the way for further refinement. Calling it wrong or right is a binary view. Like with models the real question is "Was it useful?" It appears to me it was.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Great example of "talking to contrarians" happening even now at Wotts' abode. Look for MODTRAN.

    We wish for something better but, honestly, "richard" at Wotts typifies the more usual futility.

    ReplyDelete
  25. I'll say it, too.

    If all you've got is attempting to prove, a decade-and-a-half later, that Mike Mann was 'wrong!', therefore no AGW, you have nothing.

    Ditto for 'Climategate! Climategate!', therefore no AGW, and 'Prof Lewandowsky is nasty!', therefore no AGW.

    AGW is a fact. It is science as settled as science ever is. Mann-bashing and conspiracy ideation doesn't budge it an inch.

    ReplyDelete
  26. My most serious concern about scientists engaging with the more rabid of the contrarians is reflected in John Russell's comment above. I've no objection to talking with someone who is scientifically clueless or stubborn. The objection is that the tone in many of the contrarian venues is extremely nasty; the "debate" is highly personalized, and that seems to be just fine with the blogs' authors. (I guess more controversy means more page views.)

    Engaging at such places in a way implicitly endorses such conduct. I think it would be a big help if the scientists willing to engage with contrarians would say "I'll discuss things with you, but only if you're reasonably civil. And not just civil to me, but to others as well -- as the saying goes, a person who is polite you but rude to the waiter is a rude person."

    I'm well aware that no one is sinless. There is more name-calling at some of the mainstream blogs than I'd like. (Including here, to be honest.) But things have a limit, and Watts's blog as well as many others in the contrarian blogosphere crossed that limit long ago.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Yamson could learn a history lesson from Eli:

    http://rabett.blogspot.com.au/2013/10/lewandowsky-invariance.html


    Bernard J.

    ReplyDelete
  28. BTW, for the scratchers of heads, I meant Tamsin...

    More speed, less haste.


    Bernard J.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Now you've really achieved something to be proud of Sou, your very own Josh cartoon at Bishop Hill. Congratulations.

    ReplyDelete

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