Anthony Watts got to meet some real scientists this week. His trip to the UK wasn't a complete waste of his fans money.
(Anthony ostensibly went to the UK to attend talks by John Cook and Michael Mann. He wrote a substance-free "report" of John Cook's talk and so far hasn't written anything about Michael Mann's talk. Nor did he ask either of them any of his "many" questions. Nor has he mentioned anything about any presentations. The people who paid for his trip could be forgiven if they felt diddled.)
Despite my scepticism, I don't want to spoil any goodwill that may have been created this week, so I'll try to be careful. I might not always succeed, so be warned.
The first hint of anything out of the ordinary (for Anthony) was a tweet. Anthony could hardly contain his excitement. "Extraordinary" was how he described it:
It was an extraordinary meeting, and I thank all who attended tonight. It was a pleasure to have such a spirited yet respectful discussion.
— Watts Up With That (@wattsupwiththat) September 21, 2014
Today Anthony writes about the reason for his pleasure. He repeated the word "extraordinary" and wrote about the meeting under the headline:
An extraordinary meeting of climate skeptics and climate scientists in Bath
A meeting of climate skeptics and climate scientists. Following on from John Cook's friendly advance, Anthony must be over the moon. His blog rants are paying off and real scientists are lining up to shake his hand. [Oops, sorry. I said I'd wind back the snark.]
He said his WUWT-reader-funded
Many people wondered why I would travel halfway across the world to attend the Cook and Mann lectures. The answer to that question is: I decided to come on a whim (I also had not visited the UK since I started blogging) hoping that other more valuable meetings could occur. As I pointed out in my posting last Saturday there was little if anything new in the Cook lecture on Friday night and I don’t expect much new in the Mann lecture either. But, I also pointed out the importance of face-to-face communications in overcoming walls that can be built up in electronic communications.
He was writing about how he was invited to dinner by Sarah Lewis and her husband, financier Nic Lewis. In the photograph of people that he posted on his blog, were the following (Anthony's titles with my cross-outs and my additions in square brackets, my links to their webpage if they have one or other info):
- Prof. Paul Valdes, of Bristol University [see his climate change lecture on YouTube]
Prof.Dr. David Whitehouse of (?) the Global Warming Policy Foundation [I don't think he is a professor but am happy to be corrected. David used to work at the BBC AFAIK and these days is on the GWPF Academic Advisory Council]
- David Holland
independent climateand FOIA researcher[harasser] Prof.Dr. Ed Hawkins researcher at Reading University, [Principal Research Fellow]
- myself, [ie, Anthony Watts, denier blogger - not me]
- Prof. Ted Shepherd of Reading University, [Grantham Professor of Climate Science]
Prof.Dr. Tamsin Edwards, researcher at Bristol University [Post-doc researcher]
- Prof. Richard Betts of the Met Office, [Head of the Climate Impacts strategic area at the Met Office Hadley Centre and Chair in Climate Impacts at the University of Exeter]
- Marcel Crok, Dutch freelance science writer and
initiator[Editor in Chief] of climatedialogue.org, [Co-author of a GWPF paper, with Nic Lewis]
- David Rose of the Mail on Sunday newspaper, [tabloid journalist who'll make up anything he feels like]
- Prof. Michael Kelly of Technology at Cambridge University, [Prince Philip Professor of Technology, Department of Engineering, climate science denier] and
- Nicholas Lewis
independent climate scientistand our gracious host. [Financier, amateur scientist, author of three peer-reviewed papers, co-author with Marcel Crok of a GWPF paper. Basically a science denier who pushes the idea that he is right and all the climate scientists are wrong]
As you can see, Anthony is in awe of academics, granting them all the title of Professor whether they have it or not. On the other hand, he is not so in awe of them that he does them the courtesy of looking up their actual title and academic position.
It was a mixed bag. One person, Andrew Montford, was notable for his absence. Maybe he was otherwise engaged.
The gathering doesn't conflict with my notion that it's partly for social reasons that a small clique of UK scientists are so forgiving of fake sceptics. It's not what you know (or what is said), it's who you know. Is it a deliberate strategy of the GWPF? Maybe, maybe not. Whatever, I'll bet the GWPF is very aware of the perks and payoffs of woo-ing climate scientists. It could really only happen in England because of the lingering remnants of class hierarchy/snobbery (and maybe Texas).
That doesn't necessarily apply to everyone there. Ed Hawkins is not afraid to speak his mind on science. Some of the academics may have been encouraged to attend because someone they respected was attending. Some of them might have just been curious to meet an anti-science blogger, to try to figure out what makes these odd specimens tick. To see if Anthony is really as thick as he pretends to be. I'm also aware that, despite no supporting evidence after all these years, some of the guests genuinely see value in engaging with fake sceptics who mock and defame scientists. Perhaps they live in hope. They might think that getting blogger Anthony Watts to finally talk with real scientists would make a difference to his anti-science activities. We'll see. At best, it might immunise the people who attended the dinner against WUWT defamation and mockery. (Some of Anthony's followers weren't too thrilled at his dining with "the enemy". Others welcomed it.)
The following bit of Anthony's blog article is very out of character. When has he ever respected anyone's privacy? This crowd must really have impressed him. He probably hasn't been within miles of a real live academic since he was at AGU13 and would rarely speak with one. Anthony wrote:
Since the venue was under Chatham House Rule, I am not at liberty to discuss any of the particular conversations that I was involved with nor will I discuss the conversations of others. However, with prior approval of all participants involved we’ve all agreed to bending the rule slightly to show the photo and name the participants. I think it is important to do so, because I cannot recall any similar meeting. Our goal is to lead by example.
Lead by example. Hmmm. Does that mean that Anthony is going to do a complete about face and start respecting science or scientists? I very much doubt it. But let's wait a day or so and see. He added:
More than anything this meeting demonstrated that a group of people with diverse ideas and some levels of distrust due to heightened rhetoric can come together and have an intelligent, polite, and enlightening discussion. I felt it important that this historic meeting be noted and to let it serve as an example of cooperation and hope for more future meetings so that we can understand each other better.
The world of diplomacy and politics (in any sphere) is clearly something quite novel to Anthony. This might be the closest he's ever been to civilised conversation with people who disagree on some things.
The first step forward could be for Anthony Watts and his readers to look at this YouTube by one of the dinner guests, Paul Valdes.
From the WUWT comments
Quite a few commenters were supportive of the meeting. Others were sceptical and others didn't like the idea at all. Some of them were busy looking up Chatham House rules. Here's a sample of the reaction:
A very large number of people shared the sentiments of WillR, who wrote, without qualification:
September 23, 2014 at 5:53 pm
I am happy to hear the meeting took place. I am sure that positive results will be forthcoming.
Charlie Johnson (@SemperBanU)
September 23, 2014 at 4:27 pm
I am old enough to remember the warm glow people would feel after a US-USSR Detente meeting.
It would last a whole week sometimes.
Mike really doesn't like the idea of people speaking freely in private, he says:
September 23, 2014 at 4:10 pm
IMHO: Chatham house rules are the worst atrocity to free speech…they are used to hide bad behavior you should have walked out once this was declared.
Mike on Andrew Montford's absence:
September 23, 2014 at 4:15 pm
I noticed that Andrew Montford wasn’t there…no surprise since he has voiced his opposition to CH rules in multiple blog posts.
I checked and found this at Bishop Hill. In which case, I'd say Mike is incorrect that this was the reason for his absence.
September 23, 2014 at 6:55 pm
There really isn’t that much common ground, we are right they are wrong, and that is the end of that. Now that doesn’t mean you can’t have a nice dinner with people who are totally wrong, I had two ex-wives so I have done that many times.
September 23, 2014 at 4:07 pm
I suspect those on the skeptical side didn’t really learn anything new other than to put a face to a name, even though Anthony is gracious enough to mention the meeting in a praiseworthy tone, but those on the CAGW side may have been a bit surprised there is so much common ground.
Wonder if any of them still feel that the debate is over or do any of them recognize that the skeptical position is not one of abject denial but is mainly open, honest, proper science skepticism?
Otherwise, congrats to all that attended – maybe, just maybe, it is a step in the right direction.
Ed Hawkins found it fascinating and enjoyable:
September 23, 2014 at 4:03 pmRichard Betts found it interesting:
Agreed – was a fascinating and enjoyable evening. More thanks to Nic & Sarah for being such fabulous hosts.
September 23, 2014 at 3:51 pmAnthony replies to Richard that he has corrected Richard's title appropriately.
It was good to meet you and those who I’d not met before, and to catch up with those I already knew. It was a very interesting evening. Thanks very much to Nic and Sarah for their kind hospitality.
Otter – I’m intrigued about what you imagined I looked like. Maybe I shouldn’t ask….!
Reply Anthony Watts September 23, 2014 at 3:54 pm
Likewise Richard, and I’ve corrected your title appropriately.
Tom in Florida asks:
September 23, 2014 at 7:17 pm
Anthony, my question, without quoting or identifying who said what, is this: did you come away with a sense that perhaps there is now a better understanding of the skeptic position, namely that the so called d*n**rs understand that there has been warming, that man is responsible for some of the increase and that the real disagreement is about magnitude?
Only to be immediately contradicted by Pamela Gray, who wrote:
September 23, 2014 at 7:49 pm
Tom, I don’t believe that the anthropogenic CO2 portion of total atmospheric CO2 can be tagged as responsible for any part of measured warming. 1) The warming is within natural variation. 2) The tiny increase in CO2 does not have the chops to increase global air column temperatures nor increase ocean temperatures. The additional downwelling heat from just the anthropogenic CO2 increase would not be enough to change global temperatures in a significant way. Longwave infrared cannot be responsible for sea surface temperature rise. The second that weak source of warming hits the surface (not enough energy to penetrate to depth) of the water, it is evaporated away. And if the air is heated over land by this tiny portion, night time radiative cooling would send it packing.
There must be a stronger source of increasing temperatures. I think Bob Tisdale is on the right track and has identified a very large player in this game.
After seven years, Doug Allen's looking finally paid off, short-lived though I suspect it will be:
September 23, 2014 at 7:06 pm
Thank you Nicholas Lewis for hosting and the 11 others for attending. Almost every day I look to WUWT and other climate blogs for some good news about genuine conversation and civil dialogue between those with points of view that can’t possibly be as polarized as the media describe and promote. Hooray for some good news! Discussing the topic of climate sensitivity will, IMO, bring the two sides much closer and help return climate science to science.