Thursday, May 14, 2015

Seeps and SCAMS Part III: Richard Betts misunderstands (and misrepresents) a paper

Sou | 10:49 AM Go to the first of 123 comments. Add a comment
Richard Betts, a UK climate scientist, has written an article about the recent paper by Stephan Lewandowsky and co, which I wrote about in Part I of this series, and referred to in Part II. Well it's not actually about the paper. It's Richard's interpretation of the paper based on his reading of a blog article Stephan wrote about the paper. It could be argued that it is evidence supporting the findings of the paper.

Correction: In the comments, Richard says that he did read the paper before he wrote his article. (I don't know how missed all the things he missed or why he got so much so wrong or why he appeared to write about the blog article and not the paper.) - Sou 6:48 pm Thursday 14 May 2015

I first saw Richard's article at WUWT and was very surprised to see it there. It turns out though, that Richard wrote his article for ATTP's blog. It was only when that rabid anti-Lewandowsky-ite, Barry Woods, asked him that he acquiesced and agreed to it being reposted on Anthony Watts' blog. That's despite the dreadful treatment dished out from WUWT when Richard's last article was published there. Here's the WUWT version - archived. Or better still, you can read it at ATTP's blog.

A strange approach for a scientist to take

Richard took a strange approach for a scientist. Strange because he wrote an article criticising a paper that he hadn't even bothered to read. It's one thing for bloggers like me to write about a paper based on the press release, though I try to avoid doing that where possible. And I make a special effort not to do that if I am disputing the paper. It's quite another thing for a climate scientist to criticise a paper they haven't read, particularly a paper about climate science. [See correction above - Sou]

In his article, Richard Betts quoted Stephan Lewandowsky, not his paper, but his blog article, writing:
They assert that “on previous occasions when decadal warming was particularly rapid, the scientific community did not give short-term climate variability the attention it has recently received”.

Richard didn't write that in context. What he glossed over was:
Crucially, on previous occasions when decadal warming was particularly rapid, the scientific community did not give short-term climate variability the attention it has recently received, when decadal warming was slower. During earlier rapid warming there was no additional research effort directed at explaining ‘catastrophic’ warming. By contrast, the recent modest decrease in the rate of warming has elicited numerous articles and special issues of leading journals and it has been (mis-)labeled as a ‘pause’ or ‘hiatus’.  We suggest that this asymmetry in response to fluctuations in the decadal warming trend likely reflects the ‘seepage’ of contrarian memes into scientific work. 

Richard is perplexed...

Richard then wrote, as if he felt he had to defend climate scientists: "This assertion, however, is incorrect. Short-term climate variability did receive a lot of attention in the 1990s ­ ..." and went on to cite some examples, before writing: "It is perplexing that Lewandowsky et al do not seem to be aware of this research on short-term climate variability." and coming up with some reasons for why these authors, which included climate scientists, might have got it wrong - or so he thought.

What is more perplexing than Richard being perplexed about something that he mistakenly thought was in the paper he was supposedly writing about though he hadn't read the paper, is that Richard entertained the notion that a climate scientist like James Risbey did not know that short term climate variability received a lot of attention in the 1990s. James has written papers going way back, with titles including:
  • On the limitations of general circulation climate models (GRL 1990)
  • A Case Study of the Adequacy of GCM Simulations for Input to Regional Climate Change Assessments (J Climate 1996)
  • Representing and communicating deep uncertainty in climate-change assessments (Comptes Rendus Geoscience 2005)
  • and many more.

...because he got it wrong

Thing is, it was Richard who got it wrong. The authors would be very well aware of scientific research going back in time. They were not arguing that there wasn't any research into short term climate variability. What they were referring to was the fact that the type of attention paid to short term variability over the period since 1998 (the so-called "hiatus") - and the way it was framed -  was shaped to a great degree by deniers, not by science itself.

Reading the blog passage out of context of the paper itself, I can perhaps see how Richard has missed the point and misunderstood what Stephan Lewandowsky was getting at. Richard would have done better to read the paper.  Stephan invited people to get the paper so Richard really has no excuse for not doing so. I'm being generous.

SCAMs: Uncertainty, Trust and Apparent Disagreements

I'm being extra gentle with Richard, in part because he's such a nice bloke (if misguided when it comes to communicating with the anti-science brigade), and in part because of something else that Lewandowsky15 mentioned. That is, how disagreement among scientists is even worse than specifying statistical uncertainty (ie probability), in terms of people having doubts about science. From the paper, where the authors discuss SCAMs (Scientific Certainty Argumentation Methods):
There are several known psychological factors that can explain why SCAMs can be an effective tool in public debate to delay policy action. Perhaps the most inhibiting type of uncertainty arises from conflicts or apparent disagreements among scientists. Smithson (1999) demonstrated that conflicting estimates from experts generate more severe doubts in participants’ minds than agreed but imprecise estimates. Conflicting estimates also tend to decrease trust in the experts.

So I've toned down this article. ...

          ... a lot (really, I did)

                    ... now I'll tone it up again.

Breaking every rule...

Richard could have read the paper before he ventured to criticise it. He didn't. He could have thought twice or thrice before allowing it to be published at WUWT, and could have said "no".  He didn't. He's set about breaking every rule in the "how to talk to a fake sceptic" handbook. (He could have enrolled in the Denier 101 MOOC - did he? I suspect not.)  Would he write a review of a physical (climate) science paper without first reading the paper? I don't know.  If he did he'd probably get a bit of flak from the authors.

[See correction up top. In the comments Richard says that he did read the paper before writing his article. The question now becomes: why then did he get so many fundamental things so wrong? - Sou Thursday 14 May 2015]

As I said, Richard missed the point. The authors were not claiming that there wasn't any research into the different causes of warming in previous times. In Part II of this series, I quote from the IPCC TAR where scientists explain that some of the rapid warming was because of the "sharp increase in the positive phase of the winter half year North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO)/Arctic Oscillation (AO) since about 1970" - and more. That's just normal ongoing science that happens all the time.

What was different about the "pause" period was that some in the scientific community allowed their science to be dictated by deniers and disinformers. Denier talking points shaped not just the discourse in the media - it even affected what went into the IPCC report. And merited special attention in Nature - twice!

What the authors showed is that the effort to explain the so-called "hiatus" went above and beyond what would be expected in scientific research under normal circumstances, and is because of "seepage" of denier influence.

I'll now add my own two bob's worth. There were scientists writing about the so-called "hiatus" who would never have written about it under normal circumstances. They weren't just being interviewed, some scientists were getting papers published in Nature journals - who wouldn't normally have been writing about internal variability or climate models. These scientists wouldn't have done this except for the disinformation campaigns.

The argument as I understand it, isn't that scientists shouldn't be addressing disinformation. Not at all. It's that when disinformation is being addressed, it should be on scientists' terms and in scientists' own framing. Otherwise it is paying homage to the fake sceptics.

Diverting resources away from science priorities to denier messaging

My other "two bob's worth" is that another adverse effect of the scientific community allowing disinformers to shape science is that scientists are diverted away from what they would otherwise be doing. Time is spent on writing papers that are addressing questions "falsely posed" (as Stephan said to me when I asked him about it while I was preparing this series). Spending time doing work that under normal circumstances, those same scientists would consider "never merited a research response".

It really would pay to read the paper first

I'll make a couple of other observations. If you read Richard's article you'll have noticed:
In the paper, the authors go to some lengths to provide supporting evidence - from climate science itself as well as from the psych literature.

Responding to a stereotype threat

In the paper, the authors write about stereotype threats and the responses by climate scientists, for example:
Another response would be for scientists to ‘‘bend over backwards’’ to appear to be open to contrarian claims, for example by giving unwarranted attention and credence to internet-based arguments or by inviting contrarians to conferences or public events.

What Richard wrongly assumed...

Richard assumed that when the authors wrote about periods of rapid warming "they are referring to the 1990s, probably the period 1992-1998". They weren't. The authors didn't refer to the period 1992-1998, which is only seven years after all. They looked at 15 year windows, not seven year windows. What they did discuss in particular was the 15 year period leading up to 2007. The authors wrote:
It follows that if an observer had applied the same logic to the data in 2006 or 2007 that gave rise to the ‘‘pause’’ in 2013—namely, drawing conclusions based on the preceding 15 or 16 years—then the literature in the years after 2007 should have been replete with articles seeking to reconcile the accelerated warming with climate models and basic climatological parameters. To our knowledge, this did not occur.

The authors didn't just mention it either. They did an analysis of consecutive 15 year windows of trends in surface temperature since 1970. They showed that for the period of the so-called 15 year "pause", the trend deviated from the long term warming trend far less than prior fifteen year windows. There were two things that differentiated the 15 year window from 1998 from that to 2007. Firstly, the deviation from the long term trend was much greater for the period to 2007 than was the so-called "hiatus" period.  Secondly the trend to 2007 was above the long term trend, while that for the so-called hiatus was below the long term trend. 

Richard got more wrong. His entire article seemed to be an attempt to defend scientific honour against what he mistakenly thought were allegations that short term climate variability was not investigated in the past. That's not at all what Lewandowsky15 was saying or implying. In fact, if Richard had read the paper he'd have found this passage:
Our conclusion does not imply that research aimed at addressing the causes underlying short-term fluctuations in the warming trend is invalid or unnecessary. On the contrary, it is a legitimate and fruitful area of research, and we are certain it was not done because climate scientists intended to accept a contrarian frame—rather, if any values other than scientific curiosity drove their research, it was more likely to have been a desire to rebut contrarian talking points than a willingness to accept them.
Whether that research constitutes seepage depends on whether it ignores, adopts, or rejects the framing of those fluctuations as a ‘‘hiatus’’ in climate change. Research that ignores or rejects that framing could not be seen to be subject to the cognitive processes underlying seepage and is not seepage. On the other hand, research that explains fluctuations by uncritically adopting the language of ‘‘pauses’’ and a ‘‘hiatus’’ likely fits the definition of seepage.

Perhaps the most critical part of the paper that Richard missed (by not reading the paper [or not properly - see correction above - Sou]), was the part that set out the criteria for determining "seepage", which are:
  1. the scientific community has adopted assumptions or language from discourse that originated outside the scientific community or from a small set of dissenting scientific voices. 
  2. those assumptions depart from those commonly held by the scientific community.

I must also point out that Richard Betts explained to me that he gave permission for his article to be posted at WUWT before he read the comment by one of the authors, James Risbey, at ATTP's place.

From the WUWT comments

Unlike last time Richard had an article at WUWT, and the aftermath, this time the reaction was mixed.

May 13, 2015 at 2:48 am
Betts still consorting with attp means his willingness to openly talk to the public ought be caveated.
The piece also fails to consider the underlying meaning of Lew’s “Soviet Psychiatry” approach, and especially the idea that Betts, McNeall and others be too stupid to resist the skeptical Sirens, to the point of having their professional activities influenced if not directed by amateurs.

newminster has picked up the names of three prominent climate change people, and used all of them in his dull but deniably predictable comment:
May 13, 2015 at 2:58 am
I’m at a bit of a loss to understand why anyone takes Lewandowsky seriously, especially on matters relating to climate change. He evidently has a bee in his bonnet about those who refuse to sign up to the AGW meme and it is hardly surprising that that colours his thinking but research is not supposed to be designed to confirm the researcher’s views.
In the long run, or perhaps even sooner, the climate science community is going to recognise Lewandowsky for the embarrassing clown that he is. Cook and Nuccitelli as well!

Ursus Augustus
May 13, 2015 at 3:07 am
A wonderful, clinical dissection of the Lewandowsky-Oreskes et al farrago. Just a few choice but basic facts (and all readily checked by a professor of science history mind you ) and it is made clear what a work of deliberate friction it is.
That said, I expect Les Lewneskes will write Richard Betts off as obviously a “denier” if not clinically insane.
Perhaps Professor Lewandowsky would regard Ursus as engaging in projection. He would not "write Richard Betts off" in any sense, let alone as a denier or clinically insane. He might hope that next time Richard writes a blog article on any paper (not just one Stephan authored) that he would read the paper first.

M Courtney  doesn't understand much, at all, of anything climate, but holds very strong, and usually very wrong, opinions and is not too embarrassed to write them
May 13, 2015 at 5:55 am
And Lewandowsky says the IPCC are wrong.
Yet they both still pretend to be mainstream thinkers and not the crack-pot loony fringe. 

John M
May 13, 2015 at 3:56 am
A very interesting article. It is even clearer than ever than Lewandowsky is simply an alarmist loon whose credentials on discussing climate change, or even psychology (it would seem) appear to be rather lacking. My only real disappointment with this article is the quotation from the Grauniad, that well known bastion of climate truth, where yet again they try to make a case out of some vague survey.

Does Typhoon read HotWhopper or are they quoting Stephan Lewandowsky and Michael Mann?
May 13, 2015 at 8:45 am
Sunlight is the best disinfectant.

On Seeps and SCAMS Part II: Pat'n Chip'n David Fake a Debate - HotWhopper

Stephan Lewandowsky, Naomi Oreskes, James S. Risbey, Ben R. Newell and Michael Smithson. "Seepage: Climate change denial and its effect on the scientific community." Global Environmental Change, 2015 doi:10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2015.02.013 (open access)

How climate science denial affects the scientific community - ScienceDaily.com

Seepage: The effect of climate denial on the scientific community - article by Stephan Lewandowsky at Shaping Tomorrow's World

Voices from the climate community on "seepage" - NEW - article by Stephan Lewandowsky at Shaping Tomorrow's World

Are climate scientists cowed by sceptics?  - NEW - by Ed King for RTCC at the UK Guardian


  1. The Met Office desperately needs a Hansen.

  2. Framing the debate with talk of a pause or hiatus is politically useful. It is hard to see any government imposing limits and cancelling research into climate change if it is perceived as an urgent and ongoing problem. But if it is framed as something that has ‘paused’ and therefore the science is dubious, then a government may feel able to tell those engaged in research –

    “The Director shall not approve new climate science-related initiatives to be carried out through the Office of Science without making a determination that such work is unique and not duplicative of work by other Federal agencies. Not later than 3 months after receiving the assessment required under subsection (c), 23 the Director shall cease those climate science-related initiatives identified in the assessment as overlapping or duplicative, unless the Director justifies that such work is critical to achieving American energy security.”

    Thanks to Eli for that little gem from the GOP spending cuts bill.!

  3. Such a complete misreading of the Lewandowsky paper by a professor is the best thing that could happen to WUWT. As a bonus they get "conflict" between scientists, because others can naturally not keep those misreading standing. WUWT will not tell anyone that there is no conflict on the science of climate change between Betts and normal scientists.

  4. Sou

    Actually I did read the paper - Steve Lewandowsky was kind enough to send it to me a while ago (a couple of weeks before the blog post went up).

    As I said, I found it intriguing but I couldn't see actual evidence that scientists were doing things differently because of this 'seepage', just supposition. For example, there is no tracking of the terms "pause" or "hiatus" back through the literature or blogosphere. Can you show me where "pause" or "hiatus" was first used?

    To be fair, Lewandowsky et al did propose 3 mechanisms for why this 'seepage' may occur, which does allow some analysis in the light of evidence. I suggested in my post that the first two are probably not applicable in the UK, and the 3rd is probably not limited to contrarian influence alone. I see you've not addressed these comments of mine - would you care to respond?

    Also what about my final comment that the UK public and politicians generally accept AGW and indeed have led the world in climate policy. Does this support the idea that the UK governments official climate science advisors like myself are unduly and unhealthily influenced by sceptics?

    1. Thanks, Richard. I've noted your correction above.

      Saying that you read the paper before writing your article raises many more questions - such as how did you get so much so wrong, like what seepage means and the criteria, the period to which the paper was referring when Stephan discussed particularly rapid warming, the fact the authors weren't claiming that researching short term variability constitutes seepage - in fact specifically wrote about this, etc etc,

      And from your comment, why are you personalising the paper? Why do you think the authors had you or the UK in mind when they wrote it? Is that why you got so much about the paper wrong - you thought it was aimed at you personally? (Was it you who wrote the "hiatus" section of the IPCC report, perhaps?)

  5. Joerg

    Please can you explain why I am not a "normal scientist"?

    1. Richard, I take Joerg's comment to mean between you and normal scientists - as opposed to between you and *contrarian* scientists. I very much doubt he was suggesting you are not a normal scientist.

      (I'm assuming your question was serious, not joking, since there was no smiley or other sign.)

  6. Sadly and unwittingly, seemingly in his efforts to be seen as fair and reasonable by everyone (perhaps because he is such a nice chap), Richard has fed grist to the favourite denial memes that "scientists are in disagreement over climate change" and "there is no consensus".

  7. Betts is the love child of Charles and David Koch!

    1. Ah, that explains why you are such a pr!ck, you are jealous!

    2. You're taking a huge risk using irony with the climate devout Richard - their total allegiance algorithm rejects complexity of thought :-)

    3. On a scale of brown to green, anyone to the brown of me must be a denier.

    4. You really need to talk to Doug McNeil about that color palate of yours.

    5. "On a scale of brown to green, anyone to the brown of me must be a denier."

      RT, it seems to me that folk could be rather "to the green" of you and still be florid climate change deniers.

    6. It is Doug McNeall, not McNeil.

  8. There's a good reason why nobody should be giving credence to a "pause" in the global temperature trajectory at this point in time:


    And if there's no evidence for a decade-or-more pause up to this year, there certainly wasn't any in the previous few years, when the period from 1998 was shorter.

    Anyone who speaks of a pause or hiatus as if it's a real thing is promoting unsupportable nonsense. At best there is (to-be-expected) variability in the surface record as planetary heat accumulation sinks into different partitions, just as a flag flutters in the wind, but there is and never was an actual pause.

    Can we agree now that anyone who claims otherwise is simply supporting the unsupportable?

  9. To be frank, if Dr. Betts is, indeed, an advisor to the UK government in climate matters, and that government is, in turn, 'leading the world' in same, then that rather helps explain what appears to me, and perhaps to several others, to be a rather remarkable lack of progress made.

    Unkind people might suggest that Sir Humphrey could only look on in admiration at the levels of 'masterly inactivity' achieved.

    Frankly, give me a Tim Flannery any day! The point, when given the opportunity in such a vital issue, is to wield the club, surely? Not to present yourself in such a way that you might hope to become a member of it...

  10. Sou

    Did you actually read my post? I explained that I focussed on the UK because a lot of 'pause' papers are from UK scientists, especially the Met Office.

    You can easily check for yourself whether I wrote the 'hiatus' section in AR5 as the authors and contributors are listed. No, it wasn't me. I've not been an author on any peer-reviewed papers on this topic, so I don't think it was aimed at me personally. However it is clearly aimed at my colleagues.

    So, what do you think about my responses to the proposed 'seepage' mechanisms?

    1. Interesting that you say that about UK scientists, Richard. In the body of the paper the authors list a large number of papers that refer to a "pause" or "hiatus". The authors then distinguished between those papers that signalled they accepted or rejected the framing (eg by using quote marks with the word "pause") and those that seemed to accept it (by description, not by sorting the papers into dos and don'ts.)

      Maybe I'm not so familiar with UK names, but the large list they provided had a lot of US and Australian scientists. UK-ers didn't pop out as being in any way dominant, if they were included.

      The only paper that got singled out for not putting "hiatus" in quotation marks (or the equivalent) was England et al 2014, which didn't involve any UK scientists. It was by scientists from Australia and the USA. (That paper also had the word hiatus in the title.) I very much doubt that the authors would find a lot of fault in most of Matthew England's research. It would be interesting to see if he had the same reaction against the paper as you did, or whether he'd relate to it.

      Your introductory sentences about each of the psychological mechanisms seems to be about right. More "right" than I was, when I re-read my Part I. Even in that part your article was extraordinarily defensive as if the paper was all about you and the UK - which it clearly wasn't.

      I will add that your understanding the description of the psychological mechanisms that can be used to explain how seepage occurs doesn't do you much good when you don't understand what is meant by "seepage".

    2. Sou,

      It isn't at all clear to me that he doesn't understand the definition of seepage. It is clear to me that he discounts its influence on him and his colleagues.

  11. I think the Lewandowsky paper is valuable in raising the issue of how the fossil fuel industry might be influencing real scientists through the efforts of their paid shills, and it is equally valuable for this issue to be discussed and argued over. Yes, the denialist craphead sites are going to misrepresent this debate as they do everything, but that shouldn't prevent the debate happening because it is important.

    1. The "seepage" phenomenon has been glaringly obvious for a long time, though I hadn't thought it through in the structured way these authors did. I found the paper provided a lot of food for thought, and very helpful.

      (I can't understand how anyone could be blind to the effect. As James Risbey wrote at ATTP's blog, their argument is neither controversial or complicated. Or I wouldn't have thought so, anyway.)

    2. "The "seepage" phenomenon has been glaringly obvious for a long time, though I hadn't thought it through in the structured way these authors did."

      I completely concur on both counts Sou.

      It's been painful to see the rope that many scientists have given the denial industry on this matter. And it's great to see that Lewandowsky et al have really delved into the thinking that lies beneath think phenomenon - I suspect that a lot of the scientific community will be given pause for thought.

      I have to say, Stephan really has a knack for poking deep into wasps' nests. It won't be doing his citation rates any harm! :-)

    3. The "seepage" phenomenon has been glaringly obvious for a long time...

      Seconded, IMHO.

  12. Dr. Betts, if you're still reading: Why don't you mind being associated with WUWT, in the sense that you give permission for your writings to be posted there? I have difficulty understanding why anyone would want to do this.

  13. Richard Betts. the "normal" scientist, has paused to consider whether there is a hiatus of seepage. Or if the the seepage has not paused at all and he's become "unhealthly influenced by sceptics". The sceptics are unhealthy and have to be guarded against....has anybody got a can-opener for Richard's brain?

  14. Hmmm, you seem to have dog-whistled a number of the hard-core Denialati with this post Sou. I wonder who blew the trumpet?

    Or are they all closet HotWhopper fans...?

    1. Bernard I'm sorry you broke ranks by acknowledging his comment, but you redeemed yourself by not addressing him directly nor mentioning his name.

    2. I'm pleased to say that quite a lot of denialati read HW, Bernard. Almost never do they understand what they read. Some come just to misrepresent what's written here, on Twitter and various denier blogs. They aren't very smart :)

    3. Jees Sou I do not think I am very smart when you post anything.

      Just kidding I am a male and have no idea.

      Is there any way to financially support your site? Paypal?


    4. Thanks, Bert. You're not the first to suggest this, which I take as a real compliment. It's something I've thought about when dipping into my piggy bank to pay for something climate. I'll think some more :)

    5. The irony of unrequited males supporting your site must be the ultimate reaffirmation. Bert

  15. I have a question I'll just throw out there for whomever cares to answer. It relates to the "pause" or "hiatus".
    Was there ever any physical reason to expect that global warming would always be manifesting in surface temperatures steadily rising at the exact same rate?

    1. Absolutely not. Here's a paper from 1978 referencing works from the 1960s:


      Internal variability was posited for the very reason that it was noted temperatures had been declining since the 1940s after having previously risen (as then estimated) about 1°C from 1880 to 1940. The introductory paragraph notes that previous studies mainly focused on external causes:

      Various attempts to simulate this temperature record (Schneider and Mass, 1975; Pollack et at., 1976; Bryson and Dittberner, 1976) have all focused on external causes, such as volcanic dust, solar constant variations and anthropogenic effects. It is possible, however, that even in the absence of any external forcing a unique climate may not exist. Climate change may be a natural internal feature of the land-ocean-ice-atmosphere (climate) system.

      The theory of internal causation of climate change has been developed by Lorenz (1968, 1970, 1976). He suggested that climate change might just be the natural variations due to the complex nonlinear interactions among the various components of the climate system.

    2. At its essence, any expectation that warming should follow a trajectory that is discernible over a peroid of less than, say, a decade is an implicit (almost to the point of explicit) statement that the total range of planetary energy movement processes are so constrained and invariable that they needn't be considered when plotting the globe's temperature trajectory.

      That's patent nonsense, and also at odds with the Denialati's claim that the climate is too complex to model.

    3. Bernard J.,

      That's patent nonsense, and also at odds with the Denialati's claim that the climate is too complex to model.

      It is patent nonsense, but that wrong construction is exactly what leads to, "If the models can't even predict the present, how can they predict the future?" More skillful decadal predictions would be a nice thing to have for a lot of reasons, not least of which is that they might be required to push a few key policy holdouts the proper direction.

  16. Lewandowsky has responded to Betts on his blog, and there may be a relevant conversation going forward there.

    Unsurprisingly, Barry Woods (who IMO is fixated on Dr. Lewandowsky) has the first two comments...

    1. Thanks, KR. I've added a link to the article.

  17. This was an important post. Thank you, Sou.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  18. I have a very old memory of scientists being fooled by that charlatan Uri Geller under 'experimental conditions'. The Universe is not out to deceive you. It can be incomprehensible but it is not duplicitous. So scientists are poor judges when it comes to evaluating cheats.
    It took James Randi a 'magician' or professional deceiver to completely debunk Uri Geller's rather outlandish claims of mind control over matter. We scientists do not have the time or resources to debunk the flood of lies put out by all sorts of nutters. It is hard enough to keep up with the literature in your own specialized field let alone all others. Bert

    1. Bert, it's not only snake oil salesmen who fool scientists and scientific journals. Jacques Benveniste had many scientists succumbing to racket creep (Randi had a look-in on that affair too) and even Pons and Fleischmann had people shifting their frames of reference without carefully considering the evidence.

      It's a worry that professional scientific parsimony can be compromised by loud public opinion. This is exactly at what the Heartland-style spin doctors behind the disinformation campaigns are aiming, though, in order to weaken and incapacitate a century and a half's worth of careful scientific progress to elucidating the implications of emissions of 'greenhouse' gases.

      I have no doubt that that the Merchants of Doubt understand the phenomenon of seepage very well indeed...

    2. Yes Bernard, did not the two neutrons that Pons and Fleishmann detected bear their first names?
      At the time I did a simple calculation to work out whether the conditions in their system could lead to a fusion reaction. It was out by many orders of magnitude for any sort of fusion.
      Many people said they have stumbled on something new 'magical chemistry' was invoked. It is not chemistry. It is nuclear Physics.
      Father they know not what they do! Bert

    3. Unlike JC I will not forgive them. Bert

  19. I feel like the increasing Antarctic sea ice is another area where there has been some "seepage". I seem to remember that Judith Curry once actually said how sea ice in the region might actually increase because of increased snowfall in the area as it warms.
    Now she talks about it like it's this great mystery that nobody has a clue about.

  20. > Perhaps the most critical part of the paper that Richard missed [...] was the part that set out the criteria for determining "seepage" [:] the scientific community has adopted assumptions or language from discourse that originated outside[;] the scientific community or from a small set of dissenting scientific voices[;] those assumptions depart from those commonly held by the scientific community.

    Is there any evidence that RichardB missed that criteria? Even in Lew's executive summary it's (almost) there:

    Climate scientists have done an admirable job pursuing their science under great political pressure, and they have tirelessly rebutted pseudoscientific arguments against their work. Nonetheless, being human, scientists’ operate with the same cognitive apparatus and limitations as every other person. In consequence, it is important to be aware of the factors that may cause scientists to take positions that they would be less likely to take in the absence of outspoken public opposition. We refer to this phenomenon as seepage.


    (I say almost because "taking position" is not exactly "adopting assumtions or language." )

    RichardB mentions "contrarian memes" five times.

    Here's one occurence where RichardB seems to acknowledge that "seepage" denotes the contrarian influence on the framing of a scientific issue:

    Indeed, if scientific discussion of the “pause/slowdown” is indeed seen by the public and politicians as considering a “contrarian meme”, could it actually be the case that a clear willingness to consider a range of viewpoints could actually enhance the credibility of climate scientists?

    Here's where he states his conclusion, which contradicts (in the sense of expresses disagreement, not in the sense of refutes) Lew's thesis:

    So overall I do not see that “seepage of contrarian memes” is necessary to explain research on the recent slowdown in global surface warming, nor do I see any evidence that this is likely to be occurring in the UK climate science community where such research is prominent. Variability has always been a key topic in climate research, and if this has become more extensive or visible in this recently, it is simply the result of improved science communication, more specific research questions and evolving capabilities within climate science. The evidence also suggests that even if “seepage” is real, at the very least this seepage has had no influence in watering-down UK public opinion and political action compared to other countries – and that possibly the opposite has occurred because the public are more convinced by seeing scientists being objective.


    This contradiction indicates that RichardB may have Lew a bit better than you presume, Sou.


    Now, where's the disputation of that conclusion?

    Your wish is my command,


    1. Willard, I'm in a workshop all day so won't be able to respond fully for a few hours. I will just make some points. In his first four and possibly five paragraphs, Richard gets almost everything wrong. This was why I and other people assumed he hadn't read the paper. It wasn't just the focus on concepts that weren't in the paper, rather than about "seepage", it was that he got the examples wrong, too. For example his "assumption" that the paper was referring to a seven year period in the 1990s, when in fact the paper was referring to a fifteen year period ending in 2007. This wasn't just in the text over a couple of pages, there were charts. Specifically Figure 2 which took up almost half a page. No-one who read the report could have missed either the period or the fact that it was a fifteen year period.

      The first half of his article was therefore quite misleading to anyone who wanted to learn about the paper. Rather than talk about "seepage", the first half of Richard's article was about the sort of research that was conducted in climate science over the past thirty years or so. Normal ongoing scientific research in the 1990s, mostly. What I drew from that half of his article, given that he was supposed to be writing about the paper and not about something else altogether, was that he didn't understand what was meant by "seepage".

      That first half was the focus of the article above.

      Then he skipped completely over any discussion of what is meant by "seepage" and jumped straight into the cognitive processes that could give rise to seepage. Since it was fairly clear from the first half of his article that he didn't know what was meant by the term "seepage", the discussion of cognitive processes was not worth anything much at all. So I paid it no mind.

      The overall impression, confirmed by Richard's comments around the traps, was that he felt aggrieved on behalf of his colleagues, that the scientists who wrote the paper didn't recognise how important his "pause" is. (To my way of thinking, Richard's article and subsequent comments were a good example of "seepage".)

      I'll address your specific points in a few hours.

    2. Willard, you asked for evidence that Richard didn't know what "seepage" meant, as defined by the two criteria. "Is there any evidence that RichardB missed that criteria?..."

      The two criteria are described in the paper as follows:

      1. the scientific community has adopted assumptions or language from discourse that originated outside the scientific community or from a small set of dissenting scientific voices; and

      2. those assumptions depart from those commonly held by the scientific community.

      That is, at the very least it must be shown that in other circumstances or at a different time the scientific community did not accept the reasoning offered now. This criterion would be fulfilled if scientists are doing and saying things now that are at odds with what they were doing and saying before, but without any methodological or empirical argument to justify that change.

      And further elaborated in the paper, using the example of scientific research aimed at addressing the causes underlying short-term fluctuations in the warming trend, as:

      Whether that research constitutes seepage depends on whether it ignores, adopts, or rejects the framing of those fluctuations as a ‘‘hiatus’’ in climate change. Research that ignores or rejects that framing could not be seen to be subject to the cognitive processes underlying seepage and is not seepage. On the other hand, research that explains fluctuations by uncritically adopting the language of ‘‘pauses’’ and a ‘‘hiatus’’ likely fits the definition of seepage.

      So there are two parts to "seepage". The use of denier framing and that scientists depart from their previously held standards, or practices, or assumptions. That is where the case study came in. The point was not that any researchers looked into short term variability in the most recent years or in previous years. Of course they did. A lot of climate science is about short term variability (contrary to what deniers will have people think). Most of Richard's article was about how scientists study short term variability as well as long term influences, which wasn't the point of the paper.

      Richard couldn't make up his mind whether to rationalise the "pause" emphasis or claim it had nothing to do with denier memes. He even used the denier meme language when he wrote: "Therefore could open discussion of the “pause” actually increase the confidence of the public and the government in their advice that climate change is real and man-made?" This implies that he accepts there has been seepage, despite the first half of his article arguing there hasn't. Followed shortly after by: "So to conclude, I think Lewandowsky et al are incorrect that scientific research and discussion into the recent climate variability has arisen as a result of the “seepage of contrarian memes”. "

      And in the comments he further indicated he didn't understand what the authors meant by "seepage", in a response to James Risbey:

      To me, “scientific response” and “attention” (by the scientific community) means doing research. You seemed to be suggesting that there was less research on climate variability previously. Did you mean something other than research by these phrases in the blog post?

      If he'd read the paper he'd have known that there was more to "seepage" than doing research. There is the way it's presented. The examples being Nature publications giving focus to the "hiatus", and the section in AR5 on the "hiatus". As shown above, Richard himself used the term "pause" being used in open discussions.

  21. Sou

    So, you admit you didn't read all of my post! ;)

    Having got off to a bad start by mistakenly assuming that I'd written it for WUWT, you didn't like the first half so didn't read the rest.

    As I said to Steve Lewandowsky on his own blog, I'd assumed that when they used the term "catastrophic warming", they must have been referring to a period of faster warming than 1992-2007 because nobody would describe 1992-2007 as "catastrophic" - that would be a strawman argument and I didn't imagine for a minute that they would use it. Looks like I might have been wrong in that assumption. Oh well, it's not relevant to the points I made about motivations of variability research in either faster or slower periods of global temperature change.

    It's not "my" pause by the way. I've not published on global temperature changes or their drivers. I just think that the research of my colleagues is motivated by understanding why temperatures did not do what they had predicted them to do, so they can predict them better next time. There is no need to involve psychological theories, and certainly no evidence to support the idea that these theories apply.

    To save you the trouble of reading the rest of my article, I'll summarise it here. I do not think that either "stereotype threat" or "pluralistic ignorance" are an issue for the community in which I work, since our work is widely accepted and we do not feel at all under pressure to downplay the risks of AGW. My own work happens to be about examining the higher-end risks. As for the "third-person effect", this applies just as much, if not more, to ideas from the "consensus" side as from "sceptics".

    So there are good scientific reasons why climate variability research is done, and the proposed mechanisms for "seepage" don't seem to be relevant in my experience.

    1. Richard, you wrote "So, you admit you didn't read all of my post" and added a smiley to soften. In Australian English, "So I paid it no mind" means not giving it attention - in this case, in the article I wrote. If you think about it, you'd realise I had to have read your article to know what was in the second half.

      Then you wrote that I'd "got off to a bad start" when I assumed you'd written the article for WUWT. Why was that a bad start for me? You did give permission for Anthony Watts to post your article at WUWT. The fact that you asked ATTP to post it at his blog first, doesn't negate the fact that you also posted it at WUWT. For my part, all it meant was that I changed my article before I posted it, because it contained comments about which audience you initially wrote it for, as well as what you wrote.

      Why do you keep talking about one of your major blunders - when you thought the authors were writing about a seven year period in the 1990s instead of a fifteen year period finishing in 2007? You are highlighting the fact that I was correct to deduce that you didn't base your article on the paper, but on your misreading of Stephan's blog article. The very first time the term "catastrophic warming" appears in the paper is in this section:

      It follows that if an observer had applied the same logic to the data in 2006 or 2007 that gave rise to the “pause” in 2013—namely, drawing conclusions based on the preceding 15 or 16 years—then the literature in the years after 2007 should have been replete with articles seeking to reconcile the accelerated warming with climate models and basic climatological parameters. To our knowledge, this did not occur. We are not aware of two special issues of Nature journals that were devoted to the spectre of “out-of-control catastrophic warming” based on the 15 (or 16) years leading up to 2007.

      It's hard to see how you missed "based on the 15 (or 16) years leading up to 2007", if you really did read the paper as you claim, and didn't just write your article based on Stephan's blog. It wasn't that you overlooked one sentence, you overlooked half a page of charts plus the entire case study. And still you refuse to accept the point that the paper was making (and that Stephan (and KR) pointed out to you) - that of course "nobody would describe 1992-2007 as "catastrophic"". And yet the literature and the media is replete with the so-called "pause" - even though the deviation of "the pause" from the long term mean is far less than was that of the 15 years leading up to 2007!


    2. .../cont

      When you say "Oh well, it's not relevant to the points I made about motivations of variability research in either faster or slower periods of global temperature change." that suggests you still don't understand what the authors mean by "seepage". That point goes to the very heart of the paper. Regardless of the motives you attribute to scientists at the UK Met or anywhere else, for spending so time and effort on "the pause", the scientific community as a whole did adopt denier framing, it did treat "the pause" differently to the way it treated the 15 years to 2007, which deviated more from the long term trend than did the "pause". The IPCC made a last minute addition to the report, with a section to the "hiatus". It was in the context of the long term trend - the first two sentences in the section on the "hiatus" were:

      The observed global-mean surface temperature (GMST) has shown a much smaller increasing linear trend over the past 15 years than over the past 30 to 60 years (Box TS.3, Figure 1a,c). Depending on the observational data set, the GMST trend over 1998–2012 is estimated to be around one-third to one-half of the trend over 1951–2012

      Yet the 15 years to 2007 had a trend that was doublethe trend over 1951 to 2007 and didn't get the same treatment in AR4.

      And yes, I get it that you wrote your misplaced article in defense of your colleagues. But I don't know why you did. Again it suggest that you didn't read the paper. The authors talk about the motivations of individuals, writing that:

      Our conclusion does not imply that research aimed at addressing the causes underlying short-term fluctuations in the warming trend is invalid or unnecessary. On the contrary, it is a legitimate and fruitful area of research, and we are certain it was not done because climate scientists intended to accept a contrarian frame—rather, if any values other than scientific curiosity drove their research, it was more likely to have been a desire to rebut contrarian talking points than a willingness to accept them.

      Anyone has the right to disagree with any paper but your article wasn't about the paper. It was about you. You misrepresented the paper. My reading of your actions in all this is that you are extraordinarily defensive to the point of not wanting to take any learnings from the study. Just as you dismiss evidence from cognitive science and communication studies, for example when people criticise scientists for treating disinformers as if the actions of disinformers are not just forgivable, but legitimate. (If a biologist paid attention to creationists (or an epidemiologist hobnobbed with anti-vaxxers) the way some people kowtow to climate disinformers, I would think they'd be criticised too.)

      I believe your intentions are noble when you reach out to deniers, as were Scott Dennings. Scott has written about his experience. I think his approach is very good for a general audience, but I don't agree that talking to a Heartland Conference or associating with known disinformers is the way to go. There is no "good faith" on the part of disinformers (as your experience with Anthony Watts should have told you.) The public forums held around Australia by the Climate Commission were a much better approach. The commissioners spoke to mixed audiences of the general public, not a roomful of hard-boiled dismissives.

    3. Could someone please clarify how the following sentences would lead a reader to believe that noticing a post on a website becomes a claim that the post was written specifically for that website?

      "I first saw Richard's article at WUWT and was very surprised to see it there. It turns out though, that Richard wrote his article for ATTP's blog. It was only when that rabid anti-Lewandowsky-ite, Barry Woods, asked him that he acquiesced and agreed to it being reposted on Anthony Watts' blog. "

    4. Spilgard, one way that could happen might be through the effect known as confirmation bias :D

    5. I'd assumed that when they used the term "catastrophic warming", they must have been referring to a period of faster warming than 1992-2007 because nobody would describe 1992-2007 as "catastrophic"...

      ...much like no-one would describe the last 15 years as "a pause".

      Oh, wait...

  22. Hello again Sou,

    Also, I see you still have a bit of an issue with me and other scientists having dinner with Lewis, Watts & co, and mention this in the context of "bending over backwards to appear to be open to contrarian claims".

    Do you similarly disapprove of Scott Denning speaking at the Heartland Institute conferences?

  23. Sou

    There's also an article on this paper at the Guardian, with further lively discussion, could you add the link?

    1. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/may/15/are-climate-scientists-cowed-by-sceptics#comment-52307434

      This is what the paper is about. Professor Betts is far far more concerned about being nice to our denier mates than rebutting those attacking his science.

      I bet you weigh the same as a duck. More of that please.


      Climate scientists are *not* trying to "explain the hiatus to sceptics". As I wrote in my blog post, we* are trying to understand internal variability with the aim of being able to predict it better - that would be massively useful.

      Quite the tightwire act. Difficult to tell which faction is shaking the rope harder.

      Good news is, popcorn futures are looking up. As an added bonus, we might even be able to harvest it ready to eat.

    2. Thanks Richard. Will do.

      (Google played up on me, and I had to repost the above two comments, which were initially posted a few hours ago.)

    3. I will admit to being disappointed that you misrepresented me in the comments.

      Not your reaction to it, that's yours to express. Nor your claim that I didn't address your points - that's subjective. Nor your portrayal of me as a "political activist" if that's how you view me, though it's not how I see HotWhopper let alone myself. (It's flattering I suppose, if the small "p" in politics represents climate action.)

      It was your (mis) rendition of my actions that disappointed. I explained more than once that I toned the draft article down before I posted it when I was made aware that you'd first posted it at ATTP's and only later allowed it to be posted at WUWT.

      We'll have to have that pint one of these days, so I can learn how to hawk my perplexities around the climate and climate denial blogosphere in "a respectful and grown-up fashion" :D

      (Most of the comments looked to be what you'd read anywhere and I skipped over most. This one struck a chord with me, though.)

    4. The Guardian comments system doesn't work too well, so I'll post the part of the comment from semyorka that struck a chord with me. (It wasn't directed at Richard Betts, but maybe he will take note of it.)

      Day in day out we will defend your reputation from people claiming you are part of a global conspiracy and a fraud. But suddenly we get some scientists turning up spewing with rage when someone suggests they being mildly influenced by denialist memes.

      Defunding climate science is actively on the agenda of many people in the US congress and senate and denialism is pretty preveland in the current parliamentary tory party.

      Where has all this vim and vigour to engage btl been for the past couple of years when it would have been very useful?

      At least the skeptical science crew have spent years debunking the denialist memes, getting a heap load of personal abuse for it and now are running a very useful MOOC to inform the people who will stand up and be counted for your science.


      Thing is, one of the main reasons for HotWhopper is to present their science, defend science and scientists against denier nonsense, and say things that many scientists think but are too polite to say themselves. SkS exists for all these reasons too, except the last one. SkS is more polite and less snarky than HW.

    5. BTW - I don't agree that expressing disagreement with L15 can be equated with "spewing with rage".

      I hold the person that comment was directed to in the highest esteem and am pleased that he expressed his views. (I also highly regard Richard Betts, even though I disagree with him on some aspects of scientific communication).

      It was the general gist of the comment (without the "rage" bit) that I thought had some merit.

    6. Richard Betts at the Guardian "Sou is a political activist ..."

      I am sure that Sou is not offended by the label but the use of it is straight out of the playbook of Barry Woods and that team of yapping deniers that follow Richard around on Twitter and/or blogs like a bad smell waiting for him to tweet something that looks remotely like criticism of Sou or SKS or someone else that they despise that they can then retweet and cite ad nauseum.

      These clowns are aggressive climate science denier activists in their own right but they use the label "activist" as a stick to beat anyone they disagree with.

      Using that term suggests to me that Richard is not suffering from seepage, he has a case of full on rising damp at least when it comes to his political activity. And posting an article once at the WUWT cesspit could be considered an accident, do it twice and it becomes a strategy although precisely what that is beyond me.

      I agree with the sentiment in Semyorka's comment. Anyone who has spent time on public forums like The Conversation for example defending climate scientists and science from vicious and quite often personal attacks by WUWT inspired cranks and ideologues would be fairly pissed off that Richard happily lends them his credibility. If he does not understand that, then perhaps he should.

      And it is not just WUWT. As Graeme Readfearn has noted previously, Tony Abbott's influential chief business adviser Maurice "global cooling" Newman gets his ideas directly from the UK cranks around the GWPF. I have also just read an excellent interview with Julia Slingo, Chief Scientist at the Met Office who notes in passing that she cops plenty of abuse, some personal, presumably from the same set of cranks.

      Sorry Richard. It is them and us. And the "them" are the ideologues who denigrate climate science and have had a disproportionate effect on climate policy in our country.

      To borrow a cliche from our national football code, "Richard, it is time that you had a good hard look at yourself mate"!

    7. Well, Richard, despite Sou's concilatory sort of finish, you commited a cardinal sin by posting at WUWT,and you can see the fine mess you've gotten into..with Sou handing you your ass with this little piece of disciplinary action. At least you've avoided the pergatory of the Hot Whoppery, unlike some of us "hard-boiled dismissives"...but the moral of the story is..never argue with a woman.
      On the other hand, more affable women are about...try Jennifer Marohasy's site...no...hang on...then you'll face me on my own turf.

    8. Jennifer runs a preschool for sky dragon slayers...not much of a 'turf' (maybe a 'crib').

      It's a shame that Professor Betts has taken the same route as the Tols and Fullers, relying on defensive and circuitous snark. I had hoped for better.

      - wheelism

    9. ...but the use of it is straight out of the playbook of Barry Woods...

      So, kind of a "seepage" of tactics? ;-)

    10. MIkeH, Richard intended it as a put-down. Whether I take offense or not is my choice. (As HW readers would know, this isn't a political blog. Plus it relies on facts, not rhetoric - unlike some :D)

    11. Sou

      What makes you think I intended it as a put-down? That's your interpretation. You have every right to be a political activist and fight for what you believe in. My point was just that your comments should be seen with that in mind - your priority is to achieve a political aim, so you behave politically, as opposed to objectively. That's all.


      I get my fair share of flak from the sceptics too, believe me!

    12. Richard. I know you do. I have read some of the comments after your contributions at WUWT. I also follow you on twitter so I am aware that you regularly take on some of the more egregious denier claims. I am not questioning your science, rather like Sou, your comms. strategy.

      The other person who likes to use the "activist" label to dismiss his critics is Nic Lewis.

    13. Sou.

      "Richard intended it as a put-down". Yes, I agree. The irony of course is that as Gavin Schmidt and others have noted on numerous occasions, the faux-science debate from the "skeptics" is just a proxy for a political debate over climate policy. If the solution to AGW was to "burn more coal", the loud and angry public debate would not be happening. So in that sense Richard, by involving himself in the debate is also a "political activist". And that is not meant as a put-down. Having more climate scientists willing to engage in the public debate can only be a good thing. But I disagree with his current "political" strategy - at least as far as I can understand it. :-)

    14. Richard, you asked what makes me think it was a put down when you tried to dismiss my arguments by claiming I was a "political activist who is skilled in rhetoric" and "got cross" and was "vitriolic"? Seriously? And now you've done it again.

      I'll go further, and suppose motivation - that you are very uncomfortable that your mis-reading of the paper has garnered attention, even though that's why you spread it about. You should be very embarrassed that you not only posted your article at ATTP's place, you posted it at WUWT too, when you got it so wrong. It wasn't my articles about the paper (here and here and here) that the authors said was wrong. It's yours. The authors also wrote about what it was that you got wrong - in the article and in the comments. And they picked much the same things as I did in the article above.

      Whenever there is a paper that has messages about scientific communication, it seems to be the same scientists who have a knee-jerk reaction against it. Rather than consider the evidence they take it as a personal attack and react accordingly. Not with evidence. Not with scientific research (they are not experts in communication) - but with the rhetoric they claim to abhor. Including comments like that, which are meant as a message to ignore everything I've written in these three articles. The logical fallacy as set out in the Denier 101 MOOC. The paper by experts can therefore be dismissed - if even a "political activist" agrees with it it must be wrong.

    15. And by "got wrong" I'm talking about Richard getting wrong what the authors wrote. I'm not talking about him disputing facts, I'm talking about Richard claiming the authors wrote things when they didn't. Things that weren't in the paper. And him leaving out critical bits that were in the paper.

      (Confirmation bias rearing its head again.)

    16. ...your priority is to achieve a political aim, so you behave politically, as opposed to objectively.

      This appears to potentially embody a false dichotomy fallacy, and that possibility suggests the author might carefully reconsider whether or not that's the case here.

    17. I missed that jibe - thanks Lotharsson.

      Saying it over and over doesn't make it so. Once again Richard used rhetoric rather than evidence. He's been making a habit of that. It's what you might call behaving "politically as opposed to objectively" :(

  24. If say, UKIP had won enough seats such that the Tories were reliant on a coalition to form government, and Nigel Farage claimed ministerial responsibility for the Met Office (BIS) I'm confident that Richard would thrive.

  25. PG,

    I'm not sure you have grasped the concept of an objective, non-partisan civil service. In the Met Office Hadley Centre, we provide impartial scientific advice to the elected government of the day, no matter who this is or what we personally think of their politics. So I should continue to "thrive" whether the new government included UKIP, (more) Greens, or the Monster Raving Loony Party, if they'd been duly elected.

    I've worked in the MOHC for over 20 years, advising first a Conservative government, then a Labour one, then a coalition, and now Conservative again. In that time, the UK was the first country in the world to enact legally-binding legislation on cutting it's own emissions. This was voted through with nearly unanimous cross-party support, and continues to be supported. I believe this a at least partly because, in this country, climate science advice to government is clearly seen to be objective and non-partisan.

    I do find it bemusing when people keep telling us we're doing it wrong. Where is the evidence that our approach has held back climate policy? (There isn't any, cos it hasn't)

    1. No, that's the role of the no-GWPF, you know, the guys who do the seeping. ;-)

      But kudos to you for replying to comments here. Much appreciated.

    2. I'm not sure you have grasped the concept of an objective, non-partisan civil service.

      It's a nice concept, but that doesn't mean that those who hold the purse strings necessarily ensure it is enacted - and in many places it would be naïve in the extreme to assume that they do and will continue to do so. It may be different in the UK, but in the US and AU there has been a number of examples of fairly self-evident politicisation of various supposedly non-partisan civil service departments and roles.

    3. I think there is some confusion between being "non-partisan" about climate disinformation and being non-partisan in party politics or in providing advice to the government of the day. They are not at all the same thing.

    4. Lotharsson

      Your "they who hold the purse-strings" argument is exactly what they claim on WUWT. You can't both be right that we are paid to both talk-up and talk-down AGW. In fact, neither version of the conspiracy theory is correct! (Not in the UK anyway).

      And yes, it is different in the UK. I have, sadly, witnessed a climate scientist being told by a government official what was acceptable to say. This was in Australia about 12 years ago, when I did a secondment to CSIRO.

      In contrast, I have never, ever, not once in all my 22 years at the Met Office, witnessed any attempt by government to bias the research or its communication. In fact I've experienced exactly the opposite - an official of our funding department explicitly said to me "you must do what is scientifically correct".

    5. "being told by a government official what was acceptable to say...CSIRO".

      Exactly. This does happen, though not everyone abides by it.

      Maybe that's one reason climate scientists like Dr James Risbey, from the CSIRO, who is co-author of this paper, is more sensitive to the importance of communication and messaging and concerned that it is based on evidence and a researched understanding of the human psyche, than some other scientists seem to be.

    6. "Your "they who hold the purse-strings" argument is exactly what they claim on WUWT. You can't both be right that we are paid to both talk-up and talk-down AGW."

      You would be correct except that that's not my argument.

      Your comment was in reply to a question of "thriving" under different political leadership. If you are truly immune to any possible nobbling of (say) your career through political interference (or of your ability to provide unvarnished advice to political leaders) than that's great to hear. However it would be an egregious fallacy to generalise that around the world because we have plenty of evidence of people suddenly "failing to thrive" because their unvarnished advice was sufficiently unwelcome to political leaders who had no qualms about using their power to ensure they and the public got less of it in the future.

      I don't know the UK well enough to make an assessment, but it might also be a terrible mistake to imagine that past immunity confers future immunity as times and/or leadership changes, as many people (scientists and others) throughout history who once felt they had immunity from political interference could tell you. You could probably find CSIRO staff who could relate a transition from immune to not immune if you asked around.

      And that was my pair of points - most especially the latter one.

  26. Late to the party, but I'll repeat a comment of mine from twitter: I think 'publish or perish' has more to do with events than 'seepage'.

    When I read the Lewandowsky paper a while ago, I noticed that he/they didn't do much to test or protect against the publish or perish interpretation. That's more than a little unfortunate, as 'publish or perish' is a major driver for what gets published. 'Get grants or get lost' is also quite important, and only partly overlaps.

    1. That's an interesting point Robert, but doesn't that support L15 rather than weaken it? (Eg the Nature special edition and focus). That's if I understand you to mean that the seepage is shaping what gets published easily and what is likely to get funded in the first place.

      (Most science is just solid science from what I see. The paper has implications when it comes to the interface between public policy and science, which is barely the tip of the iceberg when compared with all the research that goes on.)

  27. I should have taken more words. You've got me wrong. It's not a matter, imnsho, of externalities making it easier to publish 'pause'. My 'publish or perish' is about the fact that 'pause' was even examined as a thing.

    For purely internal to science reasons, it's hard to get published with the umpteenth paper that says 'yep, temperatures are still increasing'. There's nothing novel in that conclusion. To be publishable, you'd have to do something like find a new/better way of examining the temperature records. That's substantial work.

    Instead, consider you're a scientist and are under career-threatening pressure to publish. (Publish or perish is a pretty old line, nothing fundamentally new.) You, like many others, do an eyeball check of temperature records, and notice that it looks like the rate of increase appears to be declining, or might even have flattened out. You've now got a raft of papers available to write -- how the ocean (if you're an oceanographer) is causing the observations, how the ice (if you're a glaciologist) is causing them, how low-dimensional modes do it, and so forth. Right off the top, many people and groups have a way of exploiting this resource for publications. (I sometimes think of the science world as an ecosystem.)

    And they are good publications. Certainly the partitioning of energy between ocean/ice/atmosphere/... is important to understand. The faux pause prompted much more examination of that topic.

    It's also the case that in science you get more mileage (awards, grants, fame, ...) out of being the first to notice something new, such as a 'pause', than for refining the estimates on something everybody already knew (that temperatures are going up). This same fact is what makes the 'conspiracy' charges so laughable.

    So, from where I sit, there are some extremely strong reasons internal to science as usual that argue in favor of there being a bunch of papers on the 'pause'. L15 didn't do much that I noticed to rule these out. Doesn't make it wrong as to conclusion, but does weaken it as research.

    1. I wonder if you're missing the point of the paper when it comes to seepage. It's not doing the research into something scientists notice that is sufficient (see the section about research in the paper, there's a quote up above too.). To constitute seepage there has to be a playing to the tune of deniers (outwardly - eg calling it a pause, but not calling the prior period an even huger acceleration). Even "noticing" it could be seepage, if, for example, it's been discussed so much in public discourse.

      However, just noticing something and investigating it isn't sufficient to be described as "seepage".

      I don't think that there's a need to find other explanations for what is really obvious to most people - at least those of us who watch the publicity given to science. (I expect many scientists are nodding their heads at the paper too.)

      As an example, I've just written up about the "hot spot". Now that's definitely a denier meme. But that doesn't mean that the work of Steve Sherwood was a result of seepage. He's been analysing radiosonde data and publishing work since well before Christopher Monckton started talking about any hotspot. I'm not saying it's not an example either - but his paper certainly wasn't written using the language of disinformers, and the part that related to the tropical troposphere was only one part of a broader paper. So I think you'd have to argue hard that that paper on its own was an example of seepage.

      On the other hand, the section of AR5 about the "hiatus" is a text book example of seepage. That's not to say the research it drew upon was all because of seepage - just the way it was approached in AR5.

      It doesn't just happen in climate science. It would happen in other fields too. And not just scientific research either.

    2. Let me add that from where I sit, doesn't have to be seepage itself that is necessarily a problem. It's how, if the seepage isn't recognised as such, it can have an adverse impact not just on science but on the public discourse and on climate policy. On the other hand, if it is recognised, it can be turned and used to advantage.

      That's where I think a big part of the value of work such as this lies.

      It's also why I am dismayed at seeing a small number of scientists take such a misplaced defensive posture - to such an extent that they don't understand the paper (and some haven't even bothered to read it going by some of the tweets and comments that I've seen.)

      Perhaps the authors were being too generous when they described scientists as striving "to work in a manner that emphasizes factual information and de-emphasizes value judgements". Or maybe it's just that they were right in regarding scientists as real people, with at least some of the same fears, hopes and foibles as the rest of us :).

  28. Prof. Betts, FWIW, here's my take on it.

    In my (non-scientific) opinion, you have a good point that research into the surface temperature evolution over the last (say) 15 years can be (and arguably often is) reasonably motivated, which (having not read the paper) doesn't seem to be adequately allowed for in the paper. But you also fail to see that Lewandowsky et al have a good point (perhaps not argued as well as it might have been in this paper). From comments I read elsewhere you seem to think that it's just fine to use language and framing that came out of the denialist community in scientific papers as long as it's understood that it means something else within the scientific community. You also seem to think that to decide to avoid certain language because it is used by denialist framing to mean something different would be giving in to political interference within science.

    Those last two positions, if I understand them correctly, seem to be rather counter-productive. For one thing, climate science in various parts of the world has clearly been experiencing quite some political interference for some time (regardless of how little interference you and your immediate colleagues experience - it wouldn't do to generalise from a relatively small sample when the counter evidence is fairly obvious!)

    For another, using "the hiatus" or "the pause" to describe "a discrepancy between observations and the output of recently developed methods for forecasting decadal scale internal variability" when denialists use it to mean "the models are useless and since they're the only evidence that we have a problem, then we don't have a problem" is politically and socially negligent, if not outright foolish. I hang out in places (distinctly outside the hallowed halls of science) where climate policy and (some) climate science is discussed, and I can report that I've lost count of how many times a denialist has specifically cited the UK Met Office as supporting their position precisely because some paper or press release has given the appearance of buying into the denialist framing of "the pause" that doesn't exist, and this is done primarily by adopting that framing's language.

    Now Prof. Betts, you, I, Sou and most of the readers here all know that's not what the Met Office is doing or implying. But your average member of the Great Unwashed Public is easily misled by those who want to mislead them when this kind of "evidence" is handed to them on a plate. The first rule of debate is not to accept your opponent's framing if you disagree with it - and make no mistake, your work is involved in this debate even if you don't feel that you are. And accepting the language of denialist framing for many members of the non-science public bears no significant distinction from accepting the frame itself.

    (While I'm at it, make no other mistake. Many other climate scientists are having their funding pressured or curtailed by, and are even subject to attempts to restrain their research directions by their political and financial masters who are driven in part by popular opinion which includes the opinions of those who find "the Met Office used 'pause' so it exists, so climate science warnings are simply politicised scare tactics" to be a compelling and rational argument.)

    It's one thing to be proudly independent of politics in science. It's quite another to confuse independence with egregious obliviousness to the political debate, language and ramifications thereof, and to thereby severely handicap those who take your own work seriously and wish to drive public consensus towards policy responses that take it equally seriously.

    1. Well said, Lotharsson, especially the last paragraph. I hope Prof. Betts is still reading.

    2. Lotharsson

      Thanks for your thoughts. However, I think you're rather insulting the intelligence of the public - you're basically arguing for dumbing-down. Nobody can seriously claim that the Met Office does not think anthropogenic climate change is real or poses risks.

      As for your claim that other scientist's funding is at risk because of what we say - well that the first I've heard of this. Not a single scientific institution has said this to us - we have an international Science Advisory Committee for the Met Office, and a Science Review Group specifically for the Hadley Centre, both made up of leading scientists from research institutes around the world, and nobody on either of these committees has ever complained about this.

      Also, at Lewandowsky et al point out, the IPCC use "hiatus". Again, the IPCC authors are drawn from institutions around the world.

      Can anybody actually show where the words "pause" and "hiatus" were first used?

      More evidence and less supposition, please! ;)

    3. "I think you're rather insulting the intelligence of the public - you're basically arguing for dumbing-down. Nobody can seriously claim that the Met Office does not think anthropogenic climate change is real or poses risks."

      You need to get out more. Seriously.

    4. Professor Betts,

      Regarding "insulting the intelligence of the public": although the majority of the electorate are not idiots they are also often unaware of how science works and do not have the time, or take the time, to find out.

      I'm not scientifically qualified, but do make an effort to be basically scientifically literate since I think it is important (as well as interesting). I've found that a lot of people simply do not do this. It is common (here come the anecdotes) in my experience for people, including journalists, to misinterpret anything related to science that makes it to the general media.

      If you are averse to "dumbing things down" that's fine, but I'm sure you would not just tell the average person to read the relevant papers either. Things sometimes have to be simplified if you want them to be absorbed, as per the old "all models are wrong but some are useful". It's the difference between public communication of science and actually doing science. Perception matters.

      If you, or anyone else, starts talking about a "pause/hiatus in warming" some people will hear this as "global warming has stopped". That will be the take home message, whether it is intended to be or not. There are plenty of example of this online, and I'm sure there are many people who have encountered this offline in day to day life. I certainly have.

      It would be better, IMHO, to use different language. An example might be that point out that short term, or comparatively short term, surface temperature changes have frequently varied in the past, and still do, and that this is not in any sane sense of the term a "pause" or hiatus" in global warming. Perhaps, as an analogy, add that calling this a "pause" or "hiatus" is basically as daft as using winter compared to summer when checking temperatures, before going on to explain a bit more. This sort of argument is more likely to stick with most people, as far as I can tell. Give them a "common sense" sound bite that gets their attention, then add detail as necessary.

    5. I've sat around a boardroom table where the Chair claimed global warming wasn't real, and another board member, who knew that it wasn't a hoax, excused him on the grounds that the "science says it's stopped, there's a pause".

      The chair had been on the board of a multi-national bank, the person who excused him had been the head of a large government organisation.

      The discussion was about the actions to be taken by the organisation over the coming ten to twenty years. Climate change wasn't to be factored in. (It ended up being factored in, but not mentioned as such.)

      So yes, language matters.

    6. "However, I think you're rather insulting the intelligence of the public - you're basically arguing for dumbing-down."

      No, I'm not doing either of those things.

      1) Firstly, it's hard to insult the functional scientific intelligence of a good 30+% of the public in many countries who get many of their "facts" from mass media outlets who have no compunctions about shading or outright manufacturing "the facts". There is a specific term for them - low information voters - that I'd like to adopt here to specifically refer to low science information voters.

      And there's no shame in being functionally scientifically unintelligent. We all, scientists included, have large areas of expertise where we have so little skill and knowledge that we have no significant functional intelligence. Scientists in particular would do well to avoid the Dunning-Kruger effect when self-assessing their public communications abilities, because a scientific mindset and the typical scientific communication idioms and priorities are easily misinterpreted by the rest of us who don't share the mindset.

      2) I'm not arguing for a dumbing down of the message or the information. I'm arguing for a smartening up of communications tactics in an unfortunately politicised field. (If this were the science of high temperature superconductors which has not been politicised in that way there wouldn't be any need to have this conversation and the language used within the field wouldn't take on wider import.)

    7. "Nobody can seriously claim that the Met Office does not think anthropogenic climate change is real or poses risks."

      I hear that you very sincerely believe that, and you find it difficult to believe otherwise. But that claim is very seriously mistaken as I and others have attested above.

      The reason is that (however unfortunately so) in this matter "seriously claim" does not imply "seriously claim on a well grounded basis" due to the extensive political and commercial campaigns to confuse and deceive the aforementioned low information voters. You appear to be (perhaps) assuming that everyone involved in the wider political/media games plays by the rules like you do, hence drawing an inference that because your position is honestly stated it cannot be misinterpreted (honestly or otherwise). There is quite a bit of evidence to the contrary. Those who oppose taking your work seriously (by and large) play dirty, and they have involved you and your colleagues in their games no matter how much you would prefer otherwise.

    8. "As for your claim that other scientist's funding is at risk because of what we say - well that the first I've heard of this."

      Firstly, please carefully re-read what I wrote which did not claim that pure a causal link - it's not just what you/The Met Office say, but whatever can be spun to low information voters as "proving" to them that we need less climate research. I'm not describing a phenomenon with single factor causation but a sliding scale of pressure etc. with contributions from multiple factors, one of which is how you in particular (or other climate scientists in general) choose to frame their communications and express their concepts.

      Secondly, note that it's entirely plausible that many scientists on the receiving end have their heads down in their work (or simply don't grok the political factors) and accordingly don't understand the political shenanigans and how they are perpetrated.

      So let me try laying out the influence chain in greater detail (in reverse):

      - Climate scientists are having their funding pressured, possibly curtailed and are seeing attempts to restrict what they can research. (See the news in the last week(?) or two out of the US for an example. Or the news in Australia since the last election about 18 months ago. Or reports out of Canada over the last few years. A little bit of funding pressure here, a closing down of the odd institution or department there, a gagging order on inconvenient personnel or messages over there, a directive that makes it harder for new climate research projects to clear the bureacratic hurdles there...)

      - This pressure by those applying it is "justified" by or motivated in part by reference to sufficient levels of popularity of the opinion that climate science is somewhere between unnecessary and outright bunkum.

      Other factors clearly matter too, including pressure arising from political donations. I'm only talking about the part that connects to scientific language choices.

      - Higher levels of that class of opinion are manufactured in part by (typically deliberately) misinterpreting what scientists say to members of the public who have low levels of scientific understanding.

      Other misleading tactics are used too. I'm still only talking about the part that connects to scientific communication tactics.

      - That manufacturing process is made a whole lot easier when scientists adopt the framing the manufacturers chose - and you can be sure that they spent a significant amount of effort and brain power and dollars figuring out which framing has the most power for their purpose, far more consideration than scientists tend to give to language. They're professionals and that's their highly marketable skill, after all.

      If you wanted to survive it then as a rank amateur you wouldn't be willing to allow the professional swordsman to dictate the weapons to be used in a duel. Alternatively, you can't stop the spinners spinning, but you can at least refuse to hand them a loaded gun with the safety off (to even more horribly mix my metaphors!)

    9. "Also, at Lewandowsky et al point out, the IPCC use "hiatus"."

      Yes, and the IPCC were either foolish or quite ignorant to do so, especially since the IPCC is charged with not only assessing the state of the science but communicating it to non-scientists.

      And that is true regardless of where the term was first used. This is not about first use bragging rights, and you have to remember that facts don't matter to those playing dirty. They can make sufficient numbers of people believe the sky is green if they need to. For example, a full 10 years after 9/11, and after highly public and well publicised government commissions found that just before the war Iraq did not have WMDs, did not have a WMD program and was not substantially supporting Al Qaeda, 38% of respondents said the US had found clear evidence of that non-existent program and 46% said that Iraq was substantially supporting Al Qaeda or even directly involved in the 9/11 attacks (see this PDF report.)

      And that ability to engender false belief means this in context this request about first usage of terms appears to be moot:

      "More evidence and less supposition, please!"

      But it raises one more thought. What are the chances of climate scientists taking on board the evidence of the impact of communication strategies in politicised fields like yours sometime soon?

    10. If surface temps meander above trend for the next few years, will the IPCC adopt or invent a term that's the flip side of "hiatus" in the next report? I don't think the denialsphere will be providing us with a nice sound-bite term emphasizing statistically insignificant short-term data that would seem to show accelerating warming ... the wording in the current report would seem to almost require discussion of such an extraordinary turn-about in the short term data next time.

  29. WUWT has just published a companion piece to Richard's by Peter Thorn from Icarus. Thorn has also not bothered to read or understand Lewandowsky 15. It's as though there is a bout of illiteracy sweeping climate institutions in the UK and Ireland.

    This is Thorne's understanding of Lewandowsky 15

    To maintain that as scientists we should not investigate the pause / hiatus / slowdown (there I used the phrase …) is downright disingenuous and dangerous. It is important to understand all aspects of climate science and that includes recent and possible future decadal timescale variability and its causes. We all experience climatic variability so we should understand it. The large volume of papers on the hiatus will undoubtedly have served to improve our knowledge of climate variability and the climate system and will almost certainly lead to improved climate projections in future through improved climate modelling.

    If it had been decided to ignore the hiatus then those benefits and insights would not have accrued. So what if some of those papers resulted from segments of society asking questions about this? First, its an entirely reasonable and policy relevant question because what has caused it has very real implications as to what we should do vis-a-vis short-term adaptation decisions. Second, even if it weren’t a reasonable question, then it would still be entirely reasonable to address it to explicitly head off mis-conceptions.

    So, this whole thing is a side-show and as such depressing.”-Peter Thorne

    I cannot believe senior scientists are writing this stuff. Peter Thorne, you may not believe in seepage but your post does more to support Lewandowsky's proposition than demolish it.

    1. Just to be clear, WUWT has reprinted a comment from Peter Thorn that was posted in the comments section of a Guardian article here.

      And as was pointed out to Peter Thorn by other commenters, L15 does not say "To maintain that as scientists we should not investigate the pause / hiatus / slowdown (there I used the phrase …) is downright disingenuous and dangerous. "

      From "Seepage: Climate change denial and its effect on the scientific community"

      "Our conclusion does not imply that research aimed at addressing the causes underlying short-term fluctuations in the warming trend is invalid or unnecessary. On the contrary, it is a legitimate and fruitful area of research, and we are certain it was not done because climate scientists intended to accept a contrarian frame—rather, if any values other than scientific curiosity drove their research, it was more likely to have been a desire to rebut contrarian talking points than a willingness to accept them."


    2. Thanks MikeH. I'm way behind the game. Until I read your comment above I had not realised that Thorn's was a reader's comment. (BTW I was not suggesting that he wrote it for the benefit of WUWT)

      I followed the WUWT link to the Guardian read the article, found no trace of Thorn so cut and pasted from WUWT.

      I've just read some of the conversations at the Guardian and Sou's recent comments above.
      Clearly Thorn has not read Lewandowsky and his comment was a knee jerk ( after having been informed by the misinformed).

      I wish somebody other than Sou would read it before committing themselves to print. Richard's desperate effort to dig Peter out the deep hole he dug himself was extraordinarily misleading. I though I was reading JC for a second.

    3. PG, I did read both the paper and the Guardian article before commenting at the Guardian, as would be expected as good practice.

      I also saw the very similar reactions of several respected colleagues who you would be hard pressed to classify as remotely outside the consensus.

      I stand by my points made that from my reading the paper was not helpful and missed the point from a research scientist's perspective. That is my interpretation of the words written. I cannot divine intent of the authors and 90% of communication is non-written. So, if they did not intend this then they clearly chose poor words.

      Now, I would rather it had not been reproduced w/o permission on third party sites (several) but its not against Guardian policy AIUI and there is no point whistling into the wind on that score. Life is short and the to-do-list is long.

      The science community is far from a bunch of sheep and we should celebrate the culture that allows disagreement and discussion of issues in public. So long as it is civil.


    4. "...from my reading the paper was not helpful and missed the point from a research scientist's perspective..."

      I think everyone here understands this. Nobody is criticising the research, and obviously research needs to be discussed to make headway.

      What some people have been trying to say is that for research scientists to go along with terms beloved of deniers is not helpful, and misses the point, from the perspective of public understanding of science.

      Or, to put it another way, you're up against spin doctors. It makes sense to consider that they will try to spin your every word to their own advantage, and to the detriment of what you really meant to say. The less leeway your words give them, the better.

      I think you could have an equally robust discussion without saying there had been a "pause" or "hiatus" in warming, which after all is not really the case anyway.

    5. @Peter Thorne,
      Stephan Lewandowsky and Naomi Oreskes are outstanding communicators. They went to great lengths to make sure people like you and Richard did not misinterpret their paper. Apparently they failed.

    6. Peter Thorne:

      "I stand by my points made that from my reading the paper was not helpful and missed the point from a research scientist's perspective."

      Someone else who claims to have read the paper, but has claimed that the paper says something other than what it actually says.

      Perhaps working scientists are not only poor at communication, but in reading comprehension.

      One just can't square Peter's statement:

      "To maintain that as scientists we should not investigate the pause..."

      With the actual text of the paper.

      Betts and Thorne might ask themselves why WUWT is so gloatingly happy to repost their statements which contradict what the paper itself, and the authors' comments regarding the paper, say. And why their reading is correct while the papers authors' reading of what they wrote is wrong.

    7. dhogaza,

      thanks but I did read the paper. And I believe I can read and comprehend words. It would have been hard to get where I am were this not the case. A little politeness would not go amiss if you wish to engage in a conversation. Or maybe you just wish to disparage and belittle those you don't agree with? That of course is your option but its not exactly a constructive way forwards is it? :-)

      That I came to a different conclusion to you and that I appear to be very far from alone within the community in doing so does suggest a substantial failure of communication on the part of the authors in this case. If they did not intend to cast doubt on the scientific value of these analyses then they should have written the thing in a different manner.

      The piece may well have been well intentioned and conceived but the language in several places if it was intended to positively influence the science community is incredibly poorly thought out and executed. As evidenced on the Guardian thread (and I am not about to repeat) there are several parts where the only logical implication I can come to for the words used is to denigrate the substantial work on the recent temperature trends. Work that I have no doubt will improve our understanding, modelling and thus projections.

      If I were alone in thinking this that would be one thing. But I am not. Thus perhaps trying to understand why at least a subset of the very target community have reacted negatively would be a useful way forwards here rather than a knee jerk disparage job that adds no value to anyone? There is a reason I haven't engaged at WUWT. I expect more of the denziens here.

    8. Peter, this blog does get a bit rough sometimes not just Dhogaza or me - see some of the comments to and by Richard Betts'. I have a light touch when it comes to moderation. (Doghaza's comment was mild to saintly compared to what you'll get at WUWT :)).

      Thing is, I can understand that a climate scientist might get a bit prickly when reading the paper. That at first reading it could appear to them to be a criticism of their profession, even though a climate scientist was an author.

      Already climate scientists get unfairly blamed for all sorts of things, such as communication with the general public when it's not their job. (That's not to say some don't do that job and do it very well. But I see their job is to do science and communicate that to their peers. Then to science communicators - whose job it is to communicate it to the general public.)

      So I can understand an initial reaction like yours, particularly when the paper comes from a pro-science team.

      On the other hand, I see little evidence that there were "a lot" of people from climate science who would dismiss the study out of hand. There's you, and there's Doug McNeall and there's Richard Betts. Who else? Maybe one or two others who are in the camp that knocks other communication studies. I'd not be surprised if Myles Allen canned it - he has something against social sciences or communication studies. None of these people had an unexpected reaction, given their expressed opinions on similar research in the past. It's not uncommon for people to view another's discipline with disdain. (Or profession - teachers, doctors, public servants, management consultants - all cop flak from people who aren't teachers, doctors, public servants or management consultants :D)

      Nor have I seen any comments from those who don't "agree" with it, that indicate they understood the paper. I've not seen any who have acknowledged that the authors specifically write that they are not arguing against doing scientific research on short term variability. They did that in an attempt to explain what they do mean by seepage.

      None so far have addressed the specifics of the study. The only comments I've seen of complaint are like Richard's - and he not only missed the point, he misrepresented the paper in more than one important aspect.

    9. "I've not seen any who have acknowledged that the authors specifically write that they are not arguing against doing scientific research on short term variability."

      This is the point. Peter could, for instance, decide to go back and reread the bits he finds offensive. Having been informed by the authors that they did not intend the meaning Peter's read into it, Peter could carefully determine whether or not the meaning the authors intended can be read into those words as originally written. And ask himself whether or not his initial reading might've been influenced by personal bias.

      Since SL runs a blog, and since the other authors have made themselves available for comment, Peter could've queried them directly as to their intent before shooting off in public.

      As to Peter's first paragraph in response to me, I suggest he google "concern troll". I'm sure he wouldn't want people to mistake him for one of those ...

    10. Sou,

      I did read the paper and somewhat around the paper before making the comment at the Guardian and I remain of the opinion that certain passages that were identified over there (amongst others) leave plenty to be desired. Maybe I misinterpreted but if so it is very far from wilful and I am far from alone in doing so if I have. Several folks have inferred the same as I did that it directly questioned the value of the work in this area. Which is clearly scientifically non-sensical because understanding climate variability and change is key if we want better projections and informed decision making.

      I am not about to go all lowest common denominator and call out folks who elsewhere have made comments. There are a number that scanning some twitter timelines will highlight. Unlike others I don't want to start calling out comments made somewhere on a third party site. I trust you'll understand that?

      The issue appears to be one of interpretation. I have interpreted the paper distinctly from many here. This may have something to do with my specialisation but it is most definitely not down to disdain for another specialisation. I embrace working across disciplines in a positive manner. I read it in a given and distinctly negative way and it is right and proper to point out that this was not from my perspective helpful. Assuming that I and my colleagues were the intended main audience the risk is that I am representative and therefore the whole thing is a distinct own-goal.

    11. Well, I expect the authors are dismayed to know that there are a number of people who didn't understand the paper and some who even took offense. Particularly when their intention was to describe a phenomenon that is not helping scientists or science communicators or science (or any of us for that matter), so as to minimise the risk of it in the future.

      I'm not sure what they could have done differently. Maybe picked another example for their case study? Though the one they picked was the obvious candidate.

  30. In a disappointing and conspicuous display of seepage Nature today published a comment that reinforces the fallacy of a "pause" in global warming:


    From their news commentary:

    "The Indian Ocean may be the dark horse in the quest to explain the puzzling pause in global warming, researchers report on 18 May in Nature Geoscience."

    I'm becoming more and more concerned that people who (should) know better are identifying a "pause" where none exists, either in statistical terms or in gross energy balance terms.

    The only thing that might be validly referred to in this area of discussion is a putative preponderance in recent years of residuals below the trend line, should such a preponderance exist, and anyone who's been graphing the temperature data themselves over the last few decades would know that there's nothing remarkable in that department. Indeed, Tamino commented on exactly this a few weeks ago and included this graph:


    One should note that Tamino did not include the 2014 data point on this graph, deliberately to humour someone who claimed that 2014 should not be included in an attempt to identify a pause, but even so it is clear that there simply is no evidence for a "slowing" of the global temperature record. For those curious, if 2014 was included on the graph it would occur above the trendline.

    Now if one wants to talk about the incidences of negative residuals and what might be responsible for their appearance in the dataset, that's a different story. It's been pointed out previously that much of the planet's heat is diverted to the oceans, and the useful thing about Lee et al 2015 is that they show where it's actually going:

    "The study finds that the Indian Ocean may hold more than 70% of all heat absorbed by the upper ocean in the past decade."

    Quite simply there is no pause, not in the surface temperature record and most cetainly not in the trajectory of the retention of heat by the atmosphere, and one or two more years of trending will show that whatever people were pointing to on the basis of their eyechrometers is nothing more than an imagined confection of a persuaded mindset.

    The Lee et al paper is here:


    1. Any climate practitioner who thinks there will be no cost to characterising variability as a pause is recklessly detached. I can forgive all the Peter Thorns because policy and publicity is foreign to most research scientists.
      Richard Betts' role is closely tied into public policy and as you can see here (and else where) he is well across publicity. It's time to price Bett's comments.

    2. PG it's not clear whether Richard advises on public policy, or whether he is just advising on science. I've worked with scientists who advise the government on technical/scientific matters in their capacity as research scientists, others who advise government in their capacity as industry specialists (they liaise with industry on scientific research as well as other matters, such as industry structure), others who advise government on economic matters. Then there are the top honchos who are expected to have, or more usually to purchase, expertise across the range of specialist areas.

      Although Richard might advise on science, that doesn't translate into him being aware of the intricacies of policy development and implementation. Those people are policy specialists who usually work in central agencies of government (eg Cabinet office, not the Met) and, sometimes communications specialists and behavioural scientists - often as contractors.

      I don't think Richard is claiming to be involved in policy development and implementation. I think he's just a scientific adviser. These people may or may not be very astute when it comes to policy and public relations, but they don't normally have expertise in these areas. (If I'm wrong I expect he will let us know.)

    3. Completely agree. As a person who's spent decades in environmental campaigning the lack of savvy displayed by those playing along with this silly meme is gobsmacking to me.

      Take note: the virtually eponymous GetUp!, the highly 'activist' rejigged Climate Council, and some highly 'activist' UWA alumni squashed Pyne and Lomborg's little project recently precisely because they understand that if you don't want something bad to happen you have to act, swiftly and decisively, and without allowing your opponents to frame the debate

      Play along with contrarian memes in order to demonstrate your 'reasonableness' and you're actually supporting the status quo, whether sub, semi, or fully consciously.

      You'd almost think this issue didn't have the gravest implications for all our futures...

      The public hears all this as 'see, they can't agree'. That's all the contrarians need to achieve. Doubt is, after all, their product. When the el Nino wipes out the so-called 'pause' they won't conclude there never was one, because 'even the global warming people' agreed there was - and because doing anything about it is all so bloody inconvenient they'll happily be persuaded to conclude another 'pause' is just around the corner!

      At some point we're going to have to let people who want to win handle this. Hopefully not so late in the game that there's little to save!...

    4. "Take note: the virtually eponymous GetUp!, the highly 'activist' rejigged Climate Council, and some highly 'activist' UWA alumni squashed Pyne and Lomborg's little project recently precisely because they understand that if you don't want something bad to happen you have to act, swiftly and decisively, and without allowing your opponents to frame the debate"


      It's the same reason I remove weeds from the lawn before they have time to flower. It's always harder and more costly if you let them grow. It's never as cheap and easy to nip as in the bud.

      "The public hears all this as 'see, they can't agree'. That's all the contrarians need to achieve."

      This ought to be drummed into every scientist who ever says or writes anything of import that might make an appearance in the public sphere (whether that appearance is courtesy of hostile spinners or otherwise).

  31. Sou, giving ministerial advice is all about influencing public policy. The Met Office, (Hadley included) ain't no dreaming spire.

    1. PG putting it that way implies there is nefarious activity or intent. That's certainly not something I'd go along with. IMO Richard would be giving good independent factual advice to government.

      Government ministers depend on people working in their agencies to give them information that is independent, and not biased by party political affiliations. Public servants (or most of them) pride themselves on being able to give the same information based on facts, regardless of the party in power. In addition, in some circumstances, Ministers will ask public servants to advise on the pros and cons of different policy responses.

      Richard is correct when he implies he would give the same information and advice regardless of the party that governs. That's expected of all public servants here as well as in the UK (and the USA).

      The issue here is not the advice or information that Richard gives to government. It's about the messaging that the public hears. That's because it's the public who elects politicians. Richard believes that his treatment of disinformers goes to his credibility. I don't agree. Richard provides no evidence to support his belief. His absence of evidence is not evidence. And what he is claiming is not supported by research either.

  32. Sou I am not accusing Richard of giving coloured advice to ministers. But I do believe Richard is a politician. Thus my comment that he would thrive if by some hypothetical and bizarre electoral circumstance Farage took over the BIS portfolio two weeks ago.
    My point is this. Richard understands policy and politics and is probably professionally required to do so. He should therefore be highly sensitive to Lewandowsky 15. He and Rob Varley should have long ago contemplated that adopting denier terminology will affect public policy.
    Things are changing in Westminster , there are more Tory deniers in the House and in the Ministry than there were a fortnight ago.

    1. PG,

      He and Rob Varley should have long ago contemplated that adopting denier terminology will affect public policy.

      If by "denier terminology" you mean pause/hiatus/slowdown in surface temperatures:


      D.J. Hawkins
      May 18, 2015 at 3:16 pm
      So when I throw a ball in the air and it “pauses”, that implies that it will continue upward at a later time??

      May 18, 2015 at 4:22 pm
      the “pause” in global warming implies that global warming will continue…”slowdown” implies the same…….and so does “hiatus”
      It’s the context not the ball………

      May 18, 2015 at 5:49 pm
      Personally I’ve always preferred “plateau” as that doesn’t imply a direction at the end.

      May 18, 2015 at 6:00 pm
      What’s wrong with “halt”?

      Ron Clutz
      May 18, 2015 at 10:29 am
      Plateau, people, Plateau. It could end in cooling or warming.

      This is not an atypical discussion at WUWT. Saying global warming has "halted" or "stopped" is not supported by all the data. Saying that surface temperature trend over the past 15 years is flatter than the upward trend of the prior 15 year period is suppored by the data. I have no problem calling the flatter trend at the surface a pause or hiatus for the very reason that those terms do indeed imply that surface warming is expected to continue.

      Words are not necessarily wrong in isolation. Context is important, thus it is the qualifiers surrounding words which is key.

    2. Brandon if mitigation policy was driven by science then the language of variability could be a loose as Mike's nature trick and nobody would give a shit.
      You could happily call a decrease in the rate of surface warming anything you damn well wanted because you know… science!

      Sadly, science seems incapable of driving mitigation so the species is reliant on politics.

      Too many scientists believe that the great unwashed don't have a clue (and that’s mostly true) and research scientists have no role to play in changing the public's perceptions of risk and mitigation.

      Too many scientists dismiss the very real damage caused by the CRU thefts as a nothing burger perpetrated by stupid crooks and liars. It wasn't a burger and the crooks and liars were clever.

      The damage that the CRU crimes did to mitigation was
      significant and proved that words matter
      (BTW I’m not criticising the email’s authors).

      The avoidance of the language of deniers in no way hinders or shackles scientists however the benefits of specificity, particularly in regard to rates of warming can greatly assist mitigation policy and legislation. Public climate institutions should have led the way.

    3. PG,

      The damage that the CRU crimes did to mitigation was significant and proved that words matter (BTW I’m not criticising the email’s authors).

      Clearly. However, I think it was more than just unfortunate words and phrasings which lent themselves to spin via quoting out of context.

      The avoidance of the language of deniers in no way hinders or shackles scientists however the benefits of specificity, particularly in regard to rates of warming can greatly assist mitigation policy and legislation.

      That's well and good when one is in total control of the word choices. My main argument is not that it's a terrible idea to keep "pause" and "hiatus" out of primary literature. I am saying that it's a bad idea to insist that those words not be used in any context just becuase deniers use them. The denier strategy is to make global warming all about surface/lower troposphere temperatures.

      I don't cede the word "sceptic" to them; I call them contrarians when using a loaded term would be impolitic. I'm just as reticent to wriggle away from "pause" or "hiatus" when discussing surface temperature trends because they're adequately descriptive, and I don't want anyone getting the idea that I'm afraid of their branding.

  33. This discussion has all but finished. I'll make one more observation.

    I noticed that Richard keeps using the term "objective". Public servants might strive to be "objective" but aren't any more objective than anyone else. They bring their own subjectivity to any problem in science, and even more so if they are involved in providing advice to government.

    They will, if they have any experience, make sure that they select language that is likely to be understood. They will select the information to be provided from the vast body of information available to them. All of this requires subjective and, hopefully, informed judgement. And a knowledge of the audience. (Eg does the Minister understand any science or not? What is her stance on climate change? What is the most appropriate way to couch the information so that the Minister can both understand it and "trust" it? As importantly, what about her advisers - who is the person who will be acting on this - the Minister? Her Chief of Staff? Cabinet? What is the context? What else is happening that this paper/discussion will be seen in the light of?)

    What a decent elected person would be looking for is advice that is independent of political allegiance. There is no such thing as purely objective advice, or purely objective research if it comes to that.

    The advice becomes less "objective" the closer it is to home. If the Minister or Cabinet is making a decision on whether to give more funds to scientific research or to education, then you can bet that the advice from both portfolios will not be objective. It will be a sales pitch loosely disguised as "independent advice" by dry facts and figures, and dire warnings of what will happen if funding is cut..

    I don't know too many senior bureaucrats who would talk about "objective" advice these days. They would normally talk of independent advice - in the case of advice to government by a public servant, independent from political influence or allegiance or vested interest of any particular stakeholder or constituency. (It might be different in the UK of course.)


Instead of commenting as "Anonymous", please comment using "Name/URL" and your name, initials or pseudonym or whatever. You can leave the "URL" box blank. This isn't mandatory. You can also sign in using your Google ID, Wordpress ID etc as indicated. NOTE: Some Wordpress users are having trouble signing in. If that's you, try signing in using Name/URL. Details here.

Click here to read the HotWhopper comment policy.