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« Climate cuttings 41 | Main | Matt Ridley on Huhne »

Someone is thinking

A thoughtful article on climate change in the Guardian - whatever next?

The piece in question is this one, by Andrew Holding of the Medical Research Council. He thinks the way to deal with us pesky global warming sceptics is to open things up:

[T]hose in academia are constantly debating and modifying their ideas over time as new evidence comes to light, and those who hold minority viewpoints are valued for their opinion, but only when they can provide evidence for their stance, not for their ability to sign a petition.

Sounds good to me.

We need to tear down the ivory towers of the past and remove the walls dividing the public and academia. Journals need to be open, and in complex cases, such as the evidence for climate change, we need to provide the skills and tools that people need to discover the answers for themselves. If we ask them to to accept our viewpoints just because we are the experts, we have already lost. We would be no different than anyone who stands on a pedestal and proclaims the truth.

The idea that climate journals are going to be open is probably wishful thinking, although we must admit, I suppose that there has been some improvement since the pesky sceptics started making a noise about it.

Scientific inquiry will not always provide the right answers first but, unlike other methods, it will eventually get there even if it has to admit its mistakes. There is plenty that we don't know yet, but what we do know is that, given the same resources, tools and time, there is no reason for the public to disagree with the established consensus.

Admitting mistakes is again a wonderful sentiment, but I'm just not sure that mainstream climate science is ready to make this step yet. Climatology still has to get past the "biased method + bad data -> correct answer" stage.

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Reader Comments (93)

I must say I found it less than impressive. Still ends on "there is no reason for the public to disagree with the established consensus".

Consensus? So will GW reach 1° or 4° over pre-industrial temps by 2100? Is sea level rise going to be 11cm or 80cm?

The (honest) "established consensus" is "we haven't a clue".

Nov 25, 2010 at 10:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterO'Geary

When I opened the link above to the Guardian article, my small Google search line said "Opening up climate science can cut off the denialists."
When the Guardian article opened up the headline read "Opening up climate science can cut off the sceptics".

Has someone been changing the text?

Nov 25, 2010 at 10:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterMessenger

I have just been covered in S**t from the pigs flying over me...

Peter Walsh

Nov 25, 2010 at 10:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterRETEPHSLAW

Mind you, I do wonder if Andrew Holding wrote the subheading referring to "...rhetorical tricks of the sceptics" or did it come from the editor? There is nothing about "rhetorical tricks" in the main body of the article.

Nov 25, 2010 at 10:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterMessenger

The last sentence in the extract gives the game away. Andrew Holding is merely reiterating the tired old adage: 'if only we explained ourselves better, the great unwashed would be converted'.

Nov 25, 2010 at 11:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterBudgie

This is rather akin to someone standing on a hill half a mile upwind of a feedlot suggesting that meat producers could convert more vegans by giving them tours of the slaughterhouse.

You get the feeling he really doesn't know what goes on on the inside.

Nov 25, 2010 at 11:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterJEM


Opening up climate science can cut off the denialists (Source: The Guardian)

I think there was an editorial policy a while back to use "Sceptic" rather than "denier" or "denialist" within The Guardian.

Looks like something fell through the cracks.

Nov 26, 2010 at 12:13 AM | Unregistered Commenterandyscrase

budgie -
i agree with u.
btw bish, apart from your own book, would u - and anyone else reading this - please give a list of your top five AGW sceptic books as my library in australia is quite willing to order in some to counter the shelves of alarmist literature they currently stock.
even now, it is so difficult for the average person to hear views from the sceptic side, so thanx in advance for any assistance.

Nov 26, 2010 at 12:48 AM | Unregistered Commenterpat

Authors on CiF are forever disclaiming the titles and sub-headers. Not infrequently they give a misleading impression of the article to follow (which can, of course, blinker the reader as to what the piece is actually saying).
Sometimes I suspect they are just the product of a hasty skim-read by a sub who is looking for an eye-catching title and doesn't know the subject, but it's difficult to believe they aren't sometimes deliberately weighted on contentious subjects.

Nov 26, 2010 at 3:12 AM | Unregistered Commenterartwest

Given that the author of the original is in "medical research," I'd submit that he's already questionable just on those grounds. One of the few branches of science as corrupt as climate science is medical science.

Nov 26, 2010 at 3:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterAaron

The Guardian can find any number of idiots who know nothing about the subject, but are prepared to express their blind class loyalty to global warming." I am a broadsheet liberal and I have been programmed to believe in the following ..."

"we need to provide the skills and tools that people need to discover the answers for themselves."

Academics make the mistake of thinking they are smarter than the average Guardian or NYT reader. They aren't, and that's why almost no one believes them on AGW, post climategate. I have discovered the answer. I knew it after studying the subject for a few weeks.

The climate models are completely inadequate.

Freeman Dyson agrees, and so do I imagine, the vast majority of physicists and modellers. The world has been hijacked by a few dodgy pine collecting collectors.

Nov 26, 2010 at 4:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterE. Smith

Despite the Guardian's James Randerson stating that using "denier"/"denialists" was counter productive it seems from the heading re-write, that when they do use the "sceptic" tag it is only putting lip-stick on a pig.

Nov 26, 2010 at 4:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterJiminy Cricket

The arrogance of these guys is astonishing. The reason I'm doubtful about global warming is apparently because I don't understand what the scientists are telling us. If he could answer this simple question maybe he'd get the picture. Why is it that no alarmist scientist will discuss the science in public with sceptical scientists?

Becasue the science behind the scare is riddled with logical non-sequitors that's why.

Nov 26, 2010 at 6:22 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

This article doesn’t come up on the Guardian “Climate Change” or Environment” websites. One can’t help feeling this was done deliberately in order to keep us sceptics off the scent. Three of the the first five comments are from Guardian contributors, and suitably elogious. Then along comes Douglas Keenan and gets all the recommends...

Nov 26, 2010 at 6:33 AM | Unregistered Commentergeoffchambers

On the Today programme this morning, the Met Office announced that it has adjusted the data to show that the world is warming up much faster than they thought !!! They are not going to give up easily.

Nov 26, 2010 at 7:14 AM | Unregistered Commentergeoff

The page title is shown in the title bar of your browser:

Opening up climate science can cut off the denialists | Science |

Nov 26, 2010 at 7:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Hughes

I will take one 'the world is warming up much faster than they thought !!!'

and raise you 'the arctic ice is in a death spiral !!!!!'

Nov 26, 2010 at 8:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohnH

In the 10 O'clock news last night the BBC correspondent was in Texas waxing lyrical about how the locals like the hundreds of windmills turning in the breeze. A local said that its eye pollution but we need the energy.....No mention of the fact that he can only make money from the subsidy he is 'farming'. A little later some one from the sierra club was there also glowing about the wind. But don't mention global warming because the great unwashed don't believe it !. Then along comes some billionaire who says yes we need this wind energy because 'they tell me the ice caps are melting and the polar bears are dying'. I'm sure there was a twinkle in his eye at this point. Similarly this morning on the Today program about how 'NASA scientists along with some British scientists' have confirmed that 2009 was the warmest year on record. Also that the 'rate of decline in global warming has declined in the last decade'.

So much for all change at the BBC....and lets have some 'balance'....The AGW scare will be over for these people ,when the next ice age hits

Nov 26, 2010 at 9:01 AM | Unregistered Commenterconfused

As I have stated previously scientific freedom and scientific openess are not mutually exclusive.

Scientists, scientific journals and scientific societies continually preach about the scientific freedom but very few are willing to open the science to the public. That creates suspicion when the science is policy relevant.

Since Climategate and the various IPCC-gates, who now trusts CRU scientists, Nature, the IPCC about what they have to say now about climate change when we know that have been far less than open about what they said and did in the past?

A diminishing few!

Nov 26, 2010 at 9:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterMac

In the Today programme this morning I thought John Humphreys came over as more sceptical than usual in trying to get Vicky Pope from the Met Office to explain [what seemed to me to be] her muddled thinking, asking her "how do you know (any warming) isn't natural?" and "your information is only from models, isn't it?" But no, the warming is 90% man made, the info. has been calculated from real floating buoys in the Arctic [did she say they had two?] and any decline is natural and won't last, this is the warmest year ever, well, in the last 30 years -or 50 years. [And no doubt we are all doomed]

Nov 26, 2010 at 9:21 AM | Unregistered CommenterMessenger

Someone else is also thinking.

On the Today Programme at about 7.50 Vicky Pope was interviewed by John Humphries.
Apparently the Met Office has at last admitted that warming is slowing down, but Vicky was spouting the usual propaganda and claiming that warming had been underestimated (so we should look out for more "adjustments" to the data).
See here for Roger Harrabin's version of the story.

But what was interesting and ecouraging was that John H was raising some quite tough sceptical questions, not just lapping up everything she said in the usual BBC (eg Harrabin) way. (I see Messenger has made the same point but will post it anyway).

Nov 26, 2010 at 9:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterPaulM

Vicky Pope is typicial of those who wish to close down debate than be open about the science.

Still if Vicky Pope has now been forced to concede that warming is slowing down rather than speeding up as the computer models have projected then she has made her first baby steps towards openess.

However, to cherry pick information from a few Artic buoys and ignore the entirety of the system of buoys in the oceans that show that the seas are not accumulating heat, and therefore cannot possibly, heat the planet in the future, shows she is still clinging onto her CAGW wet blanket.

Nov 26, 2010 at 9:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterMac

@ geoff chambers

along comes Douglas Keenan and gets all the recommends... That must so piss them off. If even the Grauniad's commentariat thinks it's tosh, who is still persuaded? There isn't even a choir left to preach to.

I've noticed two other memes in Grauniad alarmists' comments. One is, it's only old gits who are sceptics and you'll all die soon, so that's how we'll win. The other is, we need to do something about science education in schools because sceptics obviously don't understand science.

So scpetics are old gits who've just left school. Riiiiiiight.

Orwell called this "doublethink", though I don't think he meant it to be funny. You'd think, though, they'd notice that the people they think likeliest to be sceptics are also the people least likely to have received their science education recently. Sceptics are sceptical because they do understand what's been done, not becasue they don't.

Nov 26, 2010 at 10:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterJustice4Rinka

Dr Pope says the slowdown in temperature rise is consistent with projections from climate models. She also says she expects warming to increase in the next few years.

"The long-term warming trend is 0.16C," she says. "In the last 10 years the rate decreased to between 0.05 and 0.13.

Would that be the centennial trend at 0.16C Dr Pope?

Your Grace do you think that we could organise a global showdown on the '2010 is possibly the warmest year doctrine'?
What I am thinking about is readers and contributers to your site providing actual average temperature figures for 1998 and 2010 for the countries that they reside in, or can source data for ( with reference), and creating a table to possibly cover all area's of the planet to see how many 2010 readings are above, close to or below the 1998 values.

As an example the Central England air temperatures ( )

1998 Yearly Average = 10.34C

I would expect that come January the 2010 average will be around 0.75C less than this.

Maybe then a comparison between a table of actual values against the average global anomoly could shed some light into the process of the MET office predictions.

Nov 26, 2010 at 10:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterLord Beaverbrook

@ Lord Beaverbrook

I think that would be dismissed as argument from anecdote. A more compelling picture for me, at any rate, is slide 11 of Richard Lindzen's Senate testimony.

The size of the supposed average temperature uptrend compared with natural variability is absolutely tiny.

Nov 26, 2010 at 10:48 AM | Unregistered CommenterJustice4Rinka

Good idea your Lordship...only problem is the 'scientists' wont discuss the data....

Nov 26, 2010 at 10:49 AM | Unregistered Commenterconfused

The Met Office fear another cold winter.

It cannot be a coincidence that Vicky Pope released a report on AGW just as the UK is facing a prolonged spell of very cold weather.

The Met Office fear another cold winter because they know such an event will bring herald another bout of AGW scepticism further eroding the public's faith in the current state of climate science.

Nov 26, 2010 at 11:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterMac

Nov 26, 2010 at 9:01 AM | confused

I saw the same BBC article from Texas on BBC World whilst in Hong Kong this a.m. To be fair to the reporter, he did actually say nothing would be achieved in Cancun. The "Oh I am such a concerned" Goody goody from the Sierra Club looked around 19 years old so she must be really clued up! I seem to recall she reffered to Texas as, I think, as "the black valley of death", or words to that effect. Now that a way to get Texans on her side!

A pleasant 11 degrees here in Shanghai guys, how's the snow back home? Sleds out yet?

Nov 26, 2010 at 11:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterPete Hayes

but, unlike other methods, it will eventually get there even if it has to admit its mistakes
(My emphasis)

FFS. That word "even" completely destroys the author's credibility. The scientific method is only the scientific ONLY if it has to admit its mistakes. Admitting mistakes is a non-negotiable requirement not a "nice-to-have".

Nov 26, 2010 at 11:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterThe Pedant-General

Quote from today's FT:

<<In addition, said Ms Pope, "we may be underestimating the warming that is actually taking place". New analysis shows that sea surface temperatures, measured increasingly with floating buoys, need to be corrected upwards.>>


Nov 26, 2010 at 11:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterMike Post

Please understand that I am not trying to put forward an argument, I will leave that to the scientists amongst us, but one thing that does become evident in the media is that when one scientist, such as Dr Lindzen, puts forward a statement then there are a whole host of others that will immediately quote scripture and heretical science to oppose it.

If we generated a table not from a single source but a multitude of sources, typical laymen like myself, then the visual achievement would be enough for the MSM to see that the ordinary man is engaged with climate change and is trying to understand why the real world does not match model predictions ...hhrrmmph... or data presented by such organisations who normally score the headlines. It would certainly be interesting to see what response could be mounted by those 'in the know' to further engage the general population and presumably not belittle our current understanding as they seek to further enroll us in saving mankind from ourselves.

Nov 26, 2010 at 11:36 AM | Unregistered CommenterLord Beaverbrook

Dr Pope says the slowdown in temperature rise is consistent with projections from climate models. She also says she expects warming to increase in the next few years.

Wasn't the head of the Met interviewed on Andrew Neil's BBC program nearly a year ago spouting 'The models predicted the slowdown' and Andrew invited him to show him the forecast from 10 years ago that predicted the slowdown.

Answer was never given as far as I am aware.

Nov 26, 2010 at 11:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohnH

All you need to know on AGW and ocean heat.

Over the past 6 years the oceans have LOST 7 x 10^22 Joules of energy(heat).

If the oceans are NOT accumulating heat then energy is NOT being stored to heat the planet in the future.

Nov 26, 2010 at 11:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterMac

Please give a list of your top five AGW sceptic books

Among the best summaries of the science IMHO are:

Robert Carter, Climate: the counter-consensus, (ignore the fatuous introduction);

Peter Taylor, Chill (A reassessment of global warming theory);

Fred Singer & Denis Avery, Unstoppable Global Warming (every 1500 years);

Christopher Essex & Ross McKitrick, Taken by Storm (The troubled science, policy and politics of global warming);

I’ve yet to read Ian Plimer, Heaven And Earth (Global Warming - The Missing Science) though friends tell me it’s excellent. Monbiot reportedly found one mistake in it and, though it was significantly less critical than any of those teensy, weensy little errors in AR4, used it to launch a warmista ad hominem witch-hunt. Shameful.

A classic but still worth reading, not least because the author was the CRU’s first chief. Contrasting it with the current intellectual and moral climate at the institution is sobering:

Lamb, H H, Climate history and the modern world (OP but easy to get ‘used’)

On the politics and history of the scam:

Booker, Christopher, The Real Global Warming Disaster

Though my political views have nothing in common with those of either Booker or co-author Richard North, the account is comprehensive and very fair. A good starting point for non-scientists.

On a parochial note, Carter and Plimer are, of course, both Australian.

Nov 26, 2010 at 11:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterDaveB

I too heard Vicky Pope on Radio 4 this morning. In one part of the interview she said:

"There are more floating buoys in the ocean and fewer ships are observing temperature than used to in the past. The relative temperatures from these two observing systems are slightly different, and it turns out the buoys are a little bit cooler. So because we've got more of those now, we're actually underestimating the warming that's happened in the last ten years."

So, the floating buoys are clearly under-reading (and presumably don't fit with the models.) So average sea temperatures need to be adjusted upwards to give the true picture.

I'm speechless!

Nov 26, 2010 at 12:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterScottie

There's something deeply wrong when she "knows" the real temperature better than her instruments.

Nov 26, 2010 at 12:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Hughes

Religous faith can move mountains.

AGW faith can move temperature records upwards.

Nov 26, 2010 at 12:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

The debate between Monbiot and Plimer is at

Well worth watching!

Monbiot makes some very good points. Plimer comes across as only slightly better than Bob Ward.

Nov 26, 2010 at 12:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterSuramantine

There is something called regression analysis, which is used by all, except climate scientits, to establish whether there is any correlation between say temperature changes and increases in greenhouse gases, such as CO2. There is no evidence whatsoever for any such correlation. Email me to tcurtin for my paper that conclusively establishes the zero correlation between increases in atmospheric CO2 and changes in global average temperatures.

Nov 26, 2010 at 12:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterMashed potato


Does anyone wonder if the upcoming wikileak release will include anything about climate policy?

Nov 26, 2010 at 12:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterJason F

Jack Hughes: There's something deeply wrong when she "knows" the real temperature better than her instruments.

As someone (Upton Sinclair?) said "If someone's income depends on their not understanding something, it is hard to get them to understand it".

Nov 26, 2010 at 1:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartin A

hmm...lets see the instruments are wrong...just like the radiosonde balloon measurements because they don't agree with the theoretical warming generated by our models....hmmm science?

I thought you made observations decided on a theory about how those observations/measurements can be explained and then tested your predictions against that theory....

if the predictions are wrong then you can change your theory but you can't change your observations.

I thought that was how science was conducted, but I might be wrong because my theory of science doesn't accord with the model of science generated by climate 'scientists'. Interesting that.....

Nov 26, 2010 at 1:54 PM | Unregistered Commenterconfused

Someone on this blog- and I wish I could remember who to thank them- pointed out that 'denier' is the equivalent of 'ni**er': invoked to dehumanize, end discussion and claim superiority.
Having grown up in the US south during the days of the civil rights movement, I cannot agree more.
I would encourage anyone else who agrees with this to point that out whenever self-declared enlightened and progressive AGW believers. We are skeptics. We are not 'deniers'. It is time to drive that pernicious term out of the public square.

Nov 26, 2010 at 1:57 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

The glory of AGW is that they CAN and Do change the data, hide the decline and all the rest, yet still claim to be practicing science.

Nov 26, 2010 at 1:58 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

"more floating buoys in the ocean and fewer ships are observing temperature"

And only the ships produce the figures we want...

Nov 26, 2010 at 1:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

Dr Pope says the slowdown in temperature rise is consistent with projections from climate models. She also says she expects warming to increase in the next few years.

Wasn't the head of the Met interviewed on Andrew Neil's BBC program nearly a year ago spouting 'The models predicted the slowdown' and Andrew invited him to show him the forecast from 10 years ago that predicted the slowdown.

Answer was never given as far as I am aware.
Nov 26, 2010 at 11:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohnH

Do you mean something like this,

Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past,

Nov 26, 2010 at 2:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobuk


My god, that article is just hilarious - a real keeper.

Sample gems:

"According to Dr David Viner, a senior research scientist at the climatic research unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia,within a few years winter snowfall will become 'a very rare and exciting event. Children just aren't going to know what snow is'"

"David Parker, at the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research in Berkshire, says ultimately, British children could have only virtual experience of snow. Via the internet, they might wonder at polar scenes - or eventually 'feel' virtual cold."

"The chances are certainly now stacked against the sortof heavy snowfall in cities that inspired Impressionist painters"

RTWT, everybody, it's hilarious!

Nov 26, 2010 at 2:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterJustice4Rinka

The idea that the data has to be changed to fit the theory or rejected to sustain a theory is not new in science.

It took over 40 years to show that Piltdown Man was a hoax. In that period a consensus built up around the scientific validity of this so called discovery. Over 250 papers and many books on anthropology and evolution cited Piltdown Man as scientifically important. Fossil evidence that showed humans had evolved differently was simply rejected during this period.

Nov 26, 2010 at 2:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

I must admit I can never quite recall actually seeing any modelled projections showing a slowdown in the rate of warming. My impression was of monotonic warming slowly giving way to a steepening trend.

Perhaps I'm missing something.

Or perhaps those projections Dr Pope mentions don't actually exist.

As for this stuff about claiming that ARGO floats rather than the various sea surface temperature (SST) measurements show an increase in warming... Well, first ARGO doesn't show an increase in ocean heat content (OHC), as noted above. Second, OHC is not the same thing as SST and she appears to be conflating the two, which is downright odd.

Those with an interest in OHC may find Bob Tisdale's recent analysis of the updated NODC OHC data sets of interest:

Nov 26, 2010 at 2:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

He also has an artical in the guardian entitled "Truth and Consolation" whre he talks about running a meeting group for sceptics and critical thinkers, and notes that contructive discussion with adherents of "any tribal belief" doesn't work.
He is refering to religion and faith (he being an atheist), but could just as easily be talking about climate alarmists. Can't he see the parrallells??

Nov 26, 2010 at 2:39 PM | Unregistered Commentersunderland steve

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