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« Carbonundrums | Main | Culpability »

The big cutoff

Fred Pearce is on the receiving end of the full fury of the warmosphere for his article about the Lisbon conference in New Scientist. Pearce, discussing who had agreed to turn up, said this:

But the leaders of mainstream climate science turned down the gig, including NASA’s Gavin Schmidt, who said the science was settled so there was nothing to discuss.

Schmidt has now said that this is not true and that his decision not to attend was rooted in the premises of the conference:

This is completely made up. My decision not to accept the invitation to this meeting was based entirely on the organiser’s initial diagnosis of the cause of the ‘conflict’ in the climate change debate. I quote from their introductory letter:

“At this stage we are planning to have a workshop where the main scientific issues can be discussed, so that some clarity on points of agreement and disagreement might be reached. We would try to stay off the policy issues, and will also exclude personal arguments.

The issues we have in mind are Medieval Warm Period, ice, climate sensitivity, and temperature data. We would hope to have smaller groups discussing these in some detail, hopefully with scientists who are very familiar with the technical issues to lead the discussion.”

Since, in my opinion, the causes of conflict in the climate change debate relate almost entirely to politics and not the MWP, climate sensitivity or ‘ice’, dismissing this from any discussion did not seem likely to be to help foster any reconciliation.

A letter complaining to New Scientist has duly been issued, with all the usual suspects in the warmosphere flinging brickbats at Pearce. No doubt the big cutoff awaits.

Meanwhile, conference participant and blogger Tallbloke has revealed himself as Fred Pearce's source, and he has some interesting things to say on the subject of Gavin Schmidt's objection.

To set the record straight:

Because I was an ad hoc member of the invite committee I got an email asking my advice on who to invite in lieu of Gavin Schmidt and some other prominent people who had declined. The organisers inadvertantly included Gavin’s response on that email, and when I was asked one evening in Lisbon why certain people weren’t there I gave a quick [precis], including a brief reference to Gavin’s response. This made it’s way to Fred, hence the reference in his blog piece reporting on the conference.

I would just stress at this point that what I said constitutes my opinion and not what Gavin said verbatim. However I would also like to say that Gavin’s complaint to the New Scientist does not include any [precis] of the passage in his original response which gave rise to my brief summary. I therefore reject Gavin’s claim that I ‘made stuff up’, and respectfully suggest that we can lay this one to rest if in a spirit of openness Gavin simply reproduces his response so people can see for themselves what he said.

If I am assailed by accusations that I have wrongfully maligned Gavin with my brief summary comment I may feel obliged to defend myself with a closer paraphrase.

Further down the thread, Gavin invited Tallbloke to publish his email explaining why he didn't want to attend, and Tallbloke has now published it at his own site. Gavin's response was as follows:

I’m a little confused at what conflict you feel you are going to be addressing? The fundamental conflict is of what (if anything) we should do about greenhouse gas emissions (and other assorted pollutants), not what the weather was like 1000 years ago. Your proposed restriction against policy discussion removes the whole point. None of the seemingly important ‘conflicts’ that are *perceived* in the science are ‘conflicts’ in any real sense within the scientific community, rather they are proxy arguments for political positions. No ‘conflict resolution’ is possible between the science community who are focussed on increasing understanding, and people who are picking through the scientific evidence for cherries they can pick to support a pre-defined policy position.

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Reader Comments (204)


Apologies if I did not make myself clear. The cats in the sack are both sides of the debate tearing at each other. Not a dig at Schmidt.

Mosher is remorselessly logical, if not always correct. He is worth paying attention to.

Feb 5, 2011 at 10:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

Cumbrian Lad writes:

"BoFA: But radiative physics only gets you as far as the known (and not particularly disputed) direct warming from CO2. After that you're very much into 'what the blazes is the feedback' territory on which there is precious little agreement, let alone experimental data. If Gavin's nailing his colours to that particular mast then he's already sunk."

Roy Spencer's book "The Great Global Warming Blunder" sets forth this position in crystal clear detail. The Warmista have no physical hypotheses which could be used to explain and predict the forcings, such as might be caused by cloud behavior, that are necessary to cause dangerous increases in temperature. You are correct, Sir, Gavin is sunk.

Feb 5, 2011 at 10:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheo Goodwin

Gavin A Schmidt is quoted as saying:

None of the seemingly important ‘conflicts’ that are *perceived* in the science are ‘conflicts’ in any real sense within the scientific community, ...

This is the same stance the Horizon team and Sir Paul Nurse take - that criticism of the science is coming from outside the so called scientific community. Schmidt and others would have us believe that the case for AGW (invariably mutated into catastrophic AGW) is as certain as gravity even though they must *know* it isn't. What they are doing is supporting a shortcut.

Post normal science properly applied requires evidence and views from across the spectrum to be taken into account in the consensus building process - including the uncertainties. The consensus is achieved through compelling evidence and compromise. That isn't happening. PNS also allows for that consensus to not be based on actual evidence. If everyone agreed that CO2 emissions *must* be reduced it doesn't matter if that is actually required, just that everyone has agreed it is. 'The science is certain' and insisting however subtly that attacks on the science are coming from unscientific sources both help to support that false consensus.

I fail to see how the "Medieval Warm Period, ice, climate sensitivity, and temperature data." issues are political matters save for securing research funding into the continued uncertainties. If these matters are as sufficiently settled as Gavin Schmidt claims we can dispense with funding his and others research can't we.

Is anyone making the case for AGW but in a pragmatic and non-catastrophic fashion? Yes we are adding CO2 to the atmosphere. Yes it should have caused and continue to cause slight warming as levels increase. The feedbacks are uncertain. Research into alternative energy is good but it ought to be rolled out en masse only where and when cost effective. Is there any evidence to suggest a slight increase in temperature will change anything other than the climate metric of temperature? Did the weather or climate change between 1993 and 1998 when global temperature as measured by satellite increased by more than 1 degree C? If not why insist that a change of a similar magnitude but over a much longer time frame should cause immense harm?

Feb 5, 2011 at 10:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterGareth

Gavin Schmidt is a Schmidt Gavin's science-is-settled denier. He is cousin to the Met Office spokeperson for the seasonal forecast is not a forescast is a forecast.

Feb 5, 2011 at 11:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterJean Rochefort


Yes, I said that the summary of what Gavin said is "the science is settled", and your characterization of this fact as "opinion" is the unsettling event over here. How could that e-mail not be read as something on the lines of "There are no divergence on the science, only on the politics", ergo, the science is settled, is something that goes beyond me. But perhaps you'll enlighten me on this possibility. Alternatively, we can say that it depends on what the meaning of "is" "is", and just agree with Gavin's statement that it is all about politics anyway.

Feb 5, 2011 at 11:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterLuis Dias

Sam the Skeptic wrote:
"I'm puzzled as well, because if the "fundamental conflict" is as Gavin describes it this is now a purely political matter in which case several things follow.
First, his opinion is of no more or less value than anyone else's and he cannot claim any special prerogative by virtue of his position as a scientist.
Second, the science has become irrelevant. The matter is now purely one for the people and/or their politicians.
Third, the science is therefore (at least by implication) settled. Further research is unnecessary since we know the situation and now need only to debate what to do about it.
What am I missing?"


My own view is that this analysis has been clearly evident for two ir three years and in some circles likely pre-dates that by some time. Which was fine when the Scinetists felt thye were in control and would continue to receive generous budgets for any research proposal that mentioned AGW/CC/flavour du jour in its outline. They new that most academics would support the siphoning of gevernment tax based funding (so much more regular than going for commercial funding) and that politicias would listen to the academics (so that some of the intelligence would appear to transfer to them) and that business would spot an opportunity and go along too. This latter would allow very agreeable top up funding for the luckiest (our most audible or visible) 'researchers'.

Companies would of course also see the commercial benefits of legal moves to enforce market changes. The banks were on to that already from a different angle. If you take something like, for example, banning incandescent light bulbs - a simple example - it could be presented on the back of AGW theory as well as 'peak energy' as a benefit to change. In effect the ensuing global legal requirements have created a lot more business and at higher unit values than several years of prior marketing had delivered. No doubt for certain companies the patents and IP may be worth more than their direct sales. Consumer pays of course along with taxes for all the other tings they need to change in parallel to make things how they want them. So the genius was in persuading the 'lawmakers' to make laws that created an active market from a turgid market. Similar business models have been run and are being prepared for other 'products'.

However, the financial crisis and it continuing influence have started to have en effect. The fluidity levels in the tax acquifer are declining and businesses are already milking the public cash cow for as much as it can give in order to survive and pay the banks. Suddenly the financial largesse for extensive grants is likely to be under strain. After all it seems clear that, as Gavin said according to the published email, things these days are more about policy (and so politics). So why spend anything more on research? It has been used as intended and by now less is more - wouldn't want any alternative information and contrary conclusions coming to light now would we?

Fearing an Own Goal the AGW industry needs to bulk up the concept that research is still very much needed despite any previous impressions some people may have taken from their past certainty that enough was known to make it imperative to move policy forward very quickly indeed.

If I were in their position (and of the same mind set), seeking income for life, travel potential and a superannuated retirement I would be making darned sure that nothing in the science was certain when presented. As the financial markets show us there is more money to be made in instability and uncertainty than in honest trade. I am coming to the conclusion that paying the 'scientists' a large annual sum would be better than most of the stupid plans the politicians are brewing up for their reputation vanity projects.

Feb 5, 2011 at 11:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterGP


It's interesting how the insinuation by Eli Rabett that the Lisbon Workshop was funded by Big Oil is spreading.

It is, of course, a sly distortion of the facts.

Have a look here for an overview of the Foundation and what it does

I didn't notice that the insinuation of "Big Oil Conference" came from the fact that they were present in the Calouste Gulbenkian building. I must testify here and now that this linkage would be seen by every portuguese as completely silly, stupid and ignorant. It's understandable, foreigners do not know who Gulbenkian was. He was an oil entrepeneur who got very very rich, and then came to Portugal when he got very sick. He liked the country, and decided to spend his money on the things he liked: his passion for culture. He created the foundation which is now the most respected private cultural foundation in the whole country. To insult such foundation with these shenanigans is just barbaric. It really annoys me.

Feb 5, 2011 at 11:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterLuis Dias

Hengist seems to have wandered off, (perhaps to dinner with Horsa?) but an interesting post of Steve McIntyre's at Lucia's Blackboard (where they are digging deep into every syllable of the direct exchanges) gives the direct first hand text of invitation that he received, that states:

"It will be sponsored and financially supported by the Institute for the Protection and Security of the Citizen of the European Commission’s DG Joint Research Centre, and will take place at the C. Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon."

That seems to be a pretty strong pointer that the Gulbenkian Foundation only provided a venue, and the EU actually funded the thing, not nast second hand oil money.

Begs the question of course as to what the blazes the Institue for the Protection and Security of the Citizen is, and who derogated that responsibility from the nation states.

Feb 5, 2011 at 11:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterCumbrian Lad

Re Theo

And poor Pearce. He has been as professional as one could expect throughout the entire ClimateGate affair. I guess he is out of a job at the Guardian.

Remember Lisbon was held under Chatham House rule, so Fred may have felt compelled to honour that principle if the email was revealed at Lisbon. Also worth reading his book about Climategate, especially the last chapter concerning the damage done to science, which really is the issue. Unfortunately for Fred, he now seems to be discovering what happens when you cross the Team and cross over to the dark side. I wish him well, and look forward to his impressions of the Norway event, especially how it compared to the mood or willingness to engage at Lisbon.

Feb 5, 2011 at 11:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterAtomic Hairdryer

I mean wow. These guys make a meeting inside a cultural foundation that was funded by oil money 60 years ago, therefore it's a Big Oil conspiracy. Who released these lunatics from the asylum???

Feb 5, 2011 at 11:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterLuis Dias

If that meeting was meant to discuss conflict resolution their first task should have been to find a modus operandi with Bjørn Lomborg. Lomborg is not even a denier but when his first book appeared the warmists became so mad they set the Danish committe on scientific fraud upon him. When nothing happened they set up a Web site to examine all the "falsehoods" in his book.After he published "Cool It" they published another book that supposedly exposed the errors of both of his books. Lomborg does believe that global warming exists but does not agree with the radical proposals for mitigation from the dominant clique of global warming alarmists. His commonsense approach is anathema to these alarmists who have tried with all their might to shut him up.

Feb 5, 2011 at 11:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterArno Arrak

The AGW movement is well oiled, but quick to accuse sceptics of being funded by big oil.

I am still waiting for my cheque

Feb 5, 2011 at 11:58 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charley

Arno Arrak

The way Lomborg was treated is one of the reasons a lukewarmer like me visits a blog like this.

Feb 5, 2011 at 11:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

If the Gulbenkian is stained by big oil philanthropy in its origins, so are ColumbiaU, Harvard, Yale, the Lamont Docherty, etc., etc.

Feb 6, 2011 at 12:18 AM | Unregistered CommenterPharos

I've just made this point on Judith Curry's bog:

Watch Gavin's performance here in a live forum at the I-Squared debate a couple of years ago... (This is the first of a 10 part series.

Feb 6, 2011 at 1:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterJimmy Haigh

@ B Kindseth Feb 5, 2011 at 1:31 PM

You might find material here

Is is 220 pages long and dates from mid 2006.

Feb 6, 2011 at 2:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterGeoff Sherrington

I see there is a bit of traffic here around what science Gavin Schmidt claims is settled. While the who said what stuff about invites to the ball is of marginal interest, Gavin Schmidt has now protested that he hasn't made that claim, so what he is saying about this subject is important, particular in the stuff he references to justify his distancing himself from statements about science being settled.

I've just posted a comment at Judith Curry's which inter alia says:

.... Looking at the RC blog entry entitled “Unsettled Science” that he references in his letter to New Scientist to support his statement that he doesn’t think the science is settled we find at comment 108:

Ed Miliband, the UK Climate Minister was quoted in the Times Online today as saying “The science is clear and settled. ” Al Gore has been quoted as making similar remarks.

Can anyone point me to a quote from climate scientist disowning or reprimanding such policicians?

[Response: It depends on what the context is. If they are talking about hurricanes and climate change, then there are plenty. If they are talking about attribution of recent warming to human activity they are fine. The only error is when people either pro or con overextend such statements to encompass the whole scientific enterprise. - gavin] [my emphasis of course]

Feb 6, 2011 at 5:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterHAS

"No ‘conflict resolution’ is possible between the science community who are focussed on increasing understanding, and people who are picking through the scientific evidence for cherries they can pick to support a pre-defined policy position."

Crikey ... talk about the pot calling the kettle black.

Feb 6, 2011 at 8:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterImranCan

popped this into the comments at deltoid, I wonde if it will last..

Another way of looking at it was Tallbloke was trying to take the heat off of Fred Pearce...

It looks like Fred DID read the email. and paraphrased it into 'the science is settled'. I think he probably regrets it now, don't you..

Why attack TallBloke - FRED is a grown up journalist, he wrote the words, fully aware of how it would be perceived. He could have commented on Gavins email in many other ways.

I don't know if you are all aware of this, but attacking Fred Pearce, appears to a sceptic like me thet the pro AGW crowd are 'turning on each other'

Fred writes for the Guardian the most PRO AGW paper in the UK, George Monbiot and the Guardian have no less than 2 Deniars Halls of Shame.

Pearcegate, is a massive own goal.

A flip comment that could have been ignored, yurned into something else that actually shows up the worst in the pro-blogosphere.. If you can't keep Fred Pearce onside and the Guardian.. what next, disown Roger Harrabin, Roger Black (oh Romm did that allready)

Feb 6, 2011 at 10:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

The phrase 'the science is settled' has a peculiar significance for some reason. It would indeed appear that few, if any, pro AGW scientists have ever uttered it and that it is oft-quoted by those disagreeing with the theory. Willian Connolley even created a Wiki page about it! There are plenty of 'evidence is irrefutable' or 'need for discussion has passed' or 'its elementary physics' type statements, but the actual words 'the science is settled', which seems to me to have exactly the same meaning, appears to infuriate the hell out of them! Ach weel, a climate scientist's mind moves in mysterious ways!

Feb 6, 2011 at 11:36 AM | Unregistered Commentermingmong

I have come to this thread rather late, but I am more interested by the position Gavin Schmidt appears to take in his words, not the interpretation of this as the "science is settled".

Two comments by Gavin caught my eye, reproduced here with some words omitted (you can look at the full text at the top of the post if you want to say I am out of context:

"The fundamental conflict is of what (if anything) we should do...not what the weather was like 1000 years ago."

Remember Gavin is very bright and he chooses words carefully. This first statement uses the word "weather" rather than "climate". To me that is an attempt to belittle the work used to demolish the hockey stick. Remember McIntyre and McCitrick both attended Lisbon. Secondly, rememeber the intent that set the scene for MBH98 (the hockey stick paper). It was a view that "we have to get rid of the MWP". By belittling the argument about climate 1,000 years ago I believe Gavin is deliberately dismissing this argument as unimportant. In fact, the idea that there was a MWP and it was hotter than today is critically important to the debate but I suspect that Gavin does accept the MWP and LIA as real and also knows that any attempt like MBH98 will fail - remember the "hide the decline" issue pretty much closes out the argument and renders tree rings invalid as a proxy for temperatures. Gavin is not stupid and he can recognise a dead duck when he sees one. The AGW side of the argument has lost on this one - no-one has come forward with further evidence to remove the MWP and the "hockey stick" was dropped by the IPCC so instead the policy from Gavin seems to be to say it doesn't matter because the models are correct anyway. This is a classic "these are not the droids you are looking for" comment. It also makes sense politically for Gavin - he is a computer modeller after all, so promoting modelling ensures his projects continue.

"None of the seemingly important ‘conflicts’ that are *perceived* in the science are ‘conflicts’ in any real sense within the scientific community..."

Here Gavin is really using the phrase scientific community in an exclusive way. To Gavin, the "scientific community" is only comprised of scientists that agree with his viewpoint, skeptics are not part of his description of the "scientific community". I believe that is one of the reasons why he behaves like he does on RealClimate and censors views or scientific points that are difficult to refute. I have experienced this myself first hand, as have many others.

I think a good policy would be to argue continually by reference to the MWP and LIA and to keep pointing out temperatures in the MWP were almost certainly hotter than today. This argument is a killer for the AGW theory because it shows there is nothing unusual happening in the modern period that is outside natural limits. And no-one will be able to refute the MWP and LIA because there is just too much historical/archeological data that confirms it. That is why AGW proponents have tried to argue it did not happen, or it was only local or regional.

Feb 6, 2011 at 12:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterThinkingScientist

Congrats to Anthony on the father-son team winning the big race.

Just to repeat what I said on Judy Curry's blog, I was an *ad hoc* member of the organising committee co-opted *after* they had received a number of 'decline' responses from the prominent AGW proponents. I did my best to help out by using my knowledge of the blogosphere to get some more from the warm side of the climate debate to attend.

The offical members of the organising team had no part in propagating Gavin's response outside the organisation and I take full responsibility for that.

I'm known for giving straight answers to straight questions, so when Steve MacIntyre, Ross McKittrick, Fred and I were having dinner together and I was asked if I knew exactly what Gavin had said I gave an honest answer. That led to me getting Fred to read the response off my netbook to Steve and Ross. I did that so he couldn't take notes and said so at the time. This is why Fred didn't have a verbatim quote and ended up making a rod for his own back by not making it clear that his paraphrase was a verbatim quote.

Feb 6, 2011 at 12:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterRog Tallbloke

Correction: *not* a verbatim quote. Lol. Bishop, feel free to edit my post above and delete this one.

Feb 6, 2011 at 12:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterRog Tallbloke

". . . not what the weather was like 1000 years ago."

Wait. I thought weather wasn't climate?

Feb 6, 2011 at 12:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterMrs Whatsit

I agree, TS; Gavin just pitched The Crook'd Stick out the window and under the wheels of the bus.

My subtitle for this?

Fred Pearce sees Andy Revkin's whole life pass before his eyes.

Feb 6, 2011 at 1:31 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

Gavin Schmidt sees Michael Mann's whole life pass before his eyes.

Feb 6, 2011 at 1:33 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

Thinking Scientist - 12:31

In fact, the idea that there was a MWP and it was hotter than today is critically important to the debate...
So we have all agreed on the sceptical side of the argument all along.
But the MWP is not critically important if your models are telling you that it is possible to account for previous warming periods by reference to all sorts of external factors but that for this warming period they cannot account for it without including CO2 as a driver.
Since the whole political argument is based on the need to cut carbon emissions (for which read "stop using fossil fuels") the question of whether or not there was a MWP or a LIA is immaterial. As long as CO2 can be convicted of an over-riding effect on temperature in the Late 20th Century Warm Period, even if on only the flimsiest evidence, then previous warm/cool, hot/cold, wet/dry periods become irrelevant.
The challenge for the climate science community is to provide convincing evidence (I've seen none to date) that CO2 is indeed a driver of temperature and not the other way round. Though it appears, if I understand post-normal science correctly, as long as enough people can be made to believe that CO2 drives temperature then that becomes true, even if it isn't!

Feb 6, 2011 at 1:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterSam the Skeptic

Rog Tallbloke

No doubt you are still lamenting the fact that you are not welcome at Tamino's Closed Mind anymore!

Tom Fuller has a nice summary of this, at Keith Kloors, noting how the AGW bloggers simply drive people away with their vitriol.

Is it necessary to have a sense of humour bypass, to support AGW?

Feb 6, 2011 at 1:55 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charley

My apologies if the following seems to be a bit off-topic and/or a little long winded (and, to many, telling you things you already know) but I do think it’s important that everyone recognise the subtle but important distinction between Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) and Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming (CAGW), as the distinction seems extremely germane to the validity, or otherwise, of the term “the science is settled”.

I believe most sceptics would agree that CO2 is a greenhouse gas by virtue of its absorption/radiative properties and so has the potential to cause warming. The idea of Anthropogenic Global warming (AGW) has, therefore, some scientific basis because it’s easy to verify the warming potential of CO2 in a laboratory. The problem is that this mechanism seems to have a rather limited potential with respect to the global climate system, due to saturation effects, so that a doubling of atmospheric CO2 would only result in about 1C of global temperature rise (i.e. a sensitivity of 1C); a level that both ‘deniers’ and ‘believers’ agree is not really a serious problem. Nevertheless, I think it’s fair to say that in the case of AWG “the science is settled”, at least at its most basic level.

The case for CAGW is, however, subtly different because it assumes that a multitude of feedbacks within the climate system result in a net-positive feedback effect that ‘amplifies’ the CO2 sensitivity to anywhere between 2C and 6C (or higher, depending on your reference), which are levels that I think most sceptics would agree represent a serious problem. However, the concern raised by sceptics is that there is, as yet, no real-world evidence for this net-positive feedback effect and, therefore, no scientific basis for CAGW. Therefore, I thing it’s fair to say that for CAWG, most would very much disagree that “the science is settled”, even at its most basic level.

So, it seems clear to me that if we allow people like Dr Schmidt to pose the question in terms of AGW, they will always say what they say in good conscience because they know they’re on reasonably secure ground. This is why sceptics should, therefore, always try to pose the question with respect to CAGW in order to force the likes of Dr Schmidt to either admit his/her uncertainty or to commit themselves to the (currently) indefensible.

Feb 6, 2011 at 3:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterDave Salt

re mingmong

the actual words 'the science is settled', which seems to me to have exactly the same meaning, appears to infuriate the hell out of them! Ach weel, a climate scientist's mind moves in mysterious ways!

I suspect it's why it gets used frequently because it creates the double-blind the most alarmist climate scientists frequently create for themselves. He says

people who are picking through the scientific evidence for cherries they can pick to support a pre-defined policy position.

Would that be similar to Hansen's activism relating to coal power? The gist of his rejection gives the impression that there's nothing to talk about regarding the science because the science isn't at issue, only policy actions. Those policy actions are expensive, so the EU has been meeting to work out the best way to spend $1.4tn either modernising the electricity supply, creating a single EU energy market, or meeting the EU's self-imposed 20-20-20 target. So 20% renewables, 20% cut in CO2 emissions and 20% better energy efficiency by 2020. Which is expensive policy stuff, which Gavin seemed more interested in discussing in Lisbon rather than why the 20-20-20 thing in the first place. The EU's bureaucrats love the idea because it gives them the excuse to build bigger empires.

This is an area where it's reasonable to be a policy based sceptic, because we're being asked to spend a very large sum of money on very inferior energy delivery, and more money than may be necessary to deal with the uncertanties offered by renewables. But we're told we need the renwables to save the planet from CO2, and so back to the question of whether this is science driven policy, policy driven science, or a vicious hybrid of both.

But we're not allowed to question it.

Feb 6, 2011 at 3:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterAtomic Hairdryer

Atomic Hairdryer

But we're not allowed to question it.

This is the real "tell" in my mind. In every case where I came across a subject that it was taboo to discuss or examine, such as "divine", "natural", or "self-evident" truths, which included that the Earth was the center of the Universe, examination tore the myth apart.

Obviously, they know it, and so that is why we must sing from their missal.

I think the 10:10 "no pressure" video was proof of that.

Feb 6, 2011 at 3:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

I notice that Hengist is whining on his blog here

But hang on, my complaint that Bishop Hill is using an assymetric [sic] argot goes unanswered. The deniers are basically dishonest because they paraphrase to their advantage.

I can't respond on his blog because I don't have (or desire) a Google account.

But this cannot be left unanswered.

Hengist complains that while the abusive term 'denier' is banned here, 'warmist' is not. This he says is an 'asymmetrical argot' and 'deniers' are 'dishonest' warpers of language.

Hengist's argument pre-supposes that both terms are semantically equal, which is plainly not the case. Although I posted Skidelsky for Hengist to read, he doesn't appear to have understood him. Specifically, this:

An accusation of “denial” is serious, suggesting either deliberate dishonesty or self-deception. The thing being denied is, by implication, so obviously true that the denier must be driven by perversity, malice or wilful blindness. Few issues warrant such confidence. The Holocaust is perhaps one, though even here there is room for debate over the manner of its execution and the number of its victims. A charge of denial short-circuits this debate by stigmatising as dishonest any deviation from a preordained conclusion. It is a form of the argument ad hominem: the aim is not so much to refute your opponent as to discredit his motives. The extension of the “denier” tag to group after group is a development that should alarm all liberal-minded people. One of the great achievements of the Enlightenment—the liberation of historical and scientific enquiry from dogma—is quietly being reversed.

That is why ‘denier’ and its derivatives are banned here.

The attempt to claim semantic parity between denier and warmist is either the result of limited intelligence or profound intellectual dishonesty. It is not clear which.

What is clear is that Hengist's argument that 'deniers' are twisting the language unfairly against the legion of honest eco-warriors out there is a joke.

On a personal note: Hengist, you are not up to this sort of thing. Stop now, before it gets any worse.

Feb 6, 2011 at 4:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

Just a side question about Hengist, Horsa et al. I appreciated the many explanations of those, but the one I missed was the meaning of "McStone"? Just what does "McStone" mean? What is it, a Scottish rock hamburger?

Feb 6, 2011 at 4:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra


More simply, the word "denier" is used in a blatant attempt to keep others from examining the dogma under examination. "Heretic" is another such word, and as noted in my comment to Atomic Hairdryer there are those as typified by the 10:10 "No Pressure" video, who propose to burn the deniers/heretics at the stake, or at least feed them to lions, or simply blow them up. The intent is clearly pejorative.

I have seen no such action with regard to "warmists" which is a descriptive adjective with no pejorative meanings I am aware of.

Feb 6, 2011 at 4:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

Both 'heretic' and 'denier' carry overtones of religious belief (or non-belief), which is where the impression arises that the 'warmists' are portraying cult-like behaviour.
I am not particularly comfortable with the word 'warmist', though I use it for want of a better one. To my mind it calls up the sense of someone who is actively in favour of AGW but only because it gives him the means and the justification to inflict his own idea of how society should behave. My own preferred term for those people is 'eco-luddite' which I feel gets to the root of their ideas which are actually anti-science.
[In this regard I find Sir Paul Nurse's lumping climate sceptics in with anti-GM protesters rather ironic. In my experience it is the cAGW believers who are most rabidly anti-GM, as well as anti-chemicals in virtually all their manifestations.]
To the extent that climate scientists have either been seduced into this mindset or are themselves actively pursuing this particular socio-political end through their science then the description 'warmist' is probably accurate. How do we differentiate between them and the others, if indeed there are any, whose climate research has convinced them that AGW is real but who do not feel that their findings justify the exaggerated claims being made by some or the 'academic arrogance' being displayed by others?
The Pielkes and Lomborg would surely come into that latter category.

Feb 6, 2011 at 5:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterSam the Skeptic

Don Pablo

However defined, 'denier' is pejorative, agreed. It both denigrates the other party and shuts down rational debate or investigation - as you say.

Ludicrously, what Hengist argues is that we here are guilty of some kind of semantic unfairness by asking him to leave the d-word at the door. It's a bit like someone about to fight an unarmed opponent complaining when they are forced to give up their knife.

The truth, of course, is that Hengist and all the rest who constantly fling the term around are the ones using language to delegitimise their opponents.

I cannot decide if this is rank hypocrisy on Hengist's part or if he is simply a bit thick.

'Warmist' or even 'alarmist' have the merit of accuracy, and are not trojan horses loaded with negative associations.

Feb 6, 2011 at 5:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

I agree "denier " is pejorative. Although milder :-), "warmist" and especially "alarmist" are somewhat pejorative too.

I think it is preferable to talk about the argument, theory or hypothesis not the protagonist and perhaps this should be the recommended policy here. It is not the person but their argument you are debating. The problem is the language is often directed (by both sides) at the speaker, not the AGW hypothesis. To me it is much better to describe people as those who support AGW or are pro-AGW theory. I had a look in my Thesaurus for antonyms and it gives me the following words: challenge, contradict,oppose, refute, reject. (It gives others, too, such as deny and stab in the back!)

Personally I would be happy to be described as someone who challenges, contradicts, opposes, refutes and rejects the hypothesis of AGW. I think the word refute is the most accurate and the one I prefer, but we can all choose our own labels.

Feb 6, 2011 at 5:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterThinkingScientist

"I cannot decide if this is rank hypocrisy on Hengist's part or if he is simply a bit thick"

Or both

Feb 6, 2011 at 5:32 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charley


You may be in danger of confusing AGW with Catastrophic AGW (CAGW). This is dangerous (see Dave Salt above at 3:07pm).

The term 'alarmist' is to define those who predict catastrophe despite the uncertainty over climate response to increasing CO2. They are, of course, not motivated by scientific curiosity, but by prior political agendas. I use the term political in its widest sense - you do not need to be a card-carrying Deep Green to be an alarmist.

I'm sorry that you find the term even mildly pejorative. Compared to denier, it doesn't really register on the scale for me.

Feb 6, 2011 at 5:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

Re ThinkingScientist

I had a look in my Thesaurus for antonyms and it gives me the following words: challenge, contradict,oppose, refute, reject. (It gives others, too, such as deny and stab in the back!)

One I found would be sceptical and dogmatic. Rabbet seemed to be first with the Gulbenkian/big oil meme, Hengist picked it up and ran with it ignoring the reasonableness of that position, and it's irony given all the oil funding that's been poured into climate science. Including the formation of CRU, although I'm not sure if that's why their building looks like an oil barrel. Many pro-AGW supporters have a dogmatic approach and often can't debate beyond what's been presented to them as convenient sound bites by sites like scepticalscience. Same can be true of the sceptical side, although being sceptics, we generally seem more willing to shift viewpoints as uncertainty changes.

Feb 6, 2011 at 5:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterAtomic Hairdryer

ThinkingScientist says:

Personally I would be happy to be described as someone who challenges, contradicts, opposes, refutes and rejects the hypothesis of AGW. I think the word refute is the most accurate and the one I prefer, but we can all choose our own labels.

Actually, this is an interesting one. To refute carries the implication of disproof, of actually overturning the opposing argument. As a scientist you will be keenly aware that we are not in a position to refute (invalidate) the hypothesis of AGW, nor will we be able to do so for at least another decade if not longer.

So while it may be tempting, 'refute' is not the word I'd choose. Forgive the pedantry - this is purely 'for discussion purposes only' stuff.

Feb 6, 2011 at 6:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

I personally find the word "denier" disgusting. It has connotations with the Holocaust. I don't deny anything except some people's presumed right to tell me what I should or should not believe.

Nor am I a refuter. I have not refuted a thing beyond the presume right some declare they have to tell me what I should think. I think for myself.

I am a skeptic. I am also a questioner. I want to see the real data and examine it for myself. I do have the academic credentials to do so, as do many others who regularly post to this board.

As for the use of "warmist", all adjectives have picked up connotations that were not originally intended. I give for example: "Negro", "Black", "Afro", and now "N-Word", all of which were used as a non-pejorative replacement for the previous word. Recently I have heard someone has insulted somebody by calling him "You're an n-word."

Unfortunately, I have no solution to the problem, but the older the word, the more pejorative it has become. "Denier" has been around far, far longer than "Warmist". If I cannot not use that word, then I would have to use "true-believer" or "fanatic" Neither are quite as descriptive.

Feb 6, 2011 at 6:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

Don Pablo

Apparently we are now to be re-branded (at least in the UK) as 'climate numpties'. I'm sure you've seen BH's latest post.

And so it goes on.

Feb 6, 2011 at 6:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

If memory server, Prof. Richard Lindzen said that he’d rather be called a denier than a sceptic because the latter suggests that there’s some degree of truth to the subject under discussion, where as the former indicated that there was no element of truth over which to argue.

Given my understanding of amount of true (scientific) facts in support CAGW, I’d tend to agree with Lindzen: I deny the existence of CAGW on the basis that there is currently no scientific evidence to support it; ergo I have no problem in being called a denier of CAGW. The corollary of this is, of course, that “the science is settled” until such time that the necessary scientific facts are presented.

[DENY: to state that (something declared or believed to be true) is not true: to deny an accusation]

Feb 6, 2011 at 6:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterDave Salt

Since Hengist is interested in the manipulation of language to further one's ends, how about this from the penultimate comment on his blog:

None of that has been refuted but I've had to deal with an army of the Bishop's trolls taking me on on such matters as big oil funding and the protocol of the word denier. A saturday afternoon spent on the deny-o-sphere seems wasted.

[Note re link - it's to the main page, so you can see his decent enough response to being satirised by Josh. And look at that hit rate!]

First point - gross misrepresentation in fact. His statement that 'non of that has been refuted' refers in part to this claim:

it's really a conference (funded by fossil fuel according to Eli) between a few skeptics and deniers who put together a cheap stunt to discredit Dr Schmidt.

Anyone interested in checking the veracity of this can read the thread and decide for themselves.

Second, note the use of the word 'troll'. A troll is someone who takes on the regular commenters at a blog with a 'position'.

The 'army of trolls' he refers to are actually the regular commenters at BH. He is of course the troll. But never let the facts get in the way of a good whine, eh?

Feb 6, 2011 at 7:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD


Apparently we are now to be re-branded (at least in the UK) as 'climate numpties'. I'm sure you've seen BH's latest post.

Not this 69-year-old-kid! Fuck them! I am both Irish and American. I am not a "numpty" nor a do I suffer from Incontinence! I pee the golden steam when I want, and I think for myself as well!

Feb 6, 2011 at 9:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

Don Pablo

The Right Stuff ;-)

Feb 6, 2011 at 9:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

Suggestion to Josh:

Aged Don Juan in ancient battle armour peeing on opponent looking like Gavin.

"I still have control of my bladder and mind!" Naturally, it is Don Pablo.

Feb 6, 2011 at 9:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

With you, Don Pablo.
Same age and still in full possession of my faculties (though I can't claim the Irish & American bit -- Anglo-Scots is my limit).
In fact, apropos of some of my previous comments I think I'd prefer 'denier' to 'troll'. 'Numpty' is just laughable. I see nothing in Mr Singh's biography that suggests he has any connection with Scotland so I doubt he understands fully the implication rather than simply the definition of the word. It certainly does nothing for civilised discourse as the Bishop will certainly confirm.
Perhaps if he can call me a numpty I am allowed to get my own back by describing him as a wee nyaff?
I think I'm going to have to start doing some serious work on my own blog. I don't want to embarrass our host here and I feel a rant coming on!

Feb 6, 2011 at 10:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterSam the Skeptic

Don Pablo, very tempting.

Feb 6, 2011 at 10:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterJosh

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