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« Public understanding of climate - the evidence | Main | NYT "almost always" exaggerated »
Wednesday
Jun122013

Tamsin's SciFoo talk

Tamsin Edwards points us to the talk she wants to give at Google's prestigious SciFoo conference. It's called "Tea with the Enemy".

Some science has a bad relationship with the public: in particular, climate science and many life sciences. Whether due to misinformation or misunderstanding, controversy or contested results, politicisation or fear - or all of these - such scientific "hot potatoes" are dangerous because non-experts must engage with, trust, and understand scientific results to make well-informed decisions about themselves and society. They can also damage the reputation of science in terms of its impartiality or aim to improve human understanding and quality of life.

In the past couple of years a new wave of predominately UK climate scientists and sceptics have found a way to "take the heat out of climate change". We have open lines of civil and respectful dialogue - "tea with the enemy" - and believe we have made tangible achievements in improving public trust in climate scientists and evidence. In contrast, climate conversations in countries such as the USA and Australia continue to either be polarised, with aggressive name-calling and defensive entrenchment of views, or else pointless from the point of view of the above, by preaching only to the converted.

I'd like to share my positive experiences in engaging with climate sceptics and talk about the extent to which we can, or already do, apply this approach to other areas - both geographically and scientifically. Where is the common ground, and where are the difficulties? Is it just too late to try and erase some battlelines? Are there substantial cultural or societal differences between European and USA/Australian scientists + public that explain or limit these approaches, and how about the rest of the world? Some scientists disagree with our approach - what are the pitfalls? Can we learn lessons across different sciences or is, for example, personal medical risk just too different to global environmental risk? I'd love to hear your views.

These are interesting questions. As I noted in my post the other day, I wonder if the militants in the UK have been put on the back foot by the Climategate revelations. That there are militants who have poisoned the debate and wrought havoc on the careers of dissenting scientists is not in doubt. But it is important to note that there are honest scientists and that they are operating in the same milieu as the militants. It is therefore necessary to make nice and to realise that demanding that the good guys condemn every transgression by the bad guys is not going to get anywhere.

I agree with Tamsin's observation that trust in climate science has been improved by these efforts - we have moved on from "all climatologists are crooks" to "some climatologists are crooks". But the corollary of my observations in the last paragraph is that the honest scientists need to realise that their profession isn't going to completely emerge from the quagmire until bad science and bad scientists are called out. We simply cannot go on pretending that the Hockey Sticks - either Mann's or Marcott's - have any place in the scientific literature; we cannot allow the Empty Statement on climate change to pass as a consensus on anything. I'm sure readers can suggest others.

Nevertheless, progress has been made, and that is to be welcomed.

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Reader Comments (66)

Where have all the flowers gone?
===========

Jun 12, 2013 at 12:38 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

Thanks for this.

I should point out that Sci Foo proposals are very much for discussion sessions, not talks. So I would likely talk for 5-10mins at the start of an hour, and then lead (structured or unstructured) conversations for the rest of it. The idea is to find out what other people think, rather than only telling them what you think!

Jun 12, 2013 at 12:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterTamsin Edwards

I applaud Tamsin and Richard Betts for their efforts. They are almost behaving like scientists should.

The problem lies with what you outline in your final paragraph. Until the day the respectable scientists stand up, point at Michael Mann, Gavin Schmidt and Peter Gleick and say to the general public in unambiguous terms, “Look. What these men are doing is not science. We shun them. They are wrong. They shame science," then there will be no peace.

Their silence can only be taken as tacit approval. Everything else is sophistry.

Jun 12, 2013 at 12:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-Record

"we have moved on from "all climatologists are crooks" to "some climatologists are crooks".

I think I might have a new favourite quote...

People like Richard, Ed, Doug and I are typical climate scientists. We are only atypical in the amount of time we spend talking to sceptics online. The vast, vast majority of climate scientists are quietly working away on their own research, with exactly the same impartiality and - when exposed to them - thoughtful consideration of sceptic criticisms.

We've just got to persuade more of them to get online to show you this!

Jun 12, 2013 at 12:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterTamsin Edwards

I think it would be a welcome development if defenders of the orthodoxy recognised that climate science can also be done by amateurs. The Royal Society used to encourage this sort of thing. Given the availability of data, climate science is an ideal field for the gentleman scientist.

Jun 12, 2013 at 12:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterNicholas Hallam

Surely all that is required is for the normal scientific standards ?

Jun 12, 2013 at 1:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterDoug UK

it sounds very conciliatory, but why do I get the feeling that the unspoken bit at the end is the belief that engagement will just lead to acceptance of climate change by the sceptics?

Jun 12, 2013 at 1:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterIan_UK

Hi Tamsin

It is good that you and your colleagues can have discussions with people who disagree with you.

But surely that is nothing exceptional? Isn't it really rather a poor reflection on on those (on either side) who won't engage in a constructive manner? The engagement of debate is something that should be simply part of the day to day business of science - especially by those that seek interaction through blog participation.

I am interested to know what has come of these sessions beyond tea and good times?

You say:

"We have open lines of civil and respectful dialogue - "tea with the enemy" - and believe we have made tangible achievements in improving public trust in climate scientists and evidence."

Please can you tell us what you think are the top few pieces of evidence you have been able to establish trust in? Similarly, please can you tell us any points which you have learnt or conceded as part of your engagement efforts?

What are the actual fruits of the exchanges?

Thank you.

Jun 12, 2013 at 1:11 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

I know a lot of climate researchers and most are decent scientists. A number have taken me aside in private and expressed their concerns about a small group of activists who are putting the whole discipline to shame.

Never forget, though, that these are people, with families, mortgages, and their own research to worry about. Tamsin is either incredibly talented or incredibly stupid.

Jun 12, 2013 at 1:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Tol

To cease use of the word "Enemy" would be a start

Jun 12, 2013 at 1:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterFilbert Cobb

For too long the climate change debate has been dominated by the yaa-boo style of politics; akin to Prime Ministers Question Time. There are many things 'Skeptics' agree with 'Alarmists' on as well as many things we disagree on.

1. CO2 is a greenhouse gas.
2. Yes there is a greenhouse effect.

But

3. How much does mankind contribute to GHGs (specifically CO2) in the atmosphere?
4. Can 4 ppm of CO2 be a catalyst for catastrophic warming?
5. Is a volcano the best place to measure CO2 in the atmoshere?
6. Is the UHI effect properly understood and reflected in the (largely partisan) data sets?
7. Is water vapour a more significant factor than CO2?
8. What ameliorating effect does El Nino & El Nina have?
9. Do we know enough about the thermodynamic forces in the atmosphere and oceans to confidently predict that 'something must be done' at whatever cost?
10. If we are doomed, are windmills the best solution?

I could go on. These are credible questions that must be explored in detail by credible people on both sides. There has been too much bad 'science' published despite what is meant to be a rigorous peer-review process. Until then, 97% is meaningless. There's a long way to go.

Jun 12, 2013 at 1:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterFelipe Grey

I realise my session description comes across as quite self-congratulatory. I suppose the point of Sci Foo is to be a little provocative, challenging, etc. I want to get people to agree to, and come to, my session, after all :)

I'm sorry I won't be able to respond to all questions - work to do. But here are a couple of quick ones:

@Ian_UK "engagement will just lead to acceptance of climate change"

I have two aims. (a) Improve trust in climate scientists. (b) Provide explanations and answers about the science. So the persuading part is all about (a), not about any particular aspect of the science. That would be an emergent property of (a) :) I don't have specific topics such as attribution or particular projections that I am trying to get people to accept.

@not banned yet

Excellent Qs. Yes, it is not exceptional to welcome criticisms, to be transparent etc. On the other hand, climate science is not the only research area to have made such mistakes. I'm just saying that where we have made these mistakes, we should correct them. (As should other sciences!).

"Tea and good times" are a good start! :) I would argue our main contribution has been improving trust in climate scientists and transparency of climate science. In terms of specific evidence, I believe the majority here at BH would therefore trust that science authored by us specifically is, at the least, impartial, and hopefully(!) also competent. And by extension, I hope, the science we judge to be robust too. I realise this is an assumption and/or extrapolation - so I'm sure people will correct me in this thread!

But I do note down specific positive quotes from people. These mostly describe increased trust in climate scientists / us as individuals, and appreciation of our upfront discussion of the uncertainties and limitations of models and methods.

@Richard Tol, you made me laugh out loud!

@Filbert Cobb. Absolutely! That's the point. I wouldn't ever describe sceptics as the enemy myself. The aim of the session is to break down that stereotype, polarisation, us/them view that is so prevalent.

Jun 12, 2013 at 1:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterTamsin Edwards

Hi Tamsin

It might be very hard work in the USA..

did you see the Climate Chapman debate, (M Brown) when they started taking about 'deniers'

maybe explain Jonathan Jones position on 'Hide the Decline ' to the audience?

".... However, “hide the decline” is an entirely different matter. This is not a complicated technical matter on which reasonable people can disagree: it is a straightforward and blatant breach of the fundamental principles of honesty and self-criticism that lie at the heart of all true science. The significance of the divergence problem is immediately obvious, and seeking to hide it is quite simply wrong. The recent public statements by supposed leaders of UK science, declaring that hiding the decline is standard scientific practice are on a par with declarations that black is white and up is down. I don’t know who they think they are speaking for, but they certainly aren’t speaking for me....."

Jonathan's full comment is reproduced here (trust is the issue, scientists not policy advocates)
http://unsettledclimate.org/2011/02/25/hide-the-decline-2-pictures-for-2000-comments/


there is very different mindest in the USA I think amongst climate scientists, which appear to have infected 'some' scientists in the UK, (particularly amongst the senior, more politicized sort)

Jun 12, 2013 at 1:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

"Some scientists disagree with our approach - what are the pitfalls? Can we learn lessons across different sciences or is, for example, personal medical risk just too different to global environmental risk?"

------------------------------------
Possibly.
Judith Curry posted a relevant blog last year based on an article in The Journal of Radiology.
http://judithcurry.com/2012/04/25/education-and-the-art-of-uncertainty/

I posted the following comment:


A subject which purports to be based on scientific principles has what I would term an “internal discipline.”

This is peculiar to each subject and is primarily related to the frequency with which reality shows the practitioner to be wrong. Medicine has this “internal discipline” in spades. It’s worth recalling the old joke about doctors [physicians] being the only profession with a 100% failure rate. They can expect to see a lot of dead people over the course of a career, many of them their own patients that they could not cure. I think this probably teaches a certain amount of humility along with regular reminders about their own lack of knowledge. Engineering students I knew told me tales of having to build model bridges and then test them to destruction. Very sensible, I think.

My own experience of organic chemistry laboratories is that chemists get reminded of their “feet of clay” even more often. Fortunately the consequences of failure are not as traumatic as in medicine, engineering, or rocket science. Even so, as a graduate teaching assistant I saw first hand just how many undergraduate science students were sorely in need of this particular type of educational lesson. “But I did exactly what it said I should”, or, in other words: ”I am right. The experiment hasn’t worked and it’s not my fault.”
How often has that been heard from students who found it difficult to accept that they didn’t understand as much as they thought they did? They were sometimes very able students.

Now. Can anyone think of a scientific subject that conducts research that is difficult to falsify over short time periods?
A subject where long term data collection is necessary over many decades, or even over periods longer than one person’s career? A subject where the expense and difficulty of experimental research results in computer models being given a primacy unrivalled in any other scientific discipline? A subject which is not yet a mature discipline? A subject where serious consequences of being seriously wrong may not have been countenanced by many of the practitioners? [If indeed there ever will be any consequences for them if they are proved seriously wrong after they have retired]. A subject where external scrutiny is made harder by all of the above. Yet a subject which is being used to justify sweeping changes to the economies of the industrialized world?

I can think of one such subject. And I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s practitioners displayed quite different attitudes to uncertainty and error when compared to those of Radiologists.

Jun 12, 2013 at 2:20 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

I have seen the Enemy and it's the alarmist side. It's not my enemy though, it's Tamsin's and Richard's and the enemy of all seriously-working scientists.

Unfortunately this concept has yet to pop up in Tamsin's or Richard's head.

Remember folks, nobody killed as many communists as Stalin. Nobody has been killing muslims in the numbers killed by al-Qaeda.

Likewise, nobody will destroy climate science (Tamsin's and Richard's lifetime work - not mine!) as the alarmists.

Jun 12, 2013 at 2:26 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

Here is a theory to account for some of the astonishing political success of political alarmism centred on CO2. It has a hint of conspiracy about it. Schemers such as Maurice Strong and other moral midgets of the Club of Rome, The Ecologist, and such like, were quick to spot CO2 as a political lever of huge potential. They needed scientists, they needed computer models, if they were to take advantage of factors that seemed to contribute to the earlier, and also astonishing, success of Limits to Growth. That has long since been exposed as overblown, and wrong, just as the panic over CO2 is being shown to be now.

The theory was inspired by the Argentinian Honey Trap Scam reported on here: a physicist fooled by fantasy. A distinguished physicist was duped into thinking a beautiful Argentinian lady adored him. Extract from the article (I have deleted names since they are immaterial to the model):

He is an acclaimed Oxford-educated scientist who is friends with Nobel laureates and has developed ground-breaking theories on the complexities of particle physics.
But X is now languishing in a notorious Argentine jail accused of smuggling cocaine after, he says, being duped in an Internet honey-trap featuring a supposed Miss Bikini World.
And in her first full British interview, his former wife and close friend Y has told The Sunday Telegraph that her ex-husband is just the sort of "naïve fool" who would fall for such a set-up.
She gave an unvarnished account of what she said was the immaturity and gullibility of the 68-year-old British academic, who specialises in the secrets of time and space.

Now substitute Sir John Houghton, and replace the prospect of sexual bliss with the prospect of spiritual bliss in the form of a crusade to save mankind from itself with a strong religious undercurrent, via that most admirable of the great religions, Christianity.

Now substitute Michael Mann, and replace those two prospects with the prospect of an actualisation of a Walter Mitty fantasy of being a gifted scientist with important things to say.

Now substitute the motley CRU, and replace these three prospects with the prospect of being more than a very modest, very quiet, no doubt under-funded and little known academic backwater –of turning into a world famous centre of climate analysis.

Now substitute James Hansen, an obscure researcher in NASA Goddard, and replace these four prospects, with the prospect of a dramatic media role, of the kind so sought after in the USA especially with its extensive TV systems and propensity to worship film and pop stars and other 'heros'. Press conferences galore. Congressional hearings. Endless demand for interviews.

So, I call this the Strong Attractor Effect, SAE, by which ‘immature’, ‘gullible’, and, I would add, seriously irresponsible and self-centred, men are led into ill-thought-out and subsequently harmful actions in pursuit of what would otherwise have been idle fantasies for them. The harm of the political panic over CO2 needs no listing here, and anyway is surely not yet over – at best, ‘peak harm’ may have been reached.

And, it almost goes without saying, just as most physicists have not been so powerfully distracted by harmful daydreams, so most atmospheric physicists and other climate scientists have not either and are instead working away honestly to improve our understanding of our crazily complicated climate system.

Jun 12, 2013 at 2:29 PM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

Tamsin,

I know Muller is no 'skeptic', but at least he stood up in public and said this on 'Hide the Decline':
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8BQpciw8suk

At 3.00 "... their justification would not have survived peer review in any publication I am willing to publish in."

At 3.54 "...I now have a list of people whose papers I won't read anymore. You're not allowed to do this in science"

I can understand why this wasn't reported by the media, the activists and the gravy-trainers, but why did the scientists who Richard Tol mentions above not SCREAM this from the rooftoops?

That's the problem right there.

Jun 12, 2013 at 2:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-Record

... because, dear Stuck Record, they know what can happen to your funding, or your papers, or even your family

Jun 12, 2013 at 2:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Tol

Jun 12, 2013 at 1:11 PM | not banned yet
"and believe we have made tangible achievements in improving public trust in climate scientists and evidence."

As not banned yet says, what are the tangible achievements?

I would be much more interested if people like Tamsin actually talked about the science rather than talk about climate scientists. I have simple unanswered questions on Tamsin's blog and I'm perfectly happy to accept a 'I don't know' answer if that is the case.

Jun 12, 2013 at 3:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterRob Burton

Filipe Gray is stretching the truth by claiming that sceptics agree that CO2 is a greenhouse gas. It adsorbs SIR and emits LIR but does this in itself constitute helping the GHE. It aids cooling but that is all. The gasses that do help keep heat in the atmosphere system are oxygen and nitrogen because they do not react with IR so do not transmit heat to space, or the surface. The term ''Greenhouse Gas'' is actually oxymoronic so has no scientific veracity but it has become a PC term which we have to live with at the moment. CO2 also has zero heat retaining properties so cannot save heat. Only water vapour can do this but only by virtue of latent heat of evapouration. Surface convecting vapour will give up its latent heat as soon as clouds are formed and then this heat will escape to space. Reality will refute the greenhouse effect due to thermodynamic law violations and based on a model of a flat earth with zero day/night and a cold sun.

Jun 12, 2013 at 3:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Marshall

Perhaps "The Tiger who came to Tea....." instead

It is the silence of the sensible climate scientist that alarms me,- as the BIshop says, where are the condemnations of Mann's hockey stick, of the now largely disproven catastrophist alarmist views of the extreme warmist, the ignoring of new papers that suggest that earlier research must be incorrect and that some models must be wrong? Where are those climate scientists whose integrity is greater than their need for a steady income?

Jun 12, 2013 at 3:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterMessenger

Tamsin

I have never thought that all scientists working in or around climate science are dishonest. I would suspect that most are working, if you like, on the trunk, branches and twigs of the climate tree and pretty much take the integrity of the roots as a given

I do think that too many working at the roots (models, projections, temperature record "adjustments" etc) whether or not they started out dishonestly have become so to protect their positions. Some are just closing their eyes because realizing the truth would be too devastating. Some succumb to peer pressure not to rock the boat for others.

Those working at the roots have done science and humanity a massive disservice which we could be paying for for generations, financially, in lost energy and in excess deaths.

This last is especially why I grit my teeth when people talk about having a nice chat about differences over tea. Either you and other scientists not currently examining the roots start to do so and sort out the mess or you will find that your field is vilified for years to come. It may be anyway, but I presume you don't all want to go down with your more egregious colleagues as among the most damaging scientists in history.

Ignorance is no excuse, the information that should have set alarm bells ringing is all out there and much of it has been for over a decade and yet we still get blustering attacks from scientists grossly misrepresenting arguments made by sceptics. They have clearly never seriously read any sceptic arguments, just the misrepresentations of sceptic arguments churned out by what has become the climate change industry.

I do hope that you are genuine in wanting dialogue Tamsin but that will have to entail listening seriously and doing some root checking for yourself if it isn't just going to be perceived as another exercise where climate scientists patronizingly try to tell the great unwashed how ignorant they are.

And the time for polite chatting was years ago, before the pensioner deaths, the rocketing fuel bills, wasted public money and the prospect of the lights going out - now it's long past time for urgent action.

If you are going to take action you have my admiration and best wishes, if not...

Jun 12, 2013 at 3:34 PM | Unregistered Commenterartwest

Which life sciences have a 'bad relationship' with the public?

(I'm wondering if Tamsin could perhaps have missed her calling as a psychologist).

Jun 12, 2013 at 3:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterZT

Tamsin

Your framing of the climate debate seems to ignore a fairly recent development - where the battle on the "consensus" side is being fought, not by atmospheric & geophysical scientists - but by their very vocal proxies in the fields of sociology, communications and psychology.

A classic example is the recent Chapman Conference, where the topic was not climate science per se - but rather "communicating climate science". Apart from a few prominent and controversial individuals, the delegates seem to have been conspicuously lacking in "hard science" credentials and, from what we've seen of the proceedings, the atmosphere at was far more redolent of an activist rally than a scientific discussion.

A major problem seems to be that people in non-physical science areas, who have been 100% convinced of the AGW narrative and adopted it as their field of study, aren't equipped to debate the finer points of the science - so can only evangelise about it in much the same way as activist laypeople from NGOs etc.

Can I ask you a simple question I asked Richard on Twitter recently, when he may have been too busy to reply - does your definition of "scientist" include the people who have become very prominent in the debate recently like Cook, Lewandowsky, Nuccitelli, Oreskes etc?

Jun 12, 2013 at 3:47 PM | Registered CommenterFoxgoose

Tamsin, as long as you think that it is even remotely possible to model a coupled, non-linear, chaotic system you are simply wasting your time and our money - not to mention giving the fraudsters ammunition to fill their boots (eg. Trougher Tim).

For God's sake look around you! It is the middle of June and my daughter has just put the central heating on again! I know that this is weather and not climate, but we were sold this nonsense on the premise that we were all going to fry because of MMGW. After all of the failed predictions/forecasts I am amazed that you continue like this.

Jun 12, 2013 at 3:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoger Longstaff

@Foxgoose
To me, science is the systematic and reproducible pursuit of a greater understanding of reality.

I would therefore not exclude people on the basis of their knowledge domain; but rather on the basis of the methods used.

Jun 12, 2013 at 3:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Tol


Others apart sat on a Hill retir'd,
In thoughts more elevate, and reason'd high
Of Providence, Foreknowledge, Will and Fate,
Fixt Fate, free will, foreknowledg absolute, [ 560 ]
And found no end, in wandring mazes lost.

It is good that sceptics and some decent scientists are now occupying the same Hill, even an ecclesiastical one, but like Milton's demons they seem to me pretty much lost. Nothing much seems to have happened in climate science for the last 20 years or longer. We still don't know what the sensitivity is. We don't even, it seems, have a useful definition of it.

Jun 12, 2013 at 4:04 PM | Unregistered Commenterpeter2108

I am sorry for not answering all your Qs, both here and at my blog. It has been an unbelievably busy 18 months, including enormous personal upheaval, and I also need to maintain focus on my research if I'm to have any chance of remaining a scientist...

It doesn't help when I get into long debates discussions with eminent US climate scientists about whether we should make public statements about policy options (as I did yesterday, on Twitter - aiming to blog about this at some point).

Jun 12, 2013 at 4:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterTamsin Edwards

"... because, dear Stuck Record, they know what can happen to your funding, or your papers, or even your family

I was raised to believe that the scientific endeavour is the pursuit of truth.

I understand that you personally are doing what you can and I admire you enormously, but what you say is a pretty shocking indictment of your scientific community.

All over the world individuals are standing up and dying to protest at corruption or oppression. All those people have careers and ambitions that they care about. They have families that they love and want to protect. But still the call of ‘the truth’ is greater. They're prepared to risk all in order to stand up for what they believe in.

The truth.

It's frankly terrifying that many many others in climate science, know this, yet day after day stay quiet.

Where are the whistleblowers? Where are the names of the villains? Where are the accusations?

Unless they appear soon I'm afraid that when this is all over it won't be Michael Mann and Gavin Schmidt who are ruined and untrustworthy, it'll be science. And that scares me more than anything.

Jun 12, 2013 at 4:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-Record

Of course scientists criticise each other's methods and conclusions at conferences, in the literature (through both articles and the reviews themselves), and privately. What does not happen very much, except amongst the small minority that blog or do media interviews, is criticism of other scientists in the public domain. It's not seen as an appropriate forum, in any area of science. I personally think there should be more of it - it helps show the public that science is a constant discussion, it helps the science to be more robust and quick to respond - but I would say that it was frowned upon, perhaps especially from uppity young(-ish) post-docs... :)

Open (and ideally, I would say, named) reviews of papers are one way of putting the criticisms of the peer-review process into the public domain. For example:

http://www.clim-past-discuss.net/9/775/2013/cpd-9-775-2013-discussion.html

Jun 12, 2013 at 4:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterTamsin Edwards

@Stuck record
We note and admire heroes because there are few, not because there are many.

Jun 12, 2013 at 4:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Tol

Tamsin, You have my sympathy. On the one hand, I think it is helpful and refreshing that you are visiting blogs such as this and taking part in some of the discussions. On the other hand, it does seem likely that this could be a huge distraction from your research work. The facile analyses, the provocations, the fast-moving swings and roundabouts of politics versus the slow and steady groundwork and very occasional breakthroughs of science. You have chosen a field which is difficult on two counts: firstly because the complexity of the climate system makes breakthroughs in computer modelling of it seem a priori very unlikely given the gulf between that complexity and our modelling powers, secondly because the highly politicised nature of some climate scientists, including computer modellers, who seem so convinced by the models that they believe dramatic political actions are called for.

What to do in your place? I think if I were you, and if I thought my scientific stuff more important than my political, I’d keep away from the hurly-burly of climate blogs, even the most civilised ones such as Bishop Hill or WUWT - except to provide an occasional tutorial contribution to help us understand what you are working on, or how recent results were obtained.

Hold fast to your integrity in the face of what I suppose are appreciable pressures to stay on message, and avoid such awful excursions into emotive and superficial harangues of the young such as displayed by your erstwhile professor in this lecture: http://www.bishop-hill.net/blog/2013/4/10/beta-blockers.html. Calmer and deeper minds than his are needed now that the debate can be so febrile. Contrast his style with that of another professor in this recent lecture: http://notrickszone.com/2013/06/10/murry-salbys-presentation-in-hamburg/

Jun 12, 2013 at 5:05 PM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

The problems of climate science go way beyond Michael Mann and such. Let's look at some of the main problems:

1. Uncritical faith in models. About 99.99% of expertise in modeling exists in industry and the military. But climate science chose to develop its own modelers rather than call on existing expertise. This choice is remarkably immature because when the climate science gig ends climate modelers will have no friends in industry or the military. (Don't go to Wall Street for modelers.)

2. A total lack of interest in measuring things in the world. Trenberth has recently discovered that "the missing heat" is in the deep oceans. Does he propose measuring this heat? Of course not, he will model it. Has climate science made strides in measuring the famous forcings and feedbacks? No. What we know about water vapor, clouds, and related matters is roughly what we knew on Earth Day 1970. But what galls is that climate science has no serious efforts of empirical research underway to address these matter. Bob Tisdale at WUWT has done more research on ENSO than all official climate scientists combined and Tisdale has a budget of zero.

3. Apart from radiation theory, climate science has produced no empirical or theoretical generalizations about climate that have proved to be well confirmed by experience. Because they have no such generalizations, they have no ability to predict climate. What passes for prediction among climate scientists is extrapolation from existing lines on graphs. That extrapolation is prediction only in the sense that they cross their fingers and hope that the future resembles the past.

Climate scientists behave as if they were the least self-confident and least independent among academics. They invite no serious criticism or collaboration but flock together as if everyone else were a tool of Big Oil.

Jun 12, 2013 at 5:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheo Goodwin

"What does not happen very much, except amongst the small minority that blog or do media interviews, is criticism of other scientists in the public domain. It's not seen as an appropriate forum, in any area of science."
Jun 12, 2013 at 4:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterTamsin Edwards


Then you leave the public field open for those alarmist scientists without such scruples and their cheerleaders. The odd scientist who questions the alarmists is viciously shouted down and publicly scorned. Do you think this is justified? Do you think silence about this is justified even if you don't agree with the questioning scientist?

The voices of scientists who question CAGW are not being heard in public while the public is suffering from the consequences of climate alarmism.
Do you really think that the public is going to think it a good excuse that it was thought to be "impolite" to question another scientist in public?

The politicians need to know if you disagree with the alarmism, the public also needs to know because the politicians can't be trusted to act without pressure from the public.

This isn't a cozy little debate in the common room, it's life and death for people and economies.
I really don't think you appreciate how much this is affecting people and how much justified anger is likely to be focused on the scientists who said nothing.

Jun 12, 2013 at 5:17 PM | Unregistered Commenterartwest

I do hope these discussions aren't just another front for "getting our message across."

The usual cry from the true believer or "authority figure" is just this: "we aren't getting our message across."

This is possibly the most arrogant and stupid remark in politics (small and large p).

Discussion involves listening; really, genuinely listening.

Jun 12, 2013 at 7:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterAllan M

further to the above at 7: 12

Perhaps a better rendering of the arrogant remark would be:

"We obviously aren't getting our message across."

Jun 12, 2013 at 7:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterAllan M

One of the problems in creating an appropriate environment for open, reasoned discussion is that some people think that this:

http://rankexploits.com/musings/2013/climate-communication-cheeky-climate/

is funny.

Jun 12, 2013 at 7:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterCumbrian Lad

Tamsin

this is a political battle. You are being used by people who care not a jot about the climate or their fellow man. A pawn in a game, the rules of which you do not understand. For them, a few million people in fuel poverty and crippling British industry is a price well worth paying.

Jun 12, 2013 at 8:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterSeymour

it sounds very conciliatory, but why do I get the feeling that the unspoken bit at the end is the belief that engagement will just lead to acceptance of climate change by the sceptics?
Jun 12, 2013 at 1:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterIan_UK


Pretty much exactly as I read it... sounds more like a lull your enemy to sleep and stab him in the back while he sleeps speech.

"and believe we have made tangible achievements in improving public trust in climate scientists and evidence."

As others have asked... what achievements? Climate "Science" is now barely following the scientific solely because skeptics are forcing them to... but they are still clearly trying to avoid the scientific method. How many hundreds of people are now breathing down the necks of climate "scientists" to check the work they do? How many of these climate "scientists" believes it is thousands of well payed big oil people? The one and only reason they are not cheating AS MUCH is because they have been caught. The problem is not punished... at all and thus they are merely bidding time until last defenders of sanity burn themselves out or are forced to spend more time dealing with real life then the fantasy that climate "scientists" are paid daily to build.

What about information exchange...? a key part of science. Once again skeptics FORCING climate "scientists" to turn over data via FOI/A. Also by posting the data they have on open and public places.

What about clear and malicious data tampering by climate "scientists"? Still running free and still doing it.

The only "achievements" have be FORCED by skeptics and these things are not "achievements" they are basic scientific principles... the fact that someone consider the "achievements" in climate "science" "achievements" at all shows a clear lack of understanding of science and borders on questionable ethics.

Jun 12, 2013 at 9:10 PM | Unregistered Commenterrobotech master

A few personal impressions, some perhaps leaning towards the provocative but debatable none the less.

1 Compared to the public as a whole, an exceptionally high percentage of sceptics are highly qualified in closely related conventional science disciplines.

2 In closely related disciplines such as meteorology and geology, scepticism is exceptionally high.

3 Recruitment to these traditional disciplines had no association with any environmental or political issues.

4 Climate science as such is a young 'discipline' launched in response to widely publicised environmental and political policy concerns.

5 Many, perhaps a majority of climate scientists, recruited themselves in response to these, and came with preformed conviction.

6 As a result climate science as practiced from its inception, and still to this day, is dominantly a single issue topic- it myopically concentrates the thrust of the research around CO2 emissions, putative anthropogenic global warming and its consequences, rather than the broader perspective of natural processes, which are mainly only studied as an ancillary to support it. It therefore has inbuilt interpretational bias. Imagine concluding that AGW is trivially minimal or falsified as a paradigm entirely and presenting it to your peers.

7 It is inevitable in this situation for the majority of climate scientists to be defensive, circling the wagons, and for sceptics to attack, from any and all angles.

8 Present company excepted, respectful engagement and debate is therefore shunned.

Jun 12, 2013 at 9:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterPharos

robotech master,

Questionable ethics? That's very gentle. Alarmists demonstrate their contempt for morality by allowing self-confessed thieves to chair ethics committees.

Jun 12, 2013 at 9:26 PM | Registered CommenterSayNoToFearmongers

Mainstream climate science exists today solely for the purpose of bringing about political action to stop catastrophic global warming/.../extreme events. That is well understood in all departments of climate science.

Climate scientists must betray that political purpose if they are to practice science.

Jun 12, 2013 at 9:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheo Goodwin

robotech master,

Questionable ethics? That's very gentle. Alarmists demonstrate their contempt for morality by allowing self-confessed thieves to chair ethics committees.
Jun 12, 2013 at 9:26 PM | Registered CommenterSayNoToFearmongers


That sentence was directed at Tamsin Edwards and others who believe in some kind of "achievements" or "progress" being made by climate "scientists". Or that someone conducting and following the scientific method is an "achievement".

Jun 12, 2013 at 9:37 PM | Unregistered Commenterrobotech master

Sorry, Tamsin. It has gone much too far for sceptics to engage in the bargaining phase of climate scientists' grief. Sceptics are going to carry on, and the scientists are going to have to get very depressed, and eventually to accept what a load of egregious nonsense the panic over AGW has been. They're going to have to think honestly whether they've had any role, however minor (e.g. by keeping quiet when they shouldn't), in creating the misery and even death of people resulting from the whole boondoggle because of increasing food prices (blame biofuel cultivation) and energy costs (blame the public subsidy of ineffective technologies).

It's all too little and too late, and they will just have to reap their portion of the whirlwind if they've sown any seeds. Climate science orthodoxy has created an implacable enemy that will not rest until its capitulation is abject and total. Make no mistake, this is a war to the bitter end. So enjoy your tea and biscuits while you can.

Jun 12, 2013 at 9:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterMichael Larkin

robotech master,

I think you're making my point for me aren't you? The only reason there's any conciliation about is because the wiser hears in the alarmist movement are beginning to sense that they're dead in the water and the public is slowly becoming aware that they've been deceived.

Michael Larkin is right - they've made some enemies. The Green movement needs its loathsome disregard for truth, ethics and humanity to be fully exposed or we'll be back in this filth in (history suggests) a couple of decades.

Jun 12, 2013 at 9:51 PM | Registered CommenterSayNoToFearmongers

"The only reason there's any conciliation about is because the wiser hears in the alarmist movement are beginning to sense that they're dead in the water and the public is slowly becoming aware that they've been deceived. Jun 12, 2013 at 9:51 PM | Registered CommenterSayNoToFearmongers "

No I think were well past that point. I believe we are at the point when many in the doomsday cult are starting to feel the noose tighten around their collectivist necks. The doomsday cult of global warming will not fade away with a whimper like the doomsday cult of eugenics was able to... no the internet will make that near impossible.

If skeptics keep pushing cultists are going to jail, many will have to pay back research money in the millions, many will never be hired to work in science fields ever again. We are past the point where the doomsday cult is dead... we are well into the point where the cult leaders are trying to hold the wealth they stole and keep out of jail.

Jun 12, 2013 at 10:08 PM | Unregistered Commenterrobotech master

rm,

I really want you to be right. My experience differs somewhat - I remain in a small minority in my working environment. Most colleagues do not question the consensus, even privately, despite being more than sufficiently trained to at least ASK questions.

Jun 12, 2013 at 10:12 PM | Registered CommenterSayNoToFearmongers

If one thinks there should be a debate, then one must think it too early for action. If not the debate is just another shoddy attempt at reprogramming me.

Either / or.

Which is it?

Dellingpoles dogshit yoghurt springs to mind.

Jun 12, 2013 at 10:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterDuncan

Back to modelling? May I ask what physical process are put into the models? That is, do we have a lot of CO2 and photons flying about, or are we using the Myhre formula or one very like it and the current CO2 from Mauna Loa with an appropriate uplift for the future?

If the latter, no matter what the program does, do we not have a case of circular reasoning, or petitio principii? That model cannot be used for attribution and detection, the answer is programmed in.

Second, does anybody check that physical effects described by the model correlate with measurements? I know they don't use the instrumented square metre I've suggested on many occasions. It just looks as if the work one might consider essential to confirm the hypothesis hasn't been done (or in my suspicious moments, has been done but gave the wrong answer).

Jun 12, 2013 at 10:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterRhoda

It's lovely to hear all this discussion about science and so forth. However, the elephant in the room is the economic effect of the insane policy being followed by the government - in the UK and Europe - on the basis of the so called science perpetrated by "some climate scientists".

How do Tamsin and her colleagues siuggest dealing with fuel poverty arising from this government policy?

Jun 12, 2013 at 10:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterDizzy Ringo

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