The reaction to Ryan O'Donnell's article about Steig has been astonishing, and the rate of deletion of comments from Real Climate hasn't been this high for...well...days.
Some interesting stories have emerged from all the noise:
A commenter called CAGW_99 left a comment at RealClimate noting that Steig could find himself called to testify before the House of Representatives.
An interesting paper by Gerd Gigerenzer et al, looking at statistical illiteracy and what might be done about it. I'm struck by the emphasis on "statistical thinking" and how it is either taught too late, badly or not at all.
Rather like economic thinking, critical thinking and logical thinking.
Ryan O'Donnell, who always seemed to be the icy cool leader of the team behind the rebuttal of the Steig et al Antarctic paper, shows that he can be pushed too far. His response to Steig's latest posting at Real Climate is a withering rebuke, the likes of which I don't think I have ever seen before.
A couple of interesting tweets from Simon Singh this morning. Taken to task by a correspondent for a lack of scepticism on AGW, Simon replies as follows:
I'm applying skepticism to the question is AGW significant or not? With my limited tools, my answers is it's happening. [Link]
The vast majority of folk smarter & more informed than me come to same answer, which is partly how I arrive at my conclusion. [Link]
Both these points are interesting. Firstly, it's a surprise to see someone with "limited tools" describing people who arrive at a different conclusion to him as "numpties", particularly as many of those people have tools that are considerably less limited.
But secondly, it also appears to me that Singh is an "interpreter of interpretations" as regards climate change, an approach which apparently is reprehensible in the circles in which he moves. To be clear, I have no problem with interpreters of interpretations - as I've noted elsewhere, most people get their opinions like this and it is an entirely respectable way to go about forming an opinion on something. But when one's opinions are formed in this way, I would have thought a little reticence about the name-calling might not go amiss.
(Afterthough: I wonder if Dyson/Happer/the 43 rebels from the Royal Society are included among the numpties?)
With Simon Singh's somewhat crude contribution to the climate debate still ringing in our ears, my mind turned to an email I received recently on the subject of taxonomy in the climate debate. The message was from David Henderson and contained an excerpt from an article he had written which considered the subject of suitable terms to describe friend and foe alike in this most heated of debates.
It is often claimed that there now exists a world-wide scientific consensus on climate change issues, sometimes described as ‘overwhelming’. I believe that such language is inappropriate; but I think it is correct to say that alongside the official policy consensus (which is a reality), and providing both rationale and support for it, there exists an established body of what I call prevailing scientific opinion.
Predictably, received opinion is not universally shared. It remains subject to challenge by a varied collection of doubters, sceptics, critics and non-subscribers: I will label them collectively as dissenters. Against these, and greatly outnumbering them, are arrayed what I term the upholders of received opinion. Among economists, a clear majority of those who have expressed views on these matters can be classed as upholders.
Within both groups — and this is important to note — there are different schools thought: a whole spectrum of opinions can be identified. Each of the many subject areas, including ours and those of the different sciences involved, has a spectrum of its own. At one end of each spectrum are what may be termed strong or full-blown upholders, the dark greens so to speak. Prominent among these are Lord Stern and the team that worked under him to produce the Stern Review: the Review takes the position that AGW ‘presents very serious global risks and demands an urgent global response’. At the other end of the spectrum, strong dissenters — the dark blues — argue that such warming, if indeed its extent can be shown to be significant, is not a cause for alarm or concern: hence measures to curb emissions should be eschewed — or discontinued, where they are now in place. In between these two far removed positions, there are upholders and dissenters who hold more limited or qualified beliefs. I count myself as a light-to-medium blue — a limited dissenter, though a firm one.
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There has been a conference today of skeptics - that's the Skeptic Society lot - and one of the star speakers was science writer Simon Singh, fresh from his contretemps with James Delingpole.
As far as I can tell from the tweets, the highlights of his talk were:
- a proposal for a credibility spectrum on climate change, with the Royal Society at one end and Nigel Lawson at the other
- a proposal that us climate sceptics should henceforth be known as "climate numpties".
So, an argument from authority and some name-calling. Is it just me that finds this rather unimpressive from people who claim to be all about science and logic?
(As ever, please don't respond in kind.)
More scratching of heads among the chattering classes as they try to work out why nobody believes their global warming propaganda - next week they are all jetting off to Norway for a chat about what to do:
We cordially invite you to the seminar Carbonundrums: From Science to Headlines as well as to the ensuing debate New Realities, New Narratives in Climate Reporting, on Tuesday 8th of February 2011 at Litteraturhuset. We will address important questions such as: How is the press reporting on climate change? What can we learn from Climategate? How should we communicate scientific uncertainty? What determines how people perceive climate change?
Panellists include Fiona Fox, Bob Ward, Roger Harrabin, Fred Pearce, Naomi Oreskes and Rasmus Benestad. That's one very large carbon footprint!
The whole thing will be webcast here.
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 agreed to turned 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.
Another interesting aspect of Emma Jay's letter to James Delingpole. This:
Sir Paul is very aware of the culpability of scientists and that will come across in the film.
Now we need to recognise that the film was almost entirely about Climategate and also that this is Delingpole we are speaking about - he was on the programme purely because of his prominent role in breaking the Climategate story into the mainstream media. So I think there can be little doubt that the scientists Ms Jay is speaking about is Messrs Jones et al.
So, if we are to understand correctly, Sir Paul made this programme about Climategate, in the full recognition of the "culpability" of the scientists and yet said nothing this about his concerns in the programme itself. Indeed he presented a rather chummy interview with Jones, with the UEA man presented as the wronged party. Can this be right? An alternative explanation might be that Ms Jay sexed up the message to Delingpole in order to encourage him to take part, but at the moment we have no way of knowing which explanation is the right one.
I wrote to Emma Jay asking for a comment on the implication that her email had misled James Delingpole and I've just had a response from the publicity people at BBC Vision.
Just to let you know, your request for comment has been passed onto BBC publicity. We’re currently liaising with the relevant parties and will come back to you with a response.