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Persuading the public

One of the climate-related memes that has tended to induce yawns in yours truly over the years concerns the so-called "deficit model" of climate communication. This is the idea that on the subject of climate the public are at best ill-informed and at worst pig ignorant and that they need better information about climate change in order to bring them round to the idea that we need to tear down the economy and build the new socialist future together.

Or something like that.

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Portents in Paris - Josh 306

A dark cartoon for the the start of the year following the shocking events in Paris and stories on BH about the blocking of ideas and closed minds.

I wonder what will happen when the Green Blob meets in Paris later in the year?

Cartoons by Josh


Mann caught out again

Steve McIntyre reports that Michael Mann has been caught out grafting the thermometer records onto proxy data, something he claims that only happens in the fevered minds of evil-big-oil-funded-gaia-maiming deniers.




Greenery is national security threat

Windfarms and all the other bonkers attempts to green the electricity grid are not only an expensive and pointless gesture that encourages graft and sets neighbour against neighbour. It turns out that they represent a threat to national security too:

Security experts said last year that measures to make the electricity grid greener are boosting its vulnerability to computer hacking since new wind farms, solar panels and smart meters mean there are additional portals to be breached.

“The energy grid today is vulnerable from all degrees,” Slava Borilin, critical infrastructure business manager at Kaspersky, said in an e-mail. “Its electricity production is under threat of interruption and down-time from breaches of industrial control systems.”


Closed minds at the British Library

As a splendid example of how free exchange of ideas is under challenge from British institutions, take a look at the British Library's recent panel "discussion" on climate change. Chaired by James Randerson and with a panel featuring a climatologist in the shape of the Met Office's Steven Belcher and two green activists in the shape of Bob Ward and George Marshall.

Of course with nobody there to contradict them, the participants are free to make things up to suit their case. So we have Ward making the cynically dishonest statement that Owen Paterson "spent most of his time disputing the science of climate change" - to the best of my knowledge the only statement Paterson made on climate change during his time in office was acknowledge that the climate was changing and that there was a human element.

And Marshall was little better, claiming that records on extreme weather are being broken every year, a statement that directly contradicts the IPCC.


What is Truss being told?

Liz Truss, the new environment secretary has taken to the media to flaunt her green credentials.

Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss “fully agrees that climate change is happening”, saying evidence on the issue – like the extreme weather events that battered the Westcountry last year – is very strong.

Ms Truss, whose department is responsible for ensuring the country adapts to the impacts of climate change, said she agreed with Prime Minister David Cameron in drawing a link between global warming and extreme weather events such as the winter storms that swamped the Somerset Levels, severed the main rail link at Dawlish and caused the region millions of pounds of damage in January and February 2014, from which many people are still recovering.

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Blocking the door to the marketplace of ideas

There are people who are willing to tough it out in the marketplace of ideas and there are people who are not. Charlie Hebdo and the violent attempts to silence dissent apart, in recent days I've noticed other bits and pieces that touch upon the same issues, albeit in a less violent way, but perhaps in a more insidious one as well. 

A couple of days ago I noticed a geography teacher asking for help in finding someone to put the pro-fracking case in a school debate - the chief executive of iGas had dropped out. The panel already featured no less than three greens as well as an academic (with no particular expertise in unconventional oil and gas), so I raised an eyebrow at a reply from Chris Vernon, a PhD student and one-time contributor to the Oil Drum blog.


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Open advocacy

Gavin Schmidt's article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists contains some interesting ideas about scientists and advocacy, his big talking point being that he thinks that scientists who want to take on advocacy positions should be open about it.

Responsible advocates are up-front about what is being advocated for and how the intersection of values and science led to that position. On the other hand, it is irresponsible to proclaim that there are no values involved, or to misrepresent what values are involved. Responsible advocacy must acknowledge that the same scientific conclusions may not lead everyone to the same policies (because values may differ). Assuming that one’s own personal values are universal, or that disagreement on policy can be solved by recourse to facts alone, is a common mistake. Deliberate irresponsibility, by advocates who purposefully obscure their values and who often resort to “science-y” sounding arguments to avoid addressing the real reasons for any disagreement, should be avoided by anyone wishing to remain a credible voice in science.

Of course, as we have seen in recent weeks, there are already some scientists who have attempted a degree of openness about their advocacy - I'm thinking particularly of Mark Maslin telling his readers that the object of his book was to convince everyone that "a more equal society" was the way forward.

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The trust me crowd and the show me crowd

The Chemist in Langley has another post on type 1 and type 2 errors, which is just as good as his last one. I found this quote particularly perspicacious:

A colleague at work describes the difference as roughly the “trust me crowd” versus the “show me crowd”. The trust me crowd can show that some anthropogenic climate change has happened in the past and that models suggest that future conditions are going to get worse. They produce their documentation via the peer reviewed press and in doing so address all the touchstones of the scientific method. Having met the high bar of “good science” they anticipate that their word will be taken as good.

The show me crowd looks at the “good science” and points out that many historical predictions of doom and gloom (that previously met the test of good science) have been shown to be overheated or just plain wrong. They also point out that the best models have not done a very good job with respect to the “pause”. Given this they ask for a demonstration that the next prediction is going to be better than the last one. This does not mean that they deny the reality of anthropogenic global warming. Rather they are not comfortable with cataclysmic predictions and calls for immediate action prior to a demonstration that those predictions can be supported with something approaching real data.


Lewandowsky and the paleoparticipant

José Duarte has been taking a look at another paper by Stephan Lewandowsky and, hard though it is to believe, it's almost as bad as his previous ones. The study is apparently a survey of a sample of the US population and purports to show that conservatives have a propensity to reject climate science.

José's post is unmissable, but here's a flavour of the thing:

A much more serious problem, however, is that there is fake data in the PLOS ONE sample. Most consequentially, there is a 35,757-year-old, a veritable paleo-participant. (Data here.)

There are also seven minors, including a 5-year-old and two 14-year-olds.

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Fuller's earth

Tom Fuller emails to say that he has reactivated his two climate and energy blogs at and

Welcome back Tom.


Oreskes on statistics

Naomi Oreskes' article in the New York Times the other day, in which she called for use of 90% rather than 95% confidence intervals, seems to be generating quite a lot of interest.

The best review is here:

Oreskes wants her readers to believe that those who are resisting her conclusions about climate change are hiding behind an unreasonably high burden of proof, which follows from the conventional standard of significance in significance probability. In presenting her argument, Oreskes consistently misrepresents the meaning of statistical significance and confidence intervals to be about the overall burden of proof for a scientific claim:


(This is also relevant)



In Our Time last time

Fifteen years ago this week the BBC's In Our Time show dedicated one of its shows to the subject of climate change (H/T Leo Hickman). In a break from its normal practice, Melvyn Bragg was joined by only two guests, only one of whom could even loosely be described as an academic. Sir John Houghton, the then chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, would best be described as a scientific administrator, having previously been the chief executive of the Met Office; George Monbiot is of course an environmental campaigner and journalist, although for the occasion - perhaps hoping to be taken more seriously - he also described himself as visiting professor of philosophy at the University of Bristol.

2000 was an interesting time in the climate debate. With the world having just entered the third millennium, thoughts of catastrophic futures seem to have found fertile ground and the global warming scare was therefore starting to gain ground. The IPCC's Second Assessment Report had laid the foundations for the scare a few years before; the ink was barely dry on the Hockey Stick papers and the onslaught of the Third Assessment was not far away. This is the context for the BBC's decision to use an environmentalist and a environmentally minded bureaucrat to provide what the corporation calls "due balance".

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Sceptics are from Mars and warmists are from Venus

Here is a fascinating article from a blog I haven't come across before called "A Chemist in Langley":

...the vast majority of the warmist community have a worldview that stresses Type I [false positive] error avoidance while most skeptics work in a community that stresses Type II [false negative] error avoidance. Skeptics look at the global climate models and note that the models have a real difficulty in making accurate predictions. To explain, global climate models are complex computer programs filled with calculations based on science's best understanding of climate processes (geochemistry, global circulation patterns etc) with best guesses used to address holes in the knowledge base.

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WWF spivs are spinning

It hasn't taken long, but the story put out by WWF over the weekend about windfarms meeting nearly all domestic demand during December is being torn to shreds.

Euan Mearns gives the claims a good going over here:

Their press release is biased, vague and ambiguous, and journalists may be forgiven for reaching the wrong conclusions and miss reporting it. It would appear this is the intention.

And David Mackay, the former chief scientist at DECC, is having a go on Twitter too.

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