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Discussion > The Sceptic Skeptic. Open Letter to Bishop Hill

Open Letter to Bishop Hill

The Sceptic Skeptic

The recent articles concerning the Royal Society and their President: Paul Nurse are frankly depressing. The criticisms go beyond the rational and represent not only an attack on the institution but on science.

Without science we would only have beliefs, but with it we have seen a flowering of the human intellect and its application enter into all aspects of our lives. But science is just the process, it has no feelings, no ego and cares little of the consequence of discovery; scientists are prone to all those human flaws and the history of science is full of examples of where the debate rages on and the science has yet to be settled. Tectonic plates, for example are common fact but an outrageous theory just a few decades ago, there has been academic fraud such as cold fusion, and numerous battles yet despite flaws in the peer-review process- funding, political and financial bias the system is self correcting, science moves on without regret. Whereas disputes between different camps of scientists of say, palaeontology concerning human evolution, continue to rage there is neither pressing urgency nor influence on politics. The science surrounding AGW is different.

Science has become politicised because of politicians, of course scientists have views and being human it is not something we should begrudge them. The Royal Society obtained its charter so as to advise the King, in the same way The National Academy of Sciences of the U.S. was established by President Abraham Lincoln to advise on scientific issues. The Royal Society is a democracy of sorts with elected fellows and president whose role is to promote the societies objectives- complaining that most of the members support Paul Nurse is to attack their judgment and function.

And why is Nurse the subject of criticism? Because he should dare challenge particularly vocal ‘skeptics’ of AGW. It is certainly not because the Society has abandoned its other noble activities to solely promote CAGW; the reports and statements for non scientist consumption are not prominent and need to be searched for, the Ocean Acidification brief is 7 years old, and none of them use the C word. Skeptics want to be noticed, they want the scientific establishment to listen to the alternative argument but seeing that skepticism has entered into a shouting match rather than a debate it is no surprise that the establishment has stopped listening.

Why should they? They are accused of ‘junk science’ and of a left-wing conspiracy to control the world; anyone who has worked in science or knows someone who has will know they are competitive to the extreme making the notion that they could conspire absurd. The other attack: ‘follow the money’ is like pretending that nuclear physicists fabricated the Cold War to keep themselves in a job. Real sceptics don’t swallow a line from an email without discovering its context and meaning: here is an example- just the other day on the BBC they said ‘Jays are very intelligent birds, Max [shot of bird] studied at Cambridge University’.

Who slung the first insult is immaterial but it has ultimately disadvantaged the skeptical camp and I think this conflict plays into the hands of some politically motivated pundits especially but not exclusively, those on the right. The sceptic camp can range from the conspiracy theorist right through to those who are doubtful that CO2 emission reductions are achievable but it is unlikely for those who agree with the science but disagree with the politics to consider forging an alliance with deniers. I use the term carefully: a denier will refute any information that does not conform to their beliefs. Creationists deny the scientific evidence because it directly conflicts with an odd belief that some ancient book holds the truth: no evidence will ever change their mind. Although they are happy to cherry-pick scientific data if it appears to support their irrational belief. Why then would any sceptic in the scientific community break ranks and join such a camp?

There are good and bad people who are also good or bad scientists, some are bad at communicating using terms like ‘the science is settled’ or ‘most’ or ‘likely’. Some scientists don’t have a high opinion of the public and some want to educate, some withhold information but these qualities do not prove any science. Politics may contain more bad people or simply ill-informed ones who make stupid statements like ‘if the ice caps melted’, or ‘the MWP was warmer’ with the suggestion that 44 vineyards in Medieval England is some how proof. Scepticism needs to jettison those who are not open to new information from all sources, it needs to take papers in their entirety rather than shout about one detail [‘Himalayan glaciers’] and neglect the rest. Sceptics have to be a dispassionate as the subject they wish to explore to fully challenge the establishment. The sceptic is required to ask the awkward questions, to confront group think but to also listen and be free to change their mind. In science there are no sides to take, there is only the truth.

As for politics- well that is your opinion.

Feb 14, 2012 at 11:13 PM | Unregistered Commenteriwannabeasceptic

In science there *is* politics and that's where the problem starts. We want facts and uncertainty boundaries from our scientists. If they fail to do so and also exclusively advocate a useless policy then I want to understand why they do so without applying a scientific method? Fail to do that and tell you what, I'll label you as an hysterical warmist; someone who follows a belief without an objective assessment of that path with respect to others. And after I've done that I'll curse you for causinf the waste of public funds on such white elephants as wind power and the fuel poverty that results.

Feb 15, 2012 at 1:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterFarleyR

You make a valid point- incidentally areas that are covered in the Royal Society report that point out the three areas of uncertainty. Ask a your doctor how to *reduce the risk* of cancer/heart disease and he will tell you to quit smoking. And in a political context the scientific conclusion is to stop doing it. Science is straightforward. But politics and more importantly politicians are the implementers- how to reduce harm- ban? discourage? offer free chewing gum? But the doctor's opinion has been asked and the solution has been offered, if you don't like the medicine don't blame the doctor.

But really- concern for fuel poverty- I feel this is a distraction, if you really wanted to end fuel or third world poverty for that matter, campaign for a decent pension and pressure your MP to make poverty history. If windturbines are your issue find the papers that show how inefficient they are, rather than just keep stating an assertion. A good sceptic would read papers both pro and anti wind as means of energy production and draw from all sources not just parrot internet rumour.

Feb 15, 2012 at 9:33 AM | Unregistered Commenteriwannabeasceptic

"....there has been academic fraud such as cold fusion."
When was this definitively proven? I have little doubt that Pons and Fleischmann were wrong, but fraud?

Similarly, I don't subscribe to cAGW, but I'm not yet making accusations of fraud against certain individuals, though I reserve the right to do so. This sceptic is still waiting to see some significant predictions come true. Until then I consider it not proven. What is wrong with that?

Feb 15, 2012 at 2:00 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Feb 14, 2012 at 11:13 PM | iwannabeasceptic>

That does seem like a remarkably long subjective rant to end up saying virtually nothing of substance.

Feb 15, 2012 at 2:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterRKS

@hart the cold fusion incident is well known for illustrative purposes only, but if you do a little research you find scientists have with-held data, dropped data that conflicts with theirs, made up Elements they never discovered [which is really bizarre] as well as the academic no-nos that are called fraud. The peer-review process is designed to solve this and in fact the Royal Society has always been at the forefront to root it out. And... predictions have come true- in the 1970s most science papers predicted warming caused by MM co2, and a lot less spoke of cooling [never an ice-age], GRACE has reported ice loss yet skeptics only want to mention the lack of loss at the Himalayas. Even the most ardent skeptic scientist accepts co2 forcing but predicts a 1c by 2100.

Incidentally the word 'proof' means to test something- therefore it implies the ability to predict. But my point is don't through the baby out with the bath water.

Feb 15, 2012 at 2:58 PM | Unregistered Commenteriwannabeasceptic

the substance is simple- scepticism has the choice to be marginalised or engaged in the argument. If tired old rumours such as Mann's emails, scientists predicted an ice-age, CO2 is not a pollutant [try cleaning out a brewery tank without an air mask] are constantly circulated without challenge, if cherry-picking, like results from GRACE, is the only argument, then those kind of skeptics need to get a new name.

The people benefiting from this form of extreme stance and promoting it are the pundits who are only interested in their own careers. In fact it is worse- by stimulating ideological skepticism they are setting up scepticism to fail. In Algeria the military infiltrated the islamic terror groups and encouraged them to be more extreme, and stupidly they obliged reducing the public support they did have to the margins.

If I was a troll I would do what some right-wing pundits do, I would encourage the conspiracy theorists and dis-information just to make scepticism appear to be populated by idiots. But I think the establishment does need a check, it needs difficult questions posed and it needs to be heard by them.

Feb 15, 2012 at 3:19 PM | Unregistered Commenteriwannabeasceptic

If tired old rumours such as Mann's emails...
not that your position wasn't already plain but, sorry, making the above statement puts you squarely in the 'troll/warmist' camp. Mann's emails were certainly NOT rumour. I haven't heard Mann declare the email content as being 'fake'.

Feb 15, 2012 at 5:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterDave_G

@Daveg- I never said the emails were fake- just the easiest debunked claim based on rumour. Without entering into climate Top Trumps-
when were the emails written?
does any sceptic suggest in that year there was a decline?
was divergence ever kept secret?

The fact that so many sceptics keep on about this and claim a conspiracy just makes the entire camp look desperate.

Your post puts you firmly into the extremist denial end of the camp which for the moderates I know just puts them off making their voices heard. Personally I have a tendency towards Bjorn Lomborg's case against current policy, evidence no doubt, of being a 'warmist' troll. In an incidental way the current Heartland-gate is the flipside and I care little about it. They are a lobby firm whose supporters don't want to pay taxes and I think it is equally mistaken for 'warmists' to make a big deal of it. It is politics not science.

Feb 15, 2012 at 5:55 PM | Unregistered Commenteriwannabeasceptic

It is politics not science.

Quite so. And FWIW, since you seem to have appointed yourself (long-winded) judge, jury and executioner, the canards you've been recycling as troll-bait around here suggest very strongly that, notwithstanding your protestations to the contrary, all you're really interested in doing is white-washing the more scurrilous of those on the warm-side.

But, as their recent actions have demonstrated quite clearly, they probably need all the pseudonymous help they can get. So do carry on.

Feb 16, 2012 at 5:26 AM | Unregistered CommenterHilary Ostrov

"Even the most ardent skeptic scientist accepts co2 forcing but predicts a 1c by 2100."

I don't recall ever making that prediction, or accepting it. I really do find it a bit bizzare that another person is able to tell me what I think is acceptable.

Feb 16, 2012 at 8:45 AM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Feb 16, 2012 at 5:26 AM | Hilary Ostrov

Quite so. And FWIW, since you seem to have appointed yourself (long-winded) judge, jury and executioner, the canards you've been recycling as troll-bait around here suggest very strongly that, notwithstanding your protestations to the contrary, all you're really interested in doing is white-washing the more scurrilous of those on the warm-side.

But, as their recent actions have demonstrated quite clearly, they probably need all the pseudonymous help they can get. So do carry on.

I've not seen all the discussions, but I've not seen anything from iwannabeasceptic that is any worse than stuff some other people here say. From what I've seen he/she looks to have a fairly balanced and informed viewpoint - separating criticism of policy from that of science, and able to see that both sides of the debate have good and bad points. Looks like useful contributions, I think.

By the way, there is no "they" when it comes to either "warmists" or "sceptics", we are all individuals with our own opinions and areas of expertise, so please stop making generalisations and give this person a chance to contribute to the debate here. Challenging the mainstream is fine, but challenging the challenging is also fine, as long as it's all done respectfully and without assumptions about people's motivations.

When I say that the opinions I express here (about uncertainty in future projectins etc) are not that unusual, and that you only don't hear them because other climate scientists don't go on blogs, I then get asked "why don't the other scientists come here and say that then?" The answer is that as soon as they do, they get hammered. It happened to me at first and I persisted, and the same with Tamsin Edwards. Michel Crucifix gave it a go and got put right off - he's told me he won't be coming to BH, but I'm pleased to see he's still engaging on Tamsin's new blog. Emily Shukborough seemed to disappear altogether.

So if you really want to have a proper discussion on the mainstream science, as opposed to merely undermining it and keeping opposing voices out, please let people have their say whether you agree with them or not!

And iwannabeasceptic: please stick with it!

Feb 16, 2012 at 10:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Betts

@ M Hart- there are a number of sceptic scientists [Stott] and loud mouths like Monkton who predict a 1 C forcing and sensitivity that is one 7th to a quarter of the predicted range presented by the IPCC. May be you have the belief that it is all a conspiracy, a fraud, but on the basis of probability this is highly unlikely. If you only accept evidence/rumour/ and nonsense that suits that belief then that makes you a denier. And without being rude- denialism can only lead to delusion, I would apply the same standards to those on the other extreme expecting a 6m rise in sea levels. This approach allows for no new information to be accepted- dogma. So they accuse you and you return the insult. Personally my open mind allows me to accept changes.

Feb 16, 2012 at 7:40 PM | Unregistered Commenteriwannabeasceptic

@ hilary- long winded, well perhaps but I prefer conversation to sound bites- so let me try and understand what you are saying- unless I toe the line, unless I rubbish scientific principle, unless I enter into the puerile name calling of my opponents then I am to be excluded. Is that your message? I have been very up front in my posts- I accept the science, I am very cautious on long term predictions, and extremely sceptical that de-carbonising the global economy is possible. Like Stott and Bjorn Lomborg I am a humanitarian and wish to see the poor of the world protected. With minor climate change the growth of emerging markets, population and normal climate variations the challenges to humanity are great. I am frustrated that real sceptical debate is not happening because of people like you: too rooted in ideology to discuss the bigger issues.

Feb 16, 2012 at 7:58 PM | Unregistered Commenteriwannabeasceptic

Richard- thankyou, but that probably marks me out as some warmist troll. BH is supposedly the leading Skeptical UK blog- but judging from the responses particularly to Paul Nurse and Heartland the level of actual scepticism is low. I am biased, I am married to a scientist, but I am aware they are the most competitive and sometimes back-stabbing people you could meet- professionally of course. As you posted, I notice the level of scepticism in the scientific community is vibrant, but sharing that outlook in the bloggoshere is impossible particularly at the political end.

There is the appearance of exclusivity amongst many of the posters here, the Hartland issue is an odd indicator of that: they are a lobby group on the right that don't like paying tax whose customers are private medicine, free trade, and anti regulation, yet hardly relevant issues to poster here. And for the 'warmists' they actually serve to demonstrate political interests. But the skeptic camp has sided with them and in some cases declared 'war' on the gloating 'alarmists'. So Im not sure what really is going on.

Fascinating stuff, but I don't really have the stomach for this degree of polarisation. I am still open to conversation if anyone is interested but not troll jibes. As I said, if it were my agenda I would just promote even more extreme views of denialism in the hope the camp becomes completely dismissed as just a fringe.

Feb 16, 2012 at 8:36 PM | Unregistered Commenteriwannabeasceptic

If you wannabeasceptic the first step is to start discussing things rationally and coherently rather than just ranting about deniers and making silly generalisations such as that michael hart picked you up on. Also, focus on just one topic at a time rather than covering the entire subject in one long rambing paragraph. Your comments here are confused and all over the place.

If you wanna know why Nurse is being criticised, read the carefully numbered paragraphs in Bishop Hill's document.

Feb 16, 2012 at 11:00 PM | Unregistered Commenteryouwannabeasceptic?

I am frustrated that real sceptical debate is not happening because of people like you: too rooted in ideology to discuss the bigger issues.

And please do enlighten me, oh pseudonymous one, what, pray tell is "[my] ideology"? And where is your evidence?! I do hope that it is considerably more substantive than your:

The recent articles concerning the Royal Society and their President: Paul Nurse are frankly depressing. The criticisms go beyond the rational and represent not only an attack on the institution but on science. [emphasis added -hro]

or your:

[people] who make stupid statements like [...] ‘the MWP was warmer’ with the suggestion that 44 vineyards in Medieval England is some how proof.

or your:

And why is Nurse the subject of criticism? Because he should dare challenge particularly vocal ‘skeptics’ of AGW.

or Richard Betts' ludicrous intimation that I am somehow:

merely undermining it [by which he presumably means "mainstream science" -hro] and keeping opposing voices out

And, just out of curiosity, where is your evidence that neither I nor anyone else who has arrived at any conclusion regarding the "non-policy prescriptive" edicts from the IPCC (not to mention its various and sundry "experts" such as Andrew <AR 4 will be a barrage of intergallactic ballistic missiles> Weaver) has failed to read papers both pro and con on a particular the issue?

And who here has:

"complain[ed] that most of the members [of the RS] support Paul Nurse"?

Should you choose to reply, please try to refrain from the "revisionist scholarship" that is inherent in (for example) your:

Skeptics want to be noticed, they want the scientific establishment to listen to the alternative argument but seeing that skepticism has entered into a shouting match rather than a debate it is no surprise that the establishment has stopped listening.

It betrays either a wilful inversion - or a woeful lack of knowledge - on your part of the actual history that has brought the "debate" to its current state.

Feb 16, 2012 at 11:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterHilary Ostrov

the silly generalisation that I mention concerns prominent sceptics including Monckton who often says different things, but on occasion has accepted forcing of 1c , with one 7th to 1/4 of sensitivity when compared to IPCC predictions [predictions for 2100]. But as I have mentioned climate Top Trumps has little value.

As for the letter to Nurse- and that along with the comments that triggered my post, [I presume this is the post you refer to] it is that Nurse may or may not have responded. There are 1400 or so fellows who vote and this is a highly critical world of competition between disciplines and those with in it. A dissenting voice would be normal, I am surprised there are not more within the society, and the letter itself does not feature anything unexplained or unexplored. From a scientific POV the lack of knowledge concerning MWP, as an example featured in the letter, is researched [a climate scientist would really make their name if they could find the data proving similar global temperatures to today- but it would not change much except open up more lines of inquiry to explain it]. But the impression I get is the RS criticised for being political.

The point I make is why does the [generalised] sceptic camp take the stance of attacking the messenger which I believe to be misguided and counter productive, that is, it damages the sceptic cause.

The Royal Society was set up [or rather received its royal charter] to advise government on policy, if enough RS members complain about the advise then I am sure the next election will through up a more passive president, its a democracy [of sorts]. My experience of scientists [I am married to one not CC] is they are direct, very different to politicians- just like your doctor if you ask about 'reducing the risk' of cancer and heart disease they will be uncompromising: stop smoking, eat healthy, exercise. Ask science how to reduce the risk of AGW and the answer is simple. Now as a smoker I may not be happy, I want the bacon sandwich.

Science has its issues- just like democracy but they are the best we have. The RS does not have a bias to the alarmist cause- check the website it conflicts with the Blog- you have to search for the documents in question. And to be fair you will find the report is clear in its language- it has headlines of where the science is clear and accepted [the term settled is not there], where there is less certainty, and areas of doubts [in scientific terms]. RS is political in that they offer advise based on the best information they have. What politicians do with it is another matter, it is this area that I believe public Scepticism could have a real impact. There are 'mobs' who are anti EU, anti immigration, anti-capitalist and despite an apparently healthy blog following their voices are ignored.

Perhaps it is habit of the polarisation of the debate but responses have criticised me rather than actually address the point I make. Would you like to set a new trend?

ps I use 7 paragraphs in my original post.

Feb 17, 2012 at 12:40 AM | Unregistered Commenteriwannabeasceptic

"The answer is that as soon as they do, they get hammered. "

Hi Richard,

That is true to an extent. But, like you say, you persisted. wannabe is here, a newcomer indeed as a commenter, who has taken the liberty to preach about 'what is good for sceptics'. So it is to be expected that he is not taken seriously.

He has this sh*t medical analogy to offer:

" just like your doctor if you ask about 'reducing the risk' of cancer and heart disease they will be uncompromising: stop smoking, eat healthy, exercise"

Do you think he is the first (or the last) one to offer medical analogies in climate change? People here are quite hard-boiled and wannabe certainly has to bring more to the table if he expects a reaction.

The above would be the same even if wannabe had very good points to make, because the politics of online interaction, are always intermingled of the politics of the issue at play - it is unavoidable. Nobody every waltzed into any gathering, online or otherwise, and dazzled everyone. wannabe may be very motivated, but he's made a bunch of basic mistakes that is going to make everyone tune out from what he has to say (assuming he has something to say at all, and assuming he is not trolling)

As a start, wannabe, please stop referring to 'the sceptic camp' or the 'the sceptic cause'. I don't think they really exist. Even if they existed, I don't think the camp would be in any mood to listen to your patronising troll advice to improve itself. Get real, talk like you are talking to people, and not things or animals.


Feb 17, 2012 at 2:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterShub

@hilary- your first point
concerns the blog entry A Letter to Paul Nurse- the letter by Professor Brice Bosnich a chemist urges the RS not to be the political arm of the alarmists - you can read the rest, but as I mentioned in my first post and above the RS is there to advise politicians and along with all the other national science societies set up for the same reason. As you may realise I value science, it gets it wrong sometimes, there is fraud, but it self corrects. So when I read the letter I see a chemist taking a passionate stand on how he feels about the evidence. He cites a list of issues that are ongoing issues, and does not disagree that the projected forcing of 1 c is likely at current trends, -well you can read the rest again- but he also includes un-scientific arguments and makes much of shrinking sheep [you can look at the paper and the critical papers concerning it in the free online library that display the peer -review process].

A sceptical audience would look at the letter and points raised with a critical eye- some may be good -some bad, no-one is perfect. But the posts focus all criticism on Nurse: the letter is well balanced and accurate, and negative conclusions ensue. Please don't take my word- reread the comments.

The evidence I present of a lack of scepticism, is that the ability to apply critical objectivity of all data is absent. Nurse is elected but the only evidence Bosnich presents that he does not represent the real consensus on AGW is that the majority of members - what are his words- 'the less conversant majority remained uncomfortably silent'. It is his opinion, it may be true or false. But it is easy to spot. But as a democracy the president represents the members and therefore the criticisms on him extend into the center of British Science. So why do the comment support only Bosnich?

So why is Nurse under attack? is it because he has a public profile critical of climate sceptics? I should perhaps have added the ? to make it clear. BH is considered the leading UK sceptic blog so I assumed that it would have all sorts. People with views on the extremist sceptical edge who don't believe CO2 is a greenhouse gas, or believe it is fraud on a huge scale to those who might trust the science but disagree on the politics. Yet my observations [here and across the web, and certain pundits] are of those who would not change their minds despite the evidence. Which is sad. Being a moderate I am branded a troll!

You don't have a problem with stupid sayings if they are warmist- if the poles melted we would see a 6m sea rise- clearly no scientist would dispute this but it is an if that would take a 1000 years- like wise the MWP does not disprove AGW, vineyards in England at the time prove nothing, likewise the fact there are ten times as many now which are further north does not prove AGW now. Alarmist scientists do not dispute the MWP, but they lack data on extent.

Undermining science rather than questioning it is distinctive. The recent Heartland issue is a case in point: they are a lobby for people who don't like paying tax, if they were in operation in the UK undermining the NHS I sure few would support them. IPCC recommendations go against everything they believe in. So they have a choice to accept the science and take say the lower predictions and lobby politics, but they have deliberately sort to muddy the waters. But so what, they are self interested libertarians. But why is there so much defense of them here? Why would a sceptic trust such a self interested lobby? By defending them it implies a defense of the tactics and that ideology is more important than facts.

As for your level of knowledge I don't know, you could outline your beliefs and their basis. It is a pity that a poll is not available on the forum to discover the different strands in the sceptic population. But you were quick to call me a troll- an open minded remark?

Willful inversion, not a term I understand, but as for revisionist history, well over the 20 year history when I recall David Bellamy warning of the dangers of climate change, most people I knew expected a warmer Britain. But the internet has changed that along with the amount of data that has been collected. Who threw the first stone is not important, it is not like the West Bank! In science, having a few mavericks is normal, you can find them now such as whose say AIDs is not caused by HIV. [do you want to believe them?]. But the great net allows for this to happen but what is more important is where one goes from here.

Here is a question- what evidence would you need to agree with establishment science to change your mind [I am presuming you are not a warmist troll]? I am not asking about politics, or predictive models just AGW. If you ask a creationist about evolution then they will say nothing, they have all the evidence they need =denialist.

I want my children to have a future so if it doesn't happen to be too bad, scientists with redfaces will be a happy price. Science on the other hand doesn't care.

Feb 17, 2012 at 2:33 AM | Unregistered Commenteriwannabeasceptic

Feb 17, 2012 at 2:33 AM | iwannabeasceptic>

2:33 am and still trolling.

Perhaps a bit obsessive don't you think?

What does the scientist you say you are married to think about that?

Feb 17, 2012 at 1:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterRKS

Feb 16, 2012 at 11:44 PM | Hilary Ostrov

Hi Hilary

I am very pleased to hear that your intention is not to undermine mainstream science or keep opposing voices out!



Feb 17, 2012 at 5:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Betts

I agree with you.
Rambling discourses at 2 in the morning?
I have to say that having read all the way through that post I concluded that iwannabee was not only tired but emotional as well.

Feb 17, 2012 at 7:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Jackson

we all respect vague ramblings from the only rational sceptic on the planet.....maybe he can learn to use paragraphs too

Feb 18, 2012 at 12:26 AM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

At the moment I'll refrain from commenting on fraud or loud-mouths, of either persuasion, and concentrate on predictions. I'll save us both some time, and say that if you actually asked me personally, to make a prediction for the temperature estimates for 100 years in the future, I would say this: I would look at the last 100 years trend and take a simple linear estimate from the trend. I would do similarly for 10 years for a 10 year prediction. If you asked me for a 2012 estimate I would use 2011, and it's trend, as my guide. And I probably wouldn't be too far off by standards that seem to be commonly held. Please note that I am not even invoking any special role for carbon dioxide in these predictions. This is what I would call a reasonable "null hypothesis" that would have to be beaten by any model or person claiming some predictive skills. Going by the usual metrics, the planet has been warming for a long time. About "a degree or so" per century is a prediction that could be made by my cat. And I don't even own a cat.

In this light you can see that I might not even pay much attention to any 'sceptical scientist' wielding the predictions you mention. My method of prediction would probably work equally as well [or badly] if you asked me about the stock-market or the futures-price of steel or pork-bellies. Plenty of people claim to predict those too, but few seriously believe that they really have any special knowledge.

The prediction "tomorrow is best predicted by today" holds true more often that many people realise, yet would score 0/10 in my 'predictions class'. Now, where I live, I predict it will be warmer in March. I live in the northern hemisphere. Does my prediction merit a score of 1/10 yet? I'll leave that to your discretion. I expect some would say I could, and should, do better before they take my predictions seriously. I hope you can see my point.

O.K., lets imagine that I've now "done a little research" as you suggested in your first reply to me. Some people have suggested that we have now just past a crest in the oscillations of certain currents in the Atlantic ocean, and these are now having a "cooling effect". Some have said that temperatures may continue not rising at the "scare the horses" rates predicted (or projected!) by IPCC models. Well, we shall see, shan't we? I strongly suspect, nay predict, that we shall be hearing more about such things if temperatures show no trend or even go down in the next five years.

We're already hearing more about "it was the aerosols from China" etc. as excuses. Trenberth and others know and admit that things are not currently going according to plan/prediction. Their inaccurate models are being refined and will doubtless get better. In the meantime we are still going to hear about how good they are, despite evidence to the contrary. Hansen made specific predictions in the past that were alarmistly wrong, and is now embarrassing NASA in my opinion. I might have embarrassed myself career-wise with what I've written here, because I received aid from NASA when I was a student. I still am grateful and I would still like to repay a debt of honour. I can best do that by being honest about my scientific convictions. But I need to see meaningful predictions come true. That's how I learnt science.

I'm not a ranting right-wing creationist in the pay of big-oil [in my dreams]. I do have experience of scientific computer modelling, good, bad, and ugly. I was fortunate in that the modelling I have direct experience of, was able to be falsified in the time-period of a student's Ph.D. studies. Pharmaceutical companies and many engineers [note how many sceptics are engineers] are frequently disciplined by the real world on much shorter time scales than climate-modellers. They know that reality can turn around and bite them somewhere painful, even when they were so sure that the 'science was correct'. It often was, but reality was more complex still.

I'm not diss-ing climate science generally, or the very able, honest scientists who do it. I consider it very important on humanity's longer time scales. But I also consider it not yet a mature discipline, and need persuading that it is able to live up to the claims that have been made. Large scale computing power has not been with us for many decades. It's necessary to carry on collecting more data. Better data. Better predictions. Then, maybe, I might be persuaded. But not by some wishy-washy "it's-going-to-carry-on-getting-warmer-just-like-in-the-1980's" kind of prediction. [I loved the 80's, by the way. Some great music.]

The politics of environmental activism, however, is another matter entirely and is best left for another day.

Feb 18, 2012 at 2:40 AM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart