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Discussion > What do we want this blog to achieve?

Obviously, the Bish has his own reasons for running the blog, but there does seem to be a fair amount of uses of the blog comments which confound any particular thread in most cases. This is most apparent when a thread is visited by an outside authority, a visiting scientist, someone from the Met Office, or anyone else from the 'scene' who isn't used to the rough and tumble.

There seem to be a few conflicting uses for the comments:

1. Comments - People genuinely commenting on the substance of the main post, adding new context or links to similar resources, or pointing out flaws in the argument and citing sources.

2. Mini-rant - Some comments appear to be of the "oh not another one" kind which usually starts a small rant about the state of science, the world, people, and is not specifically directed against the main post.

3. Repeats - Some comments appear to be an excuse for the poster to strike off on the well-travelled ground of their current pet theory, no matter what the content of the original post.

4. Punishment - This is seen on the threads with visitors from outside. We rarely (never) get a chance to examine a real-life 'warmer' on a pin, so when we get one, there is a tendency to hurl questions at them, and be rather bad-tempered when they don't reply properly.

5. Talking shop - Comments where we are basically greeing with each other.

6. Self examination - I'm guilty of these, where after a certain amount of comments, the thread drifts onto one of motivations, expectations, progress. We start to question where we're going with a certain train of topic, or what we hope to achioeve by going there. Navel gazing.

7. Trolls - no definition required.

In the vein of 6, what is it we are hoping will come out of our discussions here?

Some are here obviously for the genteel conversation of like-minded people. It's hard to go against groupthink out there in the world, so it's comforting to find a little of it for yourself. Some come to rant, relelntlessly, these can be fun, but unproductive. But this assumes we want to 'produce' something.
Recently the development has been outreach, and we've had a few visitors here who have seen all of the above and been a bit scared by it. Good for Betts and Tamsin for trying to stay, I'm not sure I would have in their shoes.

Do we actually have a chance of making something here that serves as a catalyst for change in science, rather than just a self-congratulatory talking shop? If nobody wants it, that's fine too, but it might be nice to hear what other people "hope" for BH.

The answer to my topic subject might well be: nothing.

Just a few random thoughts.

May 1, 2012 at 11:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames


I love the environment here in the aspect that there is entertainment, a bit of Tom Foolery, banter but above all every so often there is that link or comment that takes you onto a journey of self education that can last from a quick read of another source of information to a self ordained project over a period of months.

Don't change a thing, those that need conformity can learn how independent thinking works.

May 1, 2012 at 12:11 PM | Registered CommenterLord Beaverbrook

have to say I love this site

I now visit a lot of the sites regularly (both sides)

My view is that this should (continue) to be a site of civilised conversation and thoughtful analysis. I see it as more philosophical than scientific (as opposed to say Climate Audit which is forensic, GWPF is political in its analyses and WUWT which is more scientific). There are many other good ones of course

On the other side I do enjoy Deltoid! They get into such a lather over things but it does make me laugh - unfortunately, they seem to have just reduced themselves to an Open thread rather than picking on topics as the Bishop does. Desmogblog and Skeptical Science are just useless.

Real Climate is just desperately boring

I think this site should continue to be as it is - let the game develop! One day, a policy maker/politician will start to wake up - I think there are a few already but it will not be soon

May 1, 2012 at 12:52 PM | Unregistered Commentersankara

'Knowledge' is a good one, but I find the blog format means most of the choice bits I may with to retrieve have scrolled away into the past and I can't find them. I can't even find some of my own posts.

As a repository of knowledge, blogs are too temporary.

May 1, 2012 at 2:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

Not wishing to upset His Grace, but this blog reminds of the days in the 60s when small groups of blokes from power station contractors would gather in agreeable smokey little pubs adjacent to the site and argue, poke fun, moan about the big cheeses, but generally have a good laugh and sometimes learn something new.

Of course there was nothing that we could achieve in those golden days, but taking the p*ss was good fun.

Now of course, taking the p*ss isn't fun any more due to the rise of the "elite big cheeses" in power who just ignore the peasants and who will in the fullness of time, having sorted out lamps, fags, and cars, are now moving on to booze and then, pork pies, I'll bet.

So, my vote goes to keeping it the way it is.

May 1, 2012 at 3:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterBrownedoff

I wasn't really proposing changing anything ... more realising that times have changed.

When we were 'losing', this place was where we came to feel better amongst the like-minded, so we sounded off about people,ranted, and were generally bad-tempered.

Now we're 'winning' I was just pointing out that people who are now on the fence, doubting, wanting to find out what all this skepticism is all about... the ranting might scare them away.

That is probably their problem, however.

May 2, 2012 at 8:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

I really enjoy the political banter and exposition of the dirty tricks by the AGW promotion team by our diligent contributors.

I am somewhat disappointed with the limited amount of scientific discussion, most of which seems to be taken up with navel gazing 'what ifs' about radiative physics - Even though the viewpoint of most on the blog seems to be that back radiation has little, if any, effect on global warming.

Other well publicised theories and viewpoints on the workings of the climate seem to get the cold shoulder treatment.

WUWT has more scientific discussion but suffers from the political bias of a few [clique] regular contributors who tend to keep the discussion in line with their own bias.

For in depth scientific discussion of not only all sides of the climate debate but many other fields of science, I find the Tallbloke blog to be streets ahead of others in this respect.

Top marks to BH for exposing the never ending AGW scams and keeping us informed of items we seldom see on main stream media, but please let's have a more varied approach to the science used to describe the workings of our climate.

May 2, 2012 at 9:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterRKS

My view of BH is that it represents the very best of the "science policy" interface. Far more so than the IPCC - or its waiting-in-the-wings younger sibling, the IPBES!

Andrew's choice of topics - leavened by intermittent samplings of Josh's brilliant graphical graspings - offer, IMHO, a perfect balance for one who likes to lurk 'n learn (and occasionally LOL).

I had to laugh at the presumptuousness of the BB-troll - whose diversionary assertion, elsewhere, to the effect that this blog should have an articulated POV may well have precipitated BYJ's decision to start this particular discussion. Although I stand to be corrected on this :-)

Back in the heyday of USENET, there was an FAQ which suggested very strongly that prior to posting, those who were interested in the topics discussed should lurk for some time before leaping into posting, It strikes me that this is a lesson that could well be applicable to newbies of all persuasions here - and on any other frequently commented blog, for that matter!

IMHO, we don't need any rules - other than that we respect Andrew's very occasional requests for "calm", and that we all try our very best to stick to the topic of the thread - notwithstanding the obvious diversionary tactics of the pseudonymous trolls and sock-puppets who pop in from time to time.

I know it's far easier said than done, but perhaps the best approach to the trolls and sock-puppets would be to acknowledge their presence with all the civility and politeness one can muster, but to refrain from the futile exercise in engaging their "arguments" if when they show themselves to be non-responsive to one's replies. Such an approach might aid in keeping the temperature of the discussions here on the cool side.

Perhaps it's also important to keep in mind that those who have known warmist affiliations - either voluntary professional - probably are somewhat constrained by such affiliations in their responses here (whether they openly acknowledge this or not). Not that this has stopped me from occasionally forgetting this point;-)

It might also be helpful when one's opinions conflict with those of someone whom, for the most part, one might consider to be on the same side, one could describe one's responses rather than accusing the other - but I suspect that I have been guilty of not practicing what I'm preaching in this instance!

And speaking of guilty ... I now see that I'm guilty of diverging from the main points of BYJ's post. Forgive me, I know not what my keyboard does ;-)

May 3, 2012 at 7:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterHilary Ostrov

I don't mind meandering, some of the best posts I've read on BH have been off-topic. I think it only gets annoying when it's done deliberately instead of as a natural consequence of the conversation, e.g. when someone keeps going on about "mistakes" in "backradiation" in every snigle post, no matter what the topic ;) "Chemtrails" is another one which is wedged in to any thread no matter what.

May 3, 2012 at 8:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

"the best approach to the trolls and sock-puppets would be to acknowledge their presence with all the civility and politeness one can muster"

Scare them off with politeness! It might work.

I wouldn't change much here - it is definitely my favourite site, and the only enhancement I can think of is an approval button. Not so sure about disapproval, though, as it would only confirm trolls' prejudices...

May 10, 2012 at 1:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

Deliberate trolls won't be put off by politeness, they are only here to disrupt - it is considered 'work' for the 'cause' and they will argue with you even if you are agreeing with them.

Luckily we don't have many of those type of troll here.

May 10, 2012 at 1:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

"in every snigle post"

They're the worst sort! :-)

Agree with you about O/T posts, although I guess they're not to be encouraged too much...

May 10, 2012 at 3:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

The "no back radiation" and it's close relatives the "trace gas", "2nd law of thermodynamics" and the "pyrgeometers don't work" interruptions are the worst. Even if they had substance (and I don't believe they do, never seen one yet that's convinced me) the assumption is that : given pet-theory is true, it's useless to discuss all the other aspects.

So political threads, threads about scientific process, threads about policies... are all rendered useless (in in the eyes of the pet-theory holder) and more than that - we're being impudent, stupid or wilful by ignoring them.

The more green-pencils we have on this side of the fence, the less science listens to us. And it needs to listen, because there is something that they need to face up to. But they aren't going to take it from people they consider idiots.

May 10, 2012 at 3:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames


Which of the following two groups is likely to be the first to change their minds and agree that they have been mistaken?

1. The..

"no back radiation"

"trace gas"

"2nd law of thermodynamics"

"pyrgeometers don't work"

folk (who believe CAGW is rubbish, but for invalid reasons).

2. The

"present temperatures are unprecedented"

"computer models can predict future climate"

"... the recent heat waves in Texas and Russia, and the one in Europe in 2003, which killed tens of thousands, were not natural events — they were caused by human-induced climate change" (Hansen)

"if global temperatures rise by only 2°C it would mean that 20-30% of species could face extinction" (Met Office)

"carbon dioxide (...) its residence time is 100 years" (Met Office)

folk (who believe in CAGW, but for invalid reasons).

May 10, 2012 at 6:54 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Good question. Ultimately, I don't believe either of them will :) it's difficult to argue someone out of an opinion they weren't argued into! if you think about it, it's these two groups of people who are shouting at each other the most - a large group of more moderate, rational doubters and scientists in the middle get caught in the crossfire, and tarred by the same brushes.

All skeptics are unscientific deniers = All climate scientists are incompetent crooks

Shame it's the unscientific deniers and incompetent crooks who like this sort of language.

May 10, 2012 at 8:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

First to change their minds:
1. ...
2. ...
3. The
"CO2 is a greenhouse gas"
"the climate is warming because of increased CO2"
"but there are no proven feedbacks"
"... and anyway, any possible positive feedback mechanisms would be exactly (or more than) cancelled out by the negative ones"
folk (who believe in CAGW, for valid reasons).

Did I get you guys right? (;-)

May 10, 2012 at 11:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterBitBucket


I almost fit into group 3 - except for the C in CAGW. I know there must be some AGW because I accept the physics. I know that the climate science establishment ignores cyclical temperature change, builds models to hide it, and blames failures of the models or their supporting proxies on "something else [not even specified] that human beings are doing." I know that We see very little research effort going into clouds, or the effect of warming induced changes to lapse-rate/convection, i.e. factors which may well have a strong negative feedback and thus buffer climate change (something to be expected given the earth's long term oscillation within a range of a few degrees).

Anybody else?

May 11, 2012 at 7:46 AM | Unregistered Commenterlogicophilosophicus

I'm a 3. With the caveats that

"The earth is warming because of CO2" doesn't mean that it's warming "a lot" or it's "irreversable" or that it won't come down again due to negative feedbacks like clouds.

Also "warming" means that the average of quite a large natural (possibly solar) oscillation goes up by 1 degree, which is much less than the range of the oscillation - not saying it will have no effects, just not the ones given by the CAGW crowd.

"There are no proven feedbacks" - there are some feedbacks, but I believe (from the evidence of a fairly stable climate for millions of years) that climate equilibrium is inherently stable (self correcting) and not unstable, the way that posited "tipping points" would make it.

I think the "CO2 is a greenhouse gas" is a given for any sensible person who bases their opinion on physics. The name "greenhouse" is stupidly misleading, since greenhouses work mostly by restricting loss of heat by convection, which is not the same mechanism as is described by the atmospheric "greenhouse effect" which is all radiative.

If they called it the "Re-emitted Longwave Absorption Effect" instead, people might not doubt it so much.

May 11, 2012 at 8:26 AM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

Which of the following two groups is likely to be the first to change their minds and agree that they have been mistaken?

I'd go for the possibility of (1) changing their minds. I think it's that they simply have a wrong understanding of physics. Even though their misunderstanding is ingrained, I can imagine that many of them would not rule out ever changing their minds on the subject.

For (2), it's a religion and their belief is based on faith. Plus for many of them, they have built their careers on it. Even if they begin to have inner doubts, like the bishop who starts to question his own belief in the sky fairy, they are not going to pack it in and get a job stocking supermarket shelves.

I think that many of the "no back radiation" and "2nd law of thermodynamics" folk have seen the explanations of the greenhouse effect which say "the back radiation warms the surface" and have said to themselves "this is nonsense" (which it is). But they have then gone a step further and said "therefore the greenhouse effect is nonsense".

In reality, the surface is warmed exclusively by the incoming short wave radiation until it reaches whatever temperature is needed for the total outgoing radiation of energy per unit time to equal the incoming. I can imagine it is not inconceivable that, if this is carefully explained, they might alter their view.

The "it's only a trace gas" folk might be convinced by a direct calculation of the mass of CO2 in a vertical column from ground level to infinity, followed by a calculation of the proportion of longwave IR that can transit such a column without being absorbed (and reradiated) even once by a CO2 molecule.

I calculated that, in a column of one square inch cross section, there are 11 ounces of CO2 - a non-trivial mass of gas, if my calculation was right.

May 11, 2012 at 1:35 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A


"CO2 is a greenhouse gas" agreed

"the climate is warming has warmed because of increased CO2 perhaps because of increased CO2, perhaps for other reasons (solar UV output variations, chaotic ocean dynamics, cosmic ray variations or other unknown factors"

"but there are no proven undoubtedly various feedbacks but they seem to be barely understood"
"... and anyway, any possible positive feedback mechanisms would be exactly (or more than) cancelled out by the negative ones" anyone who has tried to stabilise mechnical or electronic systems with significant positive feedback and knows how you only have to look at them to have them slam hard against the stops finds it inconceivable that the climate incorporated significant positive feedback mechnisms
folk (who believe in the possibility of C AGW, for valid reasons).

It's a shame that "climate science" simply cannot be trusted. It is an important subject to be understood. So far as I can see, it would need to be started again from scratch by capable physicists and mathematicians/statisticians with no previous contact with the subject. But I don't see that happening, so we'll remain as we are unable to believe any of it.

May 11, 2012 at 1:57 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

I suspect the "cold atmosphere can't warm the hotter ground" arguments come from a sort of algabraic dyslexia which can't see that a "preventing heat loss" is the same thing as "causing it to be hotter".

It's a bit like saying pressing the brake on a car "makes it go backwards" and people pointing out that it's obviously a stupid thing to say (which it is) - but that doesn't mean that the brake* does not apply a force vector in the opposite direction from the movement. In the same way, the atmosphere doesn't "heat up" the ground - it simply prevents the ground from "cooling down" to the same level it would without it and it does this by applying a "vector" in the opposite direction, i.e in the heating direction.

Algabraic dyslexia. I think I'll patent that.

* it's not really the brake I know, the brake slows the wheels rotation, and the slowing tyre's friction on the ground increases, so it's actually the ground applying the vector

May 11, 2012 at 2:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

I'd say that Group-1ers have a more religious quality: for religious belief you have to reject much of what modern science tells us. Group-2ers don't seem to be rejecting any established science (correct me if I misunderstand) but rather making predictions based upon limited information and picking the worst case as their 'preferred' outcome. As such I can't see Group-1ers changing their minds. Group-2ers will follow their models I would guess and if the models change (due to better models or more information input) they will adjust.

The electrical analogy is illuminating and misleading. The instability of positive feedback circuits is exactly what all the fuss is about. But "you only have to look at them to have them slam hard against the stops" is from your perspective with small circuits and short timescales. Add a capacitor the size of the earth and measure it on geological timescales and 'slamming against the stops' looks rather different. But it would be no less unstable or controllable. The 'stops' in this case may not be as hard and fast as the power rails in your circuits, but instead might be other feedback mechanisms taking over in changed conditions. Unknown of course. But if there are significant +ve feedbacks, we risk trouble. Again, of course, we don't know, but Group-3ers are happy to take that risk and scornful of anyone who differs.

BTW, what is the C in CAGW? I had lazily assumed AGW == CAGW.

May 11, 2012 at 3:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterBitBucket

Oh nonononononoo.... the C in CAGW is what ALL scientific scepticism is about.

The C stands for CATASTROPHIC, as in tipping points, runaway trends, singularities both upwards and downwards. The whole of the Greenland ice-slab sliding into the north atlantic, oceans acidifying, massive outgassing of methane from tundra, rising sea levels engulfing the Empire State Building in the next 50 years.

The sort of thing you would see HM Govt sponsoring adverts about with our money, with drowning cartoon puppies. You know, that movie 2012. End of the world type stuff.

May 11, 2012 at 3:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames

Martin A, your 11oz in a square inch of air is way wrong. The whole column of air weighs 14.7 pounds. CO2 is 0.0582% by weight. 0.136 oz. However the optical depth of air in the appropriate bands is well documented.

May 11, 2012 at 3:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterRhoda

It's almost beside the point. We KNOW from spectral analysis of downward longwave radiation measured at night (so not solar) that the atmosphere is radiating back at measurable quantities - namely from H2O and CO2 because we can see that in the spectral bands. These are measurements, not models.

When you point that out to the unbelievers, they then move the goalposts onto scattering of upward longwave (wrong spectral bands) or the instrument used to measure it is wrong/broken.

May 11, 2012 at 3:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheBigYinJames