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Discussion > Is the climate change debate an intellectual discussion or a no holds barred war?

When one side of the debate states that actually there is nothing to argue about and anyone who disagrees with the current "consensus" is an idiot or a denier or a confusionist or a flatearther etc etc, what course of action remains?
Have you tried to inform MPs, ministers, DECC.DEFRA, the BBC about scientific papers that dispute CAGW? I thought got the same response I did right?
The climate change debate can not be isolated, compartmentalised or sanitised because it has a massive impact on the real world. The IPCC is virtually instructing governments to change their energy policies in order to reduce carbon emissions.
In one sense I admire Steve McIntyre and Andrew Montford for their ability to stay calm and have great patience in arguing their case over the long term but in another sense it frustrates the hell out of me.
People are suffering today, people are paying too much tax today, people are in energy poverty today, there are food shortages today, people are losing freedoms today, in the UK industries are moving abroad today and others are becoming uncompetetive today all because of what the IPCC are telling us about climate change.
There are a number of issues:

Even if we are facing CAGW, is destroying our economies the right course?
In the face of closed minds, is polite discussion the right decision?
Are we facing even bigger threats from the sustainability argument?
In the face of rising motoring taxes, energy taxes, the threat of direct control of individual energy use and a political system which effectively disenfranchises all of us, it feels more like a war to me.
We are currently treating with kid gloves a number of scientists who wish to "engage" with well behaved people at BH. Try and get that deal at realclimate!
Each and every scientist who truly believes that humans are causing warming and possibly CAGW is aware of what governments are doing in the name of their beliefs. Do they have any opinions about that?
Do they believe that deaths, taxes and loss of freedoms are OK? Would it not be preferable for them to actually state that there is doubt?

Jul 25, 2012 at 10:58 PM | Registered CommenterDung

If you are talking about purely USA, probably war. :(
had a few email with Marc Morano, ie gestures of goodwill vs war. (political)

The emsils show how usa attitude colurs uk scientists thinking at CRU

Jul 25, 2012 at 11:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

It’s always good to see discussion of what we should be doing, as opposed to what we should be thinking or feeling (I get so bored with myself every time I start: “Have you seen this at RealClimate / Guardian Environment? Isn’t it awful?”).
Having said that, talk of a no-holds-barred war, coming from a tiny group of mostly elderly middle class white males sounds a bit - extreme - the Judaean Liberation Front played by Dad’s Army.
So what are you suggesting? Being rude to Professor Betts as a way of showing our feelings? This would surely be counterproductive, as well as grossly unfair, since Betts does accept that there is something to argue about, and does so with great courtesy. Whatever his opinions on the science, he has separated himself psychologically and strategically from the warmists as clearly and courageously as he possibly could.
I see two things in your call to arms - a request for debate about how to carry our campaign forward; and an expression of the emotion which motivates us. The latter is maybe necessary as fuel for the former, but it needs to be kept in the background.
So no war, and above all no talk of war, since it makes us sound like a mirror image of the hysterical warmists. Leave the talk of deaths caused by the opposite side to Monbiot and co. And don’t link death and taxes in the same sentence, since both are unavoidable.
But I’m sure people here will come up with some practical suggestions. Booker’s recent campaign to get his readers to write to their MPs about the Climate Change Act seems to me an excellent move. It achieved nothing except to demonstrate to a few million readers that MPs are mindless lemmings. Well we knew that, but you can bet MPs won’t like it having been pointed out so brutally. They don’t care about the billions wasted on windmills, but they do care about their image.

Jul 26, 2012 at 5:54 AM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

From the Ecclesiastical Uncle, an old retired bureaucrat in a field only remotely related to climate with minimal qualifications and only half a mind.


I gues our recent discussion in another thread here must have precipitated this.

IMHO the answer to the question in the title of this discussion must be ‘both’. Intellectual discussions can take place in a war.

However, I think you have the situation over the IPCC wrong. I explain: The IPCC was established at the very least with the sanction of governments in the early days following the implosion of the red peril and replacement, on the moral high ground, of socialist virtues by green ones, and adoption of green policies. The organization has no funding of its own but relies on government controlled sources The actual but covert purpose in establishing it was to centralize the many and diverse efforts of those climate change scientists who worked to show that climate change would be catastrophic the better to enable them to furnish the governments with scientific evidence to justify their new policies However, the possibility of objections required that the published overt aim was merely to investigate climate science and provide advice. Government manipulations and the ever present threat of the withdrawal of funds have ensured that the IPCC has always pursued its covert aim while pretending to pursue its publicly advertised overt aim, in absolute accordance with what the governments want.

Of course you are right: what the IPCC says does lead to impoverishment but governments must bear the main responsibility because of the hold they have over it.

So if there is war, and I think there should be, the primary target should be government and not the IPCC, though, of course, attacks on it may also be effective.

WRT dealing with a closed mind, polite discussions may be appropriate if you think there is a possibility that it might not be so closed after all. But a good rant may be the better option if you think nothing you say will make any difference – at least it may make you feel better. In either case, however, you WILL have to take the consequences - which may be readily forecast or examples of the law of unintended consequences. And what will onlookers think and do?

Turning to sustainability, IMHO you may be right that there may be much to fear. In my book there is merit in the basic idea and this may make the outlandish generalizations that green talking heads are now spinning around it the more difficult to refute.

Jul 26, 2012 at 9:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterEcclesiastical Uncle


I am not advocating being rude to Richard Betts or anyone else on this blog, more to the point I can not remember anyone ever being rude to Richard which begs the question; why the need to inform us that in relation to the new "Emails relating to Rob Wilson's post "Large-scale temperature trends" 5/6/12" thread

the thread on the discussion forum will be tightly moderated.

So in terms of "what we should be doing" I am asking if creating a creche for visiting warmist scientists to broadcast their message, while insulating them against attack and against them having to wade through the rubbish of non scientists, is actually the right way to go? What does it achieve? It seems to me to be a bit of an insult to BH posters in general.
Pachauri jets around the world telling anyone who will listen; what policies they should follow in order to save the planet (many examples in Donna Laframboise's book). Pachauri does this (and is only able to do this) in the name of the IPCC. I have not seen one scientist at the IPCC attempt to distance themselves from these political interferences by Pachauri, why not?
Richard was a lead author in AR4 would it be impolite of me or inappropriate for me to point this out to him in the new discussion thread?
I guess that means that I disagree with Uncle that the IPCC is not to blame for what is happening, I think that the UN through the UNFCCC is the heart of the corruption and the conspiracy.

Jul 26, 2012 at 1:34 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Geoffchambers: 'So no war, and above all no talk of war, since it makes us sound like a mirror image of the hysterical warmists.'

That would make a very interesting sound, Geoff.

I’m always slightly bemused when I read this type of comment, which features often on climate sceptic blogs; essentially: let’s not act ‘like them’. And of course this is a backhanded way of acknowledging that the person being chastised is in fact acting just ‘like them’, in this particular case, ‘hysterical’.

But as a matter of practical advice, the exhortation not to act ‘like them’ is redundant. We could equally and more directly say: stop acting hysterical; and do so without loss of meaning.

Clearly, this form of chastisement serves another function or functions. One obvious one is that it enables a poster to scold another while signalling that both belong to the same tribe.

Another could be that the exhortation not to ‘act like them’ is an indirect attack on one’s opponents: they act like that, because it’s in their nature. When we act like that, it’s a departure from our nature, an infection that we’ve caught from them.

In that case, the above statement is not at all a rejection of war, but rather of a particular type of war – an emotional one – in favour of another type of war: a moral one.

But warmists also engage in both types of war. So whether the desired war is an emotional or moral one, climate sceptics are unavoidably going to ‘sound’ like a mirror image of the warmists, or more objectively, both sides are going to sound the same.

Jul 26, 2012 at 7:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterBrendan H

Thanks for the lesson. I’m not sure how to reply, because I’m not entirely sure in what way your criticism is meant. I think I detect a lot of sarcasm, but there’s also a lot of truth in what you say, so I’ll try and reply in a reasonable tone to the very sound points you make.
Many of us, Dung and myself included, have been thinking long and hard about how we go from here. But blog threads have their own logic and their own psychology, and none of us know quite how they work or where they’re going.
If you‘re accusing me of being hypocritical by not coming out plainly and saying “put a sock in it, comrade”, don’t bother. We don’t have to play every card every round. I don’t have to tell others on these threads how to behave, not only because it’s not in my nature, but because being “on message” is not part of our strategy.
I don’t agree at all that rejecting an emotional war necessarily entails espousing a moral war. Why should it? I reject entirely the idea of a “war”, not because I’m a pacifist, but because it seems to me to be entirely inappropriate to a political and social question whose basis is wholly factual, and hinges on whether scientists are correct in their predictions about future climate change and its effects.
It’s experienced as a war, and I and others have often used warlike metaphors, (often ironically) but in simple practical terms, there’s no way a disparate group of sceptics can take on the UN and the entirety of world governments and scientific bodies in some kind of aggressive confrontation.
In arguing that the warpath is the wrong one, I’m not advocating some Gandhi-like route of passive resistance, just pointing out that political and social reality makes such a strategy unrealistic.
I think you make an important point when you say: “climate sceptics are unavoidably going to ‘sound’ like a mirror image of the warmists” not because we’re both engaged in the same type of war, but because the “sound” we make depends as much on the receptivity of the hearer as the activity of the emitter. “If only everyone would read the Hockey Stick Illusion” may well be as impractical a desire as “if only everyone would cycle to work”. Neither is going to happen. The basis on which a society makes its decisions is neither entirely logical, nor entirely moral. There’s always the danger that, however you decide to proceed, the majority of citizens are going to react with “a plague on both your houses” or more probably “f*** the lot of you”.
I take Dung’s initial post to be a demand that part of the “other side” - the reasonabe scientists who are willing to engage in dialogue - should cede some ground, confess their sins, repent a little. I don’t think this is a reasonable demand. It won’t happen, and it’s not a tactic that leads anywhere useful. But that’s just a tactical difference. I think my strategic aims are the same as those of most commenters here. Maybe you’d like to say something about your strategic aims?

Jul 26, 2012 at 11:13 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

Geoffchambers: “Thanks for the lesson.”

Thanks for your thoughts, Geoff. I wasn’t trying to impart a lesson. Nor was I being sarcastic or accusing you of hypocrisy. Perhaps I was being a bit ironic around the idea of the sound of a mirror image, although it’s quite an arresting metaphor, or maybe mixed-up metaphor.

My focus was quite narrow, on just one, not necessarily important, aspect of the climate debate, ie the exhortation for climate sceptics to not act ‘like them’.

This is just speculation really, but it’s my impression that this admonition is more prevalent on sceptic than warmer websites and blogs.

Your mention of war got me thinking about weapons, and one focus of the sceptic side is the bad behaviour of climate scientists, which leads to the question: why the focus on that?

My answer is that the focus is a potent weapon. But why that weapon? Because the warmists have the other big guns – the institutions – sewn up: academia and science, most of the media, a proportion of government and the bureaucracy, to a lesser extent business.

Against that, sceptics would want some powerful firepower, and taking the moral high ground would help with that.

Don’t think I’m trying to put you and sceptics in general under a microscope, because I’m not. Nor am I trying to excuse bad behaviour by climate scientists. But most people adjust their thinking and compensate for weaknesses in their armour.

I’m clearly still stuck on this war metaphor, which is not surprising, given the headline to this thread and your reminders. But despite what you say, I think we are in a war – a political and cultural one about what is important in life. I don’t see why that’s necessarily a bad thing, as long as it remains relatively gentlemanly and bloodless.

Re strategic aims: I don’t have any for dealing with CO2. I’m just a layperson, but anyone who thinks there’s going to be a global agreement – or even big-power agreement – on climate any time soon is dreaming. There are just too many geopolitical rivalries.

If you mean more mundane strategies, such as communication, my view is fairly simple, perhaps even simplistic. I think everybody should just try to get along. I know I do.

Jul 27, 2012 at 10:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterBrendan H

IMHO there is a place for polemicists like Breitbart (R.I.P.) and Delingpole to "stick it up 'em" and provoke a reaction which exposes the true nature of the enemy to impartial bystanders. The many vile comments on Delingpole's articles are a case in point - his provocations expose and shed light on the extremism of the alarmists. So the end result will presumably be that an increasing proportion of the disengaged populace will adopt a skeptical view, ultimately influencing their MPs to do the same, in their own self-interest.

That being said, there is a limit to what a frontal assault can achieve. Forcefully restating the obvious over and over can become tedious, and may antagonize the policymakers who don't want to admit that they were wrong. Pressure to change bad policy can be exerted in different ways, including more subtly via (hopefully) influential civil servants like Richard Betts.

The beauty of BH is the intelligence of the posters and their comments, which is presumably one of the reasons Richard continues to engage here. We are just as likely to change his opinions as he is ours, through reasoned discussion. His recent comments on adaptation suggest that he is moving away from CO2 mitigation, which if translated into policy change would be a big win for us.

My view is therefore to let the polemicists be polemic, and the diplomats be tactful. As long as individual skeptics value and uphold the truth, in whatever way they choose, the truth will eventually prevail. A multi-pronged approach is fine by me. It doesn't matter if most of us are aging white guys (and a few feisty gals) if we are in the right, as I believe we are. Climate change skepticism has become a massive transnational popular campaign which is utilising the power of the internet and giving a voice to those who would otherwise suffer in silence. The 'Team' may have their cause, but so have we, a cause that honours truth, common sense and dare I say a positive view of human potential.

Jul 27, 2012 at 11:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterChris M


Super post and I need someone to read it to me at bedtime ^.^

However it contains the flaw that makes me angry.

As long as individual skeptics value and uphold the truth, in whatever way they choose, the truth will eventually prevail.

That is the "feeling" of the whole blog, on virtually a daily basis we calmly discuss a new paper or a new eco policy but to what end? The blog does not have an aim other than the one quoted from your post, that if we keep going then maybe one day we will win.
I tried to point out that policies pursued by various governments are affecting people right now and I think that should add urgency to our actions and thoughts.
What we do is fight skirmishes over bits of science, win a bit here, lose a bit there but no progress.

The truth is that we are not even fighting the real war at all, the real war is pursuading scientists on both sides of the argument that whatever they know about how our climate works: what they dont know is greater by an order of magnitude. The first battle in the real war should be to get scientists to admit that they know diddly squat about our climate and that it is lunacy to spend billions on the basis of our limited knowledge.

Jul 27, 2012 at 2:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterDung


"The first battle in the real war should be to get scientists to admit that they know diddly squat about our climate and that it is lunacy to spend billions on the basis of our limited knowledge."

This may be a lot more difficult to achieve than it sounds, because scientists who believe in a particular paradigm will find it difficult to accept or admit that it may be wrong, unless the contrary evidence is overwhelmingly strong. This is true for all of them.

It may be easier to demonstrate that there is a credible and genuine spectrum of scientific opinion relating to a variety of relevant scientific questions. Even better, to demonstrate that the policy ideas motivated by alternative strands are also different, or better still that sensible policy for one strand makes no sense at all for another. I expect we can all think of good straightforward arguments to support this kind of position.

This way of arguing would be addressed away from the scientists and towards the politicians. Presumably, they are the ones who need to be convinced to change things. Perhaps, some politicians will be more receptive to this kind of argument than to scientific arguments that are outside their expertise: for example, those with a lawyerly background.

Jul 27, 2012 at 3:13 PM | Registered CommenterPhilip Richens

Dung and Chris M
Agree entirely. Dung, a lot of the difference between what you’ve just said and your intro was simply in the fact that you’ve suppressed the angry rhetoric and frustration to concentrate on the important questions about strategy.
Sorry about the misunderstanding. Many thanks for the interesting comments. Agreed that the use of war metaphors is almost inevitable.
“See yourself as others see you” may sound trite and moralistic, but it’s very useful to be reminded how the dispute/skirmish/fight-to-the-death looks to an onlooker.

Jul 27, 2012 at 3:16 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

Dung, you ask what is achieved by being nice to Richard, Tamsin, John Kennedy and any other climate scientists that come here.

The answer is simple. Many of these people have been told, and believe, that climate sceptics are very stupid, ignorant, right-wing nutcases (the latest example of this is the drivel by Lewandowsky promoted by the Graun today).

By coming here they learn that this is not the case - that many of us are well informed and some of us are even left-leaning! See the comments in Richard Betts's talk (eg "Don't underestimate audience")

Jul 27, 2012 at 3:46 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews



I am not saying that everything scientists have discovered is wrong, I am saying that it just a tiny proportion of all that is yet to be discovered.
I asked just a few of our better qualified scientists on BH the following question (or close to hehe) a year or two ago:

"What proportion of all that will eventually be known about your subject, do you think you currently know?"
I cant remember exactly what the responses were but we were talking less than 10%. Looked at in that way current action to mitigate climate change really is total folly.

Jul 27, 2012 at 3:51 PM | Registered CommenterDung


I dont think there is anything wrong with the way anybody is treated on BH, therefore I didnt see the need to make special provision for the fab four. Why did that discussion need to be "tightly moderated"?
Just in case I am someone BH had in mind (I mean I know I am not everyone's cup of tea) I have stayed away. The last thing I want to do is screw up this brilliant blog.
A certain scientist claims to have received inappropriate emails from a BH blogger and is then upset that after he refused to disclose the offending emails, another blogger FOId them. This constitutes being given a hard time?

Jul 27, 2012 at 4:11 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Hi Dung,

I do understand that you are not saying that everything scientists have discovered is wrong, and I’m sure you’re right to point out how little is really known.

My point is only that in climate science, there are competing theories. Emphasising the differences of scientific opinion to politicians (and that significant differences exist in almost everything apart from the basics) may be an easier strategy than trying to persuade scientists to change their research goals. I think this is especially true if the different theories suggest alternative or even contradictory policy goals. For example, the CO2 control knob makes mitigation seem sensible, whereas a strong and unpredictable internal variability makes vulnerability assessments and adaptation look far more reasonable.

Regarding Dr Corner, I think it is most convincing to prove him wrong by our behaviour. Even if he doesn't come to accept that, others likely will.

BTW, I always enjoy your comments, even when I don’t agree with you. I'm pleased that you've raised this topic of best strategy.

Jul 27, 2012 at 5:02 PM | Registered CommenterPhilip Richens

The reason that thread was tightly moderated was to make at least some attempt to keep it in topic. I don't think that Andrew was planning to police robust debate though I'm sure that he might have had it in mind to be a little less tolerant of people who over-stepped the mark both in terms of what was said (relevance) and how it was said (good manners). And good manners, even — or perhaps espcially — when conversing with "adversaries", is always more effective than bad.

Jul 27, 2012 at 5:57 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Phil and mike

Thank you and points you make are truly relevant to how to dicide/how to behave/how to act.
Over the last twenty years or so a trait has developed amongst leaders both political and business (apparently in other fields as well). People lie literally all the time and once you embark upon this strategy you can never admit to even one lie that you have told.
A leading figure in the IPCC fits this description perfectly. He tells an audience that the IPCC has no role in policy making and instead simply advises on the science, leaving it for others to decide on a course of action. The same day he tells a different audience that they simply must reduce carbon emissions or the planet faces catastrophy.
Now the fab 4 have been telling exactly the former story to us in their discussion, they advise on the science but not on policy. For what it is worth, I believe them but I also believe that they must know how that certain leader is behaving.
How should they act, how should we behave towards them if they do nothing? Of course everyone wants to keep their job and usually keeps their mouth shut and thus we prove that the human race has a very short memory. Now I am depressed ^.^

Jul 27, 2012 at 7:36 PM | Registered CommenterDung