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Discussion > The Moral and Intellectual Poverty of Climate Alarm

John Shade

Congratulations on a brilliant opening post and on the creation of a genuine intellectual exchange of ideas. However I believe you are being too kind when you suggest some of the CAGW scientists are low grade. Do you not think that many are simply dishonest? It was well documented (not least by the Bish) that "the establishment" needed someone to make the MWP disappear, was it just coincidence that MM arrived at that time?
The NEED for the MWP to disappear came before the"science" which purported to do the job. In many of our criticisms of climate models we suggest that modellers are simply trying to produce a model that fits a pre-existing theory, if true then that makes the modellers dishonest so why not say so?
I totally agree with the criticism of the Precautionary Principle which as many cleverer than me point out; only seems to apply to the the problem and never the solution.

Apr 25, 2013 at 6:33 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Thank you, Dung. I knew there was something about you that I liked ... :).

Re dishonesty. I think that deserves deep investigation. The confessions of this chap Stapel are relevant ( ):

Stapel did not deny that his deceit was driven by ambition. But it was more complicated than that, he told me. He insisted that he loved social psychology but had been frustrated by the messiness of experimental data, which rarely led to clear conclusions. His lifelong obsession with elegance and order, he said, led him to concoct sexy results that journals found attractive. “It was a quest for aesthetics, for beauty — instead of the truth,” he said. He described his behavior as an addiction that drove him to carry out acts of increasingly daring fraud, like a junkie seeking a bigger and better high.

And again:

What the public didn’t realize, he said, was that academic science, too, was becoming a business. “There are scarce resources, you need grants, you need money, there is competition,” he said. “Normal people go to the edge to get that money. Science is of course about discovery, about digging to discover the truth. But it is also communication, persuasion, marketing. I am a salesman. I am on the road. People are on the road with their talk. With the same talk. It’s like a circus.”

And finally how it all turned out:

…the universities unveiled their final report at a joint news conference: Stapel had committed fraud in at least 55 of his papers, as well as in 10 Ph.D. dissertations written by his students. The students were not culpable, even though their work was now tarnished. The field of psychology was indicted, too, with a finding that Stapel’s fraud went undetected for so long because of “a general culture of careless, selective and uncritical handling of research and data.” If Stapel was solely to blame for making stuff up, the report stated, his peers, journal editors and reviewers of the field’s top journals were to blame for letting him get away with it. The committees identified several practices as “sloppy science” — misuse of statistics, ignoring of data that do not conform to a desired hypothesis and the pursuit of a compelling story no matter how scientifically unsupported it may be.

Apr 30, 2013 at 12:25 PM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

A recent example of intellectual poverty: a presentation in New Zealand by a Gore acolyte called Catherine Leining ( as reported on by Andi Cockcroft:

Hopefully here though, attending a presentation by Catherine Leining, one of New Zealand’s only two disciples of Al Gore, should prove less contentious – with I suspect very few real sceptics in the auditorium.

I had hoped to report quite dispassionately and simply compare the arguments put forward by Christopher and those by Catherine – but regrettably that is just not possible.

The two presentations could have not be further apart in technique had they tried.

Whilst Christopher mixed wit, scientific argument and many citations, the pitch by Catherine was primarily emotive.

Introduced by Wellington’s Green Mayor, Celia Wade-Brown, the first 25 minutes were spent on who Catherine was. The presentation proper started just before 6pm.

But none of the scientific papers, charts, graphs, comparisons etc of Monckton – no – here was weather in all its forms: floods, droughts, winds, snow – you name it – suddenly it is “weather is climate”.

Plenty of quotes – Hansen, Trenberth et al but surprisingly no mention of Mann ! None of which said anything other than “it’s worse than we thought”

Apr 30, 2013 at 12:30 PM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

So by comparison, you can see what an unmitigated piece of spin the Guardian offering is. From the headline – “Climate Change Compounds Rising Threat to Koalas” – which makes an entirely theoretical and unproven link between two unrelated issues, to the relentless focus on what are at most tertiary problems affecting koalas, the whole article is 90% spin and only 10% straight reporting.

The facts are very, very clear: two epidemics are sweeping through the koala population, as epidemics do with all animals from time to time. Numbers are declining. From this, the Guardian somehow manages to wrench a tale of capitalist greed and exploitation that blames everyone from the mining companies to loggers to developers to just normal folks driving their cars. Along the way, truth becomes roadkill.
(bold at end added here).

May 2, 2013 at 10:01 AM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

I just put this up on Unthreaded, but I think it really belongs here:

1995 You’ve seen Santer the inserter of ‘discernible’

1996 You’ve seen Santer the ignorer of reality (

2007 You’ve seen Santer the fiddler with journals (

2008 You’ve seen Santer the selective selector of data

2009 You’ve seen Santer the thug (

2009 You’ve seen Santer the kiddie-alarmer

2013 Now, behold Santer the sophist
( (h/t

He has a lot to be ashamed about.

May 6, 2013 at 1:33 PM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

May 6, 2013 at 1:33 PM | John Shade

[Santer the sophist] has a lot to be ashamed about.


"CO2 ... the leading partner in a tango"?!

"We know beyond the shadow of a doubt ..."

"We have changed the chemical composition of the atmosphere"

"The best understanding is ... that the human contribution over the last 150 years is larger than the purely natural contribution"

"What we see ... can't be explained by natural causation"

Presentation was Mar.13/2013 and mention is made (at approx. 27:00) of "recent article in Science" ... To my ears, this sounded like yet another dutiful endorsement of Marcott et al without any due diligence.

Seems that there's nothing on Gaia's green earth that will stop these "climatologists" from appealing to their own authority and/or that of their like-minded colleagues - and grasping at the slipperiest of straws, all in the name of "the cause".

Sorry, I just couldn't watch the whole thing. Perhaps Alex will add this to our wishlist for transcripts :-)

May 6, 2013 at 8:41 PM | Registered CommenterHilary Ostrov

The intellectual poverty of climate activist and unhinged academic Lewandowsky (Loopy Loo as he must be known down-under) is no joke. Ben Pile eviscerates his recent work in a new post available here. Extract:

Lewandowsky’s work unwittingly demonstrates that what is passed off as peer-reviewed and published ‘science’, even in today’s world, is no more scientific than the worst ramblings of the least qualified and nuttiest climate change denier on the internet. It looks like science, certainly, but the product only survives a superficial inspection. The only difference being the institutional muscle that Lewandowsky has access to, but which unhinged climate change deniers do not. The object of the Professor’s study is his really his own refusal to debate with his lessers.

May 21, 2013 at 6:55 PM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

So much of the currency of alarm takes the form of what I would suggest might be called 'Schneiders', to mark the notorious observation of that deceased alarmer to the effect that he and his like needed to publish scary, simplified and dramatic scenarios. Because, presumably, the unsimplified ones were neither scary nor dramatic.

The book 'Facts, Not Fear' by Sanera and Shaw addresses the problem of how to help children who may have fallen victim to environmental scare stories of many kinds, including the climate one. Their key message is that merely presenting a more balanced appraisal of the related issues can be enough to calm things down a lot. They found that books aimed at children on environmental issues (they studied a lot of them - well over a hundred are listed in an appendix) typically 'had one major flaw: lack of balance':

Although we have found factual errors, the key problem is usually that environmental books tell only one side of an often complicated story. They are remarkably consistent in presenting material that supports doomsday scenarios, political action, and pessimistic forecasts.

A Schneider, then, is a display of both moral and intellectual poverty.

Jun 6, 2013 at 10:24 AM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

A blog post from 2011 that would have fitted-in nicely on this thread: Chris Landsea and the Moral Midgets

There are moments in our lives when our decisions really, truly matter – when, by our actions, we demonstrate the quality of our character. If we believe in impartiality, we must speak up. If we believe in scientific integrity, we must defend it.

When he resigned from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), hurricane expert Chris Landsea did exactly this. That he was surrounded by people incapable of recognizing the wider implications of the situation he’d brought to their attention should give us all pause.

The moral failure was profound – and it didn’t end with the small group of scientists who were privy to the exchange of e-mails Landsea had had with the IPCC in November and December 2004. The following January Landsea went public in the form of an “open letter to the community” sent to 45 colleagues – one of whom then posted it on the Internet.

Landsea said his decision to leave the IPCC was spurred by the realization that the hurricane section of its upcoming report had “become politicized.” Via his open letter, he said, he wished to raise awareness about “what I view as a problem in the IPCC process.”

Jun 12, 2013 at 3:26 PM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

There is something rotten, morally and intellectually, in the promotion of wholesale panic based on a weakly-supported and improbable assertion that rising levels of CO2 will dominate climate variation.

The astonishing political success of that promotion and the easy money to be made as a result has inevitably attracted all sorts of people into ‘saving the planet’ for pecuniary gain.

Here is a report giving a glimpse into the lives of some players in the 'in prison or under investigation' category:

Jun 16, 2013 at 11:10 AM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

John Christy identifies what he sees as the moral issue

It should be noted in this context that climate alarmism has tended to discourage the most economic methods of mass energy generation since they mostly use fossil fuels, and to encourage the use of more expensive and less reliable methods such as windturbines and solar panels. Christy's video highlights the inhumanity of this.

Jun 18, 2013 at 1:02 PM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

An illustration of the sort of thing that has motivated this discussion thread.

Chris Rapley is, believe it or not, a professor. Sic transit and all that.

Here is a transcript (tx Geoff Chambers) of some of his words in a Q&A session revealing a heady mix of both moral and intellectual poverty:

CR: It’s interesting, there was a bit of research done at the London School of Economics which clearly did not go through an ethics committee, unfortunately and so it will never be published, but it ws a young I think MSc student, and she went and interviewed Delingpole, the Daily Telegraph, you know, incredibly sceptic journalist, David Bellamy, the you know the ex-BBC biologist, um Nigel Lawson, um, Andrew Moore, who wrote the Hockey Stick Illusion, um, Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen who runs this climate sceptic, er, she’s at the University of Hull, she’s editor of the very climate sceptic journal and a couple of others, I don’t know they are as well, and the questions she was asking was: Are they paid? You know, have they got links with Big Coal or whatever? Is big coal funding them? Because that was the message that Naomi Klein deals with, that a lot of you know, these scientists are essentially for hire and they’ve received a lot of funding from rightwing thinktanks which are just covers for money from Big Coal... So: Are these people being paid? um, and if not, um are they evil people who know exactly what they’re doing but they’re doing it for ideological reasons, they know that they’re not telling the truth but they have reasons why they’re doing it? Or do they genuinely believe that they’re virtuous people who er, and that they need to deliver the message to make the world a better place in the future? Or, one last thing, are they suffering from some psychological...?

The words can be heard here:
The transcript and other commentary was published here:

The lecture by Rapley is commented on and linked to here:

Jul 2, 2013 at 12:29 PM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

Another illustration of the intellectual poverty of the campaigners for more alarm is given by Donna Laframhoise: Dumb, Formulaic ‘Avatar’ Inspires WWF Leader:

At last, I think I’m starting to understand what’s wrong with professional activism. Groups such as the WWF have tons of money, and tons of staff. But their political analysis, their view of themselves and those with whom they disagree, is as predictable and tepid as dishwater. It never grew up, it never made it out of grade-school (those evil climate deniers are preventing us from moving forward on climate change).
People who are serious take the time to learn about – and understand – their opponents. They take the time to gather accurate information. They change their views of a situation based on this new information.
People who are playing games, the poseurs, prefer to tell themselves elaborate stories in which they and their friends earn imaginary glory slaying dragons that don’t actually exist.
So Avatar is the film the head of the WWF chose when invited to “help guide the way we think about the future.” Amazing.

Jul 17, 2013 at 2:46 PM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

Hello John

I took a break from BH after April and forgot this discussion for which I apologise. However there is nothing I can discuss because I am already converted.
I read the book by Donna Laframboise (Donna was ably supported by Hilary Ostrov of course), I read HSI, I read Plimer and "The Merchants of Doom" by Zubrin, I read Svensmark, Pat Michaels and I even read Nigel Lawson. I never read a book by a warmist but I do not feel guilty about that for good reasons.
Back when Climate Audit was the only blog that I read, I would go over to Real Climate to see what they were writing. I was still looking for answers back then and I really did not like what I saw there.
Giving a very subjective view; watching and listening to most skeptics I see people interested in the truth whereas as often as not in warmists I see people with an agenda.

Jul 17, 2013 at 8:22 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Who better than an 'ethicist' to provide an informed comment on morality? It seems that the New York Times, onetime supporter and apologist for the likes of Stalin between the world wars, have now got one to hand. He replied recently to a mother who was concerned that her daughter was being coerced into political action at school for the sake of climate alarm cause. In a biology class. It is never made clear which side of the climate fence the teacher stands, but it would be astonishing if he or she was anything other than an alarmist intent on using her pupils to save the world from itself, such is the extent and depth of take-up of that cause.

The mother writes in part For my daughter’s high-school biology class, the students are required to take a public action addressing climate change. They have a wide range of options of what they can do: write a letter to a public official, design a website, develop a public-service announcement or organize a flash mob. They are required to submit proof that they presented their work publicly — that is, that they mailed the letter, launched the website, etc. Is it ethical for the school to require students to speak publicly on a specific issue?

The 'Ethicist' makes a careful reply, mindful perhaps of the vehicle in which it is to be published and for which he may hope to keep writing, that makes it clear that he is not disputing the tenets of the Climate Faith, and wants instead to extract the opinion-neutral ethical aspects. He concludes that the mother is right to be concerned, and that it is indeed out of order for a teacher to insist on a public display of a position on anything. Here are some extracts from his reply:

Adding the “action” requirement has nothing to do with science. It’s an overt political act, promoting a concept that’s obviously not universally accepted. So the question here is not the reality or unreality of climate change (and I hope people who comment on this column do not use the opportunity as a springboard for that debate). The question is whether a school should create a mandatory assignment that requires publicly supporting a divisive idea...

...the issue is not about the subjective accuracy of the concept; it’s about forcing someone without agency to serve as a conduit.

A teacher can compel a student to read a book, but he can’t compel the pupil to philosophically internalize the themes of that book in order to pass the class. He can’t demand that the student write a letter to the local newspaper lauding the book’s author in order to get an A. There are limits to what an academic assignment can require, and one of those limits is the degree to which it spills into the pupil’s nonacademic life. Extending an assignment into the public sphere is an infringement on that student’s right to define his or her public persona.

Ah but, the climate cause is there to define the public and for that matter, the private 'persona' of its victims. They are instructed on what to believe, and on how to live their lives. Some are targeted, as in this case, to be political tools. Gosh, how Joe would have been impressed!

NYT link:

Hat-tip: Climate Depot.

Dec 18, 2013 at 9:53 AM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

Thanks for plugging away on this theme, John, one of the most important of any articulated in a BH Discussion, as I was thinking again in the last week, though the most recent posts were then in July. (There's an interesting difference here from the the main blog, in that one new comment brings a thread back from oblivion to be at the top of the 'Discussions' page for quite some time.)

Dec 18, 2013 at 1:33 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

David Suzuki is or was regarded as ‘Saint Suzuki’ by folks in Canada for whom he was a trusted voice of science and environmentalism.

Questions that might well prevent his elevation to sainthood, are raised in this article, along with pointers to evidence that he is neither morally nor intellectually suited for such a position:

Observers of Suzuki’s career have been crying foul for some time. David Solway has written numerous articles and a book, Global Warning, wittily exposing Suzuki’s record of faulty prediction and messianic failure. In a 2012 article for FrontPage Magazine, for example, he highlighted Suzuki’s dubious financial backers (which include corporations that invest in China), recent allegations of under-reporting of foreign funding, and engagement in political advocacy inconsistent with tax-free charitable status — conduct that, when brought to light in 2012, led Suzuki to step down as head of the foundation that still bears his star-quality name.

Sun News host Ezra Levant has produced a series of news shows lambasting Suzuki’s manifest hypocrisy. Typical of Levant’s attack strategy was a recent Toronto Sun newspaper piece called “The Two Suzukis,” in which Levant repeatedly counterpointed the public figure Suzuki has created — the “Saint Suzuki” who lectures Canadians on limiting their environmental footprint by reducing consumption (see here, for example) — with the “Secret Suzuki” few people know, the multi-millionaire capitalist who owns various energy-guzzling large properties, jets around to fundraising and media appearances, and demands lavish fees ($30,000 on average) for speaking engagements. This aging counterculture activist who once compared human beings to maggots and who spoke to encourage a particularly pointless “Occupy Vancouver” group in 2011 turns out to be — well, a comfortable member of the 1%.

But matters got a lot worse for Suzuki recently. On a jaunt to Australia to discuss his major subject — climate change and the need for drastic measures to combat it — Suzuki engaged in some uncharacteristically unscripted discussion, with disastrous results. Normally he is careful to vet questions from his audiences, and one can see why. In front of a group that failed to be awed by Suzuki’s demigod status, Suzuki floundered and looked foolish. In response to a question about the documented absence of climate warming over the past fifteen years — the major question any climate authority must be prepared to answer — Suzuki resorted to the typical strategies of radical environmentalism: flat-out fabrication (“… the warming continues!”) and counterattack claiming that data debunking the warming hypothesis comes from tainted sources (“… there may be a climate skeptic down in Huntsville, Alabama …”). The problem, however, was that the data being cited actually came from the major data-gathering stations relied upon by the UN’s own International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which anyone who had devoted a decade to preventing “catastrophic warming” should have known. In other questioning, Suzuki was similarly off-balance and outrageous, reiterating his claim, for example, that climate-skeptic politicians should face criminal sanctions. The Australian debacle was a startling revelation that the environmentalist guru does not understand the basic elements of the science upon which he has made his reputation.

[hat-tip:Greenie Watch .]

PS Thanks for the encouragement Richard. Much appreciated.

Jan 5, 2014 at 5:01 PM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

A recent report suggests that the Schneiderian Directive is still alive and well:

From "hide the decline" to the "hockey stick" to Rush Limbaugh, the debate over climate change is fraught with accusations that the other side is willfully lying about the facts in order to win. Now there are two academics out with a paper justifying lying about climate change in order to convince global governments to "do something" about it.
Fuhai Hong and Xiojian Zhao, economists at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology respectively, are publishing a paper in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics called "Information Manipulation and Climate Agreements," which argues that manipulation of information by the media will "enhance global welfare" by inducing countries to agree to environmental accords (IEAs).


Schneiderian Directive: "[We] have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified dramatic statements and make little mention of any doubts we may have. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest." -Quoted by Dixy Lee Ray in Trashing the Planet (1990)

Mar 4, 2014 at 12:53 PM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

"In my view, the alarm over CO2 and climate has not been raised by outstanding scientists, nor led and promoted by particularly impressive individuals. The climategate revelations have revealed many of the backroom boys as having both poor intellects and poor ethics. As have the various hockey-stick fiascos. The videos 'An Inconvenient Truth' and 'No Pressure' span the showmanship, sleight of hand, contempt for humanity, and gross irresponsibility of the publicists who have seen advantage in 'the cause'.

How then did we reach the sorry state?"

Moral and intellectual poverty is certainly a correct description of the current state of affairs. Government at all levels and media has been completely co-opted by international money and global military power. So you have begun a discussion by pretending the problem is that the powers that be are being manipulated by the green left. Amusing. And to see that all the little ducks follow in a row after their mother is - so cute.

If we have reached some place I take it you believe we had started some place. The only place it started was when government and business and military decided to enforce their interests on other people. That's always where it starts. In your preposterously indignant manner you turn the obvious around and try to pretend these interests are separate and the nebulous greenies have managed to manipulate the media and the government against another faction. In this case I believe you must be inferring it is business. What a convoluted joke you tell. The moral and intellectual poverty of man is indeed the joke. It's just that the punch line is all in the telling.

Mar 4, 2014 at 1:38 PM | Unregistered Commenterreplicant

Sorry, replicant, you've got it back to front (why am I not surprised).
The genesis of the present scare lies with the likes of Maurice Strong and the Club of Rome, not to mention all the other pseudo-Malthusians, control freaks and eugenicists who long ago decided that mankind was a blight on the planet, that the third world needed to be stopped in its tracks before it over-ran the rest of us and that the only way forward was to find a scare that would either have us quaking in our boots (as per Mencken's famous quote) or that could be scientifically manipulated to convince politicians that some unpicking of western civilisation was necessary for the continued existence of mankind.
(For 'mankind' read followers of the Green Religion' the rest of us can get stuffed and as far as you're concerned the sooner the better. Feeling's mutual, mate).

Mar 4, 2014 at 2:09 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

"Maurice Strong and the Club of Rome, not to mention all the other pseudo-Malthusians, control freaks and eugenicists"

"pseudo-Malthusians, control freaks and eugenicists" are not descriptive of anything identifiable that I understand. But supposing I accept that you are referring to 'something', are you suggesting that this 'something' is separate from the military? The military industrial complex?

Mar 4, 2014 at 2:15 PM | Unregistered Commenterreplicant

and that this 'something' is the driving force behind global warming scare tactics?

There's a lesson in there for everyone.

Mar 4, 2014 at 2:20 PM | Unregistered Commenterreplicant

"The genesis of the present scare lies with the likes of Maurice Strong and the Club of Rome, not to mention all the other pseudo-Malthusians, control freaks and eugenicists"

So you're a die hard conspiracy theorist? Should this statement be taken as de facto or is there something you could point to as to the methods they use as to have achieved so much. I read in one of the posts that the fear mongering originated from the east, or another nebulous area of power. Maybe I'll try to find that post. That poster is probably a die hard conspiracy theorist too.

Mar 4, 2014 at 2:46 PM | Unregistered Commenterreplicant

The madness of crowds can certainly bring some pretty rotten attitudes out in the open. Here is an academic in the States who wishes to imprison those who dare to disagree with the party line on climate variation and its various causes:

The charge of criminal and moral negligence ought to extend to all activities of the climate deniers who receive funding as part of a sustained campaign to undermine the public’s understanding of scientific consensus.

It is, I suppose, another case of a feeble-minded person sensing he has been given a licence to display aggressive behaviour to others rather than engage in any discussion with them, a discussion to which they may well sense they can only bring 'the authorities say so'.


Reported on here:


I think we have both moral and intellectual poverty on display here. Nasty combination.

Mar 17, 2014 at 9:31 AM | Registered CommenterJohn Shade

The Torcello rant was the subject of the thread Told you so four days ago John. Paul Matthews' comment on a sister thread on The Conversation bears repeating:

That's two desperate incoherent rants from climate propagandists in the same day.

What are these people calling for? Suspension of democracy so that they can get their own way? Shouting in a louder and shriller, more hysterical way, as the so-called "Conversation" seems to be doing? If they understood anything at all about climate scepticism, they would know that this behaviour is counter-productive.

So bring it on, Lamberts and Torcello. Rant and Rave. Hurl abuse at anyone who doesn't share your own view. And public opinion will continue to move to the sceptic side.

Our favourite mathematics lecturer can be found there! Respect to the publication that it's not been removed - not yet anyway.

Mar 17, 2014 at 9:40 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake