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2014 SkS Weekly Digest #24

Posted on 15 June 2014 by John Hartz

SkS Highlights

Dana's In charts: how a revenue neutral carbon tax cuts emissions, creates jobs, grows the economy attracted the most comments of the articles posted on SkS during the past week. Scientists in focus – Lyman and Johnson explore the rapidly warming oceans by John Abraham contains an amazing photo of a fellow scientist seemingly defying gravity on the underside of a protruding rock. 

El Niño Watch

Toon of the Week

 2014 Toon 24

h/t to I Heart Climate Scientists

Quote of the Week

Scientists around the world have been warning us for decades about the consequences of our wasteful lifestyles, and evidence for the ever-increasing damage caused by pollution and climate change continues to grow. But we have to do more than just wean ourselves off fossil fuels. We must also look to economic systems, progress measurements and ways of living that don’t depend on destroying everything the planet provides to keep us healthy and alive.

Fossil Fuels' 'Easy Money' and the Need for a New Economic System by David Suzuki, Common Dreams, June 11, 2014

SkS Spotlights

Spotlights 24

With UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee meeting to consider the condition of the Great Barrier Reef and other world heritage sites in less than four weeks, has been created as a new platform to collect votes on Australian government plans to dump dredge spoil in reef waters.

The Fight for the Reef campaign, backed by the Australian Marine Conservation Society and WWF-Australia, aims to take the YouNesco vote tallies to the annual meeting of the World Heritage Committee, commencing in Doha, Qatar on June 15.

- See more at:

Poster of the Week

  2014 Poster 24

Insurance Industry Watch

SkS Week in Review

Coming Soon on SkS

  • Transformational Climate Science at Exeter University (Jim Hunt)
  • Kerry Emanuel and What We Know About Climate (Peter Sinclair)
  • The 'pause' in global warming is not even a thing (Graham Readfearn)
  • How will El Nino impact weather patterns? (Guest post)
  • Summer reading for the climate crowd (Guest post)
  • SkS Weekly News Roundup (John Hartz)

Mother Nature Always Bats Last!

Deadly flooding hits Brazil as World Cup begins, tck tck tck, June 13, 2014 


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Comments 1 to 13:

  1. I mean this in the kindest way. You really have no idea how ridiculous cartoons like this make your website look. Adults don't communicated like this to other adults, much less adults who profess to be scientifically minded. Posting this stuff honestly detracts from your site.

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Your concern is duly noted.

  2. derp:

    Editorial cartoons have been a staple of printed newspapers, consumed primarily by adults, since at least the nineteenth century (if not earlier).

    I suspect if you review the literature on the topic, you can find equivalent satire or commentary stretching back several centuries, both in illustration or text (e.g. the identity of many of the suffering souls in Dante's Inferno was in part determined by the contemporary politics of the Italian peninsula).

    You can take a dim view of Skeptical Science sharing editorial cartoons, as is your wont, but it does not follow that printed satirical humour is objectively juvenile or ridiculous, and it does not follow, beyond your own opinion, that such behaviour objectively "detracts" from the site.

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  3. derp @1, I refute your contention that cartoons can be of no interest to scientifically minded adults thusly:

    And for mathematically minded adults:

    From xkcd

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  4. Just to add another datapoint, this xkcd cartoon

    generated an interesting discussion at the statistics Stack Exchange forum and at Andrew Gelman's (a top Bayesian statistician) blog and on Larry Wasserman's (another top statistician) blog.  Cartoons have a long history (c.f. e.g. Gilray) of use as a powerful means of communicating ideas.  Many adults do like this form of communication, otherwise the forms used by Gilray wouldn't still be in use today.

    BTW Tom, the Fermat compression algorithm cartoon is excellent!

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  5. Those cartoons are cool and scientific indeed. I was just referring to this particular cartoon. It is obviously an ad hominem attack that is politically motivated. Which goes against the comment policy of this website and is the antithesis of science. It would fit well into the cartoon section of the local rag though. 

    Not my website so do what you like. But judging by the very minimal number of comments on the articles, and the fact that the mod personally replies to various contrarian posters suggests that there is not much engagement with this blog anyway. It would seem that the damage has already been done. Your loss, not mine. All the best.

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  6. Perhaps Derp it isn't an Ad Hom so much as an example of satire illustrating a serious point. If we are confronted with strong evidence against a view we have held how do we react?

    Do we assimilate the evidence and change our view? Or do we double down and try to defend our view against the evidence? If one holds a view strongly then abandoning that view can be traumatic.

    I actually see a lot of pathos and humanity in the cartoon. People in what is, for them, a bad place trying to find a way through.

    Labels such as Ad-Hominem pre-suppose a high degree of of rationality and logic in a discourse - did you hear that laughter? That was the pychologists of the world giggling - rational, he he he. We aren't rational. Rationality is a veneer above a whole range of other emotional non-rational drivers.

    And somehow we need to incorporate an understanding of the non-rational aspects of ourselves into our consideration. But if we try to do that at a personal level we cut too close to the bone. This is the essence of the criticism against Ad-Hom arguments - we are personalising it too much.

    Here is where satire comes in. It can reveal the other, non-rational aspects by the simple act of keeping it impersonal. It explores stereotypes of something rather than instances of it.

    A sterotype is not an Ad-Hom. Only a personalised instance is.

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  7. Derp if you look through some Gilray's cartoons, you'll find this kind of treatment has a long history, again with the source of pathos as Glenn points out.  Human nature means we make the same mistakes again and again, and pointing out the irony of our irrationality as a species has long been a staple topic for the cartoonist.

    As it happens, I wouldn't say this is an ad-hominem as it is not an attack on the source of an argument in place of an attack on the content (as there is no argument being made).  It is just pointing out that it is possible to become so entrenched in a position that you still can't admit the truth, even when the evidence is absolutely unequivocal (that is also true for the mainstream position on AGW).  I also disagree that it is politically motivated, there are good scientific reasons to suppose that anthropogenic climate change will have an effect on the energy available to tropical storms.  Where are the politics in that?

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  8. derp @5, I'm curious as to which aspect of the cartoon you consider ad hominen?  Is it perhaps that the represented people are only just getting around to "for starters" after the paper reporting the storm damage has been written, printed and delivered (lower right corner)?  Or are we to take that as just another element of unreality introduced by the the nature of editorial cartoons rather than a specific barb?  Or is it that, like all other victims of hurricane damage, after immediate threats to life are dealt with, their first order of business is to get their business (or home) back in order?  There is an irony in the cartoon portrayal in that they do not reflect on the possible climate implications of Sandy, ie, are too focussed on their message to worry about evidence*, but is that an ad hominen?  If you think so, next you'll be insisting that calling deniers "pseudo-skeptics" or "so called skeptics" (let alone deniers) is also ad hominen.

    There is a point at which you must say that simple observations regarding, or accurate descriptions of, others are not ad hominens.  If they cause offense, it is only because the behaviour being observed or described is itself offensive, and the remedy is to be found in the person offended correcting their behaviour.

    (* Deniers would likely counter that the true irony is that the cartoonist cannot distinguish between a weather and a climate event.)

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  9. Bill McKibben's piece in smh: Tony Abbott's climate change policy makes me cringe, tells us that AUS & CA appear to be the only nations singled out as the nations whose leaders are denying the climate change. Especially Bill's conclusion:

    Eventually [...] voters in these countries will realise they’re being driven off a cliff. In the meantime, perhaps they might want to pretend they’re Americans when traveling abroad.

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  10. GISTemp L-OTI for May is out: 0.76C — the warmest May on record.  If the rest of 2014 averages what the first five months averaged, 2014 will be the warmest year on record.  Of course, with a moderate El Nino forming, the chances of maintaining that average are fairly small.

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  11. composer99,


    You are saying that derp's taking a dim view of Skeptical Science sharing editorial cartoons is a usual thing with him.  Is that your intention?

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  12. Further to what DSL just stated, I've recently posted something to that effect on Neven's Arctic Sea Ice blog. In addition to May 2014 being 0.06 C above the previous record (2010 and 2012 jointly), the March-April-May quarter was LOTI's second highest at 0.07 C below 2010. (And 0.04 above the next highest.)

    It could be premature to look toward the devoloping el Nino just yet, but NOAA's 3.4 index might just have started to edge towards positive numbers. (It could be transient, or it could be the start of something.)  

    If the next 7 months LOTI figures match their 2013 equivalents, the Jan-Dec average will be about 3rd on the list. On the other hand, as DSL has pointed out, the average for the first 5 months already matches the 2010 J-D figures. So, will there be a significant el Nino event later this year, and, if so, what will it do to these numbers?

    Get your (crystal) balls out.

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  13. Synapsid:

    I can't say whether derp takes a dim view of Skeptical Science sharing editorial cartoons generally or not. It wasn't my intent to say so.

    That being said, what I can say, based on the texts of derp's comments at #1 and #5, is that it certainly seems that way.

    In particular, derp wrote "cartoons like this", which implies multiple cartoons, whether multiple discrete instances of objectionable cartoons, or the genre as a whole.

    Further, derp's follow up in #5 clearly suggests belief that this is a longstanding issue, which has translated into what derp believes to be "not much engagement with this blog anyway".

    My intent was to respond to the overall sentiment of derp's comment, which denigrated "cartoons like this" as being beneath adult communication, so in the end it doesn't really matter if derp meant this cartoon alone, a handful of cartoons like it, every single cartoon shared by Skeptical Science, or editorial cartoons as a genre.

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