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Brandis confuses right to be heard with right to be taken seriously

Posted on 5 May 2014 by Guest Author

This is a re-post from The Conversation by Peter Ellerton

In a recent interview, federal attorney-general George Brandis laments that deniers of climate science are being “excluded” from the debate. On the surface this seems a justifiable complaint, but the point hangs on what he means by “excluded”. Brandis said he was:

…really shocked by the sheer authoritarianism of those who would have excluded from the debate the point of view of people who were climate change deniers.

The literal sense of “excluded” implies that no commentary is permitted that does not resonate with accepted scientific wisdom on climate change. This is clearly not the case. Australia boasts one of the world’s best examples of mainstream climate science denial, evident in both expressed political opinion and in the provision of media platforms for those wishing to express such views.

A more figurative sense of “exclusion” might be that those who do not accept the scientific findings are under social or political pressure to keep silent. This is where it gets interesting.

Echoes of vaccination and evolution ‘debates’

Debates over disparate areas such as vaccination and creationism survive because of a call to see both sides of the coin. The truth, at least for these issues, is that there is no coin. To pretend otherwise is to perpetuate an irrational approach.

Climate change is not as well understood as vaccination or evolution, and I would not put deniers of climate science in the same camp as anti-vaccination and anti-evolution movements, but there is an increasing trend among them all to adopt similar methods.

The most obvious of these is appealing to the right to be heard, to see both sides of the coin. Brandis hopes that our natural repulsion at excluding a particular view from the public arena will be aroused in support of climate science denial. This, however, ignores a vital characteristic of public debate: when ideas suffer body blows of sustained scientific refutation any attempt to maintain their status by appeal to an equal right of hearing is also an attempt to exempt them from evidential requirements and argumentative rigour.

George Brandis ought to accept that the less credible a point of view, the less prominence it gets. Daniel Munoz/AAP

The rules of rational engagement demand evidence and argument, not repetitive appeals for a fair hearing. If the evidence in support of a view is not forthcoming, or if the arguments in its favour are weak, its public profile should diminish.

The very nature of a fair hearing is that evidence is weighed and arguments heard, and the ultimate fate of an idea should be a function of this process. This is not to say that it can never be resurrected, or that investigation cannot continue, but simply that it must lose epistemic credibility in proportion to its failings. Anything else is dogma, and this is what much of climate science denial has become.

Brandis has confused the right to speak an idea with the non-existent right that the idea be given credibility. He says in the interview that the scientific community and its supporters simply attempt to delegitimise “the views of those who disagree, rather than engaging with them intellectually and showing them why they are wrong”. This is demonstrably false, as many attempts are regularly made to do just that.

Continually arguing for the right to engage and then refusing engagement is what earns the moniker “denier”. The explanation by “sceptics” of climate science, vaccination and evolution given to cover lack of engagement centres on conspiracy theories. Conspiracies of scientists, political movements and business interests supposedly explain the absence of argument.

Demanding a false balance of beliefs

The fact is that deniers of climate science are as free as anyone else to make their case. That the case is not being made is not a function of suppression, it is result of lack of evidence.

Other similarities with vaccination and evolution include contemptuous use of the word “believe” (also seen in the Spiked interview), which assumes an equality of cognition between belief in climate science and belief in, say, alien abduction. It ignores that belief can be the result of blind acceptance or the weight of evidence. It also portraits belief as a weakness and scepticism as a strength, but belief is not weakness if it based on evidence and argument, and scepticism is not strength if there is no engagement.

It’s bad enough that the right to be heard is misunderstood or misrepresented as the right to be taken seriously, but this is happening in the domain of public policy.

There is a difference between public expression of an idea and urging public support for that idea. The former is a statement of opinion; the latter is a call for government action (or inaction). Brandis seems to want climate science denial front and centre in debates of public policy, in the same manner that a false balance has been delivered through media representation of the issue.

It’s one thing for media organisations or community groups to attempt to represent scientific consensus as they will, but it is qualitatively different and far more dangerous for governments to do the same. Australians have the right to expect their government to act on evidence, not to promote false balance.

Deniers of climate science are not being excluded, they are being asked to step up. That they are failing to do so is nobody’s fault but their own.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Comments 1 to 50 out of 60:

  1. "The debate is over when I say it is" just allows deep pockets to maintain 'the debate' long past the time for taking evidence-based action.  Perhaps the public needs a better understanding of two things: 1) All science is debatable, and it always will be.  Its in the nature of open inquiry. 2) Not taking action is taking action.  So, from the point of view of Science nothing is ever resolved, while in the view of Policy, everything in Science is always resolved.  You take action based on the information you have.  You can moderate your action based on Scientific uncertainty, but you can't Not take action.  Saying you won't take evidence-based action until 'the debate is over' evokes that warning by Confucius: "He who deliberates fully before taking a step will spend his entire life on one leg."

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  2. The,

    Demand that consideration must be given to the interests of those who are not interested in developing the best understanding of what is going on when doing so would contradict their desire to be free to benefit from unacceptable unsustainable and damaging actions,

    is an obviously absurd demand (except in the mind of someone who want to prolong and maximize their ability to get away with unacceptable behaviour).

    The attempt, and ability, to attract popular support through such absurdity is also easy to understand, but it clearly is not acceptable regardless of its potential popularity.

    Democracy and Society only benefit from the actions of people who place the developent of a sustainable bettre future for all above their personal desire for profit, pleasure, comfort or convenience.

    Those who only care about themselves are worse than useless - They can be damaging - No matter how poular it may be to believe otherwise.

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  3. Here we go again, claiming those who are skepitcal of (snip) AGW are linked to conspiracy theories etc.and are unwilling to "step up".  Okay don't agree with Brandis but don't imply the skeptical view is linked to "similarities with vaccination and evolution" I notice you couldn't resist throwing in "alien abduction" and "conspiracy theories" as well. To be skeptical is a strength not a weakness.  Even if you have a belief you should always still question it.   

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] You are continuing to skate on the thin ice of excessive repetition and sloganeering-- both of which are prohibited by the SkS Comments Policy.  

    Please note that posting comments here at SkS is a privilege, not a right.  This privilege can be rescinded if the posting individual treats adherence to the Comments Policy as optional, rather than the mandatory condition of participating in this online forum.

    Please take the time to review the policy and ensure future comments are in full compliance with it.  Thanks for your understanding and compliance in this matter.

    [PW] In further support of JH's appropriate moderation of this comment, any mention of "CAGW" will have the "C" removed, replaced with a plain "snip." This is nothing but a dismissives' tactic of denigrating the robust and well-supported theory of AGW, and it will no longer be tolerated by this Moderator. Its inclusion has no place at all within the bounds of rational and science-based dialogue.

  4. Warren: There's plenty of evidence of parallels between denial of AGW and other forms of denial like vaccine and evolution denial-- just like there's plenty of evidence for AGW (in both cases, I recommend follow-up reading in the published, peer-reviewed literature). The moves are always the same: denial is defended as an 'epistemic fixed point', and all else is "in doubt".  Real skepticism questions hypotheses (like the claim that AGW isn't happening and/or poses no threat) when multiple independent lines of evidence indicate that their contraries (it is happening, and it poses a threat) are much better supported. Your selective zombie skepticism is not a strength at all-- it's a (catastrophic) weakness.  

    (BTW, the 'C' in your 'CAGW' is not helping your case: it was invented by deniers and always comes with a sneer.  If you want to be taken seriously, you should use the terms/acronyms actually used in the literature.)  

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  5. mbryson please provide the "plenty of evidence of parallels between denial of AGW and other forms of denial like vaccine and evolution denial" 

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  6. Parallel #1:  Misrepresentation of the rejected theory including strawman labelling:

    One of the most common features of evolution denial is the complete misrepresentation of Darwinian evolution as a purely random process.  In fact Darwinian evolution is a process which takes random inputs (mutations) and results in highly ordered outputs through a non-random process (natural selection).  Despite this evolution deniers persist in irrelevant analogies (tornado in a junk yard), and misleading labelling, calling evolution "random evolution" to promote the strawman view of the theory they oppose.

    In like manner, AGW deniers persistently misrepresent AGW.  One of the most common strawman misrepresentations is the lable CAGW (Catastrophic AGW).  Anybody familiar with the theory is aware that AGW represents a potential of catastrophe, but may not be catastrophic.  This straightforward misrepresentation in labelling is a clear, and persistent parallel between evolution and AGW denial.

    Parallel #2:  Persistent accusations of wide spread fraud and/or conspiracy by scientists as a means of explaining contrary data.

    Parallel #3:  Complete lack of skepticism with regard to supposedly supporting data.  Examples from evolution denial include river dinosaur tracks, supposed C14 anomalies, supposed lack of discontinuities at sheer faults.  Examples from AGW denial include the massive lack of skepticism involved in "dragon slayer" and "CO2 is saturated", and "CO2 increase is not anthropogenic" arguments.

    Parallel #4:  Falacitious (and trivially false) third law of thermodynamics arguments

    This is nowhere near an exhaustive list of parallels, but they are striking and obvious to anyone who has participated in both the creation wars and the public debate over global warming (as I have).

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  7. A few dozen other parallels.

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  8. Dumb Scientist is that Dr Roy Spencer at the top of your list the same Dr Roy Spencer  NASA UHA used by this site to debunk skeptical attitudes? 

    Let's get real I'm sure I could find 10  people who believe in, let's say, Marxism who also support warming. Would that prove a connection between the beliefs? Of course not.

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  9. Warren Hindmarsh, true skepticism includes agreeing with contrarians when they are right, rather than only agreeing  with people on a strictly partisan basis.  Give it a try, you might find you make more progress.

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  10. Dipkran Dikran I am evidence based,  what is the evidence that you use to convince a contrarian of alarming warming?

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] If your mispelling orf Dikran's name was intentional, it was a very juvenile prank. If you are "evidenced based"as you claim, you would double-check the spelling of someone's name before hitting the "Submit" button. 

  11. Warren:

    Dr Spencer is a signatory of the Cornwall Alliance "Evangelical Declaration on Global Warming", which states:

    We believe Earth and its ecosystems – created by God’s intelligent design and infinite power and sustained by His faithful providence – are robust, resilient, self-regulating, and self-correcting, admirably suited for human flourishing, and displaying His glory. Earth’s climate system is no exception. Recent global warming is one of many natural cycles of warming and cooling in geologic history.

    The Declaration also includes the statement:

    We deny that Earth and its ecosystems are the fragile and unstable products of chance, and particularly that Earth’s climate system is vulnerable to dangerous alteration because of minuscule changes in atmospheric chemistry. Recent warming was neither abnormally large nor abnormally rapid. There is no convincing scientific evidence that human contribution to greenhouse gases is causing dangerous global warming.

    So, yes, Dr Spencer is a perfect example of the connections (and parallels) between creationism and climate science denial. Which you, unsurprisingly, reflexively dismiss.

    (Incidentally, Dr Lindzen, one of the other atmospheric scientist "skeptics" has endorsed the Evangelical Declaration, although he is not a signatory.)

    To further Tom Curtis' examples, both creationists and climate deniers also make liberal use of the known techniques of denialism (as do anti-vaccine activists): fake or misleading experts, cherry-picking, logical fallacies, conspiratorial ideation, and impossible expectations/shifting goalposts (I am certain that someone has linked to the Skeptical Science article describing them in a thread you have participated in).

    Your platitudes about the virtue of skepticism notwithstanding, the simple fact is that if you read or listen or watch enough material produced by self-styled "skeptics" of climate science you find that they are (a) uncritically accepting of outrageously, obviously false claims (c.f. the Evangelical Declaration, claims about the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, any myth addressed on Skeptical Science, etc.) and (b) appear unable to accept even the most preponderant, clear-cut evidence that climate research reveals. That's not skepticism, plain and simple.

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  12. All:

    I have deleted the recent exchange of comments between Adamski and Warren Hindmarsh. They were "off-topic". 

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  13. To elaborate a bit on the characteristics of denialism, and how creationists, climate science deniers, and anti-vaccine activists share them in common, let me provide some examples:

    1. Fake or Misleading Experts

    Creationism - Ken Ham, Dr Michael Egnor (a neurosurgeon), William Dembski

    Anti-Vaccine Activism - Andrew Wakefield, Dr Jay Gordon (*), Dr Vera Scheibner (a micropaleontologist)

    Climate Science Denial - Christopher Monckton, Dr Roy Spencer (*), Dr S. Fred Singer (*), Dr Richard Lindzen (*), Ian McIntyre

    (*) denotes misleading experts - people with pertinent expertise in the subject (e.g. Dr Jay Gordon is a pediatrician) but who are using their credentials to support or propagate false or misleading information, in the public sphere at least, if not in the literature (e.g. Dr Spencer and the Cornwall Alliance). (Some creationists I have named above might be misleading experts; but I'm not familiar enough with them to say so.)

    2. Cherry-Picking & Misrepresentation

    Creationism - claims about radiocarbon dating, this article showing distortion of so-called "No Free Lunch" algorithms, claims about the eye, or flagellum, making Charles Darwin out to be a proto-eugenicist, etc.

    Anti-Vaccine - Wakefield's (retracted) 1998 Lancet paper (I don't recall seeing that one get trotted out as much since its retraction), some rubbish papers by Laura Hewitson et al (also retracted), claims about various ingredients in vaccines (formaldehyde, aluminium, etc.), the "Fourteen Studies". I could go on - maybe search the vaccine topic thread on Science-Based Medicine for some more examples.

    Climate Science Denial - the "pause" in global warming (cherry picking a small portion of the surface temperature record while ignoring the behaviour of 95+% of the climate system), the obsession over outdated papers (Hansen et al 1988 and Mann et al 1999), Anthony Watts' "surface stations project".

    3. Logical Fallacies

    Creationism - false dichotomy (either their misrepresentation of evolutionary processes must be true, or God/an "Intelligent Designer" did it), ad hominem or similar argument (e.g. accepting evolution leads to the Holocaust, courtesy of Ben Stein).

    Anti-Vaccine - ad hominem (what Dr David Gorski calls the "pharma shill gambit"), red herrings (appeals to the issues surrounding thalidomide, Vioxx, or, say, the Tuskegee experiments).

    Global Warming Denial - ad hominem (pretty much whenever Al Gore or David Suzuki's names come up), strawman argument ("CAGW"), appeal to popularity (here's a good example, or you could bring up the Orgeon Petition), guilt by association (Donna Laframboise's book about the IPCC).

    4. Conspiratorial Ideation

    Creationism - In Expelled, Ben Stein alleges that the scientific community conspires to ruin the careers of those who express any doubt in the "scientific orthodoxy of Darwinism" (quotes used to denote sarcasm, not direct quote). Especially religious creationists are liable to discern the influence of Satan or other supernatural forces of wickedness in the widespread acceptance of evolution among biologists.

    Anti-Vaccine - One activist, Jake Crosby, is famed for trying to playing "six degrees of separation" to try and tie pro-vaccine advocates to pharmaceutical companies. Conspiracy theories are also called upon to explain why public health departments & researchers would continue to support vaccination programs despite the alleged harms of vaccines.

    Global Warming Denial - The allegations that the UEA-CRU hack exposed fraud, or that the subsequent inquiry findings were whitewashing. Any time the claim is made that climate scientists are engaged in a hoax or fraud for the purpose of securing grant money. Any time the claim is made that climate science is part of a wider "eco-fascist", "Marxist", or what-have-you plot to establish despotism.

    5. Impossible Expectations/Shifting Goalposts

    Creationism - I'm not as well-read on creationist tactics on this front, but I understand that creationists have made a big fuss about lack of certain transitional forms, or even set up impossible expectations for what sort of transitional forms might be found (e.g. the "crocoduck"). The shift to "Intelligent Design" as the primary public vehicle of creationism is a goalpost shift.

    Anti-Vaccine - Despite its unethical nature, many anti-vaccine activists call for a double-blind trial of vaccinated and unvaccinated populations. Anti-vaccine activists occasionally demand 100% certainty of the safety or efficacy of vaccines. I have personally had an anti-vaccine commenter demand that science either develop the capacity to predict who would be harmed by vaccines (an impossible expectation at present).

    Climate Science Denial - The "quantum" behaviour of denial as recently discussed on Skeptical Science is a perfect example of shifting goalposts. A good example of impossible expectations would be Judith Curry's "Uncertainty Monster", or similar claims that we just need to do more research for a few more years/decades before we can make policy decisions (because it's all so uncertain).

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  14. Warren Hindmarsh:

    Please note that posting comments here at SkS is a privilege, not a right. This privilege can and will be rescinded if the posting individual continues to treat adherence to the Comments Policy as optional, rather than the mandatory condition of participating in this online forum.

    Moderating this site is a tiresome chore, particularly when commentators repeatedly submit offensive or off-topic posts. We really appreciate people's cooperation in abiding by the Comments Policy, which is largely responsible for the quality of this site.

    Finally, please understand that moderation policies are not open for discussion. If you find yourself incapable of abiding by these common set of rules that everyone else observes, then a change of venues is in the offing.

    Please take the time to review the policy and ensure future comments are in full compliance with it. Thanks for your understanding and compliance in this matter.

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  15. Warren Hindmarsh asks: "what is the evidence that you use to convince a contrarian of alarming warming?"

    This is a pretty good place to start.  Whether someone views this as alarming is for them to decide; that it is likely to be problematic and adaption expensive, is sufficient to warrant efforts at mitigation IMHO.  Sorry if you find that a bit dull and reasonable and you would prefer some hyperbole instead, but it isn't my style.

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  16. Composer99 @13

    On "impossible expectations", I believe that the creationists who demand transitional forms are secretly pleased when one is actually found, since then they can point to the absence of not one, but two transitional fossils, younger and older than the newly found one. 

    It's bit like it is for our contrarian friends when temperature or sea ice hit new records; it just provides a new starting point for a trend reversal. 

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  17. Here is a further comparison between evolution deniers and AGW deniers, linking to specific examples.  The list of 10 characteristics may need to be reduced to a list of 9, as a creationist example of the explicit offering of money based on opinion was not offered in the OP.  The Phillip E. Johnson Award for Liberty and Truth was suggested as a creationist counterpart, and does indeed include a monetary component; but it is not clear it is entirely analogous.

    I also want to note the way that the "evidence based" Warren Hindmarsh, when presented with clear and cogent comparisons that he had asked for immediately started talking about something else.  That is probably more characteristic of trolls than of evolution deniers per se, but it is inconsistent with his claim of evidence based belief.

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  18. Dikran my aplogies in misspelling your name.


    Moderator: I would neve misspell someones name deliberately.

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  19. moderator: sorry neve never

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  20. The Brandis statement, that climate change skeptics are being silenced by the authoritarian advocates of climate change and should be given equal opportunity to make their argument, doesn't actually agree with the reality of the Australian media. In fact the reverse is true. When you consider that newspapers like the Daily Telegraph or the Herald Sun command around 70% of the Australian market and that these papers reach about 83% of Australia's reading public, and that their 3 most popular writers, Miranda Devine, Andrew Bolt and Piers Ackerman, are all climate change/global warming skeptics/deniers tirelessly repeating the same old "it's not happening"/"it's all natural" arguments and referencing scientists like Curry, Monkton, Spenser, Lindzen, Carter and Pilmer et. al. to justify their views, hardly indicates that the deniers are being silenced. On top of this you also have the shock jocks on radio like Alan Jones, Ray Hadley and others who also command a significant percentage of the radio market also promoting climate change/global warming denial, and with climate scientists and advocates like David Karoly and Tim Flannery being brow beaten into silence, it seems that Brandis's statement is nothing but hubris.

    Now if Brandis is complaining that denier skeptics are not getting equal time in reputable science journals like American Scientist, Scientific America and Nature and other reputable magazines like New Scientist and National Geographic, and science shows like Catalyst, then it indicates he doesn't truly understand the difference between a political argument where anything goes versus a scientific argument where verifiable evidence and scientific reasoning are required.
    I would have thought a venue like Skeptical Science does give deniers and skeptics a chance to air their views in the Brandis meaning of equal time, due its tendency to have direct links to the denier argument references. However, Skeptical Science and sites like it also provide direct links to the counter argument references as well. Unfortunately, the denier/skeptic arguments don't stand up to the intense scrutiny required of a scientific debate, even when a few of the arguments occasionally do merit further research. This is why, generally, the denier/skeptics resort to political tactics rather than make proper scientific arguments to get what they think is equal time. The trouble with all this is that the public remains confused, which I guess is the whole point anyway, to stop positive action on climate change being taken.

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  21. DIkran it is warming, that is beyond doubt. It is the alarming amounts that we need to worry about so the "Expressed as a global average, surface temperatures have increased by about 0.74°C over the past hundred years (between 1906 and 2005" is the warming that you worry about?

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  22. The following image shows the radiative forcing from CO2 plus changes in solar brightness over time:

    The interesting comparison is between RCP 8.5, ie, the BAU scenario in the last panel, with the rise in forcing at about 250 million years before the present in the first panel (ie, the end Permian extinction).  The later shows a rise of about 10 W/m^2, slightly less than the circa 12 W/m^2 associated with RCP 8.5.  The absolute level of forcing associated with RCP 8.5 has never been matched in the planets history.

    The 12 W/m^2 forcing associated with the RCP 8.5 scenario shows clearly that not all forcings are considered.  When all known forcings are considered, the RCP forcing will drop towards 8.5 W/m^2.  Similarly, with all forcings considered the change in forcing associated with the end Permian mass extinction may be slightly greater, or less than that shown.  Therefore we cannot conclude that the change in forcing associated with RCP 8.5 is greater than that associated with the Permian mass extinction.  We can conclude, however, that the BAU (RCP 8.5) scenario will result in a forcing change of similar magnitude to that in the Permian mass extinction; that it will certainly occur over a much shorter time; and that it is more likely than not to result absolute levels of forcing never before encountered on this planet.  

    For those not familiar with the Permian mass extinction, it resulted in the extinction of around 90% of marine invertebrates, around two thirds of terrestial vertebrate species, and possibly as much as 50% of terrestial plant species.  There is little reason to think an equivalent change in forcing would not result in similar exinction levels today.  Indeed, given that the impacts on the extinction rates would be addition to those already driven by over fishing, deforestation, and colonizing species due to international travel, overall extinction rates with RCP 8.5 have a good chance of being higher than those in the end Permian extinction.

    It should be noted that the change in forcing is not the only potential explanation of the end Permian mass extinction, but its major rival, ocean acidification, gives us an equally pessimistic prospect.  RCP 8.5 will result in ocean acidification levels comparable with or higher than during the end Permian mass extinction.  This is because, despite the lower CO2 levels, the rapid accidification removes pH buffers from the ocean that would have retained a lower pH during the Permean mass extinction.

    Given these facts, it is foolhardy to think human civilization will proceed untroubled by such potential ecological catastrophes.  These facts by themselves establish there is a considerable risk that a BAU policy will create sufficient strains on human society as to result in massive, potentially devestating reductions in human well being and population.  That is not certain, but the odds are sufficiently high to make the risk entirely unacceptable.

    Warren Hindmarsh asks, "what is the evidence that you use to convince a contrarian of alarming warming?"

    If the evidence summarized in that image, and its implications is not evidence enough to convince him, then nothing will be.  

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  23. Ah.... Warren, this is where you got to.

    I'm still hoping you'll provide some instance related to global warming where your mnd was changed by the evidence.

    I also continue to hope why you think that the people posting at WUWT can be convinced by evidence, given their disparate and fatally inadequate backgrounds and the overwhelming malice they display

    and of course, what difference it would make if they could be convinced.  As in if Tony Watts threw in the towel and declared that he wanted to have Mike Mann's babies, would James Inhofe turn?

    I'm not too miffed that you moved onto another thread however, I don't think I'm willing to let you off the hook either.

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  24. From the article:

    Climate change is not as well understood as vaccination or evolution, and I would not put deniers of climate science in the same camp as anti-vaccination and anti-evolution movements, but there is an increasing trend among them all to adopt similar methods.

    (my emphasis)

    I would question the emphsised part. Knowledge of vaccination effects is always inferred from the statistics and lots of evidence in evolution is based from paleo observations, that silimar to paleo-climate have their uncertainties. The climate science however, is not based on statistics, but mainly on well understood physical processes. Also because of these physics foundations, climate science would stand on its own, even if paleo-climate did not exist. Therefore, I find climate science better understood than both vaccination and evolution, contrary to the assertion above.

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  25. A typo in my post@24. The "vaccination effects is always inferred" should read as "vaccination effects is often inferred".

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  26. Warren @21:

    A 5-6°C drop in temperature would mean very little in our day-to-day experience. Maybe the difference between t-shirt and long-sleeve shirt weather on a sunny day.

    But a similar drop in global mean temperature means mile-high ice sheets covering large chunks of the Northern Hemisphere, as was observed during previous glacial periods.

    Cooling or warming, small numbers at the global scale lead to big changes.

    So, yes, a 0.74°C rise in global mean temperature over the 20th century is something to be concerned about. In fact, a 0.74°C change in global mean temperature over 100 years is quite possibly unique in the geological history of the Earth over the Phanerozoic, save for the most violent of geological upheavals.

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  27. Dikran and Composer99 You seem to be concerned that "about 0.75C" global temperature rise in 100 years is "something to be concerned about" and "quite possibly unique" evidence like this or this or this may help.

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  28. Dave123 You asked where I have changed  my mind and I have to be careful here because the last few comments have been way off topic of this post which is about the link of set beliefs and AGW denial.

    Any way, yes I did follow the warming debate and you could probably say I was a strong supporter of alarming warming during the 90's. I considered it had a lot of credibility after all, no matter what the case, to cut CO2 emissions pollution and promote renewable energy are all great outcomes. 

    I still believe these are great outcomes but the increasingly outlandish claims of 9m sealevel rise and 6c temp rise by the end of the century and the increasingly absolute belief systems of the AGW lobby (Mann's flawed hockey stick graph, climate gate, It won't snow in London again, the Arctic will be ice free by 2013, etc.etc.) caused me to adopt a contrarian and skeptical view.

    In other words with each global warming claim now I go and check the fact, it's not that difficult these days.

    Contrary to the above post I consider a skeptical inquiring mind as a strength.  I recommend it.

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  29. Tom Curtis thank you for the comment your "evidence" is a model using only CO2 and sunlight and a host of assumptions concluding with the possibility of the extermination of just about all life on the planet. The alarmism is about as absolute as you can get but to rest your concern most of the models have been wrong, I admit the jury is still out, the warming will come back, CO2 is a green house gas but at alarmist rates? lets follow the evidence.

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  30. I think we can determine Warren's line of "reasoning" when he bring up long debunked ideas like the supposed flawed hockey stick, which has been confirmed in numerous other studies.
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  31. TonyW I will give you the "Hockey Stick" but you still have to give me "Ice free Arctic" "it won't snow in London" and we will just wait on the upcoming court case on the "Hockey Stick" 

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  32. Warren

    Regarding your links - all generated by CO2Science or JoNoova by the way, not links to the actual data sources or papers - you might find these things interesting

    Your first link is for ice core data from Greenland. Not the globe. We can't assess the globe from data from just one location.

    Here is your image, taken from JoNova. Here is the paper by Richard Alley that the graph is based on. Firstly this graph does not appear in Alley's paper. You can get the actual data here. Notably the data ends in 1905. So most of the warming we are disscussing here isn't included on the graph. And this is Greenland so we can't just add what the global temperature change has been since warming is greater in the Arctic. Here is the record for one station in Greenland that is continuous since the start of the 20th century. Around 2.5 Deg C of warming. So that would possibly put temperatures at Greenland today back to the levels labelled Minoan Warming


    \Next look at this graph - I even obtained it from a skeptic website. Vostoc Ice Core data from Antarctica for a similar period. And there are spikes labelled with the same 'warm period' names.


    Notice the difference between the two graphs. Your graph shows Medieval Warming as a spike around 1050 while the Antarctic data shows a narrow spike around 1550. 1050 was actually quite cool in the Antarctic. The Roman warming was a narrow spike around 100 BC in Greenland but a narrow spike around 350 BC in Antarctica. The Minoan period was around 1300 C in Greenland but around 1700 BC in Antarctica. Is there seems to be a bit of a problem with dates here Warren? No, just with the assumption that we can use one location to tell us what was happening over the entire planet.

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  33. Warren, I'd like to have said I was astonished by your reply, but I found it sadly predictable.

    I still believe these are great outcomes but the increasingly outlandish claims of 9m sealevel rise and 6c temp rise by the end of the century and the increasingly absolute belief systems of the AGW lobby (Mann's flawed hockey stick graph, climate gate, It won't snow in London again, the Arctic will be ice free by 2013, etc.etc.) caused me to adopt a contrarian and skeptical view.


    As others have noted, the moment you added the "C" to AGW you betrayed a propagandistic stance towards matters.  Adding the 'catastrophic' to AGW was simply a branding tactic by a political opposition that had no basis in published work.  Your use suggests either you don't know manipulation and propaganda when you see it, or that you are willfully interested in propogating a false meme.  Which is it?

    Moving on to the hockey stick, I'm not sure what your apparent concession to TonyW means, but in any case you've not made it clear what you think the importance of the hockey stick is.   Again, this is a dismissive stance, that isn't about understanding but about something else entirely.  To be blunt: do you recognize that Mann's original 1998 work has been replicated and extended by other groups using other proxies and statistical methods?  If not, in terms of this debate you're talking about, I and many others here are far more technically competent than you to evaluate the claims and methods:  what hope do you have of persuading us?  Referring to JoNova?  Part of the issue Warren, is that you have to have the technical chops to know when a McIntyre or Nova is simply wrong.  If you don't have those skills, like I do, then you can't be a skeptic... you're simply a bystander to something you don't understand.

    Moving on then to the disappearance of Artic sea ice in summer, you surely know that one group reported results of 2013-2019.  It's one group, reporting a preliminary result, not a consensus opinion and you distort it when you aren't sayig 2016+/- 3 years.  It is a perfectly normal and expected part of science for someone to publish a finding of this sort "hey, we tried a new approach and it gave these interesting results".  The whole point of this is so that other people can look at the approach, see if they think it is correct.  You don't seem to register this part of normal science and instead seem to be taking a legalistic approach of constructing an advocacy case- an approach with no obligation to consider the findings as a whole.  So if this is the sort of debate you think is productive, you've probably signed your death warrant as far as being seen as someone who a scientist can have a productive discussion with.

    I think the same applies to the "no snow in London" business.  AFAIK that was one remark, not published paper, and the modeling results for the UK tend to show the kind of winter England just had.  And again it seems that you have a barrister's approach to things- finding one little thing and stripping it of context.

    This is what the UK Met office shows these days.  Why is it not the story rather than whatever the no snow in London story?

    So when you say "increasingly outlandish claims" say for sea level, you ignore the mainstream projections, and take some sort of odd umbrage that outliers in the scientific work exist.

    Beyond that you give the appearance of advocating some sort of censorship of worst case assessments.  Kerry Emmanual, of MIT (where I got my doctorate) makes a strong case for the importance of including the long tail risks, because leaving them out would be misleading.  On my own authority and training (industrial process safety and hazards analysis) I think he's quite right.  In my reports to management I certainly included the long tail risks and mitigation strategies.

    In toto, I don't think you've provided an example of facts changing your mind, rather you've provided examples of how you get lost in the whole business and can't see the forest from the trees.  It certainly doesn't give me any warm feelings on the possibility of rational interchange with the WUWT and JoNova factories, and even further ignores whether these folks or you really matter anyhow. 

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    Moderator Response:

    [PW] Unnecessary white space removed.

  34. Warren Hindmarsh wrote "Dikran and Composer99 You seem to be concerned that "about 0.75C" global temperature rise in 100 years is "something to be concerned about" and "quite possibly unique" evidence like this or this or this may help."

    So I point you to the IPCC reports (which describe the work of many thousands of scientists) and your only comment on it is to post links to three rather questionable (see Glen's post above) pictures from Jo Nova's website? 

    It seems to me that you have paid no attention whatsoever to the answer I gave to your question, which makes me wonder what you had in mind when you asked it.  I suspect the answer is that you are just trolling.

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  35. Warren might be interested to know that this is the first year I can remember that it didn't snow at all over winter in my part of England (Cambridge, just North of London).   We had about 5 frosty mornings, but no snow.

    Not proof of anything of course, but still an interesting data point.

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  36. Warren, the claim that the Arctic may be ice free by 2013 was made by one (1) scientist, the IPCC reports (and the majority of Arctic sea ice scientists) did not agree with that projection.  So what you are doing is cherry picking headlines and not bothering to check whether they were actually in accordance with the mainstream scientific position. 

    Here is a hint, if you think some climate change claim is alarmist, try looking to see what the IPCC reports say about it.

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  37. Warren


    Regarding your 2nd link, this is a small excerpt from a paper Nordt et al here. Quite a technical paper about variations in the proportion of C3 & C4 plant in the US Great Plains over the last 12 kyr+


    Here is the conclusion from the paper:


    The delta 13C and delta %C4 from organic carbon of buried soils within the mixed and shortgrass prairie of the North American Great Plains permits a regional analysis of C4 grassland dynamics for the past 12ka. The delta 13C data compiled from a literature review of buried soils reveal that C4warm season grasses were present throughout the Great Plains study area during the past 12ka, but that there were appreciable fluctuations with 0.6 and 1.8ka periodicities. The crossover latitude of equal relative production of C4 and C3 plants appears to have been several degrees to the south of the modern location of 46 deg N prior to 6.7ka, with a shift to near the modern position after 6.7ka.

    Relative C4 production did not increase monotonically in response to orbitally forced insolation between 12 ad 6.7ka, apparently because of a negative feedback from the presence of the LIS, glacial lakes in the northern plains, and cool glacial meltwater pulses into the Gulf of Mexico and North Atlantic. Thereafter, fluctuations in solar irradiance provided a more direct influence on delta %C4 as outflow of warm subtropical air from the Gulf of Mexico became established, interrupted periodically by warm, dry westerly flow contributing to episodes of drought. Here, increased delta %C4 occurred during intervals of elevated solar irradiance and with shifts in the ITCZ into the northwest Gulf of Mexico in the absence of ice-rafting events in the North Atlantic.

    The coherency in our buried soil record with pollen spectra, marine cores, and ice cores, demonstrate the reliability of C4 plant dynamics not only as a proxy for grassland evolution but for climate as well. More work is needed to better understand grass dynamics in the early Holocene in response to conflicting reports of whether conditions were warmer or cooler than present. The paradox in the middle and late Holocene is that positive delta %C4 anomalies correspond with periods of dune activation. More work is needed to understand why during drought conditions C4 plants flourished. No doubt, C4 plants were responding positively to elevated temperatures as they should, but either these grasses thrive during drought or were growing between drought events during periods of landscape stability.

    Hopefully our work will spawn further investigations into grassland dynamics of the past, provide additional parameters for climate and biome modeling, and create a better understand C and N dynamics in a region that is poorly understood"

    So what exactly is the relevance and more importantly significance of your 2nd link?

    Then there is this graph from Nordt et al. Seemingly one of the graphs that your graph was based on.

    Whereas your looks like this:

    Sort of a bit different isn't it when you leave half the data off. Because the Nordt paper was looking at some quite complex local climatic issues as the Laurentide Ice sheet melted and so on. Again not exactly global.

    So who produced this truncated graph that could o easily mislead people? Well lets quote Jo Nova "Thanks to the Craig Idso at CO2Science for compiling so many of these on his site.". Interesting concept don't you think. Truncating graphs and cherry-picking is 'compiling'?

    As to your third graph and some more from Craig Idso, try reading this.  Note particularly the section labelled CO2 Non-Science on how CO2Science misrepresents Oppo el al (2009).

    Here is your graph as shown in Otto et al (b)

    Notice the '1997-2007 mean annual SST' line that Craig Idso at CO2Science 'compiled' away in your version and replaced with another line that is not on the original, is not identified, and might suggest well sumfink or uver.


    Finally Warren. If you wish to discuss science here with people that's great. But please make them your opinions or the published science itself. Not a blogger said that another blogger said that ... well you get the picture.

    Just doing a copy and paste from an old Jo Nova blog doesn't really count as making your own argument does it? Its sort of insulting to everyone here.

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  38. Glenn Tamblyn Please read my comment again.

    I did provide links to 3 different locations..

    Yes they vary but they all have the same effect i.e, to hopefully allay composor99@26's concerns that recent warming was unprecedented in the "history of the earth" and yes your Vostok example should help composor99 as well.

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  39. Warren, regarding no Arctic sea ice by 2013, that was a projection by one modelling group and actually was 2016 +/- 3years.

    This is a graph of Arctic sea ice volume from PIOMAS since 1979. Each line is one month with the green bottom line being September. The bottom axis is zero volume.

    After last years mild season ice volume ticked back up so now the trend projection is saying 2016/17 for zero. Prior to last year the projection was saying 2015/16. Ice volume up there has returned to what it was a year ago - the 'recovery' has evaporated away. Will ice reach zero by 2016? Its not certain, but it is also quite plausible that it could.

    So '... but you still have to give me "Ice free Arctic"...'. What do you think the data is suggesting


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  40. Warren. Your first link (GISP) tells us about Greenland. The MWP (if there was such a thing) doesn't appear to have been global in nature. Certainly not if it was 500 years apart in different parts of the planet. Whereas warming today is global. And by not showing the instrumental record for Greenland in conjunction with the ice core data that removes the context wrt current temperature changes.Picture what that graph looks like if, at the far right the line climbs to current temps in Greenland. That would put it up at around the 'minoan' level, a much larger change than any of the other spikes given that we should be in a long term downward trend as the curved trend line on the graph suggests. Incomplete information can be very misleading Warren.

    Your second link was about evidence for differing proportions of different plant types in the Great Plains in the transition out of the last Glacial involving lots of factors. And if you read Nordt et al they show graphs from studies by others that differ significantlyfrom their work. So what was the point of the second link.

    And what excatly is Craig Idso's manipulation of the graph from Otto et al telling you about the reliability of your sources?

    And your links were all to the same source - Jo Nova. And she sourced 2 of them from Craig Idso.  And Idso manipulated both the images he supplied.

    You need to find better sources of information Warren.



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  41. Warren wrote "Dikran I asked for evidence of alarming global warming"

    as I said, what is considered "alarming" is a matter of opinion, and like your use of CAGW is usually hyperbole or rhetorical overstatement in order to create a straw man.  If you want to give the impression of trolling, this is a pretty good approach.

    "you provided a link to a IPCC report. In that report it stated that the earth had warmed by "about 0.74C" over the last 100 yearrs""

    so?  did you read the projections of future warming?  That is what justifies efforts at mitigation, not the relatively small warming we have seen over the last 100 years.

    The IPCC reports also contain discussion of historical sea ice extent and the medieval warm period etc, but you seem to have ignored that and prefer Jo Nova's blog instead.

    "Yes there are models that predict much worse in the future but models, by their very definition, can not be evidence."

    you are playing with words now.  We can have no "evidence" of the future, but that does not mean we know nothing about it.

    "Dikan I resent the troll accusation"

    too bad, stop using the phrase CAGW, stop playing with words and start taking a balanced *skeptical* view of the evidence rather than just cherry picking images from blogs (without considering whether they are an accurate representation of the evidence or whether they tell the story they are purported to tell - see posts by Glenn).

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  42. Glenn Tamblyn @32, Before Present refers to before 1950 in geological analysis, unless otherwise specified.  Therefore the final date in the Alley et al data is 1855, not 1905.  A comparison between 1855 temperatures and modern temperatures at site of the GISP2 core can be found here.

    It is interesting to note that of the three regional temperature series, not one shows a temperature record through to modern times.  The GISP2 record shows temperatures only through to 1855 as already noted.  It even marks the temperature increase from 1790-1855 in red to deceptively indicate it is the modern warming.  

    The soil temperature record in the great plains (your second image in your post @37) terminates around 1500 AD, ie, effectively with the onset of the LIA.  The line across (as you note) represents modern values, but in fact represents modern (1990s) soil composition.  Soil is formed from biological decay products being worked into the sand and/or clay substrate by bioturbation.  Thus modern soil composition is only a measure of modern temperatures at very low resolution of at least decades and possibly longer.  This is shown, in part by the fact that 1940s measurements match 1990s measurements.  Therefore the modern values shown, used as a temperature proxy, equate to a multidecade average temperature terminating in the 1990s, and do not represent modern (early 21st century) values at all.    

    The final image (and your final image @37) shows no temperature post 1980.  The line across purportedly represents modern temperatures, but as you not is not the modern temperatures shown in the original source, and indeed shows a lower temperature than that shown in that source.

    Thus, in his attempt to show mid to late holocene temperatures greater than modern temperatures, Hindmarsh has singularly failed to show any modern temperatures.  So much for his claim to be guided by evidence.

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  43. By the way, the problems with Warrens behaviour here have been pointed out to him before, for instance here, where he wrote the obviously content-free trolling comment:

    Hi dikran

    where is the global warming :)

    To which I later replied:

    "Warren, firstly your posts on SkS have demonstrated an argumentative rhetorical tone. This is not conducive to discussion of science and is likely to irritate the other participants in the discussion, which reflects more badly on you than on anyone else. Please give it a rest."

    before going on to answer his question.  Note also the moderator comment that shows the other moderators had also tired of his snarky behaviour.

    I've had a look through Warren's posting history here, and this sort of behaviour seems pretty much standard operating procedure, so if he resents being labelled as a troll, then perhaps he needs to reconsider his posting strategy.

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  44. Warren Hindmarsh @29,

    1)  Could you please provide your evidence for your false claim that the forcing data I showed "is only a model"?

    2)  I note that your comment that even considering the possibility of mass extinctions in similar conditions to the worst mass extinction in the paleo record is "alarmist".  Very clearly you are operating on an a priori assumption that the impacts of global warming cannot be bad.

    You are making it more and more transparent that you are just yet another ideologically driven, evidence free troll.

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  45. Warren, the tone of your response to Tom is again snarky and gives the impression of trolling, rather than rational scientific discussion.  The answer is pretty obvious, the part that is not an extrapolation is not necesarily model based and hence the forcing data Tom gave is not "only a model".  Please exercise some self skepticism and try and see the value in the posts made by others, rather than just assuming they are wrong without checking.

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  46. Tom

    I am aware the usual convention for any paleodata is 'present' is 1950. The GISP data I linked to specifically says from the present and is from a 2000 study. Possibly Alley means the usual convention, just the description of the data doesn't say that specifically.

    Warren's problem is relying on poor quality source for his arguents.

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  47. Dikran sorry but to call me a troll and then you say you "know about the future" if that's the best you have sorry I'm too much of a contrarian skeptic to cop that now, once again your proof of alarming warming and we know "about 0.75c per century" is not that.

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  48. Warren wrote: "...the increasingly absolute belief systems of the AGW lobby (Mann's flawed hockey stick graph, climate gate, It won't snow in London again, the Arctic will be ice free by 2013, etc.etc.) caused me to adopt a contrarian and skeptical view."

    So you have based your position on lies and nonsense... and continue to hold that position even when shown that these things are lies and nonsense.

    Sorry, that doesn't make you a 'skeptic'.

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  49. O.K., to show that Warren *is* just trolling, he complains 'Dikran sorry but to call me a troll and then you say you "know about the future" '

    what I actually wrote was

    "you are playing with words now. We can have no "evidence" of the future, but that does not mean we know nothing about it."

    I clearly did not say that I know the future, and to suggest that we are not completely ignorant of what will happen in the future is not an unreasonable statement.

    "once again your proof of alarming warming and we know "about 0.75c per century" is not that."

    Also I didn't say that I had proof of alarming warming.  I made it very clear that "alarming" is a subjective term and didn't use it myself, I also didn't say proof, you can't have proof of something that happens in the future. 

    It is sad that Warren should play such silly word games and misquote, rather than actually engage in a rational discussion of what the science actually does tell us.

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  50. (snip)

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    Moderator Response:

    [PW] Warren, this is your last warning: any further *trolling* and all your rants will be deleted, and you will be recused from any further commentary on SkS.

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