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SkS Responses to Pielke Sr. Questions

Posted on 21 September 2011 by dana1981

On his blog in response to our post One-Sided 'Skepticism, Roger Pielke Sr. asked SkS to respond to some questions.  We would like to note that these questions are totally unrelated to the initial discussion initiated by Dr. Pielke's unsubstantiated criticism of SkS (see Chasing Pielke's Goodyear Blimp).  However, in the interest of establishing what we hope will be a productive discourse, we have agreed to answer Dr. Pielke's questions.

Dr. Pielke's questions are underlined in the text below, and the answers from SkS follow.

1. Of the two hypotheses below, which one do you conclude is correct? (see Dr. Pielke's post for the two hypotheses offered)

The two aren't mutually exclusive, and both are correct.  CO2 is the dominant radiative forcing causing the current global energy imbalance.

2. Of the two perspectives below [from Mike Hulme], which one do you agree with? (see Dr. Pielke's post for the two perspectives offered)

Again, the two perspectives are not mutally exclusive, and both are correct.  As Hulme notes, they are simply two different framings.  In terms of climate policy, the second framing is probably more appropriate, as addressing climate change will involve more than just CO2 emissions reductions.

3. What is your preferred diagnostic to monitor global warming?

SkS doesn't have a preferred diagnostic - all lines of evidence must be taken into account.  It's important to look at all the data in totality to monitor global warming (surface temperature, ocean heat content, atmospheric temperature, TOA energy imbalance, sea level rise, receding ice, etc.).

What is your best estimate of the observed trends in each of these metrics over the last 10 years and the last 20 years?

10-year trends are generally not statistically significant (see Santer et al. 2011, for example).  The approximate best estimate observed trends for some of these metrics over the last ~20 years are as follows.  TLT: 0.18°C per decade.  Surface temperature: 0.18°C per decade.  Ocean Heat Content (OHC) upper 700 meters: 6.3 x 1022 J per decade.  Sea level rise: 32 mm per decade.  Arctic sea ice volume: -2900 km3 per decade.  Glacier mass balance: -180 mm w.e. per decade.

4. What do the models’ predict should be the current value of these metrics?

The surface temperature change is roughly consistent with model predictions, though perhaps a bit on the low end.  The predicted TLT trend is approximately 0.26°C per decadeSea levels are rising faster and Arctic sea ice is declining far faster than models predict.

OHC in the upper 700 meters increased more than the models expected from 1961 to 1999, and has increased less than models project since 2003. There are a number of factors that may explain the recent discrepancy:

  • as noted above, this is too short of a timeframe for a valid statistical evaluation; 
  • models generally do not take the increases in aerosol emissions over this period into account;
  • the oceans are much deeper than 700 meters, and the so-called "missing heat" may very well reside in the deeper oceans (i.e. see Meehl et al. 2011).

We have discussed this subject previously here and more recently here, taking the deep ocean into account.

One reason that we like to rely on multiple lines of evidence, rather than depend on one single indicator, is that any one can be wrong. The history of the UAH measurements comes to mind: the measurements were in conflict with other methods for tracking temperature change (and with climate model projections) for over a decade; eventually, most of the discrepancy was resolved (in favor of the models) only after very subtle analysis of the physical behavior of the instruments.

5. What are your preferred diagnostics to monitor climate change?

That depends on how "climate change" is defined, but again, it is necessary to look at all lines of evidence and data.

6. Is global warming (and cooling) a subset of climate change or does it dominate climate change?

Again, that depends on how "climate change" is defined.  Long-term global temperature and climate changes are both ultimately caused by global energy imbalances.

Now that we have answered your questions, there are a few issues on which we would like to understand your perspective, Dr. Pielke.

SkS Questions for Dr. Pielke

1. Approximately what percentage of the global warming (increase in surface, atmosphere, ocean temperatures, etc.) over the past 100 years would you estimate is due to human greenhouse gas emissions and other anthropogenic effects?  And the past 50 years?

2. Do you find Spencer, Lindzen, and Christy's arguments that equilibrium climate sensitivity is in the ballpark of 1°C or less for doubled atmospheric CO2 plausible?  If so, how do you reconcile this low climate sensitivity with the paleoclimate record, for example needing to explain ~5°C swings in average global surface temperature between glacial and interglacial periods (i.e. see the figure below from Hansen and Sato 2011)?

Fig 2

3. Do you agree that continuing on our current business-as-usual emissions path presents an unacceptable (in your opinion) risk to the biosphere and to human society in general within the next century?

4. Do you agree that continuing on our current business-as-usual emissions path presents an unacceptable (in your opinion) risk to marine ecosystems in the form of ocean acidification within the next century?

5. Do you think that we should begin to move towards a low-carbon economy, thereby reducing anthropogenic GHG emissions?

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Comments 151 to 192 out of 192:

  1. @149 Perhaps the real problem was not the number of posters, but the relative weights of the scientific data supporting one 'side' or the other. If one party refuses to acknowledge the weight of the data held by the those who differ from that party, things are bound to get acrimonius - even at a scientific conference (and yes I have seen that plenty of times). If you have a large majority of climate scientists producing data that support an hypothesis over many years, and yet a few hold out (without offering much in the way of data supporting alternative hypotheses), rational discussions with the latter become very difficult.
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  2. Dikran, rdr95, I agree totally with each of you. That was rather the point of my first paragraph. However the way the thread developed (and this isn't a criticism but a reminder that these interactions occurred on a blog comment board!) necessarily gave Dr. Pielke an awful lot to deal with. The large amount of posts awaiting Dr. Pielke whenever he returned here made it very easy for him to choose those posts he felt comfortable addressing. In my opinion this produced a "more heat than light" style of discourse than might have occurred if there was a steady and thoughtful dialogue between Dr. Pielke and one or two of the "in house" posters who might manage the response of others.. I agree with rd95 that the weight of evidence is very much against Dr. Pielke's points of view (as expressed here) and it's obvious that quite a bit of Dr. Pielke's assertion lacks a thoughtful evidence base (e.g., and paraphrasing, "money spent on modeling is a waste of time and should be spent on basic research on novel technologies"; "discussion of so-called "climate sensitivity" is an almost meaningless activity" and other bits of "pub talk"). But it wasn't really possible to address these and other assertions very thoughtfully in the context of a snowstorm of posting...that's my opinion, and if this were to be repeated, it might be worth thinking of a way of better accommodating the "visitor"!
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    Moderator Response: [grypo] chris, I see your point. It's fair criticism that SkS can take under consideration for future use if this type of situation arises again. While this began and ended on poor terms, in the middle, some important agreements and disagreements popped up that we hope to highlight soon.
  3. Chris, DM and rdr, It could just be his style, but I find Pielke Srs comments very frustrating for many of the same reasons you all point out. Why premise a discussion with a framing based on dichomotomies that you must know people are likely to disagree with? (It's not like it's the first time he has tried that particular framing). Why not try to be succinct when describing how your opinion differs from the person you are talking with? Why not answer questions directly? Why not stay on one topic until it is cleared up? Answering blog comments may not have appeared so onerous if he had been more direct. First, there would have been fewer questions. Second they would have been targeted better. Maybe it reflects his thinking process, but the effect is that he always seems to be positioning his answers somehow - or trying to stay just out of reach of complete comprehension. There is a "float like a butterfly" kind of feeling to the whole debate, but the "sting like a bee" part never comes. When that happens in scientific discussions (and it does sometimes) my guard goes up immediately. I'm thinking to myself, why is this guy prevaricating here? With that question in your head its easy to think less than charitable thoughts when he misrepresents an answer or puts words into mouths. As for the science, there are still so many questions. I still don't understand how his focus on local landuse factors affecting climate relates to patterns in global trends. You still need massive heat imbalances to drive the global patterns, right? I get the sense that he feels that landuse has not got it's due WRT driving regional climate, which might have been true in the past. Seems like a lot of people are trying to do that now, though. In any case, why does that translate into a need to deemphasize the role of GHG? Surely that would only complicate the efforts at modeling effects of local landuse, right? There is a disconnect there. I guess you can say, if there are limited resources the two issues compete with each other, but that's not an argument about the science, that's an argument about policy priorities. Even there, I always thought warming due to GHG actually magnifies the importance of landuse management and sustainability initiatives like REDD, and vice versa. There is common cause and overlap there, not opposition. As for structuring debate, I agree a more structured approach might be needed to deal with the constraints of weblogs as well as to accomodate with argumentation style of guests. An alternative to restricting the discussion to one or two posters might be to pose one specific question per thread. I think John Hartz was posed a hard task having to move discussion onward before discussion of the first question had gotten far. Another approach might be to build a call and response structure into the exchange, so that some time elapses between the guest posts and the responding posts. That might have the advantage of reducing pressure (e.g., Pielke's here now! must post now!) and allowing some steam to blow off between iterations.
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    Moderator Response: [John Hartz} Another serendipity moment: While walking our dogs yesterday, I was menatally comparing Pielke's style to Mohammad Ali's. Perhaps there's more to ESP than meets the eye.
  4. Was this thread ever intended to get as far as the 5 questions SkS posed to Dr. Pielke, and his answers (which are not posted here)? Is there any chance that we will get to go there, with Dr. Pielke's participation?
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    Moderator Response: [John Hartz] Here's what I recommend in #138: Because the discourse we had embarked on has been short-circuted by Dr. Pielke's abrupt departure, I move that Dr. Pielke's responses to the questions that Dana posed to him be post as a new SkS article. We can then proceed to analyze those answers on fresh comment thread.
  5. It looks like Albatross #1 was right - his prediction of Dr Pielke's response style was frustratingly accurate. I found the lack of italics and parenthesis in answering questions which were repeated in the posts - particularly hard to follow. Having said that - it is very hard to conduct a general discussion over many aspects of climate change in this format. I find the targeted topics where two or three participants go at it with charts and specific numbers the most useful in shedding light. Acronymns which are not commonly used should be perhaps explained once by the moderator - but it must be assumed that they be understood by anyone making a useful contribution. Stephen Baines put it well: "There is a "float like a butterfly" kind of feeling to the whole debate, but the "sting like a bee" part never comes" I had exactly that feeling Dr pielke was staying just out of reach in case his opponents delivered a knockout blow.
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  6. Our next post will discuss our questions to Dr. Pielke and his answers. The comments on that post would be a good place to discuss them. We'll probably publish it tomorrow.
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  7. dana, Sphaerica's post at 154 reminded me of that list of conclusions in Pielke blog referenced in #1 by Albatross? Might it makes sense to address those in separate summary post since we didn't get around to them? There's a mix of the sensible and the inexplicable in that list Perhaps that could also provide some context for the exchange archived here. John @153. When two people look at a picture and see the same thing it isn't ESP, it's reality. He's got that rope-a-dope style down pat.
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  8. In hindsight, I wish I had gone with my gut instinct and deleted the first five posts of this thread. They created a hostile environment that was not conducive to a frank and opens discussion. To his credit, Dr. Pielke ignored those comments when he made his initial set of posts.
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  9. @John Cook Captain Jack: The next time that you ask your Torchwood team to chase after a blimp, you will need to equip us with an appropriate number of all terrain vehicles. We know now that it is nigh impossible to catch a blimp by running after it. PS – Our bill for replacement running shoes is in your in-basket.
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  10. Stephen @157 - we weren't planning on addressing Pielke's "main conclusions." They mostly deal with his emphasis of regional over global climate change, which he incorporated into several of his comments here. I'm not sure if it would add much to the existing discussion.
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  11. Although I did not post on this thread -- I would have been completely out of my depth if I had -- I have read every word with great interest. Having a group of people on one side who are generally autonomous, up against a single person -- whatever the merits of the respective arguments -- seems to any onlooker terribly like a pack of wolves attacking a bear. It must have been very difficult for Dr Pielke to handle, especially as the timescale is so compressed and he did provide a lot of his time; which, to some degree, was partly wasted. Overall it certainly left me feeling dissatisfied. Can I suggest that in future, when the opportunity presents itself to interrogate (or challenge?) a key player in the debate, it would be better addressed by an email debate off-line between the SkS authors and the guest. The exchange could then be presented in its entirety as a post. Further comments then made could be answered by the participants of the debate as they see fit. This is just an idea from a film maker who has spent 40 years trying to present such debates in a lively and positive way that leaves the onlooker (viewer) satisfied. To make this work further perhaps the idea could also be extended to 'debates' with other key players, some of whom might not be firmly seen as opponents. I hope the comment helps. Best of luck with it.
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    Moderator Response: I believe it will help. Whatever makes for a better experience for our readers and new audience members is welcome advice.
  12. John Russell (#161), You make a valid point, but your recommendation sort of defeats the purpose of having an open discussion. I think others beyond the SkS authors have made valuable insights and posed unique questions here that might get lost with such an approach. Another approach would be for Dr. Pielke to open up comments on his blog. He has indicated that he doesn't do so because some comments are hostile, which I don't find convincing (hostile comments can be moderated out). From his blog (and from his interactions here) his chosen approach comes across as very dictorial. As far as hostility goes, no need to look further than his colleague Anthony Watts, who is trying hard today to denigrate this site and frame Dr. Pielke's interactions here. But now we're back to One-Sided Skepticism. I admire the moderators seeking to improve their approaches here in establishing dialogue and improving communication. I only wish those actions were reciprocal.
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    Moderator Response: [John Hartz] Thanks for the positive feedback.
  13. @NewYorkJ: I think the problem is that a 'debate' is not really possible when carried out in written form like this. I felt for John Hatz. Being a moderator is not like being a chairman and it's not for nothing that a debate has a structure where one side speaks and then the other answers -- which is impossible in an open forum. The end result is difficult to follow, pulling in all directions. And then there are the hecklers who, due to the format, have as much prominence as the 'serious' questioners. Agreed, my suggestion is not as good as a well-structured open 'debate' but there is no way this would end up well-structured, is there? -- except by fluky accident.
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  14. John Russell In my view a "debate" is exaclty what we need to avoid, what we need is a scientific discussion, and science has found over the years that this is best conducted in written rather than spoken terms (which is why we have journals). "debates" lend themselves all to easily to rhetoric and sophistry and favour the quick witted rather than the correct. Written form also discourages evasion as the original question is still there on the page, so any evasion is obvious. One advantage of a written format is that hecklers are not a problem, you can just ignore them and engage with those who are actually making a substantive contribution. You can't be shouted down or interupted in writing! Sadly there is no format of discussion that is completely robust to rhetorical devices of various sorts. The best thing to do is simply to note the use of the rhetorical device and carry on (this is not IMHO heckling). BTW I think the moderation on this thread (by John) has been just fine. It is often difficult to strike a balance between allowing comment on the style of the discussion (which is appropriate) without comments being inflamatory or unreasonably hostile. If someone is being evasive in a scientific discussion it is perfectly legitimate to point it out.
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  15. I followed this discussion with some interest, and expected that Dr. Pielke would abruptly leave and go back to his weblog to (for want of a better word) sulk. It's no surprise, given his track record at other climate science blogs (here and here and here) when his contrary opinions are challenged by the massive weight of prevailing evidence. It's tiresome to deal with Dr. Pielke, especially when he demands civility and respect but his online behavior can be argued to be opposite of such genteel notions. This (and previous threads) was seen with his general evasiveness, his misrepresentation of Albatross, and his surly response over at his blog. Jorg Zimmerman has an apt description of such concern troll-ish behavior that should be read by all here. Lastly, I would like to thank the moderators here for their efforts in trying to host a discussion with Dr. Pielke. John - IMO you did a good job in keeping things civilized, and you shouldn't be sent down to AAA for it. :) PS: John Russell. Good point about the pack of wolves vs. a bear analogy. However, in the immediate fallout the CRU hack, Gavin Schmidt did a exemplary job dealing with accusations flung at climate scientists by commentators over at RC over several (very) long threads. The contrast between how patiently Gavin responded to the ignorant punters, vs. how Dr. Pielke left in a huff when (IMO) politely challenged is very telling.
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  16. @Dikran. Actually, I agree with you. I was not proposing a debate (see my previous comment at #161). I also think John's moderation was fine -- but he had a thankless task and nothing he could have done would have created structure to the exchange. Reading the thread is just hard work. Fine for those with insight and the motivation to mine the content, but off-putting for the lay person -- which after all is the target audience this site sets out to reach.
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  17. Former Skeptic@165 I just want to second what you wrote regarding Gavin Schmidt, an "exemplary job" is a very apt summary, it is hard to see how he could have done better. John Russell@166 I would hope that the lay-person can detect the rhetoric and evasion and not be impressed with it. My grasp of poltics is pretty weak, but I think I can still detect evasion in politicians and be unimpressed by it (and indeed when media types are just trying to trip them up rather than dealing with the substantive issues, I'm not impressed by that either). Scientists should always be willing to give a direct answer to a difficult question, c.f. Prof. Jones' absolutely straight answer to the question about the statistical significance of temperature trends. He did explain why the non-significance didn't mean much, but he didn't shrink from explicitly stating that the trend in question was not significant. I find it much easier to trust those willing to give direct answers to direct questions, especially difficult questions. Trust is irrelevant in science, but it is highly relevant to how the general public ought to form an opinion about the science.
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  18. @Former Skeptic I'm sure you will agree that it's very different when the person who is being 'attacked'-- for want of a better word -- (Pielke on this site, Schmidt on RC) is also the moderator (forgive me if I'm wrong, but I'm assuming Gavin was both the poster and the moderator on the example you provide). That creates a structure -- partly visual -- that makes it clear and logical. There is also the point that the RC post was not a series of questions, which also created a mish-mash on this thread as the commenters went for different arguments. As I said, for the lay person it was difficult to follow. But I agree that Gavin did a good job.
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  19. @ John Russell I think we can use a phrase like, 'vehemently disagreed with' instead of 'attacked', but also recognize that the numbers were not in Pielke's favor, giving the 'gang up' impression that I'm sure some people came away with. But let's also recognize the flip-side of that. The person that Dr. Pielke complained about is another PhD level colleague in Pielke's field and probably the most knowledgeable person to counter argue on those specific points in this thread. Another example is Dikran whose very legitimate questions about a paper that Pielke himself cites as important work (in Pielke's own peer-reviewed paper, no-less!) went unanswered and Dikran was instead told to email the author. These aren't voices we really want to censor. The forum in which we are operating unfortunately lends itself to poor endings to these exercises. As well as giving critics lots of fodder to use.
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  20. John Russell @161, "Having a group of people on one side who are generally autonomous, up against a single person -- whatever the merits of the respective arguments -- seems to any onlooker terribly like a pack of wolves attacking a bear." Thanks for your thoughts on this, I largely agree with you. But I think that one point needs clarification. It should be noted that, for the most part, only one person (me) had been actively "debating" with Dr. Pielke before he decided to get in a huff and leave. So there was not really a "pack mentality" at that point, and think that would be a very poor reason for anyone to provide for him electing to leave. He could have asked for a break, or could requested for the format to change, he did neither. Re your post @168, yes it was a technical discussion at times, but instead of using it as an opportunity to inform some readers, Dr. Pielke chose to berate/insult both the moderator asking him to elaborate and SkS as a whole.
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  21. @Dikran We'll have to just disagree about Prof Jones' answer, which we've discussed before. Really, I do sympathise with your point of view but -- and I'm laying myself open to charges of elitism here -- I think you over-estimate the lay person's ability to see through the games, particularly the lay person who comes to the answer with a 'denial mindset'. I find myself being led off-topic here so that's all I'm going to say.
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  22. @Grypo, Albatross. Yes, fair points. I used the word 'attacked' as shorthand for a word I couldn't think of. It's an emotive word and I should be able to think of a simpler and shorter one -- but, with that proviso, you get my point.
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  23. I think something like this has already been suggested above, but I'd have thought the best way to manage a discussion like this in the future would be to have two parallel threads. One which is open for anyone to comment on, so those who really know what they are talking about can post sensible comments and relevant links and the rest of us can throw all the peanuts we like. The other, where the real discussion would take place, would be closed to comments, except from the key players, but with the best and most constructive comments from the open thread being transferred into it as moderators see fit.
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  24. @Grypo, Albatross. I should have gone on to say that I think if the aim is to attract sceptic scientists onto this site -- which would be really good -- you need to find ways whereby they don't feel quite so threatened. Threatened people lash out, and when they're clever they can do a lot of damage. The best way is always to remain calm yet very firm and confident. Relax them and they will hang themselves -- otherwise they'll leave long before you get the chance to be executioner. I really wanted to 'hear' Dr Pielke answer your questions. As it is I feel like I've had the main course put down in front of me and then snatched away.
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  25. This attempt at dialogue has already been instrumentalised by WUWT:
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  26. JC @175 - yes, on Bishop Hill as well. It's quite ironic that some of the worst blogs in terms of civil discourse are criticizing SkS on this issue. I believe the term is 'psychological projection'. But we're going to take the high road and try to simply ignore these attacks.
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  27. Remarkable how those bobbing around in the Dead Sea of 'scepticism' are so sharp-eyed when it comes to others straying a few paces from the summit of the moral high-ground.
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  28. Anthony Watts and Dr. Roger Pielke, Sr. do make quite the tag team, eh?
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  29. "Threatened people lash out, and when they're clever they can do a lot of damage." Playing the victim card is a tactic. I'm certain that RPSr knew exactly what he was doing, and the fact that WUWT is now running with it - hint, I doubt very much that Anthony was following the discussion here - is more evidence of it.
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  30. JC Leblond#175: And here we see the quality of the commenters: the time for serious dialogue has passed. It is time to move to ridicule, mockery and scorn. ... We should just point and laugh at them. the moderators on that site abuse their positions by not facilitating debate and promoting discussion, but using a Taliban like adherence to climate orthodoxy to stop any deviation from the holy flame How long did that 'Watts took down his Gore-is-an-idiot so he maybe he's not so bad' feeling last?
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  31. I'm glad that Dana (#176) and SkS authors are taking the high road, as I understand the temptation to jump into the gutter with certain characters, but they only offer troll-bait. At the same time, don't feel so reserved you have to feel guilty about using fairly innocuous categories like "Spencer's Slip Ups" as to avoid any chance of offending those who are part of Spencer's tribe. There is a danger of becoming too dry and boring. And if someone feels that Dr. Pielke or someone else has misrepresented his or her position, absolutely, don't feel shy in pointing that out. You cannot move debate forward if, for fear of scaring off the opposing party, you ignore that fact that someone is creating a strawman or allow someone to develop a caricature of your argument, such as Dr. Pielke did to my statements at the end of #18. There's only so much you can do to accomodate people.
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  32. I think the comments at 149 and 173 (that we should insulate the top-tier publishing skeptics from a SkS pile-on are valid). While it is also true that Pielke shied away from answering the excellent questions posed by knowledgeable folks in the field, I did feel that it was simply overwhelming (from Pielke's point of view). Given his expertise and work in the field, he deserves a different format (if we seek to truly understand his position). Perhaps if SkS offered Pielke a more moderated thread, Pielke would agree to actually answer the questions asked? Regardless, it is impressive that John Cook got Pielke onto this site, and Dr. Pielke deserves credit for diving in and trying to get his views out. I hope SkS will extend a heartfelt thanks to Dr. Pielke for the time and effort he devoted to sharing his views.
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    Moderator Response:

    [John Hartz] A number of SkS authors and readers have already posted "thank you's" to Dr. Pielke on this comment thread.

    [Daniel Bailey] To elaborate upon your points (and on JH's fine moderation of this thread): 

    Dr. Pielke is free and welcome to participate in each and every thread here at SkS, under the same terms, standards and expectations inherent and implicit in all who post here:

    1. that all comments be constructed and formulated to comply with the Comments Policy and to also
    2. stay on-topic of the thread that they are posted on.

    Comments not adhering to both points, regardless of the individual or affiliation of the poster, are subject to moderation...with no exceptions or special treatment offered nor given.  Thus, regardless of the far and distant shore origination point of the person making the comment, all are welcome to participate here, free from the usual diatribes and invective inhabiting those other spheres.

    Dr. Pielke thus holds the power to continue the dialogue herein under those understood and requisite terms of behavior at any time of his choosing.

    It really is that simple.

  33. I just had a quick look at the comments thread on WUWT. I'm astonished that Dr Pielke would associate, at any level, with that site. It's simply amazing how tolerant people can be of abuse, provided the abuser is 'on the same side'; and how intolerant they can be of anything that seems to go against their mind set. The good thing, I think, is that anyone with even the slightest objectivity who visits the various sites should find it very easy to decide where the moral high ground lies. In common parlance they seem to have 'lost it'.
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  34. After Climategate I was directed to WUWT by a denier acquaintance of mine so I could learn what a dupe I had been to believe science. The low level of discourse there (and other sites he directed me to) led me to dismiss their conspiracy claims and to seek out more reasonable sources of scientific information. Thank you John Cook for creating this site and thanks to all the regular contributors/commenters who keep is stocked with science for anyone who is willing to learn it.
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    Moderator Response: [John Hartz] Thanks for the nice words. Like elephants in the circus, all SkS authors, including Dana, work for peanuts. Every so often, John Cook pops in to fill up our bowls and sweep up the shells.
  35. Having followed this and other climate sites for a few years now, I began "counting down" to Dr Pielke's exit from this thread after Albatross' excellent post @ 115. The thing we must all remember is that the cultural norms of appropriate debate and discussion within scientific communities are not the same as among so called 'skeptic' communities. One continually sees participants in threads like these push towards evidence-based and rigorous debate (usually, to be sure, MUCH gentler than the way academics will argue over a dinner table)with 'skeptics' who are really in the business of simulated scientific critique which claims to engage with climate science, but is actually not directed to scientists at all. As a consequence, there is a point in every such debate when the 'skeptic' must find a reason to exit from the debate, from outside the true argument. John Hartz, naturally, as a first-time moderator you are concerned to keep discussion on topic and keep discussion fair and reasonable...both of which, for my part at least, I think you did well. I wouldn't be too concerned about what has been 'on topic' here -this particular thread has been very instructive in terms of what it reveals about how people with different agendas go about their rhetoric. That in itself is a critical part of our education about these debates.
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    Moderator Response: [John Hartz] Thanks for the pat on the back. This thread has morphed into an Open Thread much to my pleasant surprise. I'm enjoying the conversation and hope others are as well.
  36. Response to moderator comments @182 John Hartz - yes there was muted appreciation for Dr. Pielke's presence here, surely you would agree that a very public (as in posted on his blog site if he allows comments anywhere) thank you from John Cook (as the man behind SkS) would be a class move (or directly to his email if he doesn't allow comments anywhere). Perhaps this has been done. I do NOT subscribe to the false equivalence of deniers and scientists, however I do accept that Dr. Pielke has studied this stuff for a lifetime, and I think his presence on this site is a credit to John Cook and other long-time SkS folks - you have created a site where Dr. Pielke wants to present his case. As far as how it might seem to Dr. Pielke - imagine if you were invited to present/defend a post on WUWT - you might have trepidation (and again, I am not presenting any false equivalence between WUWT and a real science site like SkS). You can thank him for his participation and not dwell on his departure. Daniel Bailey - your internet-as-the-great-equalizer is, in general, a great perspective. I personally was thrilled/humbled when Dr. Trenberth wrote a post on SkS - but I didn't think my post was in any way as important or informative as Dr. Trenberth's. While I don't disagree with Dr. Pielke's science (in so far as I understand it), I still wonder what the fuss is about. He could say "well we need to reduce CO2 regardless" and be consistent with his science, he appears to enjoy controversy for controversies sake (the whole non-dichotomy of option 2A and 2B being a case in point). So, given that I disagree with his conclusions (me short for Pielke shorter: "lets obfuscate instead of acting") I still think he should receive the same respect that Dr. Trenberth received. While of course all posts here (at least after moderation) were at a reasonably high level, I could feel a very different attitude towards Dr. Pielke, perhaps due to the difference in their scientific positions. Mainly I thought the wall of posts/questions would be hard for anyone, let alone someone out of his comfort zone, to respond to in a useful way. It comes down to whether you put "internet equality" ahead of truly understanding Dr. Pielke's position. As many have noted, a blog comment section, as currently structured, is not the optimum forum for that. Thus my original comment at 182. I personally don't think internet equality applies when you have invited a person noted in their field to your site. They should be at least the first among equals, if not given a different/special platform for communicating their opinion. Now if Dr. Pielke wants to comment on a thread he is not featured in, I certainly agree that his posts should be treated exactly like everyone else. But it feels impolite to invite him over for tea (as it were) and then ambush him (again, no bad intentions, just what the medium creates) with endless questions, counters, etc. For the sake of clarity: I don't think Dr. Pielke's reference to papers he has written was particularly helpful (nor his apparent evasion of direct, germane questions), but I do think he deserves a charitable viewing of his argument, especially after SkS invited him over.
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    Moderator Response:

    [DB] Thanks for the perspectives; thoughtful as usual.

    My point, distilled, is that all are held to the same standard here.  Many comments were deleted from the thread, but none of RPSr.  Though perhaps many should have been.  So claims of unfair moderation may have some truth in that everyone else here was held to a higher standard of conduct than RPSr.

    [John Hartz] I'm not aware that "many" comments were deleted from this thread. Perhaps you are referring to the thread of Dana's initial article where many commenst were in fact deleted?
  37. Well, now the dust has settled a little I’d just like to add my thanks to the mods and also to agree with those suggesting a slightly different way of engaging with Dr Pielke in the future. I’d also like to acknowledge my #75, even if within the comments policy, was unhelpful – borne not just of frustration on this thread but also an earlier encounter linked up the thread. Notwithstanding that, finally I’d like to thank Dr Pielke for his time here and hope he comes back again. I learned from both of his forays to this site.
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  38. @Actually thoughtful #186: I generally concur with your assessment. I specifically agree that a comment thread is not the ideal venue for a discussion of matters of science. For better or for worse, it was the only venue available in this particular instance. As I have previously stated, I made some rookie mistakes as the primary moderator of this thread and regret not having deleted the first five comments. Having said that, I was disappointed in Dr. Pielke's abrupt departure. The dialogue between Dr. Pielke and Albtross is typical of what occurs between scientists in the peer review process.
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  39. mea followup to VTG @75 was also not helpful. Though technically correct and useful context, background chatter has an influence on the tone of the debate and distracts from the clear flow of ideas. It had the effect of amplifying the general group tone of frustration... Dana @ 160. Just to be clear, you are right of course that Pielke touched on much of what the webpage conclusions say - but I would say in a rambling diffuse way, albeit sometimes punctuated by moments of clarity. My thought was that the webpage conclusions provide the skeleton of his position in clear and concise terms. The comments offer some color and detail that fills in the gaps in those conclusions in a bit.
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  40. Spin Doctor? In his second question to Sks, Dr Pielke offered two different framings of the climate change debate offered by Mike Hulme. Neither of these framings necessarily reflects Hulme’s own position. He is providing them as examples. Hulme has prepared climate scenarios and reports for the UK Government (including the UKCIP98 and UKCIP02 scenarios), the European Commission, UNEP, UNDP, WWF-International and the IPCC. He therefore knows a lot about communicating climate change science and about accommodating genuine differences of opinion between scientists. He is also aware how the message can be slanted by anyone, with or without the relevant expertise, who has a particular agenda. It will be instructive for those reading this thread to hear Mike Hulme’s own explanation of what “framing” is all about. The material which follows borrows much the profile of Hulme at ABC Carbon. Hulme defines framing as, “The deliberate way of structuring complex issues which lend greater importance to certain considerations and solutions over others”. He offers a sample of six different ways of framing climate change: 1) A market failure In this view, business emits carbon dioxide to the atmosphere for free, but there are ultimately costs associated with that waste disposal. So to ensure the market is operating efficiently, carbon dioxide emissions should be priced. 2) A technological hazard Like asbestos or nuclear waste, carbon dioxide emissions are a potentially toxic side effect of our modern technologies. This view advocates improved energy technologies to allow us to continue our modern life, but without the hazardous side-effects. 3) A global injustice Climate change when viewed through this framework is seen as a problem where the West dominates and controls the global agenda, leaving the developing world out of the picture. A solution to climate change for this world view would involve what Aubrey Meyer describes as ‘contraction and convergence’, or an equal sharing of the carbon dioxide budget between all countries, regardless of their wealth. 4) Overconsumption If our environmental impact is a function of our consumption, our population, and the technologies we use, then solving climate change through this framework would involve finding a path to a prosperous but non-growing economy, or improving contraception. 5) Mostly natural If climate change is mostly natural, then the solution in this framework is to spend money on adaptation to the new environment. 6) A planetary tipping point And finally, if climate change is viewed as leading to a planetary tipping point at which life on Earth becomes untenable, then no holds must be barred, and solutions would include massive geoengineering projects. According to Hulme, our pre-existing values, beliefs, upbringing and maybe even genes cause us to frame climate change in a certain manner. Even before the scientists have whipped out the first graph, people are already disposed to interpret the data in a particular way. In my earlier post (The Games People Play @ 43), I was perhaps a little unfair to Dr Pielke in suggesting his questions on framing were an attempt at entrapment. What I am convinced though, as Hulme so eloquently demonstrates, is that “framing” can be as much about spin as communication. The climate skeptics who have testified before the US Congress appear to be masters of spin. The purpose of spin is sometimes to give emphasis to an aspect of an issue that one believes is important, but all too often its purpose is to confuse and obfuscate. We see this endlessly in what passes for political debate in Australia. Rightly or wrongly, I get the impression that Dr Pielke is more comfortable playing with words that discussing the real implications of numbers. In Australia, there is confusion among the general public, fanned by conservative politicians and radio commentators, over man’s contribution to the CO2 in the atmosphere. Words can confuse, but accurate numbers don’t lie. For example, since the dawn of the industrial revolution, CO2 has increased from 278 to 393 ppm, numbers I expect Pielke would accept. Such numbers can’t easily be spun, and given that climate sensitivity, including short-term feedbacks, is around 3 degrees C, the implications for our future are frightening.
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  41. @ alan_marshall #190: Excellent post. I sincerely hpoe that people will still drop by this comment thread and read it. Would you be interested in transforming it into an article for guest-posting on SkS?
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  42. Re: #184 "Moderator Response: [John Hartz] Thanks for the nice words. Like elephants in the circus, all SkS authors, including Dana, work for peanuts. Every so often, John Cook pops in to fill up our bowls and sweep up the shells." Correct except in one point: There are no peanuts, and therefore there are no bowls.
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    [DB] Actually, I get comped in beer futures...

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