Some updated news on climate issues

M* has been a source of a lot of interesting discussions lately on climate change, global warming, global cooling, etc. The ever intrepid Bruce Nielson has done a great job looking into the issue from a fresh perspective, and I believe his search — and his discoveries — will continue.

In the meantime, this may be as good a moment as any to look at some recent developments in the world of climate research. Why are we doing this on a Mormon blog? We could say it has to do with being good stewards of the Earth, but the reality is that (some of us) are just interested in the subject.

Some of you may know that leading promoters of the global warming theory are promoting a black list.  The point of the black list was to point out which scientists support the theory of man-made global warming and which ones don’t.  This whole issue is roiling the scientific community, causing discussions of suppression of academic freedom and totalitarian behavior.

One respected scientists says:

By publishing this survey and its conclusions, the National Academy of Sciences is approaching a low perhaps not seen since eugenics was in vogue.

Interestingly, there are a few scientists who are on the “good” (meaning you believe in manmade global warming) and “bad” (meaning you are a denier, kind of like a Holocaust denier) lists.  He is one of the most respected climate scientists around, and here is what he has to say about the blacklist:

I was one of only three scientists who made both the “good guy” and the “bad guy” lists. Quite an honor I suppose. However, I think the study was pathetic. It basically says, “Those of us who agree with each other like to cite the work of our friends and not the other guys.” Duh. (One of my fellow scientists calls this “tribalism” – an appropriately primitive description.) I think the more sinister motive was evident in that the paper chided the media, such at the SF Chronicle, to stop investigative-reporting and just “trust us” (the guys on the “good guys” list) when it comes to climate change. It really was an attempt to make a blacklist. In that sense, I guess I ended up being gray, which fits my hair color now.

By the way, what does Christy have to say about the climate and manmade global warming?

Natural variability is still the major driver of the climate changes that create challenges for society. The one confident conclusion we can make about added CO2 is that the biosphere has clearly been invigorated – plants love what we do with carbon-based energy because its by-product is CO2 – plant food. (I can hear the shrieks of horror all the way here in Alabama from California, my home state.)

By the way, Christy participated in the IPCC process.  So much for that “consensus.”

Speaking of the IPCC process, nearly every week brings a new revelation of incompetence and faulty science in the UN’s reports on climate change.  The latest involves fabricated evidence on the Amazon, which is being calling Amazongate.

Luckily, the world’s leading nations are catching on that global warming alarmism will get you nothing except higher unemployment and economic decline.  The meetings of the G8 and G20 both ended with no real commitment on climate change and a quiet recognition that the worldwide climate regime is dead for now.

One of the major causes of this new global consensus is the fact that Climategate really was a fiasco for the man-made warming cause.  Despite repeated attempts to sweep the issue under the rug and whitewash bad behavior by a small group of leading climate scientists, the scientific community recognizes that the leaked e-mails ruined the credibility of the worst alarmists.

Oh, and by the way, Al Gore is continuing to make the Nobel committee proud.

 

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B has had three main careers. Some of them have overlapped. After attending Stanford University (class of 1985), he worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. In 1995, he took up his favorite and third career as father. Soon thereafter, Heavenly Father hit him over the head with a two-by-four (wielded by the Holy Ghost) and he woke up from a long sleep. Since then, he's been learning a lot about the Gospel. He still has a lot to learn. Geoff's held several Church callings: young men's president, high priest group leader, member of the bishopric, stake director of public affairs, media specialist for church public affairs, high councilman. He tries his best in his callings but usually falls short. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

29 thoughts on “Some updated news on climate issues

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  2. Just a clarification:

    I know you are only quoting someone else’s mistake, but “National Academy of Sciences” is not the same as “The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.” The former is a prestigious group, the latter is a second-tier journal that anyone can publish in (even I have published in there!). Fwiw, the old-boys-network-ism of PNAS is, unfortunately, nothing new….

    Also, Jared* over at LDS Science Review posted a de-bunk of Amazongate: http://ldsscience.blogspot.com/2010/06/amazongate-gate.html

  3. BrianJ, thanks for the clarification on the NAS and the PNAS. That makes sense.

    If you read carefully my link above, I am actually de-bunking Jared’s de-bunking. To quote:

    “More than five months after the IPCC was accused of making assertions on the fate of the Amazon forest on the basis of a non-peer reviewed WWF report, it now appears that the original source of the IPPC’s claim is a Brazilian educational website which was taken down in 2003 (pictured – click to enlarge).

    Furthermore, it appears that this is the only source of the IPCC’s claim that made up the basis of “Amazongate” – that the IPCC was, once again, using unsubstantiated material which exaggerated the threat. This website, therefore, is the “smoking gun”, the latest evidence to suggest that the IPCC is breaking its own rules.”

  4. Geoff B. said,

    Some of you may know that leading promoters of the global warming theory are promoting a black list.

    It is being used that way by a minority of idiots, yes. But this isn’t some vast Illuminati-based, world-spanning conspiracy by evil henchmen. It appears to be only a scientific analysis of publication and citation data.

    This is the terrible “black list:” http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2010/06/04/1003187107.full.pdf+html

    It doesn’t look like much of a conspiracy to me. And how in the ever-loving world did the word “eugenics” enter the conversation? Really?

    Mountain? Meet molehill.

    My personal take is that this whole Global Warming debate is a complete and utter fiasco on both sides. When every fool from both camps are stupidly flinging poo at each other like monkeys, there is absolutely no hope of any agreement on what (if any) action needs to be done. The actual truth of the matter; the actual science is covered up by so many lies, misdirections and “dastardly evil plots” coming from both sides, that it is next to impossible for even a highly trained scientist to separate fact from fiction, let alone your typical man on the street.

    Everyone on both sides of this debate, please take off your tinfoil hats, but down the bullhorn and stop “flinging poo.” Add to the conversation for once instead of viciously attacking those you disagree with because they made a typical human mistake. Be constructive to the discussion instead of destructive. Stop treating those on the other side of the dialogue as inferior to you.

    Or even better, follow the Savior’s example:

    Luke 6: “31 And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. 32 For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. 33 And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. 34 And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. 35 But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. 36 Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.”

    As for pollution in general, this August 1971 Ensign article is exactly my point of view: http://tinyurl.com/yevl9s3 It is also a good example of how to rationally discuss the topic.

  5. Geoff,

    Please forgive my length, as I defend my honor.

    Your link shows that a single sentence that formerly appeared on the website of a respected (your link’s word) institution was incorporated, slightly altered, into the WWF report. The WWF statement was then slightly altered and included in the IPCC report, which cited the WWF report as the source. Neither the webpage, nor the WWF report were peer-reviewed publications.

    That might be scandelous if it weren’t for the fact that scientists *AGREE* with the statement and that it is supported by peer-reviewed literature.

    In your post above you wrote, “The latest involves fabricated evidence on the Amazon…”

    When Jonathan Leake of the Sunday Times emailed Dr. Simon Lewis seeking comment on why the IPCC used a statement for which there were “no solid references for this in the scientific literature,” Dr. Lewis responded (emphasis added, link below),

    —–quote—–
    Your statement is untrue, there is a wealth of scientific evidence suggesting that the Amazon is vulnerable to reductions in rainfall. The IPCC statement itself is poorly written, and bizarrely referenced, but basically correct. It is very well known that in Amazonia tropical forests exist when there is more than about 1.5 meters of rain a year, below that the system tends to ‘flip’ to savanna, so reductions in rainfall towards this threshold could lead to rapid shifts in vegetation. Indeed, some leading models of future climate change impacts show a die-off of more than 40% Amazon forests, due to projected decreases in rainfall. The most extreme die-back model predicted that a new type of drought should begin to impact Amazonia, and in 2005 it happened for the first time: a drought associated with Atlantic, not Pacific sea-surface temperatures. The effect on the forest was massive tree mortality, and the remaining Amazon forests changed from absorbing nearly 2 billion tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere a year, to being a massive source of over 3 billion tonnes.”
    —–unquote—–

    Lewis then provided a couple of references. In his complaint to the (U.K.) Press Complaints Commission, Lewis further wrote:

    —–quote—–
    Hence, it is highly misleading to state that the claim in the IPCC report was ‘unsubstantiated’. It had been substantiated by myself, and two other Amazon experts, Professors Dan Nepstad and Oliver Phillips who Mr Leake spoke to, each independently, and backed by several peer-reviewed scientific papers, some of which I sent to Mr Leake.

    In addition to this email I told Mr Leake on the telephone that the first volume of the IPCC Fourth Assessment report makes broadly the same claim and gets the references correct (on page 510, it states, “New coupled climate-carbon models (Betts et al., 2004; Huntingford et al., 2004) demonstrate the possibility of large feedbacks between future climate change and
    vegetation change, discussed further in Section 7.3.5 (i.e., a die back of Amazon vegetation and reductions in Amazon precipitation).” ).

    The Sunday Times knew that the IPCC statement itself was scientifically defensible and correct, merely that Rowell & Moore was the incorrect reference, and that it was correctly referenced elsewhere in the IPCC report. To state otherwise is to materially mislead the reader.
    —–unquote—–

    On what basis, then, can you claim that the Amazon evidence was fabricated by the IPCC, and that you have de-bunked my de-bunking? (Technically I didn’t de-bunk anything. I simply linked to others.)

    The best case for a scandal here, is that the IPCC used and cited a sentence–that Amazon experts agree with and is supported by the peer-reviewed literature–from a non-peer-reviewed report, which in turn got it from a website. That’s pretty thin material, in my opinion.

    Complaint to PCC by Dr. Simon Lewis

  6. Indeed, some leading models of future climate change impacts show a die-off of more than 40% Amazon forests, due to projected decreases in rainfall.

    That is prima facie evidence that the models are garbage.

  7. Jared, my computer has crashed and I cannot respond adequately via Blackberry, but thanks for adding your thoughts here and I’ll try to explain my point in the coming days.

  8. Jared, my computer has crashed and I cannot respond adequately via Blackberry, but thanks for adding your thoughts here and I’ll try to explain my point in the coming days. In the meantime I would like to point out that the types of criticisms being leveled at the IPCC — ie, thin use of sources, lack of peer review, broad conclusions based on not enough study — are certainly fair game. They are exactly the types of criticisms that have been used against “deniers” to prevent them from being published and peer reviewed. So clearly the IPCC deserves all of the opprobrium it has received from the scientific community. As for the Amazon, the exaggerations regarding its imminent disappearance have been around ever since the 1960s. More on that later.

  9. Geoff,

    “my computer has crashed and I cannot respond adequately”

    Sorry to hear that. Fair enough.

    “ie, thin use of sources, lack of peer review, broad conclusions based on not enough study — are certainly fair game.”

    Yes, we would all like it to be as accurate as possible, but let’s keep some perspective. For heaven’s sake, mistakes happen.

    “As for the Amazon, the exaggerations regarding its imminent disappearance have been around ever since the 1960s.”

    If you are familiar with the Amazon literature and have reason to disagree with it, then great. Even if you are simply incredulous, fine by me. But that’s not fraud–a word that has been used a lot since last November, and that is beginning to lose meaning.

  10. Kenneth Haapala, the man who wrote “By publishing this survey and its conclusions, the National Academy of Sciences is approaching a low perhaps not seen since eugenics was in vogue.” is an economist, not a scientist, let alone one in the appropriate field.

    Actual climate scientists have said the very opposite.
    “A British panel on Wednesday exonerated the scientists caught up in the controversy known as Climategate of charges that they had manipulated their research to support preconceived ideas about global warming.” …
    “The e-mails don’t at all change the fundamental tenets of the science….”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/08/science/earth/08climate.html

    The person “Christy” doesn’t seem to understand anything about global warming at all. CO2 is a global warming gas because the molecules heat up hotter than the average gas in the atmosphere, and then the molecule stays at that heat. This extra heat absorbed by the molecule is not then released into space, leaving the world just a bit warmer for each CO2 molecule. CO2 as a potential global warming gas has been recognized since the late 1800′s.

    djinn here– just to emphasize, the economist cited is exactly wrong. The emails didn’t change the science supporting global warming AT ALL. (Caps required.)

  11. djinn,

    You are confusing the email scandal with a recent paper in PNAS the looked at climate scientists who are either convinced or unconvinced by the evidence supporting the general conclusions of the IPCC.

    The paper is here.

    Geoff,

    When you are back online, I have some questions for you. (I don’t expect you to answer them all individually): Can you provide justification for the comparison of a study that looks at the relative contributions of convinced vs unconvinced climate scientists to the forcible sterilization of people? Can you provide any evidence of blacklists, other than Ken Haapala’s and Christy’s say-so? Doesn’t the graphic that accompanies Haapala’s post provide some indication of the seriousness with which we should judge his words? Why is it out of bounds to take names from freely signed and publicly circulated lists, and then look at how many relevant publications they have, and how often they are cited? Should the authors not make their database available? On what basis should media outlets weigh the credibility of commenting scientists, if not by their contributions to science? Do you agree that the passage below from the paper means that the authors think the media should not do investigative reporting, as Christy claims? If a similar study were done on doctors who doubt HIV causes AIDS, or who think vaccines cause austism, would you still view it as sinister? (Lest you accuse me of trying to tar climate skeptics by equating them with HIV denial or the anti-vaccine movement, let me be clear that that is not my intent. They are simply analogous scientific controversies.)

    From the paper:

    “Despite media tendencies to present both sides in ACC debates (9), which can contribute to continued public misunderstanding regarding ACC (7, 11, 12, 14), not all climate researchers are equal in scientific credibility and expertise in the climate system. This extensive analysis of the mainstream versus skeptical/contrarian researchers suggests a strong role for considering expert credibility in the relative weight of and attention to these groups of researchers in future discussions in media, policy, and public forums regarding anthropogenic climate change.”

  12. “CO2 is a global warming gas because the molecules heat up hotter than the average gas in the atmosphere, and then the molecule stays at that heat. This extra heat absorbed by the molecule is not then released into space, leaving the world just a bit warmer for each CO2 molecule.”

    That is an incorrect description of the thermodynamics of greenhouse gases. Greenhouse gases are in thermal equilibrium with the rest of the atmosphere; i.e., carbon dioxide molecules are the same temperature as surrounding oxygen and nitrogen molecules. What happens is that the chemical bonds in CO2 (and H2O, CH4, etc.) are the right length to absorb IR photons particularly well. CO2 molecules absorb much more infrared radiation than O2 and N2 molecules; O2 and N2 let the photons pass on by. The extra heat that CO2 absorbs is shared with the rest of the atmosphere through collisions between molecules; those collisions bring all molecules to the same temperature.

  13. Awww, c’mon John Mansfield, “CO2 molecules absorb much more infrared radiation that O2 and N2 Molecules.” — you. I gave the simplified form. The extra heat stays in the atmosphere, as you state, just with more words.

  14. Jared*, I would like to respond to your comments by first asking you to read this talk, by the late Michael Crichton, which matches my view nearly exactly:

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/07/09/aliens-cause-global-warming-a-caltech-lecture-by-michael-crichton/#more-21629

    It will take you 10-15 minutes to read Crichton’s talk. Does that help you understand where I and other skeptics are coming from?

    So, let me go on from there and say the following: the fact that you don’t see the parallels between the global warming movement and eugenics is, in itself, alarming. Eugenics did not START as forced sterilization. It started innocently enough in an attempt to use natural selection to improve the human race. What could be more harmless and more beneficial?

    But it is the tactics used by the eugenics movement — and the eventual results — that were so alarming.

    You can read more about it here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eugenics

    The bottom line is that there was a scientific “consensus” about the necessity of eugenics by, say, 1920, just as there is a “consensus” now among all “polite society” that we must do something about global warming. Groups of liberals and progressives would blithely promote the benefits of using selective breeding to “improve the human race” just as they now blithely discuss forcing carbon taxes on the poor to “save the planet.”

    Hitler took eugenics to its natural conclusion, which eventually caused it to fall out of favor. Most scientists now are ashamed about the history of eugenics, as they should be. But the fascinating thing is that they are doing it again, without even realizing it.

    Any movement that promotes decreasing somebody else’s freedom for the good of humanity is a movement of which we should be extremely suspicious. This is what eugenics was all about — a small group of elites knew better than the ignorant masses and plotted and schemed (for the good of science and humanity) to sterilize, to abort and to breed better, more perfect humans. Luckily, we now see that as the disgusting practice it was, but it is important to realize that this is not how people saw it in the 1920s — they saw it as progress.

    It is happening again. Progressives say that to “save the planet” we must force people to drive differently, live differently, eat differently, have fewer children, have more abortions. Can’t you see how Satanic this movement is? Satan is all about restricting human freedom, and this is exactly what the global warming movement is about as well.

    To be clear: as I have written many, many times, I am not against small, localized measures to prevent pollution. That falls under the category of being a good steward of the Earth and being a good neighbor. I think the efforts to control pollution in Southern California have been a huge success and should be a model for other efforts. But can’t you see how the AGW movement is exactly the opposite of this? Instead of modest, local measures to take on proven hazards, the AGW movement is about worldwide, expensive measures to take on theoretical hazards in ways that will have minimal real effects but will cause real harm to tens of millions.

    The only reason a person like me, a businessman and former journalist with very little formal scientific training, even cares about global warming is because, as Crichton says, scientists have chosen, I repeat the word chosen, to mix politics and science together. If scientists had banded together in the 1990s and fought back against Hansen and Al Gore and insisted that they not turn science into a political tool, I would have had much more respect for them. And they probably would have done more to promote science and truthful study of climate change than all of their activities since then.

    Jared, I would ask you to search your conscience and ask yourself how you, as an ethical scientist, can continue to promote charlatans like Gore and Hansen and Michael Mann who twist facts for political reasons?

    Al Gore has admitted that he deliberately exaggerated the threat of global warming for political reasons. His movie has literally dozens of major factual errors and predictions that are not coming true before our eyes. Yet smart people like yourself continue to defend him and his tactics. Frankly, I think any scientist associated with such blatant lies in the name of science, and any scientist who refuses to denounce such tactics, should be ashamed of himself.

    So, to return to your list of questions, I would have no problem with such a list if the issue had not been so politicized by the “AGW Believers” from the beginning. Let’s not use the example of AIDS, because that too has been incredibly politicized, but let’s use another obscure scientific area like the study of botany in sub-Saharan Africa. Let’s say that some group like the PNAS decided to produce a list that believes in one theory regarding this field of study and another list that believes in another theory. Such lists would be relatively harmless, except I would point out that of course the people who make up the list get to decide who is on which list, and such a list is subjective and would be controversial among African botanists. But would I care? Why would I not care? Because no side of that debate is trying to create a worldwide carbon tax or cap and trade scheme that would put tens of millions of people out of work. No side in that debate is deliberately trying to make one side the bad guys and one side the good guys. No side in that debate is plotting to prevent the other side from getting published so they cannot be “peer-reviewed.”

    The AGW believers have brought all of their suffering on themselves. In the 1990s they made a crucial decision to abandon science and embrace politics. Again, they could have taken another tack — they could have refused to hook their wagon to the Al Gore train. But they didn’t.

    So, I have some questions for you. Al Gore has explicitly said that it is OK for him to exaggerate the science because his cause is good and right. As a scientist, will you denounce this? Several leading climate scientists admitted in various e-mails that they plotted to prevent other scientists from getting published because they didn’t conform to the AGW “consensus.” Will you denounce this? Michael Mann and other scientists plotted to refuse to release information to Steve McIntyre, as Bruce details in another post. Will you denounce this? There is a long list of exaggerations that have been promoted by AGW believers, everything from the Himalayan glaciers disappearing to the imminent 10-foot increase in ocean levels to the disappearance of Arctic ice by 2012 (repeatedly claimed in 2007 by Al Gore). Will you denounce these exaggerations as dangerous and not helpful to the cause of true science?

  15. As a scientist, I’ve denounced Gore from the beginning. But I’m interested to hear how Jared* responds.

    “…scientists have chosen, I repeat the word chosen, to mix politics and science together.” I’ve thought a lot about that. Mostly in terms of, “Gosh, I wonder what I would do if I woke one day to find that my field of study had suddenly become political; senators and pundits arguing about the role of a particular kinase in cardiomyocytes, etc.” Maybe some scientists in my field get into too, even though most of us stay out of it, preferring to just do our work as scientists. How long would I be able to stay out of the politics? Would I really have a choice, or much of a choice? And even if I tried to stay out of the politics, would I just be lumped in with those who went political? I dunno.

  16. BrianJ, I think scientists who say they would not denounce people trying to manipulate their field of study are not thinking very clearly about it. Scientists of all fields fall all over themselves denouncing creationists for trying to ruin science. You can’t bring up the subject of biology with a scientist without him or her going on a long harangue about how creationists are evil and wrong-headed. But this is exactly what Al Gore — a non-scientist — did to the field of climate science. He brought politics and religion into a legitimate area of study and ruined the field for the true scientists.

    Al Gore is to climate science what creationists are to biology. The sooner scientists realize that the easier it will be to get back to real scientific work.

    Crichton has some great ideas about creating an impartial body to promote the study of climate science by the way. Read his talk, it truly is fantastic.

  17. Wow, I never realized Al Gore was interesting enough to dislike so much.

  18. Geoff,

    First let me say that I have never seen An Inconvenient Truth, nor do I particularly care what Al Gore says or does. The

    movie is in my Netflix queue, so I will eventually see it. You and I have touched on the movie before, with reference to

    the U.K. court’s determination of 9 errors. As I recall from reading the judgment, the movie was said to be basically right

    but with some relatively minor flaws and exaggerations. I don’t understand why that makes the movie an abomination, and I’m sorry to say that I don’t understand the obsession with him. But more to the point, I can’t condemn that which I am not familiar with, so I can’t proclaim him to be good or bad. Of course he should not exaggerate the science, but then he’s really only a popularizer (no offense meant to popularizers, they do imporant work too) and it isn’t to him that I would look for serious analysis.

    Now when it comes to climate, how should one judge what is alarmist (in the sense of being detached from reality) and what is realistic? Since I am not a climatologist–and even if I was, I wouldn’t be able to be an expert on everything–I look to the broad assessments produced by the IPCC, the National Academy of Sciences, and other responsible government federal agencies (NOAA, EPA, NASA, etc.) and their local counterparts. These are the places where the scientific literature is reviewed, assessed, and distilled. In the past you have dismissed these sources as merely political. But really, where else should I look? Anthony Watts? Joe Bastardi? The Heartland Institute? Perhaps they have some useful commentary, perhaps not. But if this were a medical issue, I would be looking for guidance that represented a broad base of physicians and scientists. Places like the top-tier journals, the FDA, NIH, CDC, etc. Not some doctor’s website, unless that website seemed to reflect the judgment of the broader-based organizations.

    I would like to spend more time looking at what the potential impacts of climate change are thought to be. To the extent

    that I’ve gotten into this subject, it has mostly been to try to get a handle on the flurry of basic claims. And then Climategate happened. In terms of actual science, the whole thing seems to have been irrelevant. No papers have been retracted, no fraud has been uncovered, etc. The whole thing is mostly a running spat between McIntyre and Mann + CRU that, in my view, has been blown out of proportion. When the emails first came to light, there were breathless allegations of “tricks” and “hiding the decline” and so on. It didn’t take me long to realize that those emails were being taken out of context and interpreted in the most uncharitable way possible. I’ve long thought that an important component of this controversy has been a lack of understanding of how science operates on a day-to-day basis. There are rivalries, and there is jockying for position. Of course there are ethical boundaries that people should not cross, but deciding not to publish in a particular journal, or urging the editor of a journal to reject certain papers is not one of them.

    It seems to me that much of the criticism surrounding climatology (including yours) is driven by an overriding narrative that they are evil and conspiring men and women. So when any mistake is found–or anthing that looks like a mistake or can be made to look like a mistake, it’s fresh evidence of how rotten the whole thing is. That just doesn’t ring true to me.

    Now to the lists. Anyone doing serious scholarship in any field of study must get a sense of the field. That is, what kinds of questions have been dealt with, how strong the answers seem to be, what areas still need to be addressed, and so forth. Most people outside of the field do not have that sense. To them, it all collapses down to authority and who they think they should trust. It is in this context that we’ve seen the proliferation of lists–people who support or reject the conclusions of a particular field. If you are in the minority, then you’ll want your list to be as long as possible so as to add a sense of importance to it. Into all of this steps the media, who attempt to cover the controversy. Most of the reporters aren’t really familiar with the field either, and they are trained to get both sides of the story–so they do.

    Can’t you see how this can elevate fringe views and put them on par with well-established science? There are genuine flat-Earthers out there, but they do not merit equivalent coverage on matters of astronomy and earth science. Most of us recognize this clearly. But it gets more difficult when the issue is contested in society. Vaccines and autism, various alternative medical practices, etc. This is a problem that perhaps has no real solution, but science advocates are increasingly trying to get the media to understand how their attempts at balance can actually distort where the balance really lies.

    One way to address the credibility underlying these lists is to look at who is on them and what expertise they have on the subject, which is what the study above tried to do. If people have already put their names into the public domain as supporting or rejecting central conclusions of the IPCC, it seems legitimate to me to take them at their word and check their contributions to the field. I acknolwedge the theoretical potential for blacklists, but haven’t the signers of the Oregon Petition, in effect, created a blacklist? I mean, if you want to suppress climate skeptics you hardly need a new list to figure out who they are. They’ve publicly proclaimed who they are!

    This is already long, so let me wrap up. You ask me to make a number of condemnations, but I’m not sure I accept the premises upon which your questions are based. You seem to think that the emails prove more than I do. Perhaps we should discuss individual cases in more detail. Further, I think we need to clarify what it means to do something for political reasons. Are we simply saying they do it in order to support a particular policy? Or to give advantage to a poltical party (ie. Democrats or Republicans)? If a state was considering a bill being championed by one party that would make childhood immunizations optional for attending public school, would physicians who warned of potential outbreaks of disease and consequent death and urged rejection of the bill be guilty of politicizing the issue?

  19. Jared*, you show a complete unwillingness to even look at and consider opinions that contradict your worldview. I have linked several pieces that you apparently did not even read. No mention of Crichton? The students of Cal Tech were willing to listen to him, but you are not? You mentioned that the eugenics comparison was not fair and when I defended it you completely ignored the issue. That’s OK — most people are unwilling to step out of their particular box. But don’t pretend to be apolitical scientist open to other viewpoints. You are not. Again, that is also OK. I am not open to a wide range of viewpoints regarding certain subjects that I have studied over the years — I have considered them and found them to be false, not worthy of further study.

    The difference is that I admit my biases up front, something that you may want to consider doing in future discussions regarding climate change.

  20. Geoff,

    I can only write so much in a day. I did read the Crichton piece, and we can discus the eugenics comparison further. But not tonight.

  21. Jared, meanwhile, I hope you will read this, which will help you understand (I hope) why we skeptics are “obsessed” with Al Gore.

    http://scienceandpublicpolicy.org/monckton/goreerrors.html

    The errors regarding hurricanes are especially egregious. I lived in Miami for 20 years and spent a lot of time reporting from the National Hurricane Center. The claim that hurricanes are stronger or more frequent is ludicrous but is a typical tactic of AGW Believers, who have absolutely no scruples when it comes to pushing their unscientific exaggerations and falsehoods on the unsuspecting public.

  22. Geoff,

    First let me admit to being biased toward mainstream science. This may partly be a function of my work, but I am continually amazed at the things scientists have learned and continue to learn about this world. Scientists have ways of getting information out of nature that just boggle my mind, and that most of the public never hears about. So when scientists (in aggregate) say they have the goods, I’m inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt.

    I apologize for not getting to the Crichton talk in my earlier comment. I had read it, and I’ve read it again. I agree with much of it–certainly in principle and in spirit, if not always in particulars. Here is my take:

    On consensus. Crichton considers consensus to be a bad word when applied to science, and lists several examples where resistance to new truths was rooted in prevailing belief. On the one hand I agree with him. Science is not about popular vote, and current modes of thinking can inhibit progress. On the other hand, science tends (necessarily) to be a conservative process where new ideas need to be scrutinized before they become widely accepted. Further, scientific truths are often established gradually, as more testing of hypotheses occur, and more scientists of that field become convinced. Along the way the number of hold-outs diminishes, but they may never entirely disappear. Just as there is no clear demarcation between science and pseudo-science, there is no clear line where a scientific truth becomes established. This gets back to what I talked about above regarding fields of research. If you were to take a college course in geology, you would be taught the basic principles that most geologists agree with–the consensus, in the sense of general agreement, if you will. I generally avoid the word consensus and instead usually refer to the ‘mainstream view’ so as not to imply that all people agree on everything, or that there can be no principled objections.

    So to summarize, I agree that appeals to consensus can be used to hide from scrutiny. But I disagree that it should always be considered a bad word in science. I think in many cases the word is used as a shortcut for “there is good evidence for this, and most people in the field believe it to be true on that basis.” But of course truth is not determined by vote.

    So where does that leave us with respect to climate change? I am willing to believe that the word is sometimes used to head off debate. On the other hand, communicating science to the public is difficult and sometimes it’s just easier–particularly in our soundbite culture–to appeal to authority. I would offer this post, Unsettled Science, over at RealClimate because I think it gets at part of this issue.

    On models. I agree with Crichton’s concerns about models. They certainly are not crystal balls with which to view the future. But I don’t think that makes them useless either. I have no expertise in models, but from what I’ve seen they seem useful for providing a range of informed potential outcomes. A couple of weeks ago an article regarding the effects of climate change on the Western U.S. water supply caught my attention. One of the references provided was this report by the state of Colorado. I haven’t taken the time to read through it, but if you just look at the fact sheet or the executive summary, you’ll see that there are projections based on observations and models that water supply will drop over the next few decades. Of course that’s no guarantee, but if you lived in Colorado and that was the best information available, wouldn’t you want the state to start planning on that basis? Some problems may never materialize, and some may be worse than thought. But isn’t a part of provident living to gather the best information available and plan on that basis?

    Misc. I am almost in total agreement with this quote:

    “As the twentieth century drew to a close, the connection between hard scientific fact and public policy became increasingly elastic. In part this was possible because of the complacency of the scientific profession; in part because of the lack of good science education among the public; in part, because of the rise of specialized advocacy groups which have been enormously effective in getting publicity and shaping policy; and in great part because of the decline of the media as an independent assessor of fact.”

    I think that’s long enough for now. If you would like to continue discussion of Crichton’s talk, let’s do so. Otherwise I’ll move on to eugenics, but my response will be shorter. Then I’ll get to your Gore link.

  23. Jared, you are a gentleman and a scholar. Thanks for your thoughts. I guess where we disagree is your general feeling that “accepted science” should prevail in terms of climate change. It seems pretty clear to me that the “consensus” on this issue is false and manufactured and that the more information that becomes available the less clear the consensus is. I understand better now where you are coming from on that issue, but I don’t think we’ll ever agree on your take on this issue. However, I appreciate your taking the time to explain your thoughts so clearly.

  24. Geoff,

    Thank you for your gracious words. In truth, I probably deserved your rebuke at least a little bit. And I think you would agree that discussion of complex issues can be difficult on blogs.

    So let me continue with the eugenics comparison. My understanding from the original post was that the study in question itself was what you were comparing to eugenics. Your clarification leads me to believe that you are actually comparing the broader movement to limit carbon emissions to eugenics. I think that’s an inflammatory way to put it, and it presupposes that the harms are greater than the benefits, but I understand the parallels you see. I am not prepared to discuss matters of policy, which it seems to me is really what this comparison is about. In general I would say that I don’t see this as a black and white issue. Whether as citizens or as businesses, there are many rules forced upon us in the name of the public good. Prohibition of drunken driving, requirements to wear seat belts, and prohibition of paint and gasoline containing lead come to mind. A guy in my ward thinks seat belts kill more people than they save. He probably chafes at being forced to wear his seat belt. I’m sure you see my point.

    I understand that there can be value in regional regulations rather than national or international regulations. But from the point of view of the regulated, does it feel any different? Again, I’m not arguing for one approach or another, I’m simply explaining why I don’t see this as a black and white issue, and why appealing to personal freedom isn’t an automatic trump card in my mind. I should also say that in my mind, paying more for energy due to a tax is not in the same category as forcing people to have abortions or to have fewer children–not that I’m itching to pay more. And anyway, isn’t it possible that the harms that will be inflicted on society by putting a price on carbon are being exaggerated?

    So to summarize, I understand your broad comparison. Whether it is right or wrong is perhaps unknowable, since it depends on the magnitude of the harm vs benefit, which is uncertain, and anyway we can’t run two parallel universes to determine which road is best. Which ever road we choose, I agree that ethics must remain a consideration.

    If it’s alright I will reserve comments on the Gore link. I haven’t read it yet, and I don’t think I want to wade deeply into it until I have a chance to watch the movie. We obviously read and trust different sources. My sources say that Monckton himself has some serious credibility problems. One website that you might find interesting, and that I plan to highlight on my blog, is Anti-Climate Change Extremisim in Utah. It is run by Barry Bickmore, a geologist at BYU who also happens to be active in LDS apologetics (see Restoring the Ancient Church: Joseph Smith and Early Christianity). Much of his blogging has dealt with Monckton.

    Well, Geoff, I sense that our conversation is winding down. I doubt it will be the last time we hash things out, but at least we understand each other a little bit better. I try hard not to let the heat of battle affect my tone for the negative. I hope it hasn’t done so here.

    Unless you desire further comment from me, which I am willing to do, I’ll let you have the last word.

  25. Jared, perhaps we can end with a small area of agreement. I was aware of Monckton’s own issues before linking his blog post, and I even hestitated to use his summary because of it. In the end I did link Monckton because I know for sure that he has highlighted several real errors in Gore’s movie that Gore refuses to address (you may or may not know that Al Gore refuses to debate anybody but Monckton regularly appears at debates). I would urge you to look at Monckton’s facts, not concentrate on the person himself. He is certainly correct on the issue of hurricanes. I can guarantee that one.

    It will probably take me weeks to look carefully at Bickmore’s blog. I loved his book on early Christianity so I have some respect for him, and I had no idea he was active in the climate debate, so I’ll be perusing his blog in the days and weeks ahead.

    Cheers,

    Geoff

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