Because As We All Know, The Green Party Runs the World.

I’m going to make a bit of an exception today. There were other newsworthy items after my heart (Jason Stackhouse — yes, you read that right — sent me an intriguing link on insect intelligence, and who could resist the creation of the first cat-based AI?). But I’ve decided instead to weigh in on this UCR e-mail hack that’s got the climate-change denialists wetting themselves so gleefully.

I rarely mention climate-change issues in the ‘crawl because I like to reserve these pixels for cool stuff, cutting edges that may or may not pan out, findings of interest (and frequently, of contention). Anthropogenic Climate Change hasn’t qualified for years; the science is settled, the effect is real, and the only uncertainty among the folks who actually know their shit is whether we’re in for a bad ride or a downright catastrophic one. The “debate”, such as it is, is political and entirely dishonest at its heart. Climate-change skeptics like to portray themselves as a feisty rebel alliance speaking truth to power, up against a colossal green propaganda machine calling all the shots— a little like the way Glen Beck and Bill O’Reilly like to portray US Christians as an endangered species. Anyone familiar with the Bush administration’s environmental censorship of NASA, the EPA, and its own military knows how ridiculous that is. I have better things to do than research every objection raised by (as Bruce Sterling calls them) shortsighted sociopathic morons who don’t want to lose any money. (I would recommend How to Talk to a Climate Change Skeptic, however, to anyone who does want to fit a couple of denialists in between the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Birthers lined up on their stoops. It addresses all the usual canards, from warming-stopped-in-1998 right out to global-warming-on-Pluto.)

I also generally avoid going on about stuff that’s already getting a lot of press elsewhere; if you saw it on slashdot, boingboing, or the NY Times I’ll be giving it a pass unless it’s really central to my current interests, simply because the blogosphere will already be writhing with opinions on the subject and mine has probably been better put by someone with better insight.

Now.  In what can hardly be a coincidence, just a few weeks before the Copenhagen summit the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia got hacked. The sixty-odd megabytes of confidential e-mails that ended up littering the whole damn internet either a) blew the lid off a global conspiracy to fake the global warming crisis, or b) lay there in a big sludgy pile of boring communications about birthdays, conference meet-ups, and whether or not Poindexter over at Cal State was going to be allowed into the tree fort this year. Judging by the criteria I described at the top of the post, I should just stick my fingers in my ears and hum loudly until the current shitstorm abates.

But I’m not going to. Not this time.

I haven’t read all 62MB. I’ve read hardly any of it, in fact. I’m familiar with the money shots: the “Nature trick” used to “hide the decline” (and sorry folks, anybody who’s ever run a residual analysis knows there’s nothing nefarious about the word “trick” in this context. Besides, climatologists need hookers same as Republicans). I’ve read the e-mail-deletion thread, seen quotes that decry evil denialists and call for the censure of skeptic-friendly journal editors. The very conditions under which these e-mails were released makes it entirely plausible that some of them were forged; but at least some of the more controversial bits have been verified as legitimate by their authors. I don’t have much to say about any of that; maybe it’s all real, maybe it’s been spiked, none of it compromises the overwhelming weight of evidence in favor of anthropogenic climate change. Whatever.

No, what I want to address here is the attitude of the scientists, and how that relates to the way science actually works.

I keep running into recurring commentary on the snarkiness of the scientists behind these e-mails. They’re really entrenched, people seem surprised to note. Got a real siege mentality going on, speak unkindly of the skeptics, take all kinds of cheap shots unbecoming of the lab coat. These people can be downright assholes.

No shit, Sherlock. I was a scientist myself for the longest time, and the people I’d gladly drop into a vat of nitric acid start with the Pope and go all the way down to anyone who voted for Stephen Harper’s conservatives.

The apologists have stepped up, pointed out that these were private conversations and we shouldn’t expect them to carry the same veneer of civility that one would expect in a public presentation. “Science doesn’t work because we’re all nice,” remarked one widely-quoted NASA climatologist. “Newton may have been an ass, but the theory of gravity still works.”

No. I don’t think he’s got it right. I don’t think most of these people do.

Science doesn’t work despite scientists being asses. Science works, to at least some extent, because scientists are asses. Bickering and backstabbing are essential elements of the process. Haven’t any of these guys ever heard of “peer review”?

There’s this myth in wide circulation: rational, emotionless Vulcans in white coats, plumbing the secrets of the universe, their Scientific Methods unsullied by bias or emotionalism. Most people know it’s a myth, of course; they subscribe to a more nuanced view in which scientists are as petty and vain and human as anyone (and as egotistical as any therapist or financier), people who use scientific methodology to tamp down their human imperfections and manage some approximation of objectivity.

But that’s a myth too. The fact is, we are all humans; and humans come with dogma as standard equipment. We can no more shake off our biases than Liz Cheney could pay a compliment to Barack Obama. The best we can do— the best science can do— is make sure that at least, we get to choose among competing biases.

That’s how science works. It’s not a hippie love-in; it’s rugby. Every time you put out a paper, the guy you pissed off at last year’s Houston conference is gonna be laying in wait. Every time you think you’ve made a breakthrough, that asshole supervisor who told you you needed more data will be standing ready to shoot it down. You want to know how the Human Genome Project finished so far ahead of schedule? Because it was the Human Genome projects, two competing teams locked in bitter rivalry, one led by J. Craig Venter, one by Francis Collins — and from what I hear, those guys did not like each other at all.

This is how it works: you put your model out there in the coliseum, and a bunch of guys in white coats kick the shit out of it. If it’s still alive when the dust clears, your brainchild receives conditional acceptance. It does not get rejected. This time.

Yes, there are mafias. There are those spared the kicking because they have connections. There are established cliques who decide what appears in Science, who gets to give a spoken presentation and who gets kicked down to the poster sessions with the kiddies. I know a couple of people who will probably never get credit for the work they’ve done, for the insights they’ve produced. But the insights themselves prevail. Even if the establishment shoots the messenger, so long as the message is valid it will work its way into the heart of the enemy’s camp. First it will be ridiculed. Then it will be accepted as true, but irrelevant. Finally, it will be embraced as canon, and what’s more everyone will know that it was always so embraced, and it was Our Glorious Leader who had the idea. The credit may not go to those who deserve it; but the field will have moved forward.

Science is so powerful that it drags us kicking and screaming towards the truth despite our best efforts to avoid it. And it does that at least partly fueled by our pettiness and our rivalries. Science is alchemy: it turns shit into gold. Keep that in mind the next time some blogger decries the ill manners of a bunch of climate scientists under continual siege by forces with vastly deeper pockets and much louder megaphones.

As for me, I’ll follow the blogs with interest and see how this all shakes out. But even if someone, somewhere, proves that a handful of climatologists deliberately fudged their findings — well, I’ll be there with everyone else calling to have the bastards run out of town, but it won’t matter much in terms of the overall weight of the data.  I went running through Toronto the other day on a 17°C November afternoon. Canada’s west coast is currently underwater. Sea level continues its 3mm/yr creep up the coasts of the world, the western Siberian permafrost turns to slush. Swathes of California and Australia are pretty much permanent firestorm zones these days. The glaciers retreat, the Arctic ice cap shrinks, a myriad migratory species still show up at their northern destinations weeks before they’re supposed to. The pine beetle furthers its westward invasion, leaving dead forests in its wake— the winters, you see, are no longer cold enough to hit that lethal reset button that once kept their numbers in check.

I could go on, but you get my drift. And if the Climate-Change Hoax Machine is powerful enough to do all that, you know what?

They deserve to win.

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Sunday November 22 2009at 08:11 pm , filed under climate, scilitics . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

119 Responses to “Because As We All Know, The Green Party Runs the World.”

  1. Hey look, somebody willing to tell the truth. Seems like everybody else is stuck in some kind of dichotomy where either there’s One Group Who Knows the Truth or Everything is Subjective.

  2. Hacking isn’t even required to find Big Energy’s manipulation of ‘fact.’

    It grates on me how much of a surge this will cause, when really it should only cause am ebb…

  3. “wetting themselves so gleefully.”

    I have a hard time taking seriously any blog that hosts an ad for the “runaway bestseller” by Sarah Palin.

    My limited experience in academia was enough to figure out that scientists have all of the same foibles, jealousies and weaknesses that exist everywhere else. I would go further to say that, as a group, they tend to retain some of the immature characteristics that most of the population grows out of, or modifies, as they get older (self absorption, pettiness, etc.).

    However, I do agree that, for some bizarre reason, these characteristics contribute to the strength of the scientific process.

    And you forgot to mention the interbreeding of grizzly and polar bears.

  4. Well, darn it, I agree with most of this. Whadder you trying to do, spoil my day? Wherein lies my joy, but in opposition?

    The Washington DC area’s long summer is getting longer, and I have been here nearly 30 years, so I would know. Some plants are keeping their leaves and blossoms much later than before, and this spring I got a case of chiggers, CHIGGERS, from my front yard. What’s next, bird spiders in my magnolia? Holy Hell.

    Science is so powerful that it drags us kicking and screaming towards the truth despite our best efforts….Science is alchemy: it turns shit into gold.

    Dr. Watts’ long-suffering, bittersweet and torrid romance with Lady Science …. it’s so wistful to hear you rhapsodize on her charms! Part ex-wife, part thieving whore, part angel, part kitten with a whip – a gorgeous Redeemer Drill Sargent and a Bitch Goddess. I can’t get up that kind of passion about a process or a job, but I respect that someone can.

    Then again, I did dream about the database last night. *tired sigh*

    Anony mouse: My limited experience in academia was enough to figure out that scientists have all of the same foibles, jealousies and weaknesses that exist everywhere else.

    Yeah, I concur. My family is full of scientists, and they don’t seem any more fractious or competitive than anyone else. It might be, that in order to be a succesful or prominent scientist, you have to be a sunovabitch, but not everyone has to be prominent to get work, or to contribute, do they?

  5. Looks like that cat brain is already being “publicly reviewed” in that arena.

    http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2009/11/darpas-simulated-cat-brain-project-a-scam-top-neuroscientist/

  6. I can understand why those in the business world would want to rationalize away climate change. What I don’t understand is the near universal opposition to the idea among conservative Christians. It fits right in with their apocalyptic worldview.

    The only thing I can think of is that they absorbed an idea that wasn’t really natural to them by way of the Republican party. The worst aspects of business interests merging with the worst versions of contemporary Christian dogmatism.

  7. David Ellis said “What I don’t understand is the near universal opposition to the idea among conservative Christians. It fits right in with their apocalyptic worldview.”

    They will do anything to hasten the Rapture.

  8. So ah, as a 19 year old…should I even bother not burning myself out by oh say, 25?

    Cause I mean if Saskatchewan is going to be a post-apocalyptic wasteland in a decade well…Might as well start smoking and binge drinking while the world burns down around me.

  9. Dude, Saskatchewan is already a post-apocalyptic wasteland. I actually think global warming will make it nicer.

  10. Well we’ve yet to get any snow this year and the moose have come down out of the northern forests. I could totally be a fremen!

  11. I think that’s the issue with climate change: most people live where the climate is most decent. Any change for them almost has to be a change for the worse.

    On the other hand, for those of us up in the more-northerly parts of the US, pretty much all of Canada, and probably Siberia, the climate is generally so abysmal that there are good odds that any change that invoves higher temperature will be an improvement.

  12. I’m not sure how I feel about this post, it’s gotten my emotions all tingly though.

    Hopefully the public attitude will continue to shift in favor of real science and give up on the crappy pseudo stuff but hopefully they’ll stop making twilight movies as well.

    Grim day for us all…

  13. David: just stop hiding/papering over the war with and permanent occupation of China that an effective emissions-capping strategy would require. For them, that’d be a feature, not a bug.

  14. >So ah, as a 19 year old…should I even bother not burning myself out by oh say, >25?
    >
    >Cause I mean if Saskatchewan is going to be a post-apocalyptic wasteland in a >decade well…Might as well start smoking and binge drinking while the world >burns down around me.

    Build yourself some armor out of old tires and leather jackets, arm yourself, and get ready to battle for oil on the forgotten super highways of tomorrow. That’s got a certain dark romance to it right? :D

  15. Durrr that formatting didn’t stick, but you get the idea.

  16. Despite this horrifying news story (which might make a lesser man rather disappointed in Canada), Manitoba-bound psychologist Bob Altemeyer more than made up for it by explaining both the climate-change-denier-teabagger phenomena AND the existence of Sarah Palin. Drill, Bobby, drill!

    However, what it means is there’s not much hope in changing some people’s minds since they do not use reason to make decisions, but rather recall what they’ve been told by those who make them feel safe. Rather depressing in that regard.

    (I know Peter’s already aware of this ’cause it’s on Boing Boing, just adding it to the mix for anyone who doesn’t read Doctorow’s site regularly and who hasn’t already figured out what Altemeyer’s research indicates).

    (PS: Peter, did you really mean Jason Stackhouse or was it John Stackhouse?)

  17. “On the other hand, for those of us up in the more-northerly parts of the US, pretty much all of Canada, and probably Siberia, the climate is generally so abysmal that there are good odds that any change that invoves higher temperature will be an improvement.”

    Speaking as someone whose climate on latitude 62 and longitude 25 has radically changed…

    No. It is not an improvement.

    The warmed up weather has made things a great deal worse: right now we’re supposed to have some snow on the ground, and there’s none.

    The length of the day hasn’t changed, however, and so we still get only eight hours or less daylight, whereas the actual amount of light has gone down: we no longer have snow reflecting it back. We really need every bit of natural light to cope in a place like this: artificial light just doesn’t cut it.

    For the last three years we have had snowless Christmas: this is a disaster for a country where people come to see the snow and experience winter. I mean, why fly into a dark faraway place where it rains cold water just scant degrees above freezing point, when you can get it at home?

    Likewise, various pests and diseases are spreading; the lack of protective ice on 55,000+ lakes means that the fish that rely on ice between their predators and their spawning can’t spawn without being plucked by various fishing birds. Harvesting the forest for wood gets stalled, because the boggy ground will not be able to support the tractors and other gear needed for it.

    When we finally get cold weather, it is a repeat loop of below freezing and snow – above freezing and drizzle of water, which does not give us snow, but ice: the forest areas are covered with hard-to-break ice and makes it difficult for moose, deer, reindeer, etc to eat grass/lichen/twigs/whatever they eat; they can’t break the icy crust unlike normal snow, and thus they tend to wander closer to human habitat, and create problems of their own.

    I could go on, but I trust that these examples are more than enough to illustrate why it is not such a blessing.

  18. I for one look forward to the coming of the environmental apocalypse, I live in a norther resource rich environment with access to the sea (yummy acid ocean loving killer squid!) a generally mild c limate, renewable energy resources (wind and water wohoo!) and a general level of seclusion which means nobody will be walking to my home town, unless they like crossing hundreds of miles of glaciers and mountain peaks.

    Also I will be making solar panels out of donuts and ever-clear.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bVwzJEhMmD8

  19. “Build yourself some armor out of old tires and leather jackets, arm yourself, and get ready to battle for oil on the forgotten super highways of tomorrow. That’s got a certain dark romance to it right?”

    I knew those years of playing Fallout would come in useful one day!

  20. Reindeer:

    I agree that a lot of places are getting worse. Iceland is one of them, because up until now it has been one of the places that is actually not all that bad climate-wise, so any change is going to be a problem. You may not think it had all that nice of a climate, but believe me, it is a lot better than average for a region north of about the 45th parallel. In the northern continental interiors, it’s another story. There’s no ocean to moderate the temperatures (lakes help, but just can’t cut it). Around here, the winter is bitterly cold (-20 to -30 C for several months at a time), even though we are quite a lot south of you (around 89W 48N). So far, our climate shift has mainly been to tack about 2-4 weeks of warm weather onto the autumn before the arctic blasts seriously set in.

    So, my point is yes, global climate change is overall bad for people, because most people live where the climate can only get worse. But, the places where hardly anybody lives are, by and large, seeing an improvement from a human habitability standpoint.

  21. Whole forests have been clearcut and ground up into paper supporting the inevitability of scientific socialism and the return of christ. Visit any library’s “fiction” section. None of this is overmuch noisome or deleterious until government enforces it.

    Listen up, buddy boy – you’ve got yer Carbon Tax on Everything, yer mandatory Carbon Credit indulgences, yer EPA terrorist incursions… and if a giant flying vampire toad so much as craps on yer roof you’ll end the rest of your natural life incarcerated and being medically disassembled for your organs to help the Officially Sad.

    Berrnie Madoff’s $50 billion entertainment featured voluntary participants whose greed outweighed their smarts. 45 years of President Johnson’s “Great Society” burned $trillions, eviscerating the middle class. 30% of the US became joyfully Officially Poor, up from 5% in 1965. Enviro-whinerism is deep into making that jackbooted State compassion look benign by contrast, and planetwide.

    How many compact fluorescent lights balance 1.5 million Mexicans flooding across the border each year and busying their loins to put their stake into America?

  22. If anybody can lie that much they deserve to win.

    Can’t agree..

    And of course that 3mm rise a year has been going on since the last ice age. Your other “examples” are equally spurious.

  23. Chris in NY said:

    (PS: Peter, did you really mean Jason Stackhouse or was it John Stackhouse?)

    Jason. And what’s more, that’s his real name. He’s been getting some grief about it for the past couple of years, as I understand it…

  24. And oh, look! The trolls have found us!

    Uncle Al said,

    …Oh man, what didn’t he say?

    He started by throwing out that venerable old “socialist” chestnut, moved on to wailing about taxes and credits that don’t actually exist yet, quailed in fear before the pathetic toothless gummint lapdog that is the EPA (“tewwowist”— there’s another one of those Beckian buzzwords), took a shot at some dead president on behalf of the middle class, whined about environmentalism, and slid into home pissing in his boots about fornicating Mexicans.

    None of this has anything to do with the subject under discussion of course, but I for one welcome our cognitively-challenged ADD-afflicted comic relief.

    Neil Craig misquoted me thusly:

    “If anybody can lie that much they deserve to win.”

    Can’t agree..

    You’re welcome not to, although it’s only your own balls you’re nipping at. Unless of course you’re suggesting that all the footage of Australian firestorms and flooding on Vancouver Island was faked somehow. Which you might be, I guess.

    And of course that 3mm rise a year has been going on since the last ice age. Your other “examples” are equally spurious.

    Oh, sure; there’ve been huge fluctuations in sea level as a result of ice ages. And you probably think that none of the myriad climatologists, geologists, and paleoecologists who looked at the data thought to correct for any of that, don’t you?

    Sorry to disappoint you, Neil, but this blog is not where consensus is made on such matters. No blog is. These tubes may echo with the wails of the world’s Neils and Uncle Als, but if you want a peek at what the science says then you’ve pretty much gotta read the relevant science journals. I myself keep a pretty close eye on Science and Nature as a matter of course. Both those journals publish a fair bit of work on ACG, by the people actually doing the research (as opposed to those spinning it for the sofa spuds). And you know what? There ain’t no shouting about the reality of climate change in those pages. The guys who do the science are pretty much all in agreement.

    You’re welcome to bang around the blogs and shout all you want, but the guys whose data you’re distorting are way smarter than you. If you don’t like what they have to say, take it up with the source. As for me, I’m going to put my faith in the kind of ill-mannered pettiness and infighting that’s so abundantly on display over these issues. There are lots of real scientists out there trying to poke holes in each other’s work, and I’m pretty sure they’re better equipped to do that than either of us. So I’m going to let them do their jobs, and let the yahoos and shills stamp and gibber here in the commons.

  25. […] Because As We All Know, The Green Party Runs the World. […]

  26. It’s the conflicts in science that make the science overall into a self-enforcing protocol. In contrast, the climate-change “skeptics” do not represent a position within science. They’re like terrorists machine-gunning a football game and claiming “they won the game”.

  27. OBLIGATORY DISCLAIMER: I think human-induced climate change is probably real and taking place; I think that eliminating coal power use is essential regardless of climate change; I think that eliminating other fossil fuel use is obviously necessary at some point and that renewables & electric vehicles will soon be cheaper in any case, and that we should be working hard to get to a renewable/electric economy. THAT SAID:

    The equation of “skeptic” with “denier” is getting really old. The default position towards absolutely any claim of a causal relationship should be deep skepticism because about 99% of such claims turn out to be total crap.

    The attempt to portray current climate science as something as simple and explanatory as the theory of gravity or the theory of evolution is also total crap. I applaud climate scientists for the work they’re doing in trying to get a handle on an extraordinarily complex subject of great importance. However, it is a misrepresentation to claim that what they’ve accomplished so far is something so unassailable that asking questions about it marks you as a “denier” – a term deliberately chosen for its associations with that most distasteful group, the Holocaust deniers. It is a barely-veiled invocation of “If you even query the certainty of our predictions you’re a Nazi”. Listen, that’s not rugby. That’s thermonuclear war. And the other charming habit of calling anyone who questions the certainty of predictions a tool of the fossil fuel industry is just about as destructive. Guess what? Citizens whose lives will be affected greatly one way or another have a right to question the conclusions of scientists coming to them with big problems and big solutions. You might be frustrated by having to answer the same question a million times – well tough. That’s democracy for you.

    I am so goddamn tired of the “deniers” line being trotted out any time someone who is sincerely interested in the issue expresses any skepticism. No, the fact that you have answered these questions before to varying degrees of satisfaction does not entitle you to smear anyone who asks them again. That is not how democracy works. That is not how science works either. The end-state of a science that relies on smears instead of argument is Lamarckism.

  28. That’s one of the things I enjoy about Watts. He drops the gloves right away.

  29. I hate to say it but I agree, mostly, with Jacob. Uncle Al is just too scary for me. I certainly hope that he is never in a position to influence national policy.

    I am not a sceptic on whether or not humans are influencing climate. Even without looking at actual climate evidence, it would be hard to argue that we can continue to pump ever increasing amounts of material into the atmosphere, continue to deforest, and dramatically change land use without it impacting climate. My uncertainty centers around the long term effects of these activities. However, whether it is a runaway greenhouse effect or another ice-age, really doesn’t matter.

    Dramatically reducing atmospheric emissions just makes sense. At one time, town dumps were simply low-lying areas outside of town. Raw sewage was discharged directly into rivers lakes and oceans. We were told to “curb our dogs” so that their waste would wash into the storm sewers. Many of these practices had little effect when populations were small. However, we now know that continuing these practices as populations increase. Why would discharges to the atmosphere be any different.

    As many of the deniers have said (and I think that deniers is the correct word), climate change does occur naturally. But that is no excuse for ignoring the impact that we are causing. What I find amusing is that there is a huge amount of deniers from the Christian Right (how’s that for an oxymoron?), with huge populations in the American midwest and south, areas that most scientists say will be very hard hit by climate change. Many of us Canadians, however, may actually benefit from climate change, unless the Americans invade us.

  30. Gotta love a troll-magnet post like this one
    And of course that 3mm rise a year has been going on since the last ice age
    For instance, here’s someone who not only believes that sea-level was six metres lower 2000 years ago, but is willing to parade this absurdity in front of the world.

  31. Has anyone bothered to read Thomas S. Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions?!? Get over it: Science has always been much less scientific than you thought. So what?

  32. “unless the Americans invade us.” That is a tantalizing thought. Lots of room in Canada for those nasty creatures known as humans. No roads to speak of and bogs and such. Vast areas where there has never been a human to even come close let alone walk the land. I can see vast cities full of polution, crime and poverty sprouting up all over these dismal but empty horizons. All American of course as we ship our undesirables north on newly built train tracks to forever leave our desolate diseased and ruined American cities.

    But back to climate change. Nothing, and I mean absoulting nothing we humans can do, even with full cooperation down to the bum in the street will alter whatever change Mother has decided on for that period of time. She will change as she wants over the eons, as flighty or as progressive as she allows.

    Meanwhile the U.S. has abandoned it’s space program and decided instead to make cars, run banks, finance poor folks houses and generally tax everybody to get some kind of health care. Don’t even start me on the cap and tax scheme as it would not work even if everybody was a bottomless money pit, which of course they are not. The U.S. has the resources but the green enviro-terrorists will not allow the production of it so we continue to make one desert dwelling Arabs rich…no, beyond rich. Filthy rich doesn’t even come close either. Every body shoots at “Big OIL” meaning of course American big oil, while not understanding or realizing that Americas oil companies are way down the list of big oil, barely competing in the world stage of energy production.

    Species are dieing by the hundreds all over the world today, most likely to increase in the coming years but guess what, that has been the way of Mother for billions of years and nothing us puny humans can do about it today or even a hundred years from now.

    But China might have the best shot at any changes because they have their resources plus the resources of many other nations including our own. Have you encouraged your children to learn one or two of the predominate Chinese languages? If not I do wish you would.

    Well, gotta go, composting in the south forty today, using the discharge of our fair city into our river, diverting it to a more pressing need.

    MR

  33. That’s one of the things I enjoy about Watts. He drops the gloves right away.
    Haha. QFT.

    Funny coincidence that I found this (via BoingBoing) just days after reading one of your books, Peter (and yeah, I read the free e-book version) and really enjoying it. Anyway, I must say your non-fiction (?) ranting also makes for excellent reading. And I agree whole-heartedly with all you’ve said here.

    Jacob, I can understand your frustration, but I think the term ‘denier’ (or even ‘denialist’) is usually perfectly justified – most of these people simply aren’t sceptical by any reasonable definition of the word. They will uncritically accept anything which appears to support their case. There are genuine sceptics – I was talking to one I know offline the other day – interestingly, she’s all in favour of reducing fossil fuel use for various other reasons. Unlike the denialists, whose entire *motivation* for denying the science is that they want to keep burning fossil fuels.
    And shame on you for playing the ‘holocaust deniers’ card, that’s not how it’s meant and you know it. I fail to see how ‘denier’ is such an offensive term anyway. Sure, it’s acquired specific connotations in the context of, say, climate change, AIDS denial. But ultimately a ‘denier’ is just someone who ‘denies’ that a particular claim is true. And given that there is a difference between true sceptics and deniers, I think it’s a useful word to distinguish them.

  34. dear nullwert,

    I’m gonna have to kill ya now, because I have been subtly or possibly, not so subtly, suggesting that our host read SoSR, and if you present it as anti-science, which it is definitely *not*, you’re screwing up my well-laid plans and cheating him out of the sweetness of the read. So, pistols at dawn, or what?

    Julius said: But ultimately a ‘denier’ is just someone who ‘denies’ that a particular claim is true. And given that there is a difference between true skeptics and deniers, I think it’s a useful word to distinguish them.

    dear Jacob and Julius,
    I would like to offer this idea – “denier” is a political term. It’s always loaded, no matter how you say it. It’s like the difference between “pro-abortion” and pro-choice.” When in political debate two primary sides emerge and they are bitterly opposed, finding neutral terms for the other side becomes really difficult. Every moniker has some nasty implications. Sub in “yergers” for “deniers” and eventually “yergers” will develop a political charge and get people’s hackles up. Pick any nonsense word you like, and if it applies to one side of a furious debate, it will become insulting. Just putting it out there, as the bloghost says.

  35. There have been firestorms in Australia every year since forever, it’s a hot dry continent. Perhaps there are more of them these days. As the population rises, so does the number of pyromaniacs in the community. Whatever, Australian firestorms are not evidence of climate change.

    Not to say that the climate isn’t changing, or that the changes are not caused by us horrible humans, but there is a certain type of person for whom ‘Climate Change’ has replaced ‘Socialism/Communism’ as the religion of choice, a way of achieving a smug sense of moral superiority over the dumbass masses. This I feel is a cause of a great deal of skepticism.
    .

  36. Excellent article, though I see a fnord with the “hide the decline” stuff. It’s amazing how all this ties up with the hockey-stick — that’s one big mutha of a scientific debate coming up. HARRY_READ_ME ahoy! But I think, like you, I’ll just sit back and watch this one develop…

  37. Guys, rest easy: I read Kuhn’s book back in grad school — the Second, Enlarged Edition — and it’s still on my bookshelf. According to some, a couple of bona fide scientific revolutions have occurred since he first released his monograph, and they didn’t follow his model at all. I find this interesting, but cannot pass judgment because offhand I don’t even remember what those case studies were (although I’m betting one probably involved molecular genetics).

  38. It’s a schweeeeet read, that Thomas Kuhn, very meta. Would you agree that SoSR is not anti-science at it’s heart, but an observation that big discoveries are not made by one mad genius who suddenly Gets It, but as an accumulation of smaller ideas that point to the need for a new way (paradigm) to look at the problem. That’s what I got out of it. Nullwert, did you get something else out of it? It was a while back when i read it.

    According to some, a couple of bona fide scientific revolutions have occurred since he first released his monograph, and they didn’t follow his model at all. I find this interesting, but cannot pass judgment because offhand I don’t even remember what those case studies were

    Wait. Did you just say that that Kuhn was proved wrong and that you have a truly marvelous demonstration of this proposition which this margin is too small to contain?

  39. […] one by Francis Collins — and from what I hear, those guys did not like each other at all. Because As We All Know, The Green Party Runs the World. (via Charlie Stross) […]

  40. As an Australian I get really annoyed when the bushfires that occur during summer are trotted out as proof of climate change/global warming. Australia has had bushfires and drought seasons way before European settlement. I found this statement – “Swathes of California and Australia are pretty much permanent firestorm zones these days” quite glib.

    Some of the indigenous flora needs fire as part of it’s reproductive cycle. The Eucalyptus genus of trees which dominate the Australian landscape produce vast quantities of oil, and the fumes from this oil during the hot summers are one of the key fuel sources for bushfires. I live in the southern state that had a really tough bushfire season during the first two months of 2009. Some of the areas affected are just under 30 minutes drive away from where I live. One of the other key factors in the ferocity of the bushfires was the policy that some of the local councils have against fuel reduction (ie.e tree and leaf litter being cleared by residents of rural areas – which was very copius, very dry and again fast burning due to the oil that the various Eucalyptus trees produce). Another factor is that once summer starts in Australia, the southern states such as Victoria and South Australia, usually have very hot and fast northely (sometimes close to 100 kmh) winds winds blowing during the majority of days.Yet another factor is that there has never been a clearly spelt out policy of residents of potential danger spots being evacuated during high risk days. Also the CFA (Country Fire Authority – which is mainly staffed by volunteers) are always running sessions on preparing for the bushfire season, and some of the rural areas’ residents are apathetic. And one last factor is that there are several national parks throughout the southern Australian states and their fuel load have been building over the past several years.

    To contrast this the northern state of Queensland had severe flooding while the southern states were burning. The northern part of Queensland has a tropical climate and has regular flood seasons.

    These weather/climate/landscape conditions existed before the industrial revolution and the widespread use of fossil fuels. And some of the factors that I mentioned above – particularly that the Eucalyptus genus of trees is a major bushfire fuel source and this fact is not directly attributable to global warming – need to be considered.

    My disclosure is that I am not a hard core believer or a hard core sceptic/denialist. I’m not a scientist by any stretch of the imagination, but I do the best I can to be informed of all the relevant issues.

    My strong belief is that natural disasters that cost lives and damage property should never be automatically directly attributed to global warming/climate change. There needs to be rigourous analysis of factors such as weather, fauna, physical infrastructure, government and social infrastructre, etc.

    Finally IMHO greed, avarice and blind ideological belief is obscuring the important issue of the best way to manage finite resources and an expanding world population.

    Cheers

  41. EARTH FIRST !!!!!! NO COMPROMISE IN DEFENDING MOTHER EARTH. It is time to put our words into action;.

  42. “shame on you for playing the ‘holocaust deniers’ card, that’s not how it’s meant and you know it”

    No. That is how it’s meant. That’s exactly the association being reached for, in my sincere and good faith opinion. Feel free to disagree. But I am not arguing this in bad faith.

  43. […] http://www.rifters.com/crawl/?p=886 […]

  44. Thank you…. well said.

  45. I feel the need to defend my nerd Vulcan fetish and remember everyone here of the Vulcan martial prowess, such as the Vulcan nerve pinch, most certainly evolved from bitter scientific disputes in the past(future?ouch).

  46. […] study climate change have been leaked, revealing that their a bunch of human beings. Essentially, scientists are assholes, sometimes. I am still unsure as to why those who claim that climate change is not happening see this as a […]

  47. […] Because As We All Know, The Green Party Runs the World. […]

  48. my short disclaimer: I came here from boingboing. I found your article interesting but I remain skeptical. This doesn’t make me a “denier” or someone working for a big oil/coal or even a conservative supporter (NEVER let Harper have a majority). I voted Green but then again not much of choice with Canadian politics. I agree we should be seeking the most efficient way of doing everything, We should lower our dependency on fossil fuels and invest in alternative energies. I for one don’t want any more pollution then we already have.
    —————————————————————————————
    Their’s so many factors and so much uncertainty that one has to wonder how much would be revealed if all climate data was freely accessible worldwide.

    Why would the CRU refuse to comply with the FOIA request in the first place?
    Is this because of competition between scientists/research groups/organizations?
    Why isn’t publicly funded data in the public domain ?
    Why would a respected research organization refuse to release the code for climate modelling software? is this one competition again?

    If scientists are competing to prove a theory would it not benefit civilization as a whole that all data related to that theory by freely accessible so citizens can make informed decisions?

    If the debate is over, why cant meteorologists predict the weather a week from now…. or 2 weeks, a month, a year, 2050 omg were all doomed!

    For someone claiming to be from a scientific background, you would benefit from not stereotyping your readers. Your readers would be better served knowing that many accomplishments in science would not exist if it were not for skepticism. One popular example comes to mind: Mythbusters. Encourage skepticism don’t attack it. e.g. “denialists” “conservatives” “big oil” “coal” all these are far from the truth in my case.
    greenfyre – digg.coms resident climate troll linked to this. No surprise, s/he uses the same attacks.

    All in all cool story bro.

  49. As to climate stuff, you know what that Greek guy said about rivers? Hell, what, thirty thousands years ago there was no such thing as North Sea, and now it’s there… not to mention the lots of ancient cities that are now underwater.

    As to climate models… I mean, no one can predict weather with any accuracy. Even if a lot of smart people start to believe they have it all figured out when it comes to climate and all the variables, they could be wrong.

    It’s sort of obvious, but supposedly smart people can be pretty dumb, especially in not being critical of what they want to believe.
    Most blatant example, look at the economists. How many of them were in the dark about what is upon us now.
    Sure, economy is the most whorish ‘science’ there is, but right now, there is so much money riding on this whole climate change thing that that has got to (sub)consciously affect a lot of scientists. They’re just people, after all. Nearly everyone has mortgage to pay down these days.

    Stuff changes, and it looks like we’ll run out of oil pretty quickly. IEA was fudging oil data, on behalf of Uncle Sam.

    Coal won’t cut it, being dirty, and if other alternatives become viable, big oil will invest in them .. Li-ion accumlators are getting pretty solid.
    In five years time, they’ll be models in production with energy density of TNT. True, gasoline is five times better than that, but you burn that with only 30% efficiency.

    Maybe someone will even figure out a way of building nuclear reactors faster. Incentive is huge, if someone can develop a design that can be built in 3 years instead of ten, and the number of TWh provided from fossil fuels is falling by the year, they’re going to get obscenely rich.

    With this crisis of late capitalism, standards of living and energy use will go down, and perhaps we’ll see Americans planting potateos in their suburban lawns and patrolling these plots with shotguns to discourage thieves..

    All in all, this economy clusterfuck we’re still falling into it’ll probably be good for the enviroment, unless the unwashed hordes start to cut down forests for heating.

    Someday, we’ll look back at all this and laugh.

  50. […] all of it remains fundamentally sound.  Marine biologist and SF writer Peter Watts provides good context in this […]

  51. […] Because As We All Know, The Green Party Runs the World. Now. In what can hardly be a coincidence, just a few weeks before the Copenhagen summit the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia got hacked. The sixty-odd megabytes of confidential e-mails that ended up littering the whole damn internet either a) blew the lid off a global conspiracy to fake the global warming crisis, or b) lay there in a big sludgy pile of boring communications about birthdays, conference meet-ups, and whether or not Poindexter over at Cal State was going to be allowed into the tree fort this year. Judging by the criteria I described at the top of the post, I should just stick my fingers in my ears and hum loudly until the current shitstorm abates. […]

  52. @ OffTheWagon “digg.coms resident climate troll linked to this”

    So you would be one of the ones who is unable to find any errors in any of the things I link and information I provide, and instead try to disguise that by dismissing the facts as coming from the “resident Troll:?

    All the while breast beating about how you are not taken seriously, not because your claims are easily exposed as nonsense by anyone who can use a search engine, but because you are “labeled.”?

    Just curious.

    For the record, you are not “labeled”, your behaviour is merely correctly classified and named.

  53. You know, what amuses me the most is that if this sort of exchange regarding corporate goals between two rivals (I dunno, Microsoft/Google or Amazon/WalMart) were ‘discovered’, not a single person would be surprised at all by the tone or commentary. We perceive academia to be so much kinder and nicer than the corporate world, and yet, I can testify that it’s totally backwards, and most people competent in the corporate world would never make it in academia.

  54. The “trick” here was to use one set of data for BEFORE 1960 and another for AFTER 1960.

    When I was at university I was published for some undergrad work in Psychology. If I had used a “trick” like this and been caught I’d have been kicked out of the psych program and possibly expelled.

  55. @greenfyre

    Attacking people who question your opinion. Good for you. I have never bothered to engage a debate with you because it would be like arguing with a scientologist. I have no interest in doing it. I simply asked a few questions here, shame on me for questioning your pseudo-science religion! Of course I MUST be out looking to prove YOU wrong /s. Your name just happens to show up every time I see a front page digg article on climate (a quick look at your digg profile reveals my troll statement to be true) spamming your blog links everywhere. I have nothing to defend or prove. You on the other hand base your entire livelihood around an unproven theory. Best of luck to you and your endeavors.

  56. […] No Moods, Ads or Cutesy Fucking Icons (Re-reloaded) » Because As We All Know, The Green Party Runs … "Science doesn’t work despite scientists being asses. Science works, to at least some extent, because scientists are asses. Bickering and backstabbing are essential elements of the process. Haven’t any of these guys ever heard of “peer review”? There’s this myth in wide circulation: rational, emotionless Vulcans in white coats, plumbing the secrets of the universe, their Scientific Methods unsullied by bias or emotionalism. Most people know it’s a myth, of course; they subscribe to a more nuanced view in which scientists are as petty and vain and human as anyone (and as egotistical as any therapist or financier), people who use scientific methodology to tamp down their human imperfections and manage some approximation of objectivity." (tags: science academic-culture cultural-norms cultural-assumptions mythology logic academia) […]

  57. If the debate is over, why cant meteorologists predict the weather a week from now…

    Weather: day-to-day variation. Climate: average measured from the former over time. Climate change: change in average, which can be described as a trend.

    ‘Weather’ is not ‘climate’. They’re two different words because they denote two different things.

    Further elaboration on this difference is cunningly hidden in libraries, suppressed texts called ‘dictionaries’ and clandestinely taught in secret indoctrination centres called ‘universities’.

    I never cease to be amazed at how the ignorant think that, as amateurs, they’ve spotted something that professionals have missed when in fact they’ve simply highlighted their utter, banal, stupidity – and turbocharged it with an added measure of arrogance.

  58. We perceive academia to be so much kinder and nicer than the corporate world, and yet, I can testify that it’s totally backwards, and most people competent in the corporate world would never make it in academia.

    I don’t know if you ever saw a television detective series set in Oxford called Inspector Morse , but I always thought that it was hopelessly unrealistic because I’d never expect the homicide rate in a university to be so low. I also had a colleague who said that he never understood Dilbert until he started working for a university.

  59. Robin Hanson is similarly not surprised, but he also offers an improvement: http://www.overcomingbias.com/2009/11/its-news-on-academia-not-climate.html

    The truth may eventually be accepted, but it might take a while. Pasteur didn’t discover germ theory or vaccination but the world had to wait for him to beat it into the thick head of the establishment; similarly, Lister had a number of predecessors who had almost no impact. As I understand, Darwin’s sexual selection theory was virtually ignored more than a century. And so on. I’m not strong on prediction markets (Hanson’s suggestion), but the question of how we can be more accurate quicker is important.

  60. @Bratt Davidson

    I’m pretty sure that our track record at predicting climate is not any better than with weather.

    Anyway, people who actually do weather or climate simulations have expressed skepticism at the far-reaching conclusions of the IPCC.

    Let’s quote Kanya Kusano of the japanese earth simulator:


    “[The IPCC’s] conclusion that from now on atmospheric temperatures are likely to show a continuous, monotonous increase, should be perceived as an unprovable hypothesis,”

    That from a guy who actually models similar processes. Maybe he is leery of fiddling with constants in order to fit the model to data. I mean, sure, you can do some of it, but do it enough and your model will not be accurate.

    There is lot more about what they have to say about it.

    Universities secret?
    I doubt it, I mean, everyone knows about them here. Hell, even I am attending one, learning how to manufacture safe and reliable automatic weaponry. That is something that will surely be in demand, once it all goes down Mad Max style.

  61. Don’t know if you do much vanity googling, Peter, but there’s a discussion going on at Reddit concerning your novels:

    http://www.reddit.com/r/scifi/comments/a8r9y/is_there_an_sf_author_more_pessimistic_than_peter/

  62. Brett – thats funny, I saw Dilbert most clearly at work when working for a privately owned company. We had clueless management, lack of proper controls, and around 20 prohibition and improvement notices from the health and safety executive in 4 years. Not to mention bitching, back stabbing and so on.
    I think the main problem is to do with organisation and human communication.

  63. I’m pretty sure that our track record at predicting climate is not any better than with weather.

    That’s true. Observations are turning out worse than the IPCC models so far.

    Let’s quote Kanya Kusano of the japanese earth simulator

    Let’s pick cherries, OK?

    Universities secret

    I was being sarcastic for the benefit of our tinfoil hat wearing idiot above.

    Guthrie, yes, it is aimed at satirising the private sector, but a university or any public sector organisation is just as bad. I agree – the constant is human nature and plain organisational banality.

  64. OK, to look at the precise wording anyway:

    show a continuous, monotonous increase, should be perceived as an unprovable hypothesis

    Scientists are very careful about the wording of their public pronouncements, if not their private emails.

    First, the IPCC study is meta-research, meaning that inevitably it averages predictions from a variety of sources, inevitably producing a smoothing effect on its graphs.

    Second, Kusana is at pains to add precise modifiers to his statement: ‘continuous’ and ‘monotonous’. These words are not redundant but serve to distinguish continuous and monotonous increases from discontinuous and non-monotonous increases. It’s the modifiers that are significant, even in a statement taken out of context like this.

    Now, for example, a study by Noel Keenlyside of Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences at Kiel University published in Nature in early 2008 looked at the North Atlantic Oscillation and the Atlantic Meridional Oscillation and suggested that temperatures will in fact slow their rise or fall over the next decade before picking up again about 2020 and rising sharply. A colleague of his, Mojib Latif, reiterated this prediction at a UN climate conference in September.

    So indeed, Kusana’s caution is appropriate, as regards the suggestion of a monotonous rise, but it is now widely acknowledged that there are cycles that will upset any prediction of smooth rises, but not the rises themselves in the longer term. Throw in El Nino/La Nina and of course the graph starts to thrash all over the place in the medium term. To contextualise, weather is short term, climate is long term and this is in between.

    Otherwise, I can’t see much point in bringing up that quote.

  65. Thebes said:

    The “trick” here was to use one set of data for BEFORE 1960 and another for AFTER 1960.
    When I was at university I was published for some undergrad work in Psychology. If I had used a “trick” like this and been caught I’d have been kicked out of the psych program and possibly expelled.

    Speaking as someone who’s taught the occasional university course himself, if I’d caught you making this kind of claim I’d have probably kicked you out myself. For misrepresentation.

    The whole tree-ring dataset issue has been dealt with extensively elsewhere. The Reader’s Digest version, as I understand it, is as follows:

    Temperature affects the growth of trees, and therefore affects the growth rings found in tree trunks. Growth rings can therefore be used as “proxies”— an indirect indication of historical temperatures— although they must of course be calibrated against direct measurements.

    Why even use proxies if more direct measurements are available? Because there are more trees than thermometers; if you want some idea of the temperature in 1924 in Boil, Alberta — but the nearest weather station at that time was in Fester, Saskatchewan — you can use the tree-ring/temperature relationship in the latter location to infer temperatures in the former.

    The problem is, back around mid-century, the correlation between tree rings and direct measurements started breaking down. One could no longer be used to infer the other. The specific reasons for this remain (as I understand it) unclear; but given that trees are living organisms with a documented sensitivity to, oh, say, carbon dioxide levels (amongst other things), it’s not implausible that some kind of metabolic shift has occurred. The point is, once the proxy stops reflecting the actual measurement, it’s no longer a good proxy. You stop using it.

    Got that? This is not a case of discarding a dataset because it doesn’t give you the results you want; this is a case of discarding an indirect data set when it disagrees with more direct and reliable overlapping data. It would be bad science to do anything else.

    Of course, it would also be bad science to cover up the divergence that led to this decision, but contrary to some claims that’s not what happened. The whole issue was widely documented in the field at the time, and remains accessible to anyone who wants to look. Still, there’s no obligation for every new technical paper to rehash the same issue, just to bring Johnny-come-layperson up to speed. These are reports by experts for experts, well aware of the limitations of their own data sets; the fact that every pub doesn’t mention every detail, just to spare the likes of Thebes the need to do a little digging, hardly constitutes a coverup.

    And on that note, fellow crawlers, I’m going to move this over to a whole new post— because I have in fact seen some legitimate points raised in these comments (by Jacob Davies, Ben J., and others), and to address them all this far down the comment thread would be to bury them. So sometime over the next day or two I’ll deliver a P.S. on a whole new screen.

  66. For how long, for how much and by what causes.
    The combination is varible.

  67. “If the debate is over, why cant meteorologists predict the weather a week from now…. or 2 weeks, a month, a year, 2050 omg were all doomed!”

    If you are asking questions like that, then you haven’t read up enough on the topic to have a laymans level of an informed opinion.

    Predicting the weather and predicting the climate are two completely different tasks. When they predict the climate, they are not making any predictions at what the weather will be like on one day 40 years in the future. They are not predicting even what the average climate will be for any one year.

    They are just saying when you take this mix of ingredients for the climate, this is probably what you will get overall. Some factors have to be accumulated over the time, for example, changes in albedo and sea level response. But we can get an idea of what it is more likely to be at that time.

  68. Cards on the table: I’m waving the agnostic flag at the moment, but I tend to come across as a denier because the people currently shouting the loudest appear to be those who support the cause! … and I agree with Jacob that the use of the word definitely harks back to the holocaust whether it was chosen for that reason or not!
    As a scientist I also find it a natural path to take to assume something isn’t true until such time as it is proven … and I think there lies the rub. If you assume it IS true then you don’t look for evidence against – that’s not science that’s Dogma!
    I’m sure there’s loads of evidence to support Anthropogenic Climate Change and I’m also sure there’s loads of evidence against it (or at least reasonable doubt about the Pro-ACC evidence – see the discussions above about Australian firestorms!).
    I’m also deeply suspicious that it would appear that ONLY Pro-ACC news makes the cut to on-air? How can that be?
    My opinion, FWIW, is that there is _some_ evidence for ACC but that the jury isn’t out yet – the jury SHOULDN’T be out yet!
    I’d say the scientists honestly don’t know, but they suspect – and if they could just be open about it and say “we _think_ we’re all going to hell in a hand-basket” rather than they’re 100% sure about it I’d be far happier to trust them! As it is, it seems to me they’re “selling short” – selling the unproven theory now in the hope that sufficient evidence WILL turn up later to back their claims.
    It’s also entirely possible that they’re doing it on purpose: Just suppose the scientists see all the evidence and it points to GW because of ACC, but it’s not provable at the moment. If the theory IS true and we do nothing we may well pass some “tipping point” and we’re toast (figuratively and literally!), so it is prudent to start (or at least jump on board) the Green Bandwagon to do something about it … but if the scientists say “well, we think we may be heading for trouble” you might not get the same sign up as running around shouting “the sky is falling!” … so you (probably encouraged by politicians who will see it as The New Religion to help control the proles!) massage the figures and exaggerate the evidence to get The Great Unwashed masses behind you in the fight for our very survival.
    That’s great for the huddled masses, but I want to know the truth!

  69. I’d like to point out that the correlation between smoking and premature death was, at first, a nebulous suspicion, then a broad statistical correlation, and finally agreed upon, all before the actual carcinogenic mechanism was finally determined on a chemical level.

    The size of the danger and the numbers of beings impacted have to be weighed in these questions. When a possible danger, if it turns out to be actual, is a broad destructive force in the society, where lives are at stake, and the mechanism is plausible when you guess at it, you have to ask:

    How long do we wait to confirm that this is causing death and destruction? It’s a tricky practical question, and I don’t have answer.

    How many dead people and animals are we willing to put up with while we patiently wait for the average citizen to decide which side’s propaganda is most fun, most plausible, feels better given the prejudices of the masses? What I see here is citizens who have been swayed to a political opinion about a scientific matter, and then feel qualified to judge the science based on that political opinion.

  70. ah, “no shit sherlock”, the battle cry of the reasoned debate.

    Apologists like you are giving even more fuel to ‘denialists’.

    Accept that they deliberately mislead people, accept they are unscrupulous, accept its unacceptable. now move on.

  71. @Hljóðlegur:
    w.r.t. smoking and cancer – Absolutely … but at the point it was _just_ a statistical correlation they didn’t say it was 100% certain!

    You go on to say “What I see here is citizens who have been swayed to a political opinion about a scientific matter, and then feel qualified to judge the science based on that political opinion.”

    Indeed! And maybe because I have the British predisposition to always side with the underdog it makes me interested in hearing the arguments from the nay-sayers … but they always get shouted down – “deniers”, “TROLL”, etc. Surely, if the scientists are so solid in their understanding of the issue they should be able to take all the counter-arguments and the even more damaging smears upon the veracity and authenticity of the data used by the Pro-camp, and politely show them to be specious?
    It’s only when you’re _not_ sure about your argument that you use other means such as name calling.

    Let’s also examine the “political opinion” side of the equation too, because politicians love nothing more than a cause célèbre upon which to nail their colours. There is most definitely something to be gained, politically, by jumping on this bandwagon – and that’s regardless of whether or not it’s true – so it’s a no-brainer for politicians (which is lucky!).

    For me, it doesn’t seem unlikely that we’re screwing the pooch, but I’ve yet to be convinced, and every time I meet people who are 100% SURE that ACC is the case I can’t help feeling that they must be deluded because I simply don’t believe ANYONE can be 100% certain. This, added to my innate argumentative nature, leads me to often take the role of the Devil’s Advocate and thereby appear to be a “denier”, when actually, I’m just trying to sift through the mire and see the truth … always assuming there is any truth there to be seen yet!

  72. @lumpy

    Your statement doesn’t mention, that as far as we know, modelling climate over decades may be as difficult as modelling weather over months.

    Tell me why it shouldn’t be?

    It’s not like we even understand all the processes involved.
    If we had, there would be no surprising papers like that recent one about a connection between solar activity, cosmic rays and cloud cover. Or what effect may air travel have on weather. There were some interesting observations in fall of 2001. And so on..

  73. rob remarked:

    ah, “no shit sherlock”, the battle cry of the reasoned debate.

    Ah, the battle cry of someone who can’t be bothered to read the post before weighing in. Or perhaps, the battle cry of someone determined to misrepresent that post regardless.

    Apologists like you are giving even more fuel to ‘denialists’.

    Accept that they deliberately mislead people, accept they are unscrupulous, accept its unacceptable.

    Firstly, I stated at the outset that the post would focus on only one of many issues: the shock-and-astonishment from some quarters that scientists could be snipe-happy assholes to each other. My sole goal was to put that into the broader context of science as a process, not to comment on the minutae of Climategate.

    Secondly, I also stated explicitly that if these guys did turn out to be guilty of fudging their data, “I’ll be there with everyone else calling to have the bastards run out of town”. This strikes you as apologetics how, exactly?

    Thirdly, pretty much averyone on the planet understands that “No shit, Sherlock” is an expression of agreement with the other guy’s position, and an emphasis that said position is blindingly obvious. Only rob seems to regard it as a “battle cry”.

    So, rob. Don’t be such a doofus.

  74. What I heard, from a statistician, was that there were all sorts of weaknesses in the analysis of the data, and they really needed a good statistician, not merely somebody who knew the standard statistical tools of that branch of science.

  75. Kovacs wondered:

    Your statement doesn’t mention, that as far as we know, modeling climate over decades may be as difficult as modeling weather over months.

    Tell me why it shouldn’t be.

    Big ships turn slowly.

    Weather is a local phenomenon, flighty and chaotic. Climate involves the thermal inertia of the whole damn planet. Heat may move from place to place on the globe (weather), but the total amount of global heat is still on a steady and relentless climb (climate change). If I were to boil a pot of water, I’d be insane to claim that I could track every convecting water molecule; but you’d be insane to claim that because of that, I had no grounds for concluding that the overall temperature was rising.

    Yes, there is much to learn. Your example of the 2001 change in albedo following the grounding of commercial flights (and the consequent disappearance of reflective contrails from the skies) is a good case in point. The problem is, every time we learn something new, the overall picture ends up grimmer than before. Yesterday’s worst-case scenarios keep turning out to be unrealistically optimistic.

    It’s not encouraging grounds for sitting back and saying “Well, we don’t have all the answers yet, so things might not be all that bad.” So far the trend is pretty consistent: things are gonna be worse.

  76. Andy Wood said:

    … and I agree with Jacob that the use of the word definitely harks back to the holocaust whether it was chosen for that reason or not!

    They deny things, Andy. That makes them “deniers”, by definition. It’s an accurate descriptor; I suppose I could use the word “fucktard” instead but it wouldn’t be as accurate, and I suspect you wouldn’t like it much better. So let’s just stick with the English language as currently written.

    I’m also deeply suspicious that it would appear that ONLY Pro-ACC news makes the cut to on-air? How can that be?

    My opinion, FWIW, is that there is _some_ evidence for ACC but that the jury isn’t out yet — the jury SHOULDN’T be out yet!

    Dude, what are you basing this on? Have you been following the issue for the past couple of decades? Initially, there was a fair bit of uncertainty amongst the experts. There was evidence for and against. But as more and more evidence has accumulated, the uncertainty has dwindled (e.g., satellite data didn’t seem to show any warming trend, until someone realized that orbital decay introduced an error into the satellite readings; the data had to be corrected for the fact that the platforms were losing altitude over time. Once that was done, the sat data lined up with everything else. Another piece of evidence “against” disappeared).

    These days, as new findings accumulate they suggest that things are worse than the “worst-case scenarios” of even a few years ago! Arctic ice melt, glacier recession, ocean acidification is all happening faster than was predicted in the most pessimistic models from 2007. These are empirical findings, not models. This is really happening.

    I’d say the scientists honestly don’t know, but they suspect — and if they could just be open about it and say “we _think_ we’re all going to hell in a hand-basket” rather than they’re 100% sure about it I’d be far happier to trust them!

    Okay, you claim to be a scientist: then you should know that one of the things that distinguishes empiricism from fundamentalism is that the former is always subject to testing and disproof; which means that scientists can never say absolutely that they are 100% certain of anything. It is possible that the earth rests on the back of a giant turtle; it’s vanishingly unlikely, and there is absolutely no evidence for it, but we have to entertain the possibility that some evidence might come down the chute to change our minds at some point in the future.

    With that in mind, who is it that you’re saying is throwing around this 100% figure? It’s not the IPCC; as the evidence has accumulated they’ve worded their conclusions ever more strongly, but even now they’re only saying that it’s “very likely” (or perhaps “extremely likely?” “almost certain?”) that humans are a major force behind climate change. It’s almost as close to certainty as you can get and still claim to be an empiricist. So, whence your belief that there is only “some” evidence for, and also some against? Who are you citing on the 100%?

    And maybe because I have the British predisposition to always side with the underdog it makes me interested in hearing the arguments from the nay-sayers … but they always get shouted down — “deniers”, “TROLL”, etc.

    Andy, that’s bullshit. I’m sorry, but over on this side of the pond the nay-sayers have controlled the agenda for most of the past decade: The Bush administration forcibly rewrote EPA reports, dismissed NOAA studies, censored their own military when it tried to raise alarms about the national security implications of climate change. Nobel Laureates lined up en masse to sign a petition protesting White House interference in scientific research. For you to claim that the deniers are some oppressed minority is either profoundly ignorant or profoundly disingenuous.

    But at least, either way, I guess it’s profound.

  77. AW, Peter said it. But if you want a polite clarification about the issues at hand from the shrill ‘pro’ camp, look no further than realclimate ;)

    http://www.realclimate.org/

  78. Hey PeterW:
    Re: “Deniers”: First off, there is most definitely some unpleasant overtones to the use of the word because it is so inextricably linked to the holocaust. That doesn’t mean that it is an inaccurate usage, but in much the same way as other words have _new_ meanings, eg “I’m feeling particularly gay today” means something totally different to today’s generation than it does to people from around WWII and whilst it’s use is still “accurate” what people may read into it is not, hence people have stopped using the word “gay” just to mean happy and carefree, and now “denier” has the undertones of, as you so rightly say, “fucktard”. Whilst I’m sure some, maybe many, of the ACC Deniers are quite possibly also fucktards I think it is somewhat disingenuous to label all as such.
    Anyway, I think often it is actually the wrong word, as a lot of doubters are being incorrectly labelled as deniers – I’m just a doubter and am regularly lumped in with the fuc^H^H^HDeniers.
    Actually, I don’t think I’m even a proper doubter! I think it is entirely reasonable and probable that Humans have been, are, and unfortunately will continue to – mess up the environment . what I find annoying is how people can swear 100% that it is so, when as you so rightly state, the experts are somewhat less certain (actually, are “certain” within reasonable bounds – turtle, elephants, etc). That’s my beef right there!
    It’s quite possible that given access to all the figures and the research (and probably some helpful margin notes!) I could see plain as day that it IS happening, but that’s not what we get. We get (often) dubious science wrapped up in political speeches, and politicians most definitely have something to gain from supporting it and I don’t trust them!
    … and if you don’t buy it you get labelled a denier, a fucktard!

    IPCC: A group of mostly NOT scientists who’s job is, as I understand it, to further the cause of promoting the concept of ACC – NOT to supervise, control, fund research into the question though … just to work out how best to push the ACC agenda. They are _not_ the gold standard on unbiased reporting for this issue. The problem is, no one appears to be unbiased – it’s almost become an evolution vs creation issue – and hence the name calling!

    OK … I must admit that over in the good Ol’ US-of-A there’s been a far greater noise made by the nay-sayers. That’s just as bad as over here where it’s the exact opposite! It is entirely likely that I would be arguing for ACC if I was being bombarded with the anti-ACC propaganda being spouted by the US media/Gov for exactly the same reason! If someone is shouting so loud they’ve probably got something to hide! In the US it’s likely to be the Oil-Barons (is it?) and in the UK … I dunno! Why are they being so vocal when all they really need to do is show us the figures, the research, etc. Take each anti-ACC argument and calmly show it to be specious!
    We get the same old library pictures of glaciers crashing into the sea, and whatnot, whenever there’s a news story about it and I find it annoying because glaciers ALWAYS crash into the sea, but showing the footage scares people into believing ACC! My natural instinct is to resist when people use such obvious tricks to try and make me believe things!
    (.. and thanks Denni … I will have mosey over to realclimate.org)

    Profoundly ignorant vs profoundly disingenuous:
    Hmmm. Real deniers (ie people who 100% deny that ACC even could be happening) are indeed, IMHO, fucktards.
    But not all people who speak/argue against ACC are deniers … some are just doubters or agnostic, so to lump all people who argue against you as deniers is far to blinkered an approach for a rational argument at best, and has too many similarities with Godwin’s Rule to be taken seriously at worst!
    So … does that make me ignorant or disingenuous?
    I guess I must be ignorant because I’m still asking questions rather than simply swallowing the IPCC propaganda – and make no mistake about it, ACC Propaganda is why the IPCC was setup!

    … and the funniest thing is that even though I’m still asking questions I STILL think we should be doing something about it!
    If ACC isn’t happening and we spend some money (OK … it’s going to be A LOT OF MONEY!) to make our lives more efficient (AKA “less wasteful”) then that’s money well spent anyway. If ACC turns out to be true and we haven’t spent the money we’re going to be somewhat paddle-less when shit-creek hits the fan!

  79. Hey, Andy Wood:

    Indeed! And maybe because I have the British predisposition to always side with the underdog it makes me interested in hearing the arguments from the nay-sayers … but they always get shouted down – “deniers”, “TROLL”, etc.

    I hear ya. I love a good underdog myself.

    I don’t think that the corporate and political bodies underwriting the anti-ACC camp are underdogs, however. The business community and the money that backs them have a serious vested interest in getting just enough doubt put out there to keep legislatures and federal executives from taking any action that might adversely impact their short term profits.

    Yeah, sure, scientists have to get grants to do their work, but the idea that they are part of some global conspiracy to hoodwink governments out of money is a little over the top, and if we want to match dollar-for-dollar the amount of possible money loss (as a crude measure of self-interest) whichever way the climate debate goes, the scientists are getting peanuts for their “conspiracy” compared to big business. I can’t see GE as underdogs, for instance, and you can be sure they are funding anti-ACC spin.

    IMHO, ordinary citizens offering their opinions aren’t “fucktards.” That’s a pretty harsh appellation. They’re just less qualified than actual climate scientists to offer opinions on the strength of the science.

    If we like a good underdog, how about championing the Maldives? I hear they’re going under as the polar ice caps melt?

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mohamed-nasheed/climate-change-requires-a_b_292747.html

  80. […] Marine-Mammal Biologist Peter Watts: Science doesn’t work despite scientists being asses. Science works, to at least some extent, because scientists are asses. Bickering and backstabbing are essential elements of the process. Haven’t any of these guys ever heard of “peer review”? […]

  81. […] Marine-Mammal Biologist Peter Watts: Science doesn’t work despite scientists being asses. Science works, to at least some extent, because scientists are asses. Bickering and backstabbing are essential elements of the process. Haven’t any of these guys ever heard of “peer review”? […]

  82. Hey Hljóðlegur,
    Re: Maldives sinking – not according to Nils-Axel Morner it isn’t! See Rise of sea levels is the greatest lie ever told.
    From the link:
    When running the International Commission on Sea Level Change, he launched a special project on the Maldives, whose leaders have for 20 years been calling for vast sums of international aid to stave off disaster. Six times he and his expert team visited the islands, to confirm that the sea has not risen for half a century. Before announcing his findings, he offered to show the inhabitants a film explaining why they had nothing to worry about. The government refused to let it be shown.
    … and …
    One of his most shocking discoveries was why the IPCC has been able to show sea levels rising by 2.3mm a year. Until 2003, even its own satellite-based evidence showed no upward trend. But suddenly the graph tilted upwards because the IPCC’s favoured experts had drawn on the finding of a single tide-gauge in Hong Kong harbour showing a 2.3mm rise. The entire global sea-level projection was then adjusted upwards by a “corrective factor” of 2.3mm, because, as the IPCC scientists admitted, they “needed to show a trend”.

    When I spoke to Dr Mörner last week, he expressed his continuing dismay at how the IPCC has fed the scare on this crucial issue. When asked to act as an “expert reviewer” on the IPCC’s last two reports, he was “astonished to find that not one of their 22 contributing authors on sea levels was a sea level specialist: not one”. Yet the results of all this “deliberate ignorance” and reliance on rigged computer models have become the most powerful single driver of the entire warmist hysteria.
    Now obviously I’m not saying Nils-Axel is necessarily right, indeed there are (not surprisingly!) articles that say he must be lying … but where does that leave us>

    Is the Maldives in danger or not?
    The photographic evidence of the (famous) tree seems to suggest, in the simplest of simple terms, that it isn’t?

    I honestly don’t know! I also don’t know who’s figures and claims to believe, and I suspect that a lot of the doubters (let’s stop calling them deniers eh … apart from anything else it just makes me think of stockings for some reason!) will be likewise!

    … and remember that even if the Maldives aren’t in danger that doesn’t mean that the world isn’t warming and it may well still be Humans that are to blame (at least in part).

    FYI: I actually work for the Met Office in the UK (in a non-forecasting capacity) and chatting with them about it it turns out that not all the people who work there think it’s us that is causing it, or even that the globe is warming! If they can’t get all their ducks in a row how the hell is anyone else supposed to be able to sift the wheat from the chaff!
    Some of the more pessimistic also think there isn’t, and won’t be, the political will to enforce sufficient legislation anyway. The problem isn’t so much the current 1st World, who are able to cut back even if they might not want to, it’s the 3rd World who are rapidly becoming the 2nd World. How the hell do we tell all the poor people that they have to remain poor to save the planet whilst we swan around in our cars and have, well, food and water and a roof over our heads!

    See also David Attenborough’s talks on Population Control … all the talk about carbon footprints and no one (else!) has pointed out that your Carbon Footprint is the ultimate pyramid scheme!

  83. […] zu sein und anderen Wissenschaftlern einen reinzuwürgen. Ich verweise gerne auf den Beitrag Because as we all know, the Green Party runs the worldBoingBoing">1, der diese Tatsache wunderbar beschreibt. Wissenschaftliche Positionen leben davon, […]

  84. Hahahahaha, Andy Wood! Oh, next you’ll tell me that all the side by side photos I have seen of glaciers retreating are phonies, and I’m going to laugh at you, my friend.

    This polar cap retreat thing has been widely and photographically documented for at least ten years now, by dozens of people, half of them not scientists but just locals or photographers. I recall when the North Pole melted in 1999 and thinking, hm, that can’t be good, can it?

    If you want to believe this is just normal fluctuation, not human-caused, I won’t bother to try to argue you out of it, but at some point, after I have seen enough disparate people with different agendas displaying year-to-year photos where the ice is clearly and gradually retreating, I’d have to be crazy not to go with the idea that we losing glacier.

  85. eh Hljóðlegur?
    I’m didn’t say – I’m not saying – the (north) pole ice coverage isn’t shrinking or that we are losing glaciers?
    What I am saying is that general news coverage of GW/ACC that relentlessly uses the stock footage of glaciers/ice tumbling into the sea, when glaciers and other ice-flows ALWAYS have fallen into the sea (that is what they do!) is clouding the issue with sensationalist footage designed to big-up the story.

    Now, before I make you laugh again, I also agree that it is a big story – what I don’t agree with is the apparent misrepresentation of the facts – I notice you didn’t mention the Maldives in your response – as I said, I’ve not been there but Nils-Axel Morner is apparently a respected “sea-level” scientist and he says the sea level around the Maldives isn’t rising … so what was all that hoopla about them having that meeting underwater?

    You say “if you want to believe …” … but I don’t want to have to believe anything … I want to KNOW!

    You also say “normal fluctuation, not human-caused” – My guess is that it IS normal fluctuation which is being reinforced by human activity – why does it have to be either-or – why can’t it be both?
    Surely “both” is the most likely scenario … so when people (scientists, politicians, lay-people) say it’s not normal fluctuation it’s human caused a siren sounds ‘cos that just doesn’t sound right!

    But hey ho … I’ve seen the Met Office global temperature info and it does show the temperature rising and IMHO whether it’s us or not is immaterial because if there’s something we can do about it then we should be doing it -right?

  86. I think you’ll find that the glaciers have been retreating for the past 20,000 years. It’s not something that started happening 20 years ago. Have we caused all of that as well? Or were the first 19,800 years of glacial retreat – which accounts for about 99% of the ice that’s melted – a natural phenomenon, and the last 200 years and remaining 1% man-made? You won’t convince me either way with glaciers. Neither for nor against.

    There’s also a whole load of stuff that people go on about – rising or falling sea levels, changing vegetation patterns, widths of tree rings, analysis of Antarctic ice, inhabitation patters of various insects and other animals. And much more besides. And how much of it matters to me? None of it.

    There’s two extremities of possibility here. Global warming is real, or it’s a fabrication. Let’s suppose it’s real. That means that the doubters (or whatever you want to call them) are lying, their data is inaccurate and global warming is a real problem. Alternatively, let’s suppose it’s a fabrication. That means that the CRU’s people are lying, their data is inaccurate and global warming is a complete fabrication.

    Which of these is true? Neither. The CRU’s data is horrendous (you only need to look at it to know that’s true), their theories are rubbish and their conclusions invalid. The same goes for pretty much every climate predicting scientist out there. It’s a shockingly inexact science, it’s more history than science, where you invent a story to fit what little evidence you have and hope that everyone else agrees with you. But that doesn’t mean that global warming isn’t happening. It just means that the CRU are a bunch of idiots. Likewise, the numerous people dotted around the world trying to utterly deny it have the same problems.

    The belief thing is the killer here. People believe things one way or the other and will – deliberately or not – fit the things they do around that belief. The result is basically a big pile of shite that just doesn’t work. Are global temperatures rising or are they falling? I can find two “scientists” who’ll tell you completely opposite things. Do humans affect the rate of glacier retreat or not? Let’s ask the same two scientists. Are tree rings useful as thermometers? Let’s ask them again. Each of them will have an apparently sound evidentiary basis for what they argue but they’re both wrong.

    What do I believe? I believe that a massive burning ball of gas at several million degrees probably has more to do with global temperatures than carbon dioxide, and I’ll fight tooth and nail to make sure that someone who simply believes differently isn’t going to take god only knows how much off me in tax to cater for a belief that I don’t have. But… that’s just my belief.

  87. Hey Mossy,
    I’d say I’m pretty much in the same situation in that there’s enough doubt been sown that I won’t simply buy the party-line now. Quite how I resolve that issue and get off the fence I don’t know, short of getting a climate research Phd etc …

    As I heard someone else say somewhere or other, if the legislation being proposed by the Pro-ACC camps is made law it will end up costing us – everyone – billions of $$$ per year for years – the foreseeable future – and it behoves those who are put upon to enact the proposed legislation to be sufficiently sure that money isn’t going to be wasted!

    … and all this talk of belief harks back to a previous point I made in this thread, that ACC is like the new religion with all the unpleasant overtones that implies, ie the blinkered approach on both sides of the argument with the ensuing name calling, the fudging of available information to fit the result your side is cheering for, the unbelievable amounts of money that will be siphoned thru the Nu-Church with more than a little of it ending up in the ever-more-powerful leader’s pockets!
    What we need is someone who is demonstrably independent of the in-fighting and who we can trust to look into it.

    However, being somewhat of a pragmatist I do look at this whole affair slightly differently … if the GW is bunkum and we spend the money we’ve potentially wasted the money (though it could be argued that efficiencies so purchased are never truly wasted), whereas if GW IS true and we DON’T spend the money we potentially waste the World!
    As gambols go, flip that coin and decide which is the worse outcome …

  88. […] Marine-Mammal Biologist Peter Watts: Science doesn’t work despite scientists being asses. Science works, to at least some extent, because scientists are asses. Bickering and backstabbing are essential elements of the process. Haven’t any of these guys ever heard of “peer review”? […]

  89. […] Peter Watts explains why scientists don’t always write happy emails: […]

  90. I’m kind of with Andy on this.

    The CRU stuff prompted me to come and find out a bit more about things. When I started looking into the science what I mostly found was “believe what you are told” and questioners being surrounded by mobs shouting “kill the denier”

    As I dig a bit deeper I find out that a) The science is mostly statistics (and hard possibly) b) there is an interpretative element c) no one I have found yet is interested in explaining it – and so everyone relies on being told the answer. I have to say that all that instantly makes me worried – that’s dogma.

    So short of taking Andys option and doing the science myself from scratch – where do I start so I can actually *understand* the science (given that I am not actually an idiot and can even do stats if I make myself) its based on rather than just relying on the received wisdom that is currently the answer?

    I find myself in the fucktard/denier camp simply because I want to understand and not be told what the answer is on someone else’s authority.

  91. […] […]

  92. Hey Mark,
    Nice to know I’m not on my own!

    I’m in the UK and I remember all the heated political discussions/arguments about Maggie Thatcher – who became quite a hate figure in certain circles towards the end of her PM term, and for many years after (indeed, some people still cross themselves whenever her name is mentioned!) and I as a supporter of the (UK) Conservatives I remember always being shouted down and unable to fathom if there was any way to get a proper discussion going … I hit on the magic question, which works a treat:

    List 5 (or 10 if yer feeling brave!) things that Thatcher did that you agree with?“.

    Please send me a dollar whenever you successfully use it (and it’s worth a buck believe me!). [joking! although … ;-)]
    The thinking behind it is that not everything Thatcher did can possibly be bad, and if your political sparing partner can list even a few things Thatcher did then you have achieved two things:-
    1: You know the person you’re talking to isn’t just spouting the red-top, tabloid headline of the day and actually knows something about the subject
    2: Your opponent will realise that not everything Thatcher did was bad and will calm down, allowing a reasonable discourse to continue.
    FTR: I was (and am) able to list a bunch of stuff done by the Thatcher Gov in particular, and Conservatives in general, that I don’t agree with – it’s a two way street and in the black and white world of polarised arguments the question just makes people see the subtle shades of gray … it’s a real eye opener!

    A N Y W A Y …
    sorry about the long aside there, but here’s where it’s going (can you see what it is yet? (sorry, Rolf Harris was on the telly this morning!)) :-

    So, all you Pro-GW Folks in the hizzous (say “YER”):
    List 10 climate related items that appear to show that the planet isn’t warming?
    … and all you Pro-ACC people out there:
    List 10 climate related items that appear to show that Climate Change isn’t anthropogenic?

    — and to be fair —

    All you anti-GW people in the garden, ‘cos it’s unseasonally warm (put yer hands in the air …):
    List 10 climate related items that appear to show that the planet IS warming?
    … and all you Anti-ACC folks (… like you just don’t care!):
    List 10 climate related items that appear to show that Climate Change IS anthropogenic?

    OK? … where possible I’d like some link to at least an article about each point, but whatever …

  93. List 10 climate related items that appear to show that the planet isn’t warming?

    Respectfully, it strikes me that no matter how many of us arm-chair climate quarterbacks sit around in our boxers sagely agreeing that the world is or isn’t getting warmer, the weather – she does not care.

    I mean, when did this become a question of consensus by the voters?

    The voters should only get called in on this question:

    Are we going to pass legislation to reduce CO2 and other pollutants being released into the air?

    The voters can claim whatever they like on their personal theory of the climate, but that’s not their expertise or their purview. It would be a good plan to pull back on belching out industrial pollution and half-digested hydrocarbons into the air on general principles, because it’s a damn good idea regardless of whether we are at a crisis point or not.

    Unless all you bozos in your shorts out there plan to learn to breathe carbon dioxide.

    Sheesh.

  94. @Hljóðlegur:

    Q. When did this become a question of consensus by the voters?
    A. When we decided to live in a democracy?

    Actually, this is sort of getting to the nub of the problem, from my perspective at least.

    I think it’s wrong to scare people into doing things just because you think they’re right!
    If you can’t explain it in terms the bozos in shorts can understand then you’re simply not trying hard enough!
    What you do is get some better explainers!
    What you DON’T do is pump out propaganda to scare people into believing!

    … and don’t forget that I agree – it IS a good plan to stop belching out all the shite into the atmosphere and burying god knows what in land fill!

    Does the end justify the means?

    … oh yes … and the final part of my magic question story is that when people decline to respond it is usually because they’re just reciting the party line and it turns out you’re arguing with the wrong person!

    If they cannot see the shades of grey they won’t be swayed whatever you say!

  95. Andy Wood said many things, including:

    … I’ve yet to be convinced, and every time I meet people who are 100% SURE that ACC is the case I can’t help feeling that they must be deluded because I simply don’t believe ANYONE can be 100% certain

    And then…

    I don’t want to have to believe anything … I want to KNOW!

    So, while you don’t believe 100% certainty is even possible, you want to be 100% certain before you — what, exactly? Before you consider the matter settled? Before you’re willing to agree that action is called for?

    You don’t think it’s a bit disingenuous to demand a standard which you yourself believe to be impossibly high?

    I’m didn’t say — I’m not saying — the (north) pole ice coverage isn’t shrinking or that we are losing glaciers? What I am saying is that general news coverage of GW/ACC that relentlessly uses the stock footage of glaciers/ice tumbling into the sea, when glaciers and other ice-flows ALWAYS have fallen into the sea (that is what they do!) is clouding the issue with sensationalist footage designed to big-up the story.

    That’s an objection for a thread on journalistic integrity. We’re talking about climateology here — unless you’re blaming climatologists for the decision of Jenny Whatserface at WTGF to use stock footage on the evening news…

    Mossy said

    Some things that don’t follow logically and others that are factually wrong, but which are pretty well addressed in the link at the end of this comment so I’m not going to waste my time re-rebutting here. Then s/he concluded

    I believe that a massive burning ball of gas at several million degrees probably has more to do with global temperatures than carbon dioxide, and I’ll fight tooth and nail to make sure that someone who simply believes differently isn’t going to take god only knows how much off me in tax to cater for a belief that I don’t have. But… that’s just my belief.

    Evidently. And a pretty ill-informed belief, too. Read on.

    mark said:

    As I dig a bit deeper I find out that a) The science is mostly statistics (and hard possibly)

    Statistics are an essential part of treating large data sets; they reduce the chance of error by testing distributional assumptions, looking for variables that may have been missed in a model (residual analysis), and so on. There’s absolutely nothing suspicious about their use, unless of course someone is deliberately using them to lie— but then, you can say the same thing about everything from journalism to eyewitness testimony in court cases. That’s a human failing, not an analytical one.

    b) there is an interpretative element

    Uh, mark, meet science. Science, mark. And once you get to know each other I’m sure you’ll find you have that interpretive element in common with, oh, I don’t know, pretty much every field of human endeavor.

    c) no one I have found yet is interested in explaining it — and so everyone relies on being told the answer.

    Try Realclimate. Try “How to talk to a Climate Change Skeptic”, which I’ve already linked to twice previously. Try the Scientific American link at the end of this comment.

    I find myself in the fucktard/denier camp simply because I want to understand and not be told what the answer is on someone else’s authority.

    That’s a really interesting standard you’re applying there, Mark. Do you also refuse to get on an airplane until you understand aerodynamics, hydraulics, and electronics? Will you doubt the legitimacy of quantum mechanics until you get a doctorate in the field yourself? Would you refuse thoracic surgery until you become a skilled heart surgeon in your own right?

    You’re gonna be looking at the world through a pretty tiny window if you refuse to accept the greater expertise of folks who’ve devoted their lives to the study of various disciplines you never got into.

    And here comes Andy Wood again:

    So, all you Pro-GW Folks in the hizzous (say “YER”):
    List 10 climate related items that appear to show that the planet isn’t warming?
    … and all you Pro-ACC people out there:
    List 10 climate related items that appear to show that Climate Change isn’t anthropogenic?

    — and to be fair —

    All you anti-GW people in the garden, ‘cos it’s unseasonally warm (put yer hands in the air …):
    List 10 climate related items that appear to show that the planet IS warming?
    … and all you Anti-ACC folks (… like you just don’t care!):
    List 10 climate related items that appear to show that Climate Change IS anthropogenic?

    This challenge is made of fallacy. I’m gonna rise to the bait anyway. But first, I’m going to point out something that’s blindingly obvious: if something is true, there can by definition be no evidence against it. There may be apparent inconsistencies in the data, but if Fact A is true than the universe has to be consistent with that reality.

    Of course, we don’t start with a cheat sheet. Science doesn’t know what’s true up front (which is why science is necessary in the first place), and the only way we can work our way towards a glimmer of understanding is to look at the data, and see where the numbers lie. Theories can be wrong; fields of science can go down blind alleys; and with only data (some of it conflicting) to go on, everyone should be conversant with all sides of an issue, right? See how reasonable Andy’s being?

    Now. Let’s transpose the exercise to any number of other scientific issues: Come up with ten pieces of evidence for/against evolution by natural selection. Cite ten pieces of evidence for/against the flat earth model. Give me ten pieces of evidence for/against the heliocentric solar system.

    Of course, creationists cite “evidence” against evolution all the time. No intermediate forms; dinosaur and human footprints coexisting at Paluxy; Evinrude outboard motors in bacterial cilia. It’s all bullshit; all of these “inconsistencies” can be readily explained. So what are we to do? Cite “irreducible complexity” as an argument against evolution, knowing that that argument is a straw man already demolished? Do we cite gaps in the research, things that haven’t been addressed one way or the other yet? “We don’t know how the third step of metabolic subsystem X developed; ergo, God must have done it.”

    Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Objections already answered are not “evidence against”. And yet, if you can’t come up with ten facts disputing evolution, according to Andy’s logic, you’re a closed-minded reactionary who is not to be taken seriously. It seems plausible, even-handed on its face; but look a little beneath the surface and it’s as pernicious as the mutterings of Grima Wormtongue.

    Now. Back to climate change. What can I cite as evidence against such a phenomenon being real? Well, what about the fact that satellite data, contrary to ground-based recordings, didn’t show any warming trend? Oh, wait: that turned out to be an artefact of orbital-decay. Okay, how about the fact that global warming stopped in 1998? No dice: 1998 was an anomalous heat spike, boosted by an El Nino, that exceeded even predicted increases. Subsequent years haven’t reached that freakish spike since, but that doesn’t mean that warming stopped, only that there was noise in the signal. (You paying attention, Mark? This is why we use statistics). What about the fact that we can’t predict everything, that there is uncertainty in the models? Uh uh; the lack of definitive evidence is not evidence against, it’s merely a paucity of available data (and besides, the uncertainty in the models generally skews towards optimism; the real data, when they hit, are almost always worse than predicted).

    Now compare this with the mountains of actual data showing the world developing a fever.

    OK? … where possible I’d like some link to at least an article about each point,

    I’m too tired to keep rehashing this stuff, but here’s a link you may not have seen yet: A Scientific American piece called “Seven Answers to Climate Contrarian Nonsense”. Each of the seven objections can be regarded as “evidence” against climate change. The answers constitute evidence for, and link to related supporting documents.

    Have fun.

  96. Hey Peter,

    See how reasonable Andy’s being?” – that’s why I had an italicized “appear” in each question, but actually, after all the moaning, you pretty much did what I wanted:-

    1) what about the fact that satellite data, contrary to ground-based recordings, didn’t show any warming trend?
    BUT: that turned out to be an artefact of orbital-decay.
    2) how about the fact that global warming stopped in 1998?
    BUT: 1998 was an anomalous heat spike, boosted by an El Nino, that exceeded even predicted increases. Subsequent years haven’t reached that freakish spike since, but that doesn’t mean that warming stopped, only that there was noise in the signal.
    … only two, but that’s sort of what I was looking for.

    So, Peter, you have an awareness of the counter arguments and can give rational/scientific reasons why you think they don’t hold water! You, sir, are well ahead of the curve and I would like to thank you for continuing to have the patience to post!

    … and your dismissal of my Magic Question(s) is perhaps a little hasty – I agree that there is “fact” out there, which is either true or false, but most people in such arguments have only opinion, and the question often, if not usually, highlights the people with the most blinkered opinion and saves me from wasting my time arguing with them. You showed more than just an ability to see both sides (though it strained your patience to do so!).
    It is interesting that no anti-ACC people took the challenge ;-)

    Regards

    Andy

  97. Like Andy – for all your “attitude” you provided a lot of what I was looking for too and thank you for that.

    as for

    “That’s a really interesting standard you’re applying there, Mark. Do you also refuse to get on an airplane until you understand aerodynamics, hydraulics, and electronics? Will you doubt the legitimacy of quantum mechanics until you get a doctorate in the field yourself? Would you refuse thoracic surgery until you become a skilled heart surgeon in your own right?
    You’re gonna be looking at the world through a pretty tiny window if you refuse to accept the greater expertise of folks who’ve devoted their lives to the study of various disciplines you never got into.”

    I am a person who is curious. I work my way through the bibliographies of your books for example (still barely started on “being no one” though). My first proper encounter with climate science was “believe what you are told” and naming calling. As I dig deeper I think I can see a lot of that has to do with all the politics getting mixed up in the science which is never pretty. But being told to believe makes me want to question.

    Of course I accept the expertise of other people – I am an expert in nothing so I have to – BUT I am much more prepared to accept that expertise if someone will explain the basics of their field to me rather than telling me I should just accept what they say – I have wide experience of the latter and to pick and extreme example that is exactly why I left the church as a teenager – I questioned and learned and it all turned out to be total bollocks.

  98. mark, not sure where your experience of being told “believe what you are told” was but in the climate sites I have at times browsed I have seen a lot of questioners get very straight answers from the scientists and other bloggers involved – at least until they lose patience…

    There are a heck of a lot of sites set up by scientists to explain the scientific understanding and to answer – in “layman’s” language – the various objections that have been raised.

  99. Billy T – in fairness as I dig deeper I do begin to see the same thing. I think the “losing patience” thing is what I came across immediately and as I looked to older material and posts I found more explanation.

    On the other hand if someone like me who is prepared to listen and learn and judge the science on its merits is feeling alienated by the people trying to persuade people it is actually happening I can’t help but feel its not going to be helping with getting the message across……

  100. […] Because As We All Know, The Green Party Runs the World. “Over the 20th century, ocean temperatures in the North Atlantic main development region warmed during peak hurricane season, with the most pronounced warming occurring over the last four decades.”  Earth Gauge […]

  101. you know, there are people out there getting paid full time influencing public opinion and sowing doubt about agw. Even by internet standards, responses to blog posts or online articles are seriously skewed towards the whole spectrum from “sceptics” through “deniers” to crackpots, just to make sure to press all possible buttons in the uninformed and swayable. Most of these response posts cover the first few pages (not here, this blog seems to be not on the list of standard targets-of-opinion-multiplications, probably to give the impression of a massive public resistance.
    The old strategy was the crackpot one: agw is not happening, because
    – my garden is colder than ever today
    – my cousin is a physicist and he says man can’t change no climate
    – climate has been changing forever
    – I could use 5 degrees more here
    With better education of the public and the advent of the stockholm meetings, the schwerpunkt changed to the following:
    – slander climate scientists: a cabal of them suppresses sceptical results, usually for financial or personal gains
    – slander of individual authors or publications (there are seemingly hundreds of people that canceled their Scientific American subscriptions because is has started “putting politics before science”. Although they don’t read it anymore, they still love to write letters to the editor)
    – a huge whole list of supposed scientific counter arguments to agw
    If you spend just a few hours researching arguments and counterarguments, one finds (or at least I did):
    – absolutely _everything_ deniers claim as proof against agw is either completely invented, taken out of context or misinterpreted
    – one would need a similar army of paid, full time activists to research and counter these false claims. It takes a lot of time to find out, that well established climate guru soandso either doesn’t exist or never said what was being put into his mouth
    – these false claims are invented and repeated over and over and over and over. Spend a few hours looking up answers to them at realclimate.org, and you will see the same lies repeated absolutely everywhere

    A few examples:
    – claim: climate scientists keep their data and methods secret. reality: no, they don’t, never did. Some of them might, however, refuse to answer the same harassing FOI requests from the same people over and over
    – claim: . reality: 10 Minutes of research show, that half of these scientists are dead, half never heard of this list or were tricked into signing, and half have a degree in iguana collection
    – and then there are the claims that nobody would expect to be lies, but that cannot be verified. examples from above:
    – “I actually work for the Met Office in the UK … not all the people who work there think it’s us that is causing it, or even that the globe is warming!”. Andy Wood, in my opinion a real professional. Andy, how many hours a day do you spend on your concerned letters? Do they pay you per word, post or flat? And do you have to invent that stuff yourself or do you get a catalogue “effective lies for Q4/2009″ to choose from?

    Try it. Take ten deniers counterarguments and look up the responses (realclimate.org is really good). If you then still don’t believe me take the next 10 or 50 claims, until you see a pattern, and you see the same people or personal repeating the same lies in every fucking discussion about agw. Their posts are easy to find, it’s the first 200.

    About the term deniers and the ethical implications: There are the gullible stooges that fall for conspiracy theories, and there are people getting paid to influence public opinion for money so other people can get a good perfomance review for adding a few billion dollars to the net earnings for every year they can prevent drastic reductions in burning fossile fuels. Yes, it’s that much money. And yes, one can follow the money and find out the details, but i’m too fucking tired to repeat this shit again and again and again (look up Singer and his experience working for tobacco companies). Yes Andy, please bite here.
    To be drastic (but in my opinion absolutely justified): these people are knowingly responsible for the future death of maybe millions (sic!) of people during the next few decades, and I sincerely hope that in 10 or 20 years people will remember this when they look at the dead and displaced, and put these people to justice.

  102. My degree is in ecology,but I have been observing the ecosystem changes around me for many years – if this is some grand hoax and conspiracy the plants and animals worldwide did not get the memo. Why has Lake Superior warmed by over 4 degrees F since 1978? (Austin and Colman 2007) Field scientists know that the times they are a changin’, and if you talk to the old timers who hunt and fish they will confirm this. Anecdotes are not data, but you can not ignore the vast ecological knowledge of the people who live intimately in an ecosystem.

  103. This Peter Watts is a scream, acting all tough and angry on the internet.

  104. […] to buy a red cape…(tags: atheism ex-christian de-conversion satan lolxians christianity religion)Because As We All Know, The Green Party Runs the World.Peter Watts on the email leaks from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia. […]

  105. Nice work!

  106. […] messy and full of drama.  It works despite us, not because of us.  This was expressed best by an essay I read from Dr. Peter Watts: Science doesn’t work despite scientists being asses. Science works, to at least some extent, […]

  107. […] an amazing author, a stand-up guy, a well-spoken defender of liberty, freedom, and science…and a bit of a cranky soul. Which means we’re a lot alike, except he’s a much, […]

  108. […] is alchemy: it turns shit into gold. No Moods, Ads or Cutesy Fucking Icons (Re-reloaded) » Because As We All Know, The Green Party Runs …   « So I say this with all due respect to all the good, smart, tough hard-working […]

  109. […] […]

  110. @torve: yeah, you definitely see the same exact phrases being used and claims being recycled. Most comment boards of major online publications have fallen to the internet orc armies that spread misinformation and misanthropy unchecked. And they are persistent buggers made easier with whole countries and industries co-opting internet trolling as part of their public relations strategy.

    The general drift is towards excusing inaction by any means necessary (although there are also some who try to wrap it all up into another NWO conspiracy) — even when the changes to our societal consumption patterns, industrial processes, and gains in energy efficiency, as well as support for adaptation strategies are a win-win. The real issues as revealed in Copenhagen is the gaming of the system that comes from market-based solutions as well as the struggle between the Industrialized North and the Global South.

  111. […] Because as we all know, the green party runs the world, by no moods, ads, or cutesy fucking icons. […]

  112. […] first great mammoth, by archy. In which I ramp up, at Mind the Gap. Sleep paralysis, from Wired. Because as we all know, the green party runs the world, by no moods, ads, or cutesy fucking icons. Deep sea corals and methane seeps, by Deep Sea News. […]

  113. […] Because As We All Know, The Green Party Runs the World. […]

  114. Yeah, Peter’s way cool, man. I just pray he never criticises me! But in this town the petrochemical industry rules, and media are kind of gutless to rock any boats.

    I voted Green Party in the last federal election because the Liberals were totally corrupt at the time, and may still be. The Conservatives are eminently predictable and downright dangerous to their neighbours, and the NDP can’t win due to decades of negative propaganda by mainstream media.

    “I simply didn’t know what else to do,” is all I can say.

    –Louis

  115. It bothers me greatly when people talk about any science as proven or words/ implications to that effect – Al Gore does that and I find him very unconvincing. Once you get a belief it’s hard to shake – as cognitive dissonance sets in. Science is only strong/ credible when theories can be disproven. Given time nearly all theories are disproven and that is when we move on not during the sanctimonious stage where the acolytes swing the candles and sing to the new faith. I am therefore a climate change sceptic (rather than a climate change Gullible). Thinkers like Nassim Talib and his book “The Black Swan” describe how difficult it is to disprove something and the comment that the one thing humans are worst at is predicting the future have my vote when it comes to these kind of arguements. I suspect that when the apocalypse happens it will be a curved ball.

    Sorry to hear about the border crossing incident – sounds like Peter met the lowest 5% of the population. Thanks for Blindsight it is a very good read I especially like the way you make the (unlikely…) almost credible- possibly more so than AGW!

  116. An xref, to a similar thought a while back in comments here by science blogger Robert Grumbine:

    http://chriscolose.wordpress.com/2009/07/02/cycles-projections-and-other-lingo/#comment-963

    — excerpt follows —-

    The scientific norm is the professional literature, not blog commentary. If you look in to Lindzen and the response in the scientific literature, you’ll find that he’s been met properly (by the standards of science, that is). Namely, he suggested his ‘adaptive iris’ idea. This was based on there being a certain relationship (it had to have a particular sign, and large magnitude) between surface temperatures in the tropics and cloudiness (and, for that matter, particular types of cloud). One paper in the scientific literature doesn’t buy you much. It is the start of the conversation to publish in the literature, not blessing as holy writ. He published, and then got the best possible response — other people used other (better) data sets and observing methods to see if they could get the same answer as he had gotten in his first cut. Unfortunately for his hypothesis, the better data sets erased his effect. Indeed, not only was the magnitude much smaller than he thought, the sign was the opposite of what he thought.

    As far as scientific norms go, he got extremely good treatment. a) he did publish his idea (no ‘conspiracy to suppress’) and b) other people took a serious look at it. It is significant work to take a look at somebody else’s new idea. As a scientist, if you can get others to look at your idea, you have done extremely well. As happens in science, perfectly normally, the initial proposition got rejected by more detailed analysis. Since what was at hand was deriving a relationship between observational quantities, and Lindzen is a theoretician, it’s no great surprise or shame that he didn’t get all the niceties on his data sets right. As usual, devils lay in the details, and the responses were from groups familiar with all the devils laying in those details.

    Where things went problematic was that contrary to proper scientific practice, Lindzen didn’t drop his disproven idea. A bit of ‘is so’ publishing (sorry, it was painful to read his response article and this is all I can say of it) in response to the objections was it. And then much complaining outside the scientific literature about conspiracy, scam, censorship, … To be honest, even his original Iris publication was an example of lenient reviewing. There were problems in his data management in the original paper that even I saw (correctly) would be a problem for his idea — and I’m not a tropical person (polar regions mostly), nor, then, sea surface temperature, nor then or now satellite sensing of clouds. The later publications — in the scientific literature — about his errors confirmed my suspicions, and, unsurprisingly, added a number of problems to what I suspected. But that’s not what you see out on the blog universe.

    You can make some headway over at scholar.google.com. A fair amount of the non-scientific world shows up there, but a fair amount of the scientific world is present.

  117. I’m still waiting for the Fox News headline:

    “Former scientist admits in his blog: ‘The Green Party runs the world’.”

  118. This is a great post. I think it should be distributed to elementary school science classes. Kids would stop thinking of science as boring.

  119. http://www.rifters.com/crawl/?p=1002
    it’s in print