Stop me if you've heard this one before.
So there are two managers who are ballonists for a hobby, and they get blown off track and a bit lost. So one of them yells at someone he sees down on the ground:
"Heyyy! Yes youuu! Wherre arre weeee?"
to which the reply comes back
"You're in a balloooooon!"
The ballonist shrugs and says ruefully to his companion "That must be an engineer. He responded exactly to my question, everything he said was precisely correct, and yet I am no better off than I was before."
Have a look at Gavin Schmidt's response to this provocative posting by Steven Mosher on RealClimate. Notice how it responds exactly to the question and is correct in every detail. Notice how it nevertheless in no way offers any assistance to the questioner.
The answer makes it clear that the denialists have no significant participation in the discussion. Unfortunately, that is one of the few points on which they agree with the consensus. They are promulgating a different model of why this is so.
There is nothing in Gavin's answer to allay the suspicions others may have that climatology is an arrogant and closed-minded community. In failing to address exactly those suspicions, it seems likely that he confirmed them for many readers.
It is much harder to explain how and why certain topics are relegated to the fringe than to assert that they have been. Confidence building is hard, but in a situation like this, confidence erosion is easy. It is better to shut up than to dash off an impatient answer, however correct.
Mosher's position, whether benignly intended or not, is well formulated and worth of a response that holds together both factually and polemically. As a polemical response Gavin's reply is very counterproductive.
I didn't start this blog because I wanted to jump on Nisbett and Mooney's bandwagon. (As far as I see it I scooped them, for whatever that's worth.) I started this blog because I see realclimate backfiring. This is a case in point.
Update: The inimitable Dr Bunny has more evidence of RC folk being somewhat at the end of their rope. I am sure I do not always follow the gist of Eli's bemused commentary, but I am equally sure there is a lot in the exchange he points to that will not do much to attract fence-sitters, to say the least.
The only thing we can be sure of about the future is that it will be absolutely fantastic. So if what I say now seems to you to be very reasonable, then I have failed completely. Only if what I tell you appears absolutely unbelievable, have we any chance of visualizing the future as it really will happen.
- Arthur C. Clarke (h/t Brin)