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)

Friday, August 8, 2008

Science, Impartial Honesty, Advocacy, Stridency, Idiocy, Dissembling, Lying Through Your Teeth

Once in a while, I suppose, even lies are necessary. If a person in your surroundings is insane and behaving dangerously it may occasionally make sense to play into their delusion. In my opinion, such cases are extremely rare, although it appears to me that lying to young children about Santa Claus is somehow considered charming. Sorry, Virgina...

In the public sphere, is it ever justifiable to lie? I would say no, never, (not that there aren't slippery slopes about).

Science, Impartial Honesty, Advocacy, Stridency,
Idiocy, Dissembling, Lying Through Your Teeth

I note in passing that if we accept the above spectrum, it is "idiocy", which is less malign in intent, that has no adaptive value in any situation. But detecting idiots is not so hard. Our problem is to detect who is lying, and especially who is lying well.

In the extensive discussions about Lomborg, the question is unavoidable. Indeed, it is hard to think of another person so difficult to place on the spectrum! Is he telling the truth as he understands it, or is he dissembling so vigorously that he is not above ignoring evidence, or is he even consciously willing to skew the evidence when it suits him?

This comes up because the latest skeptic to join our crew disagrees with me (surprise!) about the value of the new or at least new -to-me blog Things Break, which hosted a very interesting rebuttal to Lomborg, to which John Mashey chimed in with some very interesting thoughts as usual.

"Bernie" believes this article is off-puttingly "strident". (See comments here). So in Bernie's eyes, since Lomborg is (to him) among the most credible of the inactivists, this detracts from Things' credibility and puts them toward the bleaker end of the truth-lies spectrum.

For myself I am definitely a believer in immediate action to minimize the risk of "CAGW" and unsurprisingly I find Lomborg intrinsically implausible. On reflection, as I have tried to explain on this blog on occasion, this is for the same reason that I find Stern implausible, that is, its basis on a theoretical platform (conventional growth-oriented economics) whose axiomatic beliefs are not plausible. Therefore I have little interest in the details of his peculiar arguments.

It's not that I don't believe in prioritization. It's that I don't believe anything that begins by deprioritizing the stability of the biosphere is based on useful principles.

But does Lomborg believe his argument himself? Is he being impartial and honest? I think it's hard to say that he's being entirely scientific, in Feynman's sense, that is, I doubt he is treating his own opinions with the greatest doubt. But he may yet aspire to impartial honesty. Certainly he is trying very hard to present such an impression.

In other words, it is of legitimate interest to examine not only whether we think Lomborg's ideas are worthy of consideration, but ultimately when they come up wanting, to consider whether Lomborg himself believes them.

And that is where the question of stridency comes up in "Leebert"'s comments to Things' Lomborg article:
"Really, this is nothing but shrill polemics that can only serve to galvanize the faithful on either side of the debate."
Bernie sees things similarly.

It's a puzzle, knowing how much weight to give scientific balance in such an obviously ill-balanced debate. Science can't function without neutrality as well as self-doubt and openness to criticism. But most nonscientists nowadays are used to such crass self-promotion that any expression of even the slightest sliver of doubt is greeted with derision. The moral obligation to steer the planet in a sane direction now that we are driving certainly can compete with the scientific priority.

In the end, I think Eli is right. Different people will react in different ways, and it's inevitable that a gamut of responses will be displayed. You have to break through the fog however you can. One man's truth is another man's stridency.

Of course, we should not go beyond stridency into idiocy or lies. But I think a great deal of our problem comes from the difficulty in distinguishing between them. If you attack an opinion that is merely misguided as if it were malicious, you come off as arrogant, while if you try to cope with an opinion that is malicious as if it were misguided, you can fall prey to all sorts of polemical gamesmanship. These are rocky waters, but it would certainly help to know who is genuinely if misguidedly trying to be helpful and who is just pissing in the pool.

So as a puzzle, have a look at this, the denialist drivel of the month and decide for yourself: idiocy or lies? Let's play Idiocy Or Lies?

But what does it mean to lie as opposed to spin?

Knowingly using non-facts in support of your position is not mere stridency. Selecting facts that buttress your position and ignoring other facts is a very delicate ethical matter (unless you are an attorney, in which case it is apparently a matter of principle). You can't say everything you know unless you don't know very much. You have to choose what you talk about and what you avoid. That's spin, and for an ethical person spin is a marginal case, sometimes necessary but fraught with dilemmas.

On the other hand, there is brazen misrepresentation of the facts. What I'm trying to do here is call some attention to the difference between selecting facts (morally gray area) and deliberately misinterpreting them (lying). Here's a fine example.

I'm not an unalloyed Obama fan, but he pretty much nails it in this video. "They know it's not true." Look at what the tire guage ploy tried to accomplish. It tried to create a false public perception based on misrepresentation of the nature of a true incident. This went so far as to make it pretty clear that whoever promulgating it must have know it to be false.

People do these things. People are paid to do these things. They lie. They brazenly lie. They try to build their lies on actual facts but they deliberately are trying to present untruths. This is what lying looks like. They say things even though they know those things aren't true.

Fortunately they fell flat on their faces on this particular one, but don't forget that they will try again and again and again.

Which brings us back to how to react to lies. If it is stridency to call a lie a "they know it's not true", so be it. Perhaps that will put off some people already inclined to be put off. And while the spectrum of honesty and dishonesty has nothing to do with left or right, the really talented and well-paid liars are pretty much on one side of the climate story at present.

If you think someone is lying (or stupid, or some combination) in a way that has consequences for the safety of the world, it's hard to see what the problem is with stridency or what the alternative to that might be. Those who have bet so much on the wrong horse that they can't be reached will be angered, but maybe others will notice that there actually is a lot of misinformation about. You just have to say "if this isn't lying it's stupidity". What else could you say? I respectfully disagree? No. At some point the opposition leaves the bounds of the respectable. In such cases it's necessary to say so.

Perhaps we can make a sport of it. Again, try this site for the first round of "Idiocy or Lies?". Do you spot the obvious fallacy? If these are not lies, if the author does not understand that the reasoning is invalid, how did the author spend so much time on the article without noticing?

Is it reasonable to say that it is not just wrong, but either stupidly or maliciously wrong or both? It may be pretty strident, but this kind of wrongness calls for some pretty strong criticism.

I'm still not sure about Lomborg. I don't underestimate the human capacity for self-deception. However, I am not offended by the tone taken by Things Break in taking him down. Your mileage may vary.

Update: Edited somewhat for clarity. See also this prior posting.

Update: A related entry appears on Deltoid. It, with its associated comments, contains some of the best and most useful conversation I have ever seen on a blog. I'm honored to have gotten a link-back from it.

87 comments:

bernie said...

Michael:
An entertaining item.

Answer: Independence of the statements is very much in doubt and, therefore, as Johnson acknowleedges the formula does not work.

The Johnson article is simply a weak argument to support the authors doubts. Assuming he understood that his key assumption is false, I would have to agree that it is silly and dissembling.

I on the other hand would argue that the four statements Johnson choses to analyze are, as written, essentially meaningless because they are not specific enough.

As to your response to my comments on Things - my statement was primarily a matter of personal taste and secondarily a comment on what will actually persuade people. Now I am sure that you and I can come up with examples that show that for 6 of your 7 categories "work" some of the ime on some subjects for some people. The question is which is going to work for a particular audience, namely those who are skeptical. My point then and now is that only Science, Impartial Honesty, Advocacy have much of a chance of persuading someone say like me. Moreover Stridency, Idiocy, Dissembling and Lying through your teeth will quickly eliminate the source of such from consideration as a source of Science, Impartial Honesty and Advocacy - that's the point about jury members discoutning all statements of a witness if the witness lies or looks to have lied.

bi -- International Journal of Inactivism said...

bernie:

You know, I see plenty of stridency, and not much humility, in your very comment above.

* * *

Tobis:

Yep, people are paid to lie, and there's nothing wrong with opposing these lies vehemently.

But the weird thing is, perhaps they aren't telling these lies to actually convince people after all?

A while back I mentioned Harris's talk at the Heartland conference -- I've now written a bit more about it -- and while he talks about trying to "sway public opinion", it doesn't seem to be a major ingredients of his proposed strategy. Instead, he dwells more on what he calls
(1) "information sharing", and
(2) "coordinated local activism".

Recall that Dano and I theorized that the main goal of the High Respectable Inactionosphere is to give the decision-makers a prepackaged perception of public opinion (the map), regardless of what the actual state of public opinion (the territory) actually is.

So perhaps the point of telling these lies, is simply to ensure a plentiful supply of inactivist talking points, and then try to give the impression that people are buying en masse into these talking points (by means of, well, "coordinated local activism"). A pretty slippery technique to be sure, but these are seasoned think-tanks we're talking about here.

ac said...

Last time I heard Lomborg speak on TV (we get him every now again on the late news in Australia), he had me convinced that he believed his own bullshit.

After reading the Things Break article I'm pretty sure he is deliberately 'economical with the truth'. It's the 'world has cooled since 1998' line that gives it away.

ac said...

Sorry for the double comment, but how awesome was DK Johnston's piece? It's a parody, right?

I was surprised when I first read it, because Spiked seemed to have dropped their support for denialist style arguments in favour of attacking the philosophical character of the 'environment movement'. Usually they manage to get me thinking, but this article made me think they'd fallen for a Sokal style hoax.

bernie said...

Michael:
Here (http://www.greenworldtrust.org.uk/AboutUs/gwt.htm)is a curious and interesting site put together by an environmental activist. I hasten to add that I am passing no judgement on Lucy's grasp of all the scientific details but she for sure represents the type of skeptic that confounds the usual stereotypes though probably represents the vast majority of us. After you have looked at the general site you might look here for the punchline ( http://www.greenworldtrust.org.uk/TransPlanet/Curious.htm ).
Again I have sifted through to find the intellectual holes in Lucy's position - I just urge you to recognize that those who are skeptical are not misguided, mean-spirited, environmental neanderthals or poorly informed Chicago cabbies.

I will pass on further comments on this thread save if there are direct responses.

Michael Tobis said...

Bernie, actually this thread is for you. I think you should go to town.

Michael Tobis said...

Is it "Lucy" who has this position? It doesn't look like amateur work to me; it looks like a fairly major denialist effort. So this article is really a case in point. Lucy: culprit or victim?

We could try to deconstruct the whole thing, I suppose. As Feynman said, this sort of thing creates a lot of otherwise unnecessary work. In the end, though, it does become necessary.

Once you really look at it there is a lot less there than meets the eye. So why do people write such things?

bernie said...

Michael:
If Lucy is misrepresenting herself then clearly "lying through her teeth" would be the correct designation. I sincerely doubt it. Perhaps we can simply ask?

But for the sake of argument, if she is genuine in her representations then how is bi's approach likely to persuade her?

bi:
I don't doubt that I can be strident and lack humility - just ask my wife - but what was it that I said in my first post that lead you to that conclusion? We plainly disagree on a number of issues but does that make me strident and prideful?

Michael Tobis said...

Bernie: Maybe, but see astroturfing

KenH said...

The link to Obama's talk at Daily Kos says it is no longer available. Is there another link?

pmiddents said...

Bernie has found a Dane to carry the water for him in the discussion with John Mashey re Lomborg over at TWTB.

Bernie and the Dane have both managed to work in the term "ad hominem" in their remarks.

Bernie is also promoting the Lucy site as a wonderful example of environmentalists skeptical of AGW. He seems to rank it right up there with CA. That at least is consistent. Lucy manages to painstakingly catalog all the d & d talking points that the CA crowd hash over endlessly.

Astroturf might account for Lucy. How would you characterize Bernie?

bernie said...

I am skeptic, but you are close to a cynic on this topic at least. We should simply ask her.

Michael Tobis said...

Ken, it still seems live on Kos to me but you can get it direct from YouTube here.

bernie said...

Here is the email I sent Lucy:
Lucy Skywalker
I referenced your commentary on the growth of your skepticism concerning CAGW to Michael Tobis at https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=8524070301101240472&postID=1959298419209736422&page=1 . He thinks that you and some or all of your site might not be all you say you are and are engaged in what is apparently called in the PR community "Astroturfing". I believe he reached this conclusion because your summary of the issues looked too professional. I, on the other hand, think that you are absolutely genuine and your compiled argument is simply a thorough job probably put together over a number of weeks. I would greatly appreciate it if you could provide some way of settling this difference in viewpoints. How you might do this I am not sure.
Respectfully
Bernie

After I sent it, I realized that it is a bit like a "When did you stop beating your wife?" type of question. Still we will see how Lucy chooses to respond.

Michael Tobis said...

Bernie, ask whom, the nice old lady pictured on the "about us" page? Who is that?

I poked around a bit and am as cynical as ever about this effort.

I doubt you will find a Lucy Skywalker (the name used on the forum page and a common web handle from all appearances) in Burnham-on-Sea. The site is registered to a Marianne Henken, who shows no google footprint.

The number of pages linking the website itself is also very small. The internet has no mention of the group appearing anywhere except listed without elaboration in a local directory of organizations.

It's odd that a local activist with the web savvy to set up and seed a discussion group has essentially no history for herself or her organization, and that she would put up a picture but hide her name.

So call me a cynic, but "Lucy" (who has a recent comment on CA but not much else) has got a whole lot of 'splainin' to do. I would love to hear the history of her conversion from obscure local environment activist to obscure local environment activist flawlessly spouting polished denialist (ahem) propaganda. It's peculiar.

Please get in touch with her, by all means, if possible by telephone, and convey the story of her conversion in more detail. It should be an interesting story indeed.

pmiddents said...

I've tried posting a couple of things today. They don't seem to be making it. Is it something I said or did?

bernie said...

Michael:
I sent Lucy an email. We shall see.
You really are a cynic...why wouldn't she be the pleasant looking lady in the picture?

Michael Tobis said...

Paul, I'm not a robot. Sometimes I actually am not at my computer. I rarely flush anything unless it's completely incoherent or totally awful or mean.

Michael Tobis said...

Paul, I only saw one submission of yours in the queue prior to your complaint.

bernie said...

Paul:
You are making my point.
I am also having trouble understanding the significance of my use of ad hominem. I would have thought that it was one way of discerning between advocacy and stridency?
Michael:
There is only one lady and 5 gentlemen who seem to be part of Lucy's group. Besides the skepticism she evinced, the rest of the site seems to be very much of an environmental activist site. Did you see something different? I do think it is very odd that such a jammed packed site has almost no discussants on its forums. Please note that I am not promoting her site. I am merely opportunistically using it as an example.

Michael Tobis said...

Bernie, well you did wax most enthusiastic about the article on Things Break, but no matter. I am glad you are using it as an example, as it is also an example of my point here.

That is: is the referenced article, which is essentially a cookie cutter copy of the various denialist arguments, a real independent effort? Or is it simply a paid performance by a PR person with a somewhat damaged moral compass?

And does it matter? Should we deal with it the same way in either case?

In case you somehow missed it, please note that "Lucy Skywalker" is a Star Wars reference and almost certainly not a real name.

Michael Tobis said...

I am not ready to characterize Bernie. I try to give people the benefit of the doubt as long as I can stand it.

I think changing the opinion of someone who is already identified with the opposition is very difficult, but I also find it useful to give it an honest try when the chance arises.

Who knows, perhaps they will come around eventually.

bernie said...

Michael:
I did see Star Wars when it first came out in 1977 at the Odeon Cinema in Leicester Square - a truly huge screen - it is funny to think that it came out over 30 years ago.
I agree with you it does seem odd for an activist site to not use real names - but again I am willing to wait and see before come to a conclusion.

Paul
I read the material at the link. Frankly, apart from Wilson's piece it was thin gruel. I cannot for the life of me understand why Devra Davis started her article with "You know what they say about people who become statisticians? They lacked the personality to become accountants." Devra is an epidemiologist!!
Devra then goes on to say that we still need to understand what toxins and other health risks we are creating in our environment. I don't know who Devra is arguing with. My read of Lomborg on this issue is that we have made great strides in identifying and mitigating major environmental health threats. That there are others that need to be handled - well yes no one is likely to disagree. Lomborg's point is to reduce the panic level - not everything man made is a toxin. Interestingly Devra's own recent book is basically criticized for exactly this type of thinking. Fiona McGregor in her review on Amazon noted: The New York Review of Books (March 6, 2008) has a long review of Davis's book by Richard Horton, M. D. He
is an editor at Lancet, the British medical journal and a professor at University College -London. He discusses many of Davis's allegations and beliefs. He concludes with the following statements:

"But taken together, Davis's argument's are little more than a collection of vague exhortations to do some thing based upon a distorted reading of the cancer literature. Her loose speculations weaken her entirely reasonable claim that the war on cancer has been little more than an erratic skirmish. .....
.. she builds her arguments into towering yet brittle threats, out of all proportion to the real and more robust dangers that face us every day."

I think Mikkel Ostgard's points still stand.

pmiddents said...

Michael,

I am very sorry for hassling you. It's just that when we post what we think is a gem and it disappears into the ether, our fragile egos shatter. Let me try my original attempt:

Michael,

My vote would be malicious as indicated by his characterization of James Hanson as “firmly on the lunatic fringe of environmental activism.”

From the University of Victoria web site for David Johnston Adjunct Professor of Philosophy

Biography

History: B.A. Honours (SFU), M.A. (SFU), Ph.D. (McGill)

Interests: Philosophy of Language, Formal Logic, Ancient Philosophy, History and Philosophy of Science, Epistemology, Metaphysics and Philosophy of Mind.

Publications: The natural history of fact, Australasian Journal of Philosophy 82(2), (June2004), pp. 275-291; The paradox of indicative conditionals, Philosophical Studies 83(1) (July 2006), pp 83-112; Aristotle's apodeictic syllogism, Dialogue, volume XXIX, number 1 (1990), pp. 111-121; Multiple-valued theory dependence, with R.E. Jennings, Proceedings of the 1984 International Symposium of Multiple-valued Logic, pp. 86-90; Paradox -tolerant logic, with R.E. Jennings, Logique et Analyse, September 1983, pp. 291-307.

It’s hard to call someone with this education and cv stupid. How can someone with a background in formal logic, with publications on the paradox of indicative conditionals or multiple theory dependence write something like the piece under discussion? Sokal like hoax is not out of the question.

I can sympathize with the craziness induced by wandering too long in the academic limbo of adjuncthood. I wandered for ten years. One might also note that the author hales from the land of BC Bud. Perhaps his musings were influenced by a little recreational vegetation inhalation.

He first acknowledges that his selection of outcomes are not independent, assigns probabilities, multiplies them anyway, justifying all this by saying the IPCC took this into account somehow along the way.

I was also quite taken by his assertion that “uncertainties multiply” and that the possibility of two independent virtually certain results both occurring becomes somehow less than virtually certain. For independent lines of evidence for AGW that are ranked as likely then Dr. Johnston would have us multiply the individual probabilities together. Since a probability is between zero and 1 then the multiplied probability will decrease for each additional line of evidence! With enough evidence then the net probability inevitably approaches zero so AGW can’t be happening. He and Pat Frank should be locked in a room together. Frank thinks uncertainties propagate linearly in a climate model.

If this exercise has any value, it was in driving me to look again at the IPCC WG1 AR4 report and be reminded once again what a scientific monument it is. Fig. 2.20 of Chap 2, p. 220 shows how the uncertainties in Radiative Forcing (RF) are properly treated to arrive at a joint probability distribution function. It would appear that the probability that total anthropogenic radiative forcing is negative approaches zero!

Chapter 2 concludes by saying that “. . . it remains extremely likely that the combined anthropogenic RF is both positive and substantial (best estimate: +1.6 W m–2).” I think “extremely likely” in IPCC speak translates to something like 99% certain.

Paul

bernie said...

Michael:
Thank you for not categorizing me. I can assure you and Paul that my opinions are strictly my own.
As for persuading me - I am not sure what you need to persuade me of.
I agree that the planet can readily sustain a limited number of people given present technologies and consumption patterns. I have no guess as to the limit but a limit suggest we should definitley do what we can to reduce the rate of population growth.
I think that burning fossil fuels is a clumsy and very inefficient way of generating energy. Nuclear should provide the base power and renewables can provide the rest so long as storage technology catches up.
I believe that we should create a carbon tax a la McKitrick that is linked to actual temperature increases using the most robust measure(s) available. It should be applied universally with no exceptions. It can be done country by country by simply translating any tax not levied in a country as a tariff. No need to cede to the UN any sovereignty.

I would think that most skeptics would agree. The only controversy is around nuclear power and I see that frankly as unavoidable as a substitute for coal and gas generated electricity.

George said...

"Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice"

pmiddents said...

Bernie,

Couple carbon tax to temperature? Why? Sounds like closing the gate after the horse escapes. Or do you need continuing proof that the 99% certain positive anthropogenic forcing hasn't just magically disappeared?

Paul

Michael Tobis said...

It's an interesting idea but it it fails because it's polluted by conventional economics utter confusion about non-equilibrium dynamics.

The horse and the barn door is one way to put it.

Another way to put it: basing a tax on the average temperature in some decade beginning not less than thirty years in the future is what we need. Since that is impractical, the idea is pretty much guaranteed to fail to do much good.

However, it does make sense to have a tax that accounts for new information as it becomes available.

We could tie the tax to the accumulated CO2. (Also offering a tax rebate to anyone sequestering carbon).

One could scale it by the best current estimate of the equilibrium sensitivity, I suppose, though if you think climatology is too political now, just wait until that happens...

bernie said...

That will not work because the point at issue is not carbon per se but the effect of carbon on temperature.
I don't understand the dismissal of a program that is targeted to avert the very thing you are concerned about.

John Mashey said...

===

A temperature tax is just like a carbon tax - one can:

a) Be for a meaningful one.
b) Be against a meaningful one.
c) Be "for the tax", but with parameters set so that it yields no effect, i.e., a misdirection argument intended to avoid action.

Hence, I've seen people argue for carbon taxes that might yield $.10/gallon, which I think won't change behavior very quickly, and might even get to an awesome $1/gallon after 50-100 years. Wow. that's scary.

===
As background for McKitrick, one may read the 2002 book by him and Christopher Essex, "Taken by Storm".
Read especially Chapter 10.

pmiddents said...

Bernie,

Tax now. Carbon is the problem. The best measure is the Mauna Loa data. Temperature is a metric (noisy at that) by which we measure one aspect of the problem. It’s pretty easy to delay while we go through a flat spell. But that’s probably the point isn’t it?

I'm sure your opinions are your own--just like your eyes and ears. Everyone has them. It's what you base your opinions on that count.

Clumsy and inefficient hardly begins to describe the problems with fossil fuel. I’d recommend you to Joe Romm’s web site, Climate Progress but he’s probably too strident for your sensitivities. I might engage you on nuclear power later. I spent 30 years operating and maintaining submarine nuclear power plants and have some thoughts.

You reject TWTB because it's too strident but seem enthusiastic about Lucy's catalog of dreck and the CA echo chamber.

The Danish comfort food served up by Lomborg informs you.

You found the critique by scientists of Lomborg thin gruel. You haven’t engaged Massey’s comments yet but embraced Mikkel’s. Have you spent any time examining the published work of the scientists critiquing Lomborg?

I won’t characterize you yet but I’m waiting to see some evidence that you read anything that might resemble hard science.

Paul

bernie said...

Paul:
Again, I relayed Lucy's site primarily to illustrate the ongoing discussion as to how one could increase the likelihood of constructively engaging open-minded skeptics - which is how I would describe myself. As I have indicated here, if Lucy's site is "astroturf" then she will no longer be an example of the type of person that CAGW proponents need to persuade - and she would deserve to be dismissed and criticized for "lying through her teeth". At the moment though there is no indication that her site is "astroturf" - and on the face of it the site is very pro-environment and very activist oriented.
On the Lomborg issue, if you disagree with my assessment of the articles on the Grist site then please identify the one(s) besides Wilson's that you see as not simply statements of disagreement with a couple of gotchas. I thought the Wilson article was excellent because it contributed to the debate insofar as it really did IMHO require a response from Lomborg.
As to my reading of scientific articles I do read them - though I certainly would not pretend to understand them all. Where I do, basically those involving statistics, I try to contribute substantively. See for example: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=443. Again please note that I am not pretending to be an expert, simply trying to be a thoughtful reader of the literature that I see as pertinent and accessible.
Anyone who has worked in our nuclear navy has my utmost respect. I did a lot of work with the US Navy in the 80s and I have enormous admiration for the officers and men, who now include my son.

Michael Tobis said...

Paul, if conversation is limited to those who can get a good grasp of the primary literature (for whatever definition of "good" and "primary" might be reasonably proposed) then the disconnect between science and democracy becomes essentially complete.

The vast majority of people will never read the primary literature. So I am not happy with the line of defense that dismisses the opinion of those who don't or can't read the primary literature. Indeed, this is the essence of the problem.

In fact, I have never met anyone who could understand and contextualize all the primary literature in climatology.

"Nobody knows everything" is one thing, though, and "everybody knows nothing" is another. If the only way to know something is to have a grasp of all relevant primary literature, we are in trouble. Of course, the main purpose of the IPCC is to provide enough background for thinking globally without depending on the primary literature.

So the question now becomes 1) how to ensure that the IPCC process is trustworthy and 2) how to ensure that the IPCC is trusted to the extent that it deserves. This is, surely, an easier problem. In the end, the "skeptics" are really about question 1.

It's very odd because the skeptics and the delayers seem to be one and the same. It seems to me that if the IPCC process is flawed or if the underlying science is defective, delay on a carbon policy is even more inadvisable because the more disastrous scenarion become more admissible.

thingsbreak said...

bernie,

I'm curious as to your thoughts on John Mashey's point that Lomborg extensively gets things wrong in one direction and one direction only.

Is it really plausible that Lomborg doesn't know that the "studies" he references in regards to a potential pause in warming over the next decade explicitly state that the warming will rebound quickly? Is it plausible that someone who has spent years and years arguing against taking action on climate change doesn't know that any attempts to mitigate and/or adapt to climate change are meant to do so for the future, rather than the next few years?

It simply beggars belief that Lomborg can get such basic facts wrong, and consistently get them wrong in a way that always reaches the same flawed (and in many cases contrary to his own "evidence") conclusion.

pmiddents said...

Michael,

I should have been more specific than just saying “hard science”. I am not trying to limit the debate to those who read and understand only the peer reviewed literature. For many subjects and papers that would eliminate me from the conversation. See for example the latest post on Hirst coefficients at Real Climate.

I do not think it unreasonable to expect people debating climate science and human influences to have read a sampling of Houghton, Archer or any of the books recommended recently on Real Climate. Spencer Wirt on the history of climate science is understandable and essential.
The technical summaries for the IPCC reports should be understood by anyone able to read a graph.

Establishing credibility for the IPCC is indeed a trick. Political leaders in this country have done their utmost to undermine anything associated with the UN.

The general public will not read to this level. They will rely on the media, political leaders and their friends for their opinions. Reading to level I have specified should be expected of those who would debate in the blogosphere, write for the media or lead politically.

Open minded skeptics, as Bernie portrays himself, should be able to pick out what they think are the weak points in the basic literature. Then try following the citations to some of the seminal papers. Read at least the abstracts of papers addressing areas where they are skeptical. Evaluate papers by their citation history. Follow some citations forward to see how a particular area has developed. After they have done some spade work, then ask questions on reliable blogs.

Bernie yearns to debate Lomborg because he draws support for his skepticism from Lomborg and he wants some validation for his opinion. Lomborg’s errors are not just “gotchas”. They are indicators that the man is not very careful in his research. His highly selective, though massive citation list should also raise a flag. There is plenty of meat in the gruel of the individual critics cited if you care to look for it.

Bernie, TWTB, Kaare Fog, John Mashey and Eli Rabitt have very thoroughly addressed Lomborg’s many problems. You and I add little by continuing the debate here. You should take it up with them.

Bernie, I tried your link to Real Climate for an example of your analytic skills. Nothing turned up at that link. A search for “Bernie” turned up a handful of recent posts, none of which have any analytic content.

Paul

bernie said...

tb:
You have to be a bit more specific - do you mean in Cool It or in TSE. I have a copy of TSE but not Cool It -- so I will need to get back to you.
If it is TSE then I can try to respond to the specific.

Paul
My apologies I should have been more precise: Try bjc. As for my analytic skill, perhaps we can exhange proof points.

Interestingly I cannot seem to find any follow data on actual earthquake incidents though Tsai did publish on likely mechanisms which are largely beyond my ability to understand.
You are also correct that Lomborg's general thesis was consistent with my general view. Like most human beings I have a tendency to be a bit biased in favor of those who seem to agree with me. But I do not "yearn" to debate Lomborg per se. What intrigued me about Lomborg was not so much what he wrote but by how he was treated afterwards. My general point is that the organized campaign against and the general over-reaction to him backfired. It would have been smarter to have tried to coopt him rather than in part prove his argument about the over-statement by many environmental groups. It is a bit like trying to persuade me by somehow maintaining that there is no merit in anything that I say. You can certainly take that position but the results will be obvious.

I have read Wirt's book by the way.

pmiddents said...

Bernie,

Here is a specific recommendation for you to supplement Lomborg. It's not "hard" science but I think it's science:

Dire Predictions: Understanding Global Warming by Mann & Krump.

I haven't read it yet but give us a review. It will be a real test of your honest skepticism since its by a favorite CA whipping boy.

Paul

pmiddents said...

I'm having a terrible time with spelling tonight. I wouldn't care but Spencer Weart is far too important to misspell.

And it's Hurst Coefficients.

Paul

bernie said...

Michael:
I think a post I made from last night might have been overlooked

Michael Tobis said...

Bernie,

Oops. If it's the 8/11 5:34 PM one it's fixed.

Paul, I don't think you have any grounds for insisting that Bernie read and review Mann. One might hope that CA take it up in earnest, though.

A book that reveals something about climatology without "taking sides" is Bill Ruddiman's "Plows, Plagues, and Petroleum: How Humans Took Control of Climate"; his argument can be taken as pro-consensus or anti-consensus.

Ruddiman is by no means an activist and by all measures a climate scientist. His ruminations at the end of the book are most interesting and relevant to the present discussion. I reflect on those in this posting.

bernie said...

Paul:
Poor spelling is cathcing - I know its Weart and Wirt.

Michael:
I have no problem looking at Mann and/or Ruddiman.
According to my wife, I already buy far too many books - so I sometimes have to depend on our public library system. I will review the first one of these that comes to hand.

thingsbreak said...

bernie:

You have to be a bit more specific - do you mean in Cool It or in TSE.

I mean in the op-ed I wrote about on 8/2/08. Quoth the Dane:

It is hard to keep up the climate panic as reality diverges from the alarmist predictions more than ever before: the global temperature has not risen over the past ten years, it has declined precipitously in the last year and a half, and studies show that it might not rise again before the middle of the next decade.

I submit that this is a clear example of dissembling, if not "lying through one's teeth". Unless we are to presume that 1) Lomborg doesn't actually know what the studies he is referring to say and/or 2) he believes that action WRT climate change is designed to address impacts over the next few years rather than on a multidecadal/centennial timescale, despite years of experience discussing mitigation and adaptation.

Either he is being intentionally deceptive, or he is ignorant of the basic facts he is attempting to use to make his argument. This is why I call it "willful idiocy". At a certain point, it ceases to matter- the overall effect is one of disinformation that is either by design or due to negligence so extreme it amounts to the same thing.

pmiddents said...

Michael,

I insisted Bernie do nothing. I merely recommended a book and requested a review. The rest is up to him.

Bernie, you have been a busy little beaver over at Real Climate. I ran a search on "bjc" and quite the combative libertarian emerged. I would commend this exercise to anyone else participating in this thread. It's quite revealing.

Paul

Michael Tobis said...

I do find it interesting that there seems to always be one and only one committed skeptic following this blog, almost as if they get marching orders.

I don't find bjc's output on RC to be so large as to preclude a personal, unfunded interest in these matters though. And I always prefer intelligent skepticism to silly skepticism, whether it is openminded or not, and whether funded or not.

Are you being dishonest if you are paid to propound your opinion by an institution that shares your opinion? I don't think so. You are, however, much less likely to change your opinion. It moves you a toward advocacy and away from impartiality but it doesn't prevent useful contributions to the discussion.

On the other hand, it does grease the slope toward cherry-picking and thence to lying.

Bernie, will you stipulate that you are "bjc"?

bernie said...

TB:
I was merely asking for which book. I will go back and look at you 8/2/2008 piece.

Paul and Michael:
I am bjc - presuming there is only one at RC - I have been less active because many at RC as is true at CA are pretty "strident" in their responses. I am not sure I understand the context for the latter part of your statement Michael. But for the record, I am not a member of any group except my over-the-hill soccer team, though my wife is very active in Rotary, the Salvation Army, our Church and the local Hospital all of which I gladly fund. I am sure most of my colleagues at work would describe me as a skeptic when it comes to the efficacy of government as opposed to individual or self-selected group action.
I am relatively new to blogging and I certainly do not specifically coordinate my involvement with anyone else - apart from, as others here recognize, tracking back to related discussions viz., Mikkel at TB's site. You can also I guess do a trace on Bernie at CA. But I have to say this is making me feel a bit spooky - not that I have written anything I would not admit to.

Michael Tobis said...

Bernie, I don't mean to spook you.

Honest conversation across the divide is, in my opinion, always useful and always welcome. The trouble is that not all conversation is honest, and so, people tend to the suspicious and hostile.

I'll take you at your word that there is no coordination happening. (It's still odd that David went away pretty much when Steven showed up and Steven went away pretty much when you showed up!)

On the other hand, I have essentially no doubt that organized and malicious lying is a significant part of the motivation for the "inactivist" position. And I have equally little doubt that the resulting behavior of the world's economy is consequently irrational and dangerous. Just because I am not angry with you specifically and personally should not be taken to suggest that I don't think there's anything to be angry about.

Please take this into account in judging how others treat you. Many of us believe that there is a real (and enormous) willful injury taking place. In repeating some of the nonsense (e.g., the stuff on the "Lucy" page) you are at the least an instrument of those committing the injury, if not their willing agent.

It's easy to understand that some people are less than calm and friendly under the circumstances. Anyway I recommend you cast your skepticism not just in preselected directions.

thingsbreak said...

bernie,

I gave you the wrong date- I commented on Lomborg's op-ed on 7/22/08. My post can be found here.

bernie said...

Michael:
The singularity of contrary opinions is interesting. Perhaps it is, I hope, a courtesy thing by way of recognizing the implicit "natural rights" of blog ownership - a bit like avoiding religion and politics at a dinner party. I think the same phenomena occurs at CA.
Anyway, I just looked at my comments on RC and, libertarian or not, gladly stand by them. They are not, however, many nor long. Some even have a touch of humor.

bernie said...

Michael:
You say:
"Please take this into account in judging how others treat you. Many of us believe that there is a real (and enormous) willful injury taking place. In repeating some of the nonsense (e.g., the stuff on the "Lucy" page) you are at the least an instrument of those committing the injury, if not their willing agent. Emphasis added

It's easy to understand that some people are less than calm and friendly under the circumstances."

I think my point and I assume in part the point of the continuum you constructed is that such a lack of calmness and unfriendliness is in reality counterproductive. Such anger smacks of a self-righteousness that repels many. Moreover the anger is not my problem, it belongs to those who are angry.

I do not think I am an instrument of anything. I used Lucy primarily to exemplify that the range of people you need to persuade appears to include committed environmental activists.
Your assertion that I am an instrument of some great injury assumes that my skepticism is completely and utterly unwarranted and that there is no uncertainty about the scope and magnitude of the effects of AGW. I am open to being persuaded, not bullied. I am open to facts, not simply possibilities. I need to size the problem before commiting to a solution. As a school boy in 1963 we had to calculate the impact of the melting of Antarctica on London - it was then and still is a possibility not a fact. The current possible lull in or reality of ongong rising temperatures is something to puzzle over not to dismiss with ex post facto explanations. (I have not looked at TB's piece on this and the related articles but I will.)

The fact that you have a very different view of the situation is fine. I have no reason whatsoever to doubt your sincerity and do not. But I do find it odd that you and others should doubt mine, even if you have reason to believe that fossil fuel executives are busy sowing disinformation and lies. It is not unreasonable to have concerns about say a Steve McIntyre given his background - but only up to the point that he unequivocally states that he is independent. Then I would expect that that issue is off the table pending evidence to the contrary. To do otherwise almost guarantees that useful dialogue is at an end.

Michael Tobis said...

It is very plausible that Bernie doesn't understand how often we have been burned by giving people the benefit of the doubt, only to find they were playing political games of gotcha and appealing to the galleries rather than the judges.

That is, it's not unreasonable for Bernie to fail to fully credit the origins of suspicions cast in his direction, and to find such conversation uninteresting and aversive.

Accordingly I plan to take him at face value unless/until he gives strong reason to believe otherwise. I think we can discuss the spectrum of opinion without reference to the motives of active participants in the discussion. Please take such suspicions offline. I will moderate accordingly.

(If you want to discuss objections to this opinion or policy you can email me.)

Dano said...

It is very plausible that Bernie doesn't understand how often we have been burned by giving people the benefit of the doubt...

Yup. That's the problem here, as in many aspects of life: scammers and liars and the rest have ruined it for everyone else.

Personally, IME Bernie's rhetoric doesn't match that of the usual Internets brand of paid shills, so I'm more apt to give the benefit of the doubt.

Best,

D

bernie said...

tb:
I re-read your piece. Look you both can be right and the failure to recognize or even acknowledge that leads to a constant polarizing of and stridency in the debate. If your temperature trend line includes 1998, Lomborg is correct and you are wrong. If it starts in 1999 you are correct and he is wrong. The reality is, which you in part acknowledge by referencing the two studies, is that there is an interesting lull in gloabla temperature increases. I don't subscribe to Nature currently but the abstract does not highlight a continuation of warming at least at my quick scan.
As for Lomborg's reliance on technology, the reference you cite at the end of your most definitively depends on new technology for implementing those solutions.
My approach would be to pose the list of 14 solutions to Lomborg and ask for his thoughts on them. They do not appear in themselves to be outrageous or unrealistic (save the one about no more miles travelled which strikes me as just plain un-Constitutional if it is meant to be some prohibition.) At least you could then argue that if he rejects them, then he is unwilling to embrace any meaningful changes and is therefore some kind of instrument of the fossil fuel industry. Prior to such a discussion and proof point, your criticisms seem largely matters of opinion and interpretation.

bernie said...

Dano:
Thank you, I think. I am still interested in referencees for residential geothermal solutions which I believe is an area that you may have expertise in. Winter is coming to New England and I hate to have to spend $6000 on fuel oil.

Michael Tobis said...

No, no, no, no. You are spectacularly missing the point here, Bernie.

If Lomborg's argument depends on the start year so sensitively it is not a statistically robust point. TB is not saying "I'm right if you take a differnet starting point". He is saying the argument is either statistically naive or disingenuous.

That is, this point, which appears endlessly in the serious climate blogs, is an argument stating that either way of looking at it is equally invalid.

In other words, either you don't have useful data or you haven't applied sufficiently robust statistical methods.

One of the standard tricks of misrepresentation is cherry-picking the start and end points of the graph. Showing how one could obtain an opposite conclusion by the same method is not intended to demonstrate the oppposite conclusion but to demonstrate the indeterminacy of the method.

bernie said...

Michael:
I understand the statistics really quite well. The point that tb made was subject to exactly the same admonition you just raised. My point was not to argue the trend line, but the unhelpful nature of the rhetoric. The lull is there.
tb's arguments with Lomborg are not compelling for me - it is not that tb is wrong it is simply that Lomborg is not wrong either. Selective yes, wrong no. As I said before, if you want to prove something about Lomborg pose specific solutions and have him respond.

Michael Tobis said...

Well, the benefit of the doubt is running out right quick, then. If you understand statistics at all then you would appear to be abusing them.

Please quote the text in TB that you believe "subject to the same admonition".

Lomborg's choosing 1998 as an end point for the T curve is cherry-picking. Failing to acknowledge that is less than reassuring.

I believe this is the relevant text.

Lomborg:

" But it is perhaps also a symptom of a broader problem. It is hard to keep up the climate panic as reality diverges from the alarmist predictions more than ever before: the global temperature has not risen over the past ten years, it has declined precipitously in the last year and a half, and studies show that it might not rise again before the middle of the next decade.

TB:

More nonsense. Here we have the familiar “warming stopped in 1998″ canard that has been repeatedly debunked (see here, here). All one has to do is look at the data for the last 120 months of basically every temperature record to see that the trend line is positive, even without using a common baseline. The significance of choosing 10 years (rather than 20 or 30 as one would assume anyone interested in significant long term climatological trends would do) is of course to start with the incredibly strong El Niño-boosted temperatures of 1998 and end with the La Niña-cooled 2007-2008 (this La Niña being the same, and similarly specious, source for Lomborg’s claim of “precipitous cooling” over the last year).

His intentionally vague “studies show that it might not rise again before the middle of the next decade” line presumably refers to two recent studies which attempt to use the IPCC AR4 models to perform a short term forecast for the coming years: Smith et al., 2007 and Keenlyside et al., 2008. Both were incredibly rough first passes at short term forecasting, but more importantly both studies showed that warming would continue to increase significantly in the near future- which begs the question of why Lomborg bothered to bring them up in the first place. No one is proposing policy to combat the changes in climate anticipated in the next few years- obviously the concern is with long term warming and its resulting changes to climatic norms. Whether Lomborg is not capable of this basic level of analysis or he is being deliberately deceptive, this is simply rubbish."


TB's point is clear and cogent. The "lull" is the consequence of brazen cherry-picking.

Your response is quite unimpressive at best. You had best clarify what you mean by "understanding statistics". I don't think that means what you think it means. In what capacity did you learn about statistical reasoning?

Also, where in his argument did TB make selective use of evidence?

TB's assertion "Whether Lomborg is not capable of this basic level of analysis or he is being deliberately deceptive, this is simply rubbish" is convincingly demonstrated. That particular point is a very silly choice of horse to be riding, since the error is so elementary and easy to understand.

bernie said...

Michael,
I am not disputing the issue of cherry picking - they both did! If TB had chosen a year where the score was not as extreme as 1998 or 1999 then we would have a more sensible discussion. For your point to hold, tb should simply not have used a citation that started in 1999. Both cherry picked.

Michael Tobis said...

OK, now it is one of the papers TB cites that you claim cherry picked.

Which one? Please identify it and quote the relevant text. I made a good faith search in the relevant areas and did not find it unless you mean this one

The text "Another way of looking at the warming trend is that 1999 was a similar year to 2007 as far as the cooling effects of La Niña are concerned. The global temperature in 1999 was 0.26 °C above the 1961-90 average, whereas 2007 was 0.37 °C above this average - 0.11 °C warmer than 1999." is the closest.

This is hardly conclusive, but it certainly is suggestive that the trend line is still going up rapidly. Is it cherry picking?

Seriously?

Well, at least it is comparing cherries with cherries, so, no, it is not designed to give an unfair representation of the trend. It is designed to put 2007 in the correct context.

The equivalent of 1998-2008 with counter-cherry-picking in the opposite direction would be 1999-2005 which would give a rate of increase of 0.3 C/decade. Yet in 2005 nobody to my knowledge was squawking that the rate of global warming had tripled.

Yes, such short records shouldn't have too much read into them. But no, it was designed to be fair, not to skew the evidence. Noisy is one thing, biased is another. The choice of 1999 is about equally noisy but far less biased than 1998 for comparison with 2007.

If you seriously do not understand why the choice of 1999 and 2007 is a better measure of the trend than 1998 vs 2007, you should read up on ENSO, the dominant interannual time scale variability mode of the climate system.

What Lomborg did, what all the "lull" people are doing, is like getting a temperature trend between 4 PM on Tuesday and 4 AM on Thursday. See, a cooling trend!

Give us a break, please.

pmiddents said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Michael Tobis said...

Plausible comment about Bernie omitted per earlier promise.

However, my patience is already worn thin.

bernie said...

Michael:
I did indicate that Lomborg "cherry picked" 1998.
Here is the tb reference I clicked on - http://www.woodfortrees.org/plot/hadcrut3vgl/last:120/mean:12/plot/gistemp/last:120/mean:12/plot/uah/last:120/mean:12/plot/rss/last:120/mean:12/plot/hadcrut3vgl/last:120/mean:12/trend/plot/gistemp/last:120/mean:12/trend/plot/uah/last:120/mean:12/trend/plot/rss/last:120/mean:12/trend
Both you and tb are correct that the long term GISTEMP trend, e.g., 30 years is clearly increasing, though the RSS looks different. But the Wood for Trees site - a very useful one - provides the functionality to plot any period. I assume the citation reflects the period tb picked. tb's case would have been more fairly presented if he had included 1998 and then traced back to the out years 1997, 1996. Starting the series in 1999 and excluding 1998 is just as "selective" as Lomborg's starting in 1998. Of he had chosen the earlier year he would have clearly demonstrated his point. That is my point and it is not reasonable to blame me for a flaw in the way tb structured his argument.
As for deleting comments - Michael please let them pass since they are in fact a propos to the this thread. I assumed you started the thread based in part on my assertion that stridency does not add to persuasiveness. Attributing or misattributing motivations to others is in my mind a precursor to stridency. We have a naturally occurring experiment: I will either acknowledge or refute "plausible" comments about me. You and the other readers can then judge the impact of the comments on the discussion.
I am also intrigued as to why you would say "the benefit of the doubt is running out right quick." Do you think I am arguing in bad faith? Do you think I am failing to acknowledge the data? I am trying to be as open as possible. My read of tb's piece is that many of his assertions and many of Lomborg's assertions can both be "right". For sure Lomborg, based on his personal experience, has a perfect right to feel persecuted. Not to acknowledge this weakens tb's argument. There is a lull - the scope and significance of the lull is what is at issue - if 2008 or 2009 are on a par with 1998 the lull will no longer look like a lull. If 2008 or 2009 look like 1999 then it looks more like a lull. I found tb's arguments not compelling because of the way he chose to structure his arguments.

bernie said...

Michael:
Here is an example of a differen tway of framing issues from woodfortrees.org

"I have no particular axe to grind in the "Global Warming Debate" one way or the other. Indeed, as a life-long Green I think a shift to a efficient and sustainable way of life is a Good Thing whether or not CO2 is a significant problem in and of itself.

My aim here is only to use what skills I have as a programmer to help others with greater domain knowledge to discover and debate what is happening. No angle, no hidden agenda.

After 25 years of messing around with (and being messed around by) computers and complex software, I would just say this:

Computers are great tools for helping you think; just never rely on them to do the thinking for you."

It would be interesting to get Paul Clark's take on tb's argument

Michael Tobis said...

Bernie, I seem not to have any idea what you are talking about.

Which TB reference said what?

Your suggested approach seems entirely beside the point of the text I quoted. Please clarify 1) whether the quoted text is what you are complaining about 2a) if so, what the graph plotting tools have to do with it or 2b) if not, what reference exactly you are complaining about.

Thanks.

bernie said...

Michael:
The link to the graphing tool is in tb's article and plots the trend from 1999.
I think I have figured out the source of confusion. I should not have used the word "citation" which indicates an article: I originally thought the chart was from an article not a tool which is obviously my mistake.
Yours and tb's rationale for selecting 1999 versus 1998 makes sense - and I will look at that more closely.

thingsbreak said...

MT, bernie-

Lomborg made a positive assertion: the global temperature has not risen over the past ten years.

The problem with this is twofold:

1. It's factually wrong. Looking at the past 120 months of temp data illustrates this. Hence the link to WoodsForTrees in case anyone wanted to verify this for him or herself.
2. It is a classic denialist talking point that depends very much on cherry picking the starting and ending points.

Even if we are to presume that Lomborg was not intentionally doing 2, how does one then explain 1? Either he deliberately cherry picked the series or he didn't even bother to look at the data himself and simply repeated a denialist talking point.

And again, I'd ask, why do all of these errors end up in the same direction?

Michael Tobis said...

Aha, you are referring to this.

I don't know why TB picked 120, but I tried 128 and 132, and still got all positive slopes, as you could easily do yourself. Even with the cherries picked to the maximum advantage of the "lull". Not to say it couldn't tilt the other way soon, of course. To be honset, my eye didn't agree with the calculated fit!

I think there is arguably a gripe with the way TB used this figure but it hardly makes the difference between a fair critique and undue stridency. I'll grant it as a small point in your favor. I understand the Mountains out of Molehills Climate Audit culture makes great
mileage out of tiny concessions, but let's get things in proportion. I didn't even NOTICE this graph in several readings of the relevant text on TB. It's not crucial to the argument.

A more central one is this:

(quoting TB from comments above)
===
Is it really plausible that Lomborg doesn't know that the "studies" he references in regards to a potential pause in warming over the next decade explicitly state that the warming will rebound quickly? Is it plausible that someone who has spent years and years arguing against taking action on climate change doesn't know that any attempts to mitigate and/or adapt to climate change are meant to do so for the future, rather than the next few years?

It simply beggars belief that Lomborg can get such basic facts wrong, and consistently get them wrong in a way that always reaches the same flawed (and in many cases contrary to his own "evidence") conclusion.

===

I think it is plausible, because people like to fool themselves.

I myself pay little attention to the arguments of conventional economists, holding them to be built on very weak foundations.

That said, it doesn't take too many examples like that one to cast insurmountable doubt on Lomborg's claimed impartiality.

John Mashey said...

1) I think the discussion of cherry-picking dates is true, but missing a more general point.

2) Consider the general issue of describing a noisy time-series, doing trend analyses of such, etc ... which is often taught in low-level undergraduate statistics. My first undergrad statistics textbook had it (~sophomore at Penn State ~40 years ago). This knowledge is not exotic, although many do lack it.

3) If someone picks a specific start point, they might (or might not) be cherry-picking.

4) If someone draws a line from a start point to and end point, thus ignoring all other data, they are either seriously statistically incompetent or being misleading. Many are the former, and many draw charts and just say "Look at that! (as human eyes are drawn to extrema).

5) If someone computes a linear regression from start to end, they know more about statistics. If they claim a trend and don't check its significance level, they are also either statistically incompetent or being misleading.

All this shows up often at Open Mind or Atmoz, etc.

Of course ~30 years is typically quoted as a meaningful interval for climate trends. Hence, making strong claims based a few years is ...
either statistically incompetent or misleading.

6) The Skeptical Environmentalist book states: "Bjorn Lomborg is an Associate Professor of Statistics in the Department of Political Science, University of Aarhus, Denmark."

What conclusion can one draw from this?

thingsbreak said...

MT:

I don't know why TB picked 120

10 years is 10 years, no? The difference between 10 years of actual data and 1998-2007/8 is precisely the point, IMO.

bernie said...

Michael:
I was just re-reading the Lomborg piece that tb took exception to and that somehow led to Roger Pielke Jr's site. A recent posting cites a survey on whether people would describe themselves as "environmentalists" (http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/prometheus/the-death-of-environmentalism-4509#comments)
Now I have not looked at the details of the survey and we all know how easy it is to manipulate such data - but it does bear on the topic of this thread and in part Lomborg's op ed piece. (Please note I see Lomborg's piece as somewhere between advocacy and stridency - the later by his perjorative use of "inquisition" and "alarmist".) The poll numbers provide a small piece of evidence around the point I made earlier that stridency is not likely to be persuasive and can easily backfire. As I indicate to tb, the more constructive approach to Lomborg is to ask what specific short-term technology projects he does endorse. tb is correct in claiming that Lomborg's vague and non-specific support for "technology" is not helpful and leaves Lomborg's position hard to distinguish from those rejecting the reality of AGW. More specifically, since tb referenced a list of 14 initiatives (http://climateprogress.org/2008/04/22/is-450-ppm-or-less-politically-possible-part-2-the-solution/), he could simply get Lomborg's take on each of them. Think of what a Lomborg endorsement of a 50 or 60 mpg fleet target policy might do. Come to think about it, perhaps you could create a thread that states your take on these same initiatives and invite similar responses.

Dano said...

Think of what a Lomborg endorsement of a 50 or 60 mpg fleet target policy might do. Come to think about it, perhaps you could create a thread that states your take on these same initiatives and invite similar responses.

That's the obvious strategy, Bernie, but Lomborg is too slippery to get nailed down to specifics like that. Find specific detail for implementing any of "his" solutions. All vagaries.

Best,

D

bernie said...

Dano:
Sometimes what seems obvious is simply overlooked. For example, I wish I had invented PostIt Notes.

pmiddents said...

Dano makes the point. Pinning either Lomborg or Pielke Jr. down to anything specific is akin to pressing down firmly on a blob of mercury.

Paul

Anne said...

Hello gentlemen

thanks for inviting me over. I liked the name Lucy Skywalker online, and now it's habit.

As you will see if you read my piece http://www.greenworldtrust.org.uk/TransPlanet/Curious.htm it took me a while to do a U-turn; and before that, I had immersed myself in every argument against "deniers" as per Skeptical Science, Coby Beck at Gristmill, New Scientist, etc. I live on flat land by the sea and I had to face Hansen as well as Al Gore. I had to think, what would we do if the sea rose? But first of all, I had to check the science very thoroughly. That's my Asperger heritage. I couldn't cope with people unless I was reasonably sure of my ground. And that was when cracks started appearing in the science. When evidence appears that challenges my current point of view, I face it - plus the emotions it raises. I would regard this as the opposite of denial, and I hope you would agree. For a long time I bounced back and forth between the different camps as people presented me with conflicting evidence. It was quite a helter-skelter.

The one consistent thread of experience through all this was that every challenge eventually brought me evidence that put me back in the camp of the so-called "deniers", not by denial but by examination. I really did a lot of homework. To let truth emerge, you sometimes have to stand outside the flow, and just observe everything, emotions and facts, and especially your intuition. This way, real self-knowledge, understanding, warmth, and cooperation can start to emerge. But journeys of awakening take time.

You are welcome to continue chatting with me over at our own (little-used) forum. I'm afraid I haven't time to come back here!

Michael Tobis said...

Hello and goodbye "Anne of the ten thousand words but too busy to reply in detail". Mailed that one in, eh? Sheesh.

Anne said...

I'm replying because Bernie flagged it up for me. I try to spend my time where I feel I might help most, given my particular gifts and limitations. It took me time to scroll down your blog and take it in enough, and my response was my way of trying to cope, say yes, I'm real, explain enough, yet still leave the door open. What can one do? I don't have limitless abilities. I really cannot spare time to keep coming back to your blog to check responses - but Bernie did ask me if I would post there. Perhaps I'll ask Bernie to mediate since he seems to have time for both. Would that help?

Anne said...

I've just noticed Bernie says you think I'm paid by oil. That would be nice. I'm on benefit. Longterm sick note. Trying to do something useful. My, at this rate I shall start visiting your blog! But please, I already am involved with too many blogs... no offence meant.

Dano said...

I'm glad that you wished you had invented PostIt notes, Bernie. It's a good patriot-American that Dreams Big to make their Dreams come True in this, the land of the purple-mountained American Dream!

I'm not sure, however, how Big Dreams address the fact that Lomborg is too slippery to get nailed down to any specifics in his platitudinous policies. Or that it is nearly impossible to find specific detail for implementing any of "his" solutions.

Best,

D

Michael Tobis said...

I would like you to provide a lot more history of your conversion experience. What you thought when, how you changed your mind, what motivated you to write the extensive articles, what your organization is about, and how you propose to run a local activist organization anonymously.

Just by the way, why you are focusing on the erroneous Antarctic map baffles me. It is obviously non-physical. Temperature anomalies don't act like that. It's one thing to take it seriously without being aware of the withdrawal, (I seem to recall doing that :-} ) but another to keep harping on it fully aware that nobody supports it. Somebody mistakenly published the wrong image file and has withdrawn it. End of story.

Anne said...

In case my third post did not get through, I'm on sick benefit, no oil / fossilfuel / blah blah funds me. Unlike Al Gore.

"History of my conversion experience" etc. Check further on the website, I disclose quite a lot. Aspergers care about truth. It's how we cope.

What is erroneous about the Antarctic map? If you can give good evidence it's faulty, other than cite "nobody supports it", I'll be happy to remove it. It's a map of temperature anomalies and it's right on AFAICS. Antarctica except the peninsula has been cooling not warming. "Antarctica cooling while the rest of the planet warms" is just one of the many otherwise inexplicably anomalous conditions for the AGW thesis, that fit Svensmark's explanations. Quite apart from Svensmark, the map matches the other temperature anomaly maps. Only Antarctica is full-on instead of sideways where it gets visually undervalued so that people just don't notice this serious, and AFAIK inexplicable, anomaly to AGW.

bernie said...

Michael:
I personally would take Anne for whom she says she is. As I understand it, her condition (i.e., Asperger Syndrome) certainly could account for the detail on her site. The issue at hand was how one might go about persuading someone with Anne's skepticism that she is mistaken in her view. I am not talking about Anne as an individual but as a class of skeptics. You can simply say there is no reason for us to bother - which is fine -but if you want to persuade I suspect you are going to need to be more engaging. For example, a compelling reference that addresses the apparent non-warming of Antarctica might well do the trick for Anne.

tidal said...

Lucy Skywalker says on her site: I'm not a trained scientist but I taught myself the key science because it seemed vital if I was to understand such an important issue about which there have been serious charges of misleading people like myself, in the science itself.

Did you learn anything about electromagnetic radiation, thermodynamics, black bodies? Or did you just skip all that tosh and jump forward to the good stuff like the "Maunder minimum" or "the flaws in the CO2 theory", which is what most of your pointers to "science primers" tend to do?

Michael Tobis said...

I'm a computer guy. Consequently I know several people with Asperger-like personalities, (I don't know if they are diagnosed) and I rather enjoy their company in some ways.

One good thing about them is that although they are quick to give offense they tend to be slow to take it. However, I don't want to argue about cognitive styles here. Further reference to diagnostic categories will be flushed.

It is certainly the case that the vast majority of the arguments Lucy presents have been refuted. It seems to me that it is the responsibility of the person making such claims to make a serious effort to address the refutations.

It will be a lot of work addressing all the points.

As far as I understand it, the real scoop on Antarctic interior temperature trends is that they are undersampled and not highly significant. See also here;
the linked site provides data sources.

This would indicate there is no way to get the resolution implied by the referenced map.

Note from the satellite map (my second link) that temperature anomalies are not usually sharply discontinuous at shorelines.

However, we see this rendering is still up at the NASA site. So I don't know quite what to make of it.

bernie said...

Michael:
The references are helpful and I appreciate your other point as well.

Hank Roberts said...

Wonderfully well handled thread, Michael.

Did you ask the people identified as responsible for that NASA image about updating or adding a pointer? Or search for mention anywhere else of a correction to it? (Alas, we don't have real hypertext yet). I'm cleaning the basement this weekend or I'd have looked.

On the Skywalker issues list, I wonder if it could be put side by side with the list at http://www.skepticalscience.com/argument.php
to bring out any novel points in the Skywalker list and address them, leaving those already on the skepticalscience list to the readers.

Michael Tobis said...

I started a new thread about Antarctic data.

Hank Roberts said...

"... I could have stopped there, but I decided to try to do my own study. I didn't want to look solely at the sample of 34 articles that Peiser provided. I didn't have access to the ISI database, so I used a Google Scholar search for ["global climate change"] from 1993-2003, restricted to Biology, Life Sciences, and Environmental Science. I looked at the first 25 abstracts. Here are my results, compared to Oreskes and Peiser:

[chart in original, link below]

... an amazing amount of research went in to building up this consensus on global warming, but I hadn't heard much about the specifics. This is partly my fault, but is also another failing of the press. Reporters think (with some good reason) that the public is not interested in hearing about Analysis of some direct and indirect methods for estimating root biomass and production of forests at an ecosystem level and so they never cover such things. But by failing to talk about the years of research and the building on the works of others that go into producing a paper like that, reporters give all ideas equal footing: a half-baked whim with no evidence gets equal footing with a proven theory with hundreds of confirming studies, because it is too complicated to talk about the confirming studies."

-- Peter Norvig

http://norvig.com/oreskes.html

Paul Clark (WoodForTrees) said...

Folks,

Sorry I've come rather late to this party (from a random "who links to WoodForTrees" search) and no doubt - given the number of new topics started since this one - this comment will be lost in the annals only to be discovered by some researcher sitting on a beach in Greenland in 2050. Or not...

I'm not sure if I was asked for my opinion above on the 'cherry picking' issue or the stridency one, so I'll give both!

When I bowed to pressure and added OLS trend lines to WoodForTrees I did so with some trepidation because I knew they would be (mis-)used in arguments like this. I wrote a little warning/parody which I think covers it...

But actually I'm quite pleased to see WFT being used by both sides of the debate; being a neutral data source was the idea, after all.

As for stridency, I've been amazed how much heat this argument generates, from both 'sides'. It's understandable, but unhelpful and I refuse to be drawn into it. I'll just stick to the datasets, thanks (that in itself might give you an indication of my overall 'position' in this, although I'd hesitate to call it anything quite so permanent).

Anyway, this blog and its ecosystem are new to me and I've found them interesting - thanks.

Best wishes

Paul