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)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Denialist Backlash vs Rudy Baum

Much as I hate to link to Morano, and much as I hate participating in the "news cycle", here's another denialist tactic that demands a quick response.

Rudy Baum has published a perfectly sound editorial in Chemical and Engineering News. Most notably:
On June 11, the presidents of the G8+5 national academies of science released a joint statement, “Climate Change and the Transformation of Energy Technologies for a Low Carbon Future PDF icon,” which states: “Climate change and sustainable energy supply are crucial challenges for the future of humanity. It is essential that world leaders agree on emission reductions needed to combat negative consequences of anthropogenic climate change.” The G8+5 consists of Canada, Italy, the U.K., the U.S., Japan, France, Germany, and Russia (G8), and Brazil, India, South Africa, China, and Mexico (+5).
Leaving aside the tragic extent to which the press ignores these G8+5 national academy pronouncements, Baum proceeds to describe the tactics of the deniers (he calls them "CCDs" for "Climate Change Deniers") about as effectively as a few paragraphs' space allows:

We see here the same tactics used by other purveyors of nonsense rejected by the mainstream scientific community. Creationists, for example, only want to expose students to “both sides of the debate over origins,” ignoring the fact that there is no debate over evolution. And, of course, it’s always useful to attack the “mainstream media.”

Heartland and its ally AmericanEnergySecurity.com are also flogging an 800-plus-page report, “Climate Change Reconsidered PDF icon,” from the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC)—kind of an anti-IPCC, get it?—which, of course, proves conclusively that global warming probably isn’t happening; if it is happening, it’s not due to human activity; and, besides, a “warmer world will be a safer and healthier world for humans and wildlife alike.”

Sow doubt, make up statistics, call for an “open debate,” claim that you are being “silenced and ignored by the media and politicians,” claim that your opponents are just a “few bureaucrats and environmental activists,” not real scientists—those are the tactics that will be brought to bear in the coming months by the CCDs in their attempt to derail meaningful efforts to respond to global climate change.

Nothing here new, right? Well maybe not to the likes of us, but this is new stuff to C&E News, apparently, and a denialist drumbeat has been raised. If you can stand it, look at Morano's article.

Then have a look at the current letters section.

We see the usual stuff. People who are not actually aware of the denialists tactics, who believe that the stuff of legitimate scientific discourse is in a very diferent place than it actually is, and even some very confused nonsense that probably shouldn't have passed editorial muster for a science magazine like this:
I'm a geologist, not a chemist, but I must say that I expected better from this science magazine.

The article cites a panel that says drastic cuts are in CO2 emissions are needed to prevent acidification of oceans by 2050. It further asserts that computer models suggest that coral reefs and polar ecosystems will be seriously harmed by 2050 if CO2 emissions are not seriously curtailed.

Are these the same or similar models that have not been able to correctly account for any well-documented historical variations in global temperature such as the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age? Isn't it possible (or rather, likely based on scientific evidence) that CO2 is not the driver of global warming but the result of naturally occurring warming? Certainly chemists should know that as the oceans warm, they are able to hold less CO2 and will thus release increasing quantities of CO2 from solution into the atmosphere, rather than absorbing CO2 and becoming more acidic?

More at issue is the lead letter, that equates Mr. Baum's quite precise description of the circumstances at hand with "left-wing opinions".

To say this is unfortunate is an understatement. I call it the fallacy of the center: that the truth must lie somewhere between the arguments that you hear. This phenomenon can be easily gamed by a side with no respect for truth: to tell lies so extreme that by comparison the distance between the actual truth and the opposite extreme becomes relatively tiny. Then the reasonable if inattentive person will split the difference, and perceive any exposition of actual truth as biased, since it is relatively near one pole of the debate.

The careful reader should first refer to the opinions of the relevant scientific bodies, secondly to the alleged tactics of the deniers, and try to establish some ways to test the competing social hypotheses: 1) All 13 major scientific powers' national science academies are unanimously lying, perhaps to protect their few dozen climatologists who are lying because they have sinister friends in the renewable power industry or 2) A few groups are lying perhaps because they have sinister friends in the fossil fuel industry (who may perhaps be a small fraction of that community) the value of whose reserves are threatened.

One (or both) of these, unfortunately, must be true.

If you don't have the time or skill to evaluate the evidence directly you should ask which hypothetically lying group has potentially more at stake, which hypothetically lying group has the access to the resources and skills to construct a convincing fabric of lies, which hypothetically lying group has the least to lose from defections, and which hypothetically lying group has a more socially irresponsible history.

As someone sufficiently involved in the material to be able to distinguish cogent argument from incoherent blithering, I vouch for the scientific evidence lining up with the more plausible hypothesis.

In short, Rudy Baum has got it exactly right and it would be good to figure out what we can do as a community to help him.

Update: Eli predicted this kerfluffle and has a few more observations, as well as a mailing address for letters of support. It is fair to take note that the letters in C+EN were not unanimous, despite Morano's portrayal of them.

Update: Morano oddly devotes a lot of attention to somebody (somebody he calls a scientist, but then again, he calls me a professor) who apparently wrote Baum this elegantly reasoned and finely honed argument: "When all is said and done, and you and your kind are proven wrong (again), you will have moved on to be an unthinking urn for another rat pleading catastrophe. You will be removed. I promise." It's mysterious to me why Morano decided to highlight this person and his peculiar rat-urn argument.

Update: Via Hank Roberts: PS, main post appears to lack a link to Baum's actual editorial. It's at: http://pubs.acs.org/cen/editor/87/8725editor.html

Update: Baum replies to the letter-writers, including rat-urn-dude here.

33 comments:

jg said...

Michael,
I'm glad you're having a frabjous day in Austin. Can you point out some references were I can get up to speed on the concepts of how CO2 is absorbed by the oceans though they are warming. This is the second time I've heard that counter argument, so no doubt I will see it again and have to answer it in the local trenches.

thanks,
jg

Michael Tobis said...

jg, that's a bit off topic, and not really my turf, but maybe I'll start another thread for that as it raises a couple of interesting issues.

I'd like to stick to the Rudy Baum story here.

PaulSchick said...

On the narrow matter of Baum's use of the word "denier", I'd have to agree with some of the commenters. Europeans, with their interminably long histories as subjects rather than citizens, see fit to criminalize free speech. That may be utterly foolish free speech, but a big reason for a First Amendment is the inevitable corruption of whoever gets to decide, with the consequent trampling of truth. At any rate, "denier" has become a loaded word in international contexts, an automatic show-stopper to be wielded mindlessly and sloppily.

For that reason alone, and even in cases where it's accurate, it deserves little more place in global scientific discourse than, say, the more banal English-language four-letter words. In addition, it seems to cover way too much territory to be of much use in rational discussion, ranging from mere minor disagreement with its wielder all the way to utter irrationality.

It may be worse than inconvenient that scientists are expected to remain rational in public discourse when others aren't, but I have no idea what could be done about that without making matters worse. Again, the official censor will inevitably run amok; absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Note that it seems especially a problem in places like the USA where knowledge and learning are widely derogated as antidemocratic (offending the left as 'unfair' to the congenitally or otherwise stupid and lazy, and the right by often contradicting assorted redneck values or assertions.) So we see, for example, that bullies are often permitted to assault the "smart kids" from an early age and with complete impunity. As physical behavior not protected by the First Amendment, this could be punished if legislators simply chose to do so, but mostly they do not.

Michael Tobis said...

The proper name for the organized effort to discredit actual climate science and substitute a haze of confusion is a difficult one. "Skeptic" is too generous; there is a strong case for "denialist" because that is what they are doing: choosing evidence solely on the basis of whether it can be used, fairly or otherwise, to discredit informed opinion.

To be sure, the word is loaded, but it is possible to argue that the techniques used are actually similar across many areas: evolution denialism, health care denialism including AIDS denialism, and tobacco denialism as well as global change denialism. Also may of the active participants overlap across these domains; in particular I am pretty much convinced that there is an established strong connection between tobacco denialism and climate change denialism.

I realize that the name is irritating, but we aren;t engaging in a scientific debate. We are involved in a political pathology that prevents science from adequately informing policy. I think just as "global warming" is a bad name and we are stuck with it we are probably stuck with "denialism".

In my less confrontational moods I have gone with "delayers" and "delusionists" but those words have no currency and don't resonate with the larger problem across the sciences.

John Fleck said...

Michael -

I think this incident provides a valuable case study for thinking about communication of the message you think is important to general audiences.

In this case, Baum is acting in a role similar to that of a mainstream journalist communicating to a general audience - offering information to an attentive but non-expert audience. In this case, in fact, Baum has a bit of an advantage: as the editor of a this particular publication, speaking to members of his own organization, he should be starting out as a trusted source. He said the sort of things that you, as a climate expert, think are relatively non-controversial, and that you would hope this general audience ought to know an understand.

And yet their reaction was entirely predictable: they received his message through their political filters, which have prejudiced them to reject a particular line of science because it conflicts with their politics/values. Sure enough, they rejected it.

This, in microcosm, is precisely what is happening now out among the general public, and it is why this is not a problem the media can fix by presenting the science more accurately, or better, or more effectively.

I'm sure the captain of the Titanic would have preferred there were no icebergs in the North Atlantic, but this is the iceberg that is out there right now, and it is a big one.

Michael Tobis said...

John F,

Point taken about the iceberg, but I'm not sure about your claim that the media can't help.

There is no doubt that the first people to tell a suppressed truth will be punished. But reporters in this field do know that this is the case, and should have the courage to take the punishment.

Admittedly, it is not easy and admittedly, the decline of the MSM makes this even harder. But if journalistic ethics means anything, it means telling a story like this the way it actually is, over and over again, from lots of angles, until people get it.

Glenn said...

The reaction to the editor has to be put in context. This country is about to enact legislation limiting/taxing CO2 emissions that is useless, unnecessary, and will devastate our economy for generations. Unless miraculous breakthroughs in energy production technology are achieved in the near future, our children's generation will suffer impoverishment from cap-and-trade. As the economy is devastated due to this hoax, those who promoted and profited from it should naturally expect resentment from those they have oppressed.

Three relatively easily understood but comprehensive sources of information on "global warming" include:
http://www.greenworldtrust.org.uk/Science/Curious.htm
http://www.heartland.org/publications/NIPCC%20report/PDFs/NIPCC%20Final.pdf
http://masterresource.org/?p=3847

It is now apparent that the primary consequence of increased atmospheric levels of CO2 is improved plant growth.

For the economically damaging effects of cap-and-trade see:

http://www.rollcall.com/news/36393-1.html

John Fleck said...

Michael -

That's what we're doing. Lots of us. That explains the widespread meme among the CCD's that the media is suppressing the truth as they see it. Google, for example, the coverage in the mainstream media over the last two weeks of the latest University of Colorado study on climate change and Colorado River flow, or Jennifer Logan's new research on climate change and wildfires, or the coverage of the new UCS story on the impacts of climate change in the midwest, just to cite the three news pegs in the last week or so that drew my attention. Then compare that to the coverage of the paper the CCD's wanted us to cover, deFreitas et al., which seems to have gotten essentially no mainstream media that I can find outside of the opinionsphere and that one weird New Zealand publication.

The notion that all we have to do is "tell a story like this the way it actually is, over and over again, from lots of angles, until people get it" is at odds with what the literature and the ACS example tell us about how people's political filters influence how they receive the news they are being given.

That's the iceberg.

Michael Tobis said...

This site (i.e. me) takes no position on Waxman-Markey or cap and trade. I have my doubts.

Regarding the science, though, the vast majority of the stuff in Glenn's links is very weak and is effectively refuted elsewhere.

This site is primarily intended as preaching to the choir. I used to put in quite a lot of time in the past trying to exhasutively respond to every denial message I see. At present I see this as a futile endeavor for an individual. So I will pick a key item here:

For those enamored of recent temperature graphs I'll refer you to this.

The sensible way to understand the recent temperature record is to focus your attention on longer time scales, as is done effectivelyhere.

Michael Tobis said...

John, fair enough, it's getting slightly better, but that is only after decades of equal time for science and bozoism.

What's more, the press refuses to cover the Oreskes turf: who these people are and where their funding comes from, and the various ways in which the playing field is tilted against actual scientists.

They say you are suppressing their alternative science. I'd rather you covered that, along with the difference between science and advocacy, the nature of the scientific process, the kind of tradeoffs a scientist makes in life...

leonardeuler said...

Michael, you miss the patently obvious in your fervor to rally behind orthodoxy. So let me whack you over the head with a couple of things:

Whack #1. Seems all you alarmists like the word "consensus". "The science is settled"; "9 out of 10 doctors (of science) agree...". So important is it to appeal to authority that you rattle off lists of "authoritative" societies and denigrate genuine scientists who challenge the orthodox view.

But the subject matter of your own piece is prima facie evidence that the so-called "scientific consensus" is nowhere near as solid as you'd like to paint it. This was not one or two dissenters, but a whole flood of dissent within the largest scientific society in the world. There's no other way to paint this than that consensus ain't there.

I am not currently a member of this society, but I do hold a PhD in science am a professional in the same field, a qualification which appears to hold great sway in your mind (which shows how gullible you are), and you might as well add my name to the already very fat list of scientifically literate dissenters.

Whack #2. Read your rhetoric again, and that of Mr. Baum. You wonder what to call dissenters? It's clear what term you should use: we are heretics. In another age you'd be preparing to burn us at the stake and return our carbon footprint from whence it came.

Whack #3. Skepticism and dissent is the very stuff of science. Every major advance in science comes when someone challenges an orthodox view. "Consensus" is a political notion, having nothing to do with establishing scientific truth. When the Nazis published a volume called "100 Scientists against Einstein" to try to discredit the Jewish genius' ideas he simply replied, "Why 100? If I had been wrong it would only have taken one!"

I've been reading some of these heretics. Almost to the man, they are accomplished scientists doing recognizably respectable scientific work. But the "official statements" of these societies are generally penned by folks who've left the trade for the status of "leadership" in the sceintific community, whose hands are continually out to politically sensitive government granting agencies. I believe that what you see happening in the American Chemical Society is only the tip of an iceberg -- watch what happens as actual in-the-trenches scientists in various societies begin to assert themselves on this issue.

I am rather tired of reading quasireligious sermonizing on the other side consisting of ad hominem, content-free appeals to authority and purple prose. Do everyone a favour and hear out a few of these guys, like Freeman Dyson and Roy Spencer. Do some actual thinking instead of this stupid political faction-building. Then bring us an honest, informed assessment.

Glenn said...

Michael,
Since its temperature graphs you want to talk about, note that your GISS graphs have come under heavy attack for their use of data affected by station dropout and poor siting. More valid graphs of atmospheric temperature trends come from the UAH satellite data - and they show essentially no change over the 30 years of data collection. See:
http://icecap.us/index.php/go/joes-blog/noaas_hot_streak_continues_despite_clear_cooling1/

Michael Tobis said...

Dr Euler,

I don't doubt that a nonzero number of PhD's doubt the consensus view, though I am not convinced you are one of them. An odd thing about our opposition is a propensity for misrepresenting credentials. However, let me give you the benefit of the doubt for present purposes.

Consensus certainly is an important factor in the progress of science. What else would progress consist of other than a changing and generally advancing consensus?

But the size of the community is not at issue here. We don't, first of all, know what other members of the community think besides the ones who felt compelled to respond. Secondly, with all due respect, chemical engineers are not generally versed in climate, as several of the letters make clear.

The issue is what the national academies of the leading scientific nations say, not what letter writers to a technical magazine say. I will be disappointed if the ACS takes a position contrary to the consensus, but if it does it will be very much in a minority.

#2

There is nothing wrong with dissent, and I call well-intentioned skepticism exactly that. As a scientist, I welcome intelligent conversation that causes me to challenge my beliefs. I thrive on it.

Denialism is another matter; it refers to starting from the conclusion and working back to a selection of acceptable evidence. It's a forensic model of science, and it does nobody any good in situations where culpability is not really an issue.

It is exactly the distinction between the two that is at issue. Baum draws attention to the existence of denialism on this subject. In this he is correct.

#3

Spencer is an active part of the Heartland Institute, an organization that puts on meetings dedicated to a conclusion rather than a science. He's also a fundamentalist as I understand it, which puts great swaths of paleo evidence off limits in his view of things.

As for Dyson, I've already said my piece on him and then some. He really doesn't actually know anything about the field and has never issued a cogent criticism.

Spencer is a serious data guy, I suppose, but it's hard to credit his understanding of physics if it's consistent with a magical view of religion.

While there is something a tiny bit shy of unanimity, the following is about as clear as anything in science. There really is no doubt that CO2 is a major player in climate change and that humans are changing that input in a very significant way.

There is some considerable doubt as to the consequences, but not in the way that Heartland or Morano portrays it. The chances that the changes can be happily neglected indefinitely were very small when I got into this business 15 years ago and are much smaller now.

What to do about it is admittedly not obvious, but misrepresenting the evidence to the public, as the Heartland Institute and Climate Depot consistently do, is obviously the wrong approach. It's incorrect and in the cases of many people who ought to know better it is unethical.

tidal said...

Hey! Great news!

According to this article posted at the Energy Bulletin today... atmospheric CO2 concentrations will reduce from ~389ppm to ~342ppm by mid-century... because we will have burned up all the oil! Only another few trillion barrels to burn through, so the CO2 concentrations will go DOWN!

Here are some key concepts to understand from the article!

"we carefully calculate the global effect of oil depletion on CO2 emissions; and we develop a technologically viable and economically practical international program of energy development, efficiency and conservation. This simple plan would decrease Total Annual manmade CO2 emissions to 22.5 MMT in 2050. That’s a 21% decrease of manmade CO2. We do not need cap and trade. We don’t need government red tape....

Including the effect of oil depletion decreases our calculations of Total CO2 levels to ~ 342 PPM in 2050. Oil depletion, in combination with a constructive energy plan, virtually guarantees that CO2 levels in PPM will decline by just over 9% from 2005 to 2050. This proposed scenario improves our chances of lowering atmospheric CO2 by more than 25%..."


Do you doubt this? Well, at the end of the article, the author makes some reference notes and says:
"My findings have been supported by NASA scientists."

Sigh...

What should we do to help Rudy Baum?

I just don't know.

(P.S. I wrote an email of complaint to the Energy Bulletin... very embarrassing, even for an aggregator...)

Michael Tobis said...

Satellite records are homogeneous in latitude and longitude but ambiguous in the vertical and affected by changing cloud properties. The more climate changes, the more fraught the interpretation. Also the instruments are affected by drift. So it's not a slam dunk either way. (Imagine one of my gentle visitors saying "It's not a slam dunk either way"!)

I don't take stuff on the icecap site at face value. The claimed discrepancies seem much too large to me but I couldnt dig up anything right away. Anyone care to comment?

Michael Tobis said...

I have turned moderation on. Getting linked by Morano is obviously a mixed blessing.

The purpose of this thread is not to defend the entirety of climate science. I do not volunteer to respond to the whole denialist playbook here. Say something constructive or interesting, please, or go away.

Glenn said...

Michael,

Since you are touting a graph showing warming from GISS data, would you care to comment on the post below from M. Hammer.

http://jennifermarohasy.com/blog/2009/06/how-the-us-temperature-record-is-adjusted/

It claims that the temperature rise in GISS data is an artifact arising from adjustments applied to the data, and not from the data itself. He concludes with the comment: "It is completely unacceptable, and scientifically meaningless, to claim experimental confirmation of a theory when the confirmation arises from the “corrections” to the raw data rather than from the raw data itself."

Hank Roberts said...

> Icecap
hokum.

http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2008/08/robert_grumbine_finds_icecapus.php

http://moregrumbinescience.blogspot.com/2008/08/unreliability-at-icecapus.html

http://moregrumbinescience.blogspot.com/2008/08/more-from-icecap.html

Marion Delgado said...

Baum didn't use to care about climate denialism, but denounced it when pressed:

Rudy Bum Responds to Questions

I am not being mean to him - Nature Pubs was much the same way. However, once he committed against climate denialism, it stuck.

The last time this was an issue was when Baum publicly excoriated JPANDS/JAPS, a kind of denialism depot. About a year and a month ago.

Science Fights Back

C&E News got a lot of letters then and will get heaps now.

Michael Tobis said...

At least one howler on the Marohasy thing:

"Raising the airport readings, while not adding downwards compensation for UHI, results in an overstatement of the amount of warming. This would seem to be clear evidence of bias. It would be more accurate to lower the earlier city readings to match the airport readings rather than vice versa."

It would yield the same result in the trend, wouldn't it? Given the choice, you'd not want to have multiple past records. A fixed bias of half a degree would certainky not matter for purposes of identifying a trend.

Then they go on to suggest that all corrections, since they are suspect, should be set to zero. I think a closer look at the evidence is in order.

At worst, even treating every data correction as inserted observer bias, which is a pretty extreme position, you have eliminated most of the heating trend over 2 % of the earth.

Are these guys really claiming that there is no global warming at all? Hell, even Dick Cheney and Sarah Palin acknowledge warming.

You pretty much have to live somewhere it doesn't snow (or be very young) not to have noticed changes in snow cover season. Plus there's the evidence of, hmm, melting glaciers, retreating ice shelves, poleward migration of species and sea level rise. Plus, hmm, the obvious physics?

These Romans are crazy.

Hank Roberts said...

Ps, main post appears to lack a link to Baum's actual editorial. It's at:

http://pubs.acs.org/cen/editor/87/8725editor.html

You do give a link to the response letters, so readers can backtrack from there to the editorial.

Marion Delgado said...

Marohasy was a sociopath, but as far as I know, she's mostly been shelved.

Here's an example of the issue with cleaning up data with an axe to grind. Suppose schools were evaluated for extra funding or probation according to how well the kids performed on average on the standardized state test - which has happened. Suppose also the overworked staff at one school, call it the Noah school, had been audited and between the teachers and the secretaries, there was about 5% random error in the records - which I would guess has happened somewhere.

Now suppose another school, the Watts charter school, volunteered to go through every single student's record at that school for free, and fix any errors they could find. And suppose it was demonstrated that they were only cleaning errors that raised the average, and ignoring others, but nonetheless correcting real errors.

If the Watts school then claimed that "at least" the data was now more accurate, and that they were eliminating at least half the 5% error and therefore making the overall error 2.5%, and "what's the problem with that? More accurate data, for free, just in the interest of truth," we'd see the problem immediately and laugh at them.

But when the exact same thing happens with climate data, it's harder to grasp the logic for most people, IMO.

EliRabett said...

Not to put a fine point on it but this was all predictable and it was predicted.

It is also clear that there were about as many letters supporting Baum as attacking him. which is not the impression that our friend Morano is trying to leave.

bigcitylib said...

Just an aside, Morano's new hero in this tale is Steven J. Welcenbach.

He basically runs a garbage disposal company and has a BS. M. calls him a scientist, and even an "environmental chemist".

http://bigcitylib.blogspot.com/2009/07/moranos-latest-climate-change-dissenter.html

Be interesting to check background on some of the other negative letters and see if any really have half decent creds.

Be interesting to see if this is an organized effort. No advance warning from the folks on Climate Skeptic, but a few are planning something similar when the Royal Society of Chemistry switches Prezs in 2010 (the new guy, David Philips, is considered somewhat skeptical).

Michael Tobis said...

Somewhat skeptical is a long way, of course, from what we see featured on the denial sites.

EliRabett said...

Thanks to Big City Liberal Eli now knows that the paragon of pigheadedness is one Steven J. Welcenbach to be known forever as Joe the Chemist.

Robert said...

A couple of comments. First, ACS is a huge organization - it has over 150,000 members, every one of whom is automatically subscribed to C&E news. Many (probably most, judging from what I've seen at nationas ACS meetings) of these are chemical engineers rather than chemists, and many of the chemists are practitioners rather than research scientists. A dozen or so hostile letters out of a population that large and diverse doesn't mean much. The notion that this signifies some sort of "revolt" within the ACS member base is ludicrous.

Second, there has long been a portion of the chemistry community that is mistrustful of "theory." For them, the proper job of a chemist is making measurements or synthesizing compounds, not solving differential equations. This group is aging and shrinking - nowadays pharmaceutical companies employ people trained in computational quantum mechanics.

climatesight said...

"To say this is unfortunate is an understatement. I call it the fallacy of the center: that the truth must lie somewhere between the arguments that you hear. This phenomenon can be easily gamed by a side with no respect for truth: to tell lies so extreme that by comparison the distance between the actual truth and the opposite extreme becomes relatively tiny. Then the reasonable if inattentive person will split the difference, and perceive any exposition of actual truth as biased, since it is relatively near one pole of the debate."

That's an absolutely brilliant insight. The kind of thing I just love to write about....you may have inspired my next post on ClimateSight.

The problem is, most members of the public are too lazy to read any farther than the newspaper.

We need to take our media back.

cpwinter said...

Glenn wrote (in part): "It is now apparent that the primary consequence of increased atmospheric levels of CO2 is improved plant growth."

Sorry, but this is far from clear. Some plants may grow better, as long as they get more of other nutrients along with the CO2 — but some of them are weeds.

Some food plants already use CO2 about as efficiently as they can. For others, more CO2 makes them less nutritious (or more vulnerable to pests.)

Also, there seems to be a point of diminishing returns for both increased temperature and increased CO2. Reading some recent ScienceDaily stories on this would pay off.

cpwinter said...

PaulShick wrote (in part): "For that reason alone, and even in cases where it's accurate, [the word 'denier'] deserves little more place in global scientific discourse than, say, the more banal English-language four-letter words. In addition, it seems to cover way too much territory to be of much use in rational discussion, ranging from mere minor disagreement with its wielder all the way to utter irrationality."

Personally I try to use 'denier' to mean someone who, maybe because he's new to the debate, rejects the mainstream view of AGW — as opposed to 'Denialist' for someone who plainly has an agenda of opposition. Of course, someone who wants to distort what I say will do so, no matter how carefully I compose my message.

"It may be worse than inconvenient that scientists are expected to remain rational in public discourse when others aren't, but I have no idea what could be done about that without making matters worse."

Indeed it is. If someone is being irrational, just tell them so. Where is it written that persistent irrationality must always be tolerated?

"Again, the official censor will inevitably run amok; absolute power corrupts absolutely."

Sorry; How is this relevant?

cpwinter said...

Leonard Euler wrote (in part): "Skepticism and dissent is the very stuff of science. Every major advance in science comes when someone challenges an orthodox view."

"Every major advance in science comes when someone [effectively] challenges an orthodox view."

There, fixed that for you.

"Consensus" is a political notion, having nothing to do with establishing scientific truth."

This is only partially right. There's political consensus, where the outcome usually depends on who has the most political power.

Then there's scientific consensus, in which the majority view depends on where the best evidence leads.

The fact that some people don't recognize the latter sort of consensus is the reason they feel some conspiracy must be afoot.

"When the Nazis published a volume called "100 Scientists against Einstein" to try to discredit the Jewish genius' ideas he simply replied, 'Why 100? If I had been wrong it would only have taken one!' "

Quite true. But Einstein wasn't wrong, and still isn't according to the scientific consensus. There are still challenges, some quite elaborate (e.g. Gravity Probe B), but none effective so far.

cpwinter said...

Marion Delgado wrote (in part): "Baum didn't use to care about climate denialism, but denounced it when pressed."

My impression is that a lot of editors and other spokespeople are feeling pressured to respond. I believe it was back in December or January when Michael noted that the intensity of Denialist pushback was rising in proportion to the solidity of the evidence for AGW.

Logan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.