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, July 2, 2010

Ten camps

It's become more and more clear that the conversation has a variety of camps; I don't want to proliferate too badly because after all the number of people who (correctly I think) have climate and similar global sustainability topics front and center is small compared to the population at large. So, with an emphasis on approach to science:
I MOSTLY ACTIVISTS
We believe that there is so little evidence against the proposition of risky anthropogenic climate change that current policy inaction is clearly and grossly inappropriate
  • I a - postmodern postnormal climate scientists, who believe that the press has failed to communicate to the public, and feel ethically obligated to step up; mostly interested in conveying understanding to the public (Schneider is the prototype; RC editors, Eli, Stoat, Bob Grumbine, myself). Believe an informed public is crucial to a sound policy. Often represented by blogs. Update: Ranks recently swelled with well-intentioned novices.
  • I b - climate scientists who have been inducted into IPCC WG I and have been explicitly asked to communicate; charged with conveying the balance of evidence to the policy sector
  • I c - WG II and impacts communities, especially ecological sciences; were already politicized and frustrated before climate became an issue
  • I d- Committed activists who use science as a legalistic debating hook; may be aware of mitigating evidence but try not to discuss it; mostly interested in using science in debate toward supporting active policy (Romm is the prototype)
MOSTLY PASSIVISTS ("INACTIVISTS", "ANTI-ACTIVISTS")
Believe that climate science is extremely immature AND that, lacking evidence, the sensitivity of the system to anthropogenic perturbations implicitly MUST be small compared to natural perturbations.
  • IIa - Credentialed climate scientists who suggest climate sensitivity is small enough to not be worth worrying about; a very small group which would barely exist were it not for the extrascientific momentum of the inactivists. Opinions carry little weight among scientific mainstream.
  • IIb - Committed anti-activists who use science as a legalistic debating hook; may be aware of mitigating evidence but try not to discuss it; mostly interested in using science in debate toward opposing active policy (Watts)
  • IIc - The really odd group; scientifically educated people from other fields who approach climate science with a hostile attitude. Various levels of sophistication and ideological commitment; generally have a pro-science attitude, but various levels of understanding in the conduct of observational science. Typically though not always very weak grasp of climate physics and a consequent overemphasis on statistics. Often saddled with a very confused idea of the history of climate science and the state of the scientific culture. Extremely difficult to address as a group. (McIntyre, Liljegren). Update: A variant affiliated group simply holds openness as such a dominant value that any hack is celebrated. The best known advocate of this position is Julius Assange, but within climate its dominant advocate is Steve Mosher.
"NEUTRAL" IN STANCE
Try to maintain a posture of balance in some way between the other positions. Effectively act as allies for inactivists.

  • IIIa - The majority of climate scientists ("non-postnormalists" or "normalists") who believe that policy is somebody else's job, who have no IPCC role, and who have not yet been attacked by the Morano wing. Believe (with Pielke Jr.) in the purity of science and the traditional model of it. Not interested in policy; sometimes grim and fatalistic about it. Update: Prior to "climategate" constituted the majority of climate scientists, but as the baseless and extreme attacks on science have become obvious, much in retreat. This turnaround pretty much dates to the fall AGU meeting in 2010.
  • IIIb - The mainstream press, which have grossly misidentified IPCC-like consensus and skepticism as the two wings of the scientific debate. Believe in informing the public but accidentally misinform them. Keith and Andy Revkin are exemplary.
  • IIIc - Academics, generally not from physical or biological sciences, who see career advancement opportunities in a neutral stance and don't fully understand seem to systematically understate the scope of the risks. Usually economists, political scientists, some academic engineers. Almost invariably represented in the press by Roger Pielke Jr.
===
I think the press loves the battle and doesn't want to see it resolved. Climate science just wants to be left alone.

Even us postnormal climate scientists want to be left alone. We just see that we will never be left alone until the public gets a much better understanding of the evidence. Ideally the press should be our key ally in this matter.

It is bad enough that the press has emerged as a key obstacle instead. But it's even worse when the press takes up the cause of the confused against the cause of the informed. Is it any wonder we get a little grumpy sometimes?


Update: Revkin links in. Will everybody I've painted with a broad brush here do so? Let me say that I can't possibly do anybody justice that I've named here. Reality is more complex and contingent than can be summarized in two or three sentences. Still I think the taxonomy may be helpful and the naming of representatives of the groups may clarify.

Update May 23 2011: Several updates as noted in text: confusing use of "postmodern" replaced by "postnormal" which is what I meant. The idea that most climate scientists are indifferent or fatalistic is, I think, no longer true, and several changes in the text reflect this. I also created a slot for Mosher as a variant on class II-c.

Image:
Civil war scene believed to be public domain. Thanks to karenswhimsy.com

38 comments:

Hank Roberts said...

> Believe (with Pielke Jr.) in
> the purity of science

(only for very loose definitions of both 'purity' and 'science')

http://xkcd.com/435/

Rich said...

I've said that this is BS so many times that I have no real reason to think that you're going to listen this time. But, once again, your even phrasing about "committed activists" who use science instrumentally and ignore mitigating evidence on both sides is BS.

It's not necessary to be interested in the science, or to follow the cutting edge of it, in order to take the proper societal conclusion from it. The people who have done this and then support public policy to lower GHG levels are doing the right thing, even if they aren't using their time as you'd use yours. The activists who oppose public policy in this direction are doing something else entirely, and both their reasons for and modes of action are much different.

And really, I think it's mostly your own vanity that makes you insist on this equivalence, insulting to other people as it is. You want people to value what you do, even if that means cutting down what they do.

Michael Tobis said...

Puchalsky?

Well, you haven't given me grief in a long time... And the present audience mostly hasn't heard it.

"It's not necessary to be interested in the science, or to follow the cutting edge of it, in order to take the proper societal conclusion from it. The people who have done this and then support public policy to lower GHG levels are doing the right thing, even if they aren't using their time as you'd use yours. The activists who oppose public policy in this direction are doing something else entirely, and both their reasons for and modes of action are much different."

I agree with this; but the taxonomy is about the relationship of the groups to science and policy. I absolutely agree that one group is better than the other, though I disagree with much of even the better group's position.

There is a proposition that "renewables suffice" that the progressive group takes as proven but nobody else believes. It would be nice to see a serious formal defense of this, particularly in peer reviewed literature. Can you point to one?

Andy Revkin said...

Michael,

Your reading of my work as neutral on the question of anthropogenic climate change -- and the need for a big response http://j.mp/eQuest -- is so divorced from reality that it's hard to believe you read anything I write, or have written, in covering this issue since the mid 1980s.

Start here:
http://j.mp/rev1988
Then read my 1992 book "Global Warming: Understanding the Forecast" (cheap on used amazon.com)
Then review:
http://j.mp/dotBasics
http://j.mp/nytBasics

None of this means I shy away from describing the areas of true scientific disagreement and uncertainty (sea level, climate sensitivity, policy responses, etc). e.g., http://j.mp/dotTip

It does show, perhaps, the futility in trying to fit the variegated views on climate into camps, however many you define. (I do agree that a wide array of views on this issue can be classified as "stasists" (your "inactivists").

As I mentioned in a reply to a Dot Earth comment, your graph of science and media has some substantial flaws, as well (particularly your assertion that the most concerned scientists don't get media attention; Jim Hansen certainly hasn't lacked for coverage, for instance). Have a great weekend.

Andy Revkin said...

Michael,

Your reading of my work as neutral on the question of anthropogenic climate change -- and the need for a big response http://j.mp/eQuest -- is so divorced from reality that it's hard to believe you read anything I write, or have written, in covering this issue since the mid 1980s.

Start here:
http://j.mp/rev1988
Then read my 1992 book "Global Warming: Understanding the Forecast" (cheap on used amazon.com)
Then review:
http://j.mp/dotBasics
http://j.mp/nytBasics

None of this means I shy away from describing the areas of true scientific disagreement and uncertainty (sea level, climate sensitivity, policy responses, etc). e.g., http://j.mp/dotTip

It does show, perhaps, the futility in trying to fit the variegated views on climate into camps, however many you define. (I do agree that a wide array of views on this issue can be classified as "stasists" (your "inactivists").

As I mentioned in a reply to a Dot Earth comment, your graph of science and media has some substantial flaws, as well (particularly your assertion that the most concerned scientists don't get media attention; Jim Hansen certainly hasn't lacked for coverage, for instance).
Have a great weekend.

Michael Tobis said...

Can anyone provide a URL for Revkin's reply to my graph?

Thanks.

Steve Bloom said...

Andy, articles like last fall's on the CRU "scandal" and the one from a couple of years ago promoting the Pielkean "middle" tend to stick in the memory (and the craw).

I realize it's not a comprehensive survey of your work, but I think the parallel use of "some scientists" in this 2005 article is instructive. It also raises the question of just how much worse John Christy's already-bad research record would have to get before you consider him no longer qualified as a source.

Also, I think you're missing the point about Michael's graph. It's that broad opinion within the climate science community is much more tilted toward bad outcomes than is reflected in the press.

Roger said...

Your combination of 'neutral' with 'balanced' belies an important distinction between the two; and the mainstream press belongs in the latter.

While your 'normalist' climate scientists and other academics might not actively advocate for policy, they don't actively misinform about the science. But the press, as you say, loves the battle and has no particular interest in seeing it resolved. They know the marketability of a narrative of conflict, especially if spiced with partisan politics and a sniff of scandal, so implicitly exaggerating the degree of adherence to skeptic/denier conclusions is a necessity for them. That this leads to a false public perception of their importance (the balance-is-bias effect) is evidently not as important to them as sales - which is why even media organs that say they accept the consensus (to appeal to the majority) still give space to opinion columnists to write dissenting rubbish (to maintain, and nurture, the rest of their audience). (Which of course leads to self-reinforcement, as we describe here.)

This aim is certainly not shared by your other 'neutral' parties. They should therefore not be included with the mainstream, 'balanced' media.

Steve Bloom said...

Oddly, Andy defends himself using this article, which I would point to as a good example of what's wrong with his coverage. The hed ("Among Climate Scientists, a Dispute Over ‘Tipping Points’") and the lede ("The language was apocalyptic") pretty much telegraph the basic message of mud-wrestling scientists. The article then proceeded to make a complete mash of the distinction between abrupt change and tipping points and between the use of those terms in science and policy, all in order to support the meme that lots of scientists disagree with Hansen. Well, Andy, mission accomplished!

Steve Bloom said...

Michael, there's a crucial distinction between Romm and Watts, which is that the latter promotes ideas that are directly contradicted by the science.

Steve Bloom said...

Michael, re a formal defense of "renewables suffice," I think you want Mark Jacobson's work.

Of course we won't know for sure until we try, but that just begs the question of why it continues to be so hard to take the easy, obvious steps.

Rich Puchalsky said...

I didn't mean to not show my last name on the first comment -- I have two Google accounts and the second one doesn't show my last name for some reason.

"The relationship to science and policy" is equivocal, because they are two different things. Let's take the idea that renewables suffice as an example. Is it scientifically true? I have no idea. I'm not a scientist presently and I didn't work in that field even when I was. Is it politically true, true in a policy sense? Yes, it is, and the people who work on politics -- who are activists -- have a better sense for that kind of thing than scientists do, in general.

When someone says "renewables suffice", are they committing to a claim that renewables suffice forever and ever and we're never going to have to do anything else? Or do they realize, quite rationally in my opinion, that the only way to move forwards is to break the fossil fuel industry, and the only way to do that in the current political environment is through renewables?

Asking whether they have a peer-reviewed paper to support their political judgement is silly, it's a category error. If "the progressive group takes it as proven" as you write, then they've achieved political consensus on it as a next step. To say that we need to do something entirely different with no political idea of how to get there is just as nonsensical as it would be if I claimed that we needed to solve the problem with nanobots, or some other science fictional solution.

David B. Benson said...

Renewables would suffice for a much smaller world population. As it is, see the arguments on
Brave New Climate

Michael Tobis said...

My reply to Revkin:

I am sorry that my categories are described so briefly; I had to get ten of them into a readable article. As such, they are only coarse caricatures and are not meant to capture all the complexities of interesting and exasperating people like Roger Pielke Jr., Keith Kloor, or our host.

It was an awkward tradeoff whether to name the names that seemed to me to form the archetype for each category. Leaving them out would leave the categorization a bit dull, while including them would leave room for people to take offense. And of course there's the perverse motivation that people who are miffed at you send you inbound links!

I've had occasion to compare Andy Revkin to the Batman archenemy Two-Face, who flips a coin daily to determine whether to be a force for good or evil on that day. Andy writes very very good stuff on occasion, which leads me to believe that he understands the global predicament quite well. Then on other days he writes things that glorify the forces of confusion and delay. It's far from clear that the net effect helps get the world out of the stasis trap and into a condition where progress on this matter is possible.

And while I'm gratified, even if at the expense of being called \"silly\" for the inbound link from Dot Earth I've wanted since the first week it ran, it's interesting to note the timing of the attention being directed my way.

As Paulina Essunger said in regard to the damage to scientific credibility riased by the \"climategate\" events, ( http://is.gd/ddcpk )

[Analysis of this event has made] \"little distinction between potential damage done by the materials themselves, as a kind of proxy for the scientists, and potential damage done by misleading media coverage. I look forward to blow-by-blow coverage of media missteps from Nov 20 to the present. I also look forward to constructive, clear, focused exchanges on what lessons journalists need to learn from this and how the media can avoid making the same mistakes again. This is the time for some serious media introspection.\"

Yet, despite the way that these events have been used to manipulate the press to further polarize conversation between conservatives in the general population and the scientific community, no press introspection has been forthcoming. The latest exoneration (of Michael Mann by a committee of eminent scientists at Penn State U) could easily have been an occasion for such introspection. The criticisms of Jay Rosen of the press and my extension of those to climate coverage could well have served as a starting point. http://is.gd/cQgJJ

Instead, my whole effort at a taxonomy of the participants in the science debate is met with defensiveness and mockery (\"silly\"). Well, it's hard to be both fair and interesting in fifty words. You can look for some of the other mentions of \"Revkin\" on my blog, some rather more in depth. http://is.gd/dddUi Our host has been something of an obsession of mine on occasion.

Also, many thanks to Jeff Huggins for hanging in and fighting the good fight on Dot Earth!

Kooiti MASUDA said...

I think that the article of Revkin's which Steve Bloom links from his comment beginning with "Oddly" does a good job. Such an outlook that we are likely to cross a tipping point of the climate system (in IPCC WG1 sense) is different from the main conclusion of IPCC AR4. I have written a comment at RealClimate. But, in my opinion, the difference is ignored too often, and the conflation makes those who reasonably doubt extreme outlooks also tend to doubt mainstream climate science.

But this is a difference of the content of scientific messages. I do not think it need be added to mt's taxonomy of "camps" which is based on attitudes of people.

NewYork said...

On IIc, some possible motivations (obviously doesn't apply uniformly):

Some are perhaps a bit envious (or resentful depending on your point of view) of the attention that climate science and scientists get. Other than a steady paycheck, perhaps their field doesn't offer much public recognition. They want that attention instead (positive or negative...some are just attention-seekers), and the public certainly has the demand for their brand. There are plenty of media outlets and blogs ready to publicize the thoughts of a technically-educated person disputing the consensus position. It's both boring and unfruitful for them to just mostly agree with the climate science community. The idea of overturning the established view on a topic that warrants public attention is quite appealing. They feel their scientific background is adequate enough to be on equal ground with the published experts. Ideological bias (of varying degrees as MT noted) plays a role.

The IIc group wants to gain prominence on the issue. Since their arguments are generally not very robust, one way to gain more prominence is to attempt to weaken or demolish the existing scientific establishment, in the hopes that their blog or views will become relatively more relevant and influential.

A comment from Judith Curry I saw awhile back had got me thinking about the issue. "Willis [Eschenbach] is a rising star in the skeptical blogosphere with the 2M strong WUWT army behind him"

Questionable army numbers aside, who would have heard of him if his arguments weren't intentionally provocative? (albeit rather silly to your average climate scientist) No reward for the marginally technical individual who plays it straight. That 2M strong following is empowering. They feel a sense of being part of a movement.

dhogaza said...

"A comment from Judith Curry I saw awhile back had got me thinking about the issue. "Willis [Eschenbach] is a rising star in the skeptical blogosphere with the 2M strong WUWT army behind him""

She really said this?

I'd like to be amazed, stunned, astonished, but, hell ...

You can probably round up 50 million behind Dembski and Behe, and yet, evolution is a fact ...

She's basically saying that science is some sort of democracy, which undercuts the whole premise of science - understanding reality.

I'm so stunned here that I honestly can't think of anything intelligent to say.

Where did she make that astonishing and naive comment? Linky please ...

Toby said...

I still do not understand the denialist's obsession with so-called "Climategate".

Ben Goldacre at Bad Science, on another topic entirely, offers a kind of explanation:

"When presented with unwelcome scientific evidence, it seems, in a desperate bid to retain some consistency in their world view, people would rather conclude that science in general is broken."

http://www.badscience.net/2010/07/yeah-well-you-can-prove-anything-with-science/#more-1716

pfh said...

I noticed Andy Revkin's response to being called a "neutral in stance". It's a systemic problem, that "within the debate" Andy's not neutral at all, but "the debate" is far from including hooks into a wide range of the physical realities. Here's my comment to his post: http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/07/02/sorting-out-climate-camps
++++
Andy,
The truth is you do not distinguish between maintaining a popular press forum and a well informed sorting of the critical issues. The latter calls for considering questions that people are not debating.

When the press only talks about what people want to debate... it does precisely, give the appearance the serious thinkers out here have, that "the press loves the battle and doesn’t want to see it resolved."

It's not that there shouldn't be a forum for all the things people can be entertained by. It's that it's a problem when the media "contract with America" is to only print news and issues that are popular to debate. That's quite what drives the blogosphere too, of course. Hey, it's in the nature of all media, not just you. But its also truly disastrous.

I could point to other things, but the big one is the complete failure of the press and blogs like yours to respond to the fundamentally flawed premises defining the climate debate. Almost no one is taking the threat of climate change as a remarkably clear signal from nature that the material costs of growth are increasing remarkably faster than any possible benefit.

It's a wonderfully curious bit of evidence of the open questions about the issue the debate is completely missing. It also contradicts many of our cultural values... so neither you nor much of anyone else ever seeks to explore the very clear open questions implied.

Going outside the debate to see "the physical nature of the problem" just doesn't seem responsive "within the debate" or sell newsprint (at first).

Phil Henshaw

NewYork said...

http://www.collide-a-scape.com/2010/04/23/an-inconvenient-provocateur/#comment-3316

She was basically saying that Eschenbach shouldn't be ignored by climate scientists. The reason? He's popular among a large amateur skeptic base. One amateur skeptic strategy is to build up a large following that apparently demands attention.

Marco said...

Dhogaza:
http://www.collide-a-scape.com/2010/04/23/an-inconvenient-provocateur/comment-page-15/
comment 225

called out in 243. She never responded, but then again, it was in the same thread she said loads of horribly poorly argumented things.

Hank Roberts said...

I think the notion (maybe what Judith Curry is saying, though I'd hope she'd be clearer) is that science is a marketplace, not that it's a democracy.

The approach is documented here:

http://www.ssrc.org/workspace/images/crm/new_publication_3/%7Beee91c8f-ac35-de11-afac-001cc477ec70%7D.pdf

THE SOCIAL SCIENCE RESEARCH COUNCIL, JULY 2008
The Rise of the Dedicated Natural
Science Think Tank

"... Analysts need to take neoliberal theorists like Hayek at their word when they state that the Market is the superior information processor par excellence. The theoretical impetus behind the rise of the natural science think tanks is the belief that science progresses when everyone can buy the type of science they like, dispensing with whatever the academic disciplines say is mainstream or discredited science."

Steve Bloom said...

Kooiti, most of the work on and paleo evidence for abrupt change and tipping points post-dates the AR4 WG1 deadline (now over four years ago), so it's not appropriate to use it as a basis for judgement as you do.

Your response also begs the question of whether "those who reasonably doubt extreme outlooks" have examined the recent science. If not, and I think it's clear that most have not, they're not being too reasonable.

dhogaza said...

"I think the notion (maybe what Judith Curry is saying, though I'd hope she'd be clearer) is that science is a marketplace, not that it's a democracy. "

I don't think so. Curry would categorize marketplace players like the insurance industry as being "alarmists" not paying sufficient attention to those white-hatted "skeptics" she's so enamored with.

Kooiti MASUDA said...

I am really skeptic (yes, skeptic) about the so-called accelereation of global warming since IPCC AR4. Arctic sea ice in September did decrease faster than projections, but global mean surface air temperature rose slower than projections.

Steve Bloom said...

Kooiti, as you know very well the models don't purport to do such short-term projections. Who exactly was it saying that there would be a detectable acceleration over the last few years?

Ron Broberg said...

I feel so left out.

Eschenbach shouldn't be ignored. He should be answered.

In the *folklore* of martial arts, if you wanted to challenge the master of a competing school, you might first be required to work your up the ranks of his students.

Michael Tobis said...

For the purposes of the present article, the only interesting thing about Eschenbach is whether he is best classified as IIb or IIc. I don't follow him closely enough to have an opinion about that.

I will be happy to nominate Zeke for cliamte debate sainthood if anyone on High asks me about it.

For myself, I have essentially zero interest in hairsplitting about the observational record in ways that don't involve significant physical modeling. I don't think there's much science to be gleaned from the exercise. The fact that this is the turf most beloved of the red herring gang doesn't especially make it more attractive to me. Please take it elsewhere.

Ron Broberg said...

Within the context of this thread, you don't have a category for Zeke or Stokes or Barnes or Chad or (to a lesser degree) myself.

Scientifically educated people from other fields who DO NOT approach climate science with a hostile attitude

Michael Tobis said...

Ron, an excellent point. Such people haven't been prominent in the conversation to date, but the signs of that changing are very encouraging.

Kooiti MASUDA said...

I am sorry I probably misunderstood what Steve Bloom said. My position seems to the same as his with respect to short-term observations.

I checked Hansen's "Storm of my Grandchildren" and he did not say that global warming has already accelerated faster than projected, though he did suggest future possibilities. My impression of "already accrelerated" was largely from "Global Fever" of William Calvin (a scientist but not climate expert) and "The Vanishing Face of Gaia" of James Lovelock (perpaps no longer an expert, though still a thinker).

The more serious concern of myself regards to storylines of near future climate change relevant to policy-making. (They are statements not purely within science.)

One storyline is "If we continue emission, the climate system will pass a tipping point beyond which we cannot come back. In order to avoid that, we must reduce emission."

Another is "The climate change as projected by currently standard numerical model experiments will likely to be dangerous enough to warrant mitigation."

I think that the first storyline may possibly be true, but, as far as we do not know where the tipping point is, we cannot probably arrive at political agreement based on that. I think that we had better concentrate on the second storyline when we say we should base policy on scientific consensus.

Lazar said...

... does anyone know where this "2M strong WUWT army" figure comes from? Asked JC, no response.

Michael Tobis said...

Well 40 m is hit count, not even his page count. Supposing each page view is about 8 hits (one for analytics, one for the page, six for various images) that is about 5 m pages served, about ten times the total for this site. Significant but not earthshaking.

For that to amount to 2 m followers would mean each follower had visited the site between twice and thrice. I myself bring the average up (have probably been there 50 times) and would hardly call myself a follower. Anyway, for each person like me there would have to be 49 people who have only seen the site once or twice. Hardly leaves much room for "followers".

My guess is that I have about 300 regular readers, and perhaps 6000 habitual but not consistent visitors; unfortunately not enough to make a living. I would guess that Watts has about ten times that, also not enough to make a living, but perhaps enough to generate a modest supplementary income from advertising. Same with Romm. Romm is subsidized; I don't know if Watts is.

2 m people is, in my opinion, not plausible. Even Slashdot and Daily Kos (the highest traffic sites I frequent) are not in that league.

Curry is very smart about some things, and a real scientist, but if she hasn't jumped the shark yet she sure seems to be closing in on the thing.

NewYork said...

Watts reported in March an accumulated hit count (over the years) of about 40 million.

"WUWT Status report – 40 million
Posted on March 26, 2010 by Anthony Watts
Overnight, another milestone occurred. As of 6:20 AM PST, the WUWT hit counter shows...40,010,039 hits"

2 million was his reported monthly hit count for October, 2009.

"New WUWT milestone: 2 million hits this month"

If Alexa is any reliable measure, his numbers are similar to that now, maybe a little more. One can probably assume that the source of Judith Curry's statement is Anthony Watts.

Judith originally reported this as:

"The blog with the largest public audience is wattsupwiththat.com, led by weatherman Anthony Watts, with over 2 million unique visitors each month."

http://curry.eas.gatech.edu/climate/towards_rebuilding_trust.html

Hit count is clearly not the same thing as unique visitors, else I would be counted about 10 times for visiting his site last month and clicking on some links. I imagine many loyal readers and frequent commenters might be counted thousands of times.

Judith subsequently then morphed it into "2M strong WUWT army behind [Eschenbach]" which is another series of logic leaps - something most high school students could easily deconstruct.

Judith strikes me as being rather careless and loose with facts, and this is only one example. It's a trait most contrarians have as well. My less charitable take is that she's deliberately and disingenuously trying to hype up the contrarian crowd for reasons not entirely clear. In a recent post at Kloor's site, she was talking up the Competitive Enterprise Institute as a credible scientific organization interested in truth.

Michael Tobis said...

Each page view is at least 8 hits, quite likely more.

So 2 million hits per month is about 250,000 page views, less than ten times what this blog does and nothing unusual. My daily uniques are about half my page views, so if Watts is similar, about 125,000 daily uniques per month.

If the mean of visitors is 6 visits per month (some people look every day, some come by once and run away screaming) that's about 20,000 people, or an error of about three orders of magnitude.

The regular readers are probably a small fraction of that, though they contribute lots of hits. I'd guess he has about 2000 devotees at most.

By the way, my Beeville story when it hit Reddit got me 30,000 unique visitors in a day. So I probably had more unique visitors last month than Watts.

Lazar said...

Michael, thanks for the details. I guesstimated 10,000 for WUWT, so glad we're in the same ballpark.

JC possibly jumping the shark...

My opinion on climate sensitivity is that [...] the uncertainty is too large for there to be a credible pdf.

(how to interpret this as stating anything other than 'we know nothing'?)

Some members of the climate establishment have all but branded me as heretic for [...] listening to what CEI has to say (which i don’t categorize as anti-science).

(not anti-science?)

Not so much jumping the shark, but still troubling...

If you understand science and you understand risk, it is difficult to find the IPCC confidence levels credible.

[...]

there are a significant number of scientists (e.g. me) who think these confidence levels are too high.

[...]

My expositions on too much confidence, inadequate uncertainty, etc. in the science as reported by the IPCC

[...]

Another issue that I have re the attribution is lack of consideration of the multidecadal ocean oscillations.

[...]

I mainly think that the confidence levels in the IPCC WG1 report (not to mention the other reports) are too high. I cannot directly refute any of these statements, other than to raise a whole long list of questions that have not been satisfactorily answered

[...]

There is a great deal of ignorance with regards to how the climate system works, which is totally ignored in all these “very likely” conclusions.


... is the lack of citations (ditto in Peter Webster's recent comment). The only citation I have seen is dire. Yet 'IPCC uncertainties are too small' is being taken as a given at Kloor's.

And her casting of McIntyre as an "uncertainty detective" when he gives a pass to work which is clearly critically flawed, e.g. Douglass et al. 2008 and an attempted paleo reconstruction by Loehle and nonsense on WUWT or by David Stockwell or Willis Eschenbach.

I'm not a great fan of this idea of "uncertainty detectives" who lack an obligation to follow claimed flaws through to demonstrating effect sizes... 'we throw around endless quibles, it's scientists' jobs to demonstrate they don't matter'... and the assumption that scientists haven't already considered and rejected the possibilities.

Annan & Hargreaves (2006) was bought to her attention and again no response... I would have thought that finding a lower bound of less than 1.5 C per doubling is unfeasible is surely of some relevance.

JC's claims appear to be lacking rigor... which ironically is one of her accusations against the IPCC.

Lazar said...

Michael, thanks for the details. I guesstimated 10,000 for WUWT, so glad we're in the same ballpark.

JC possibly jumping the shark...

My opinion on climate sensitivity is that [...] the uncertainty is too large for there to be a credible pdf.

(how to interpret this as stating anything other than 'we know nothing'?)

Some members of the climate establishment have all but branded me as heretic for [...] listening to what CEI has to say (which i don’t categorize as anti-science).

(not anti-science?)

Lazar said...

Not so much jumping the shark, but still troubling...

If you understand science and you understand risk, it is difficult to find the IPCC confidence levels credible. [...] there are a significant number of scientists (e.g. me) who think these confidence levels are too high. [...] My expositions on too much confidence, inadequate uncertainty, etc. in the science as reported by the IPCC [...] Another issue that I have re the attribution is lack of consideration of the multidecadal ocean oscillations. [...] I mainly think that the confidence levels in the IPCC WG1 report (not to mention the other reports) are too high. I cannot directly refute any of these statements, other than to raise a whole long list of questions that have not been satisfactorily answered [...] There is a great deal of ignorance with regards to how the climate system works, which is totally ignored in all these “very likely” conclusions.

... is the lack of citations (ditto in Peter Webster's recent comment). The only citation I have seen is dire. Yet 'IPCC uncertainties are too small' is being taken as a given at Kloor's.

And her casting of McIntyre as an "uncertainty detective" when he gives a pass to work which is clearly critically flawed, e.g. Douglass et al. 2008 and an attempted paleo reconstruction by Loehle and nonsense on WUWT or by David Stockwell or Willis Eschenbach.

I'm not a great fan of this idea of "uncertainty detectives" who lack an obligation to follow claimed flaws through to demonstrating effect sizes... 'we throw around endless quibles, it's scientists' jobs to demonstrate they don't matter'... and the assumption that scientists haven't already considered and rejected the possibilities.

Annan & Hargreaves (2006) was bought to her attention and again no response... I would have thought that finding a lower bound of less than 1.5 C per doubling is unfeasible is surely of some relevance.

So, some of JC's claims appear to be lacking rigor... which ironically is one of her accusations against the IPCC.