"Our greatest responsibility is to be good ancestors."

-Jonas Salk

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Oreskes Interview

If you're interested in the climate problem, it's hard to imagine a better way to spend 3/4 of an hour than watching John Cook's interview with Naomi Oreskes.

The "in it for the gold" question is raised explicitly, by the way, and was one of the fine moments of this excellent piece.

(And now I know that I should have been a historian of science... Oh, well.)


Anonymous said...

Dr. Oreskes is one of the shining lights for the reality side in the climate wars . Evidence of this is given by the hatred with which she is regarded by deniers, who know an effective enemy when they see one, even if they can't tell trend from noise. She bears their venomous attacks with good grace and humor, which I'm sure infuriates them even more.
Adam R.

Michael Tobis said...

Well, they're nuts for taking on Oreskes (or Lewandowsky for that matter) because for social scientists they are a legitimate topic for study, and not an exasperating distraction. But we already knew they were a bit loony.

Tom said...

As I have criticized Oreskes frequently I expected something more of a demoness. Instead she is funny, bright and articulate.

And wrong, still and sadly. Beyond the Ivory Tower is undermined by sample bias (Lindzen alone published 117 papers during the period she reviewed for publications--she didn't find one of them.)

Three of the four principal subjects of Merchants of Doubt are dead. There was no transference to the climate change debate, or at least not enough to matter. John Christy is not a shill, nor is he deluded, nor did he happily sign on for corporate largesse because he agreed with Exxon goals. Nor are Lindzen, Dyson or Happer. Further down the food chain you have one and one only shill in the blogosphere--Morano.

Those who learned the 'lessons' from Oreskes--don't debate your opponents, objectify them ceaselessly, insist the science is settled and exaggerate the findings of every paper (or just invent them, as Lewandowsky did)--were not on the contrarian side of the fence.

Michael Tobis said...

What can I say, Tom? The consensus is real. That is to say that most of the topics treated as real issues in the blog science world are either not open questions or not important.

Happer is completely wrong. Dyson is completely off point. And Lindzen has long since jumped the shark. These people are not part of scientific discourse for a reason.

As for why Oreskes missed some papers, this has long since been explained. She did not look at every paper in existence - she used specific criteria and Lindzen's stuff slipped through the net.

That said, there is a real question of how one defines "consensus" and how one defines "publication" or "expertise"; an outsider trying to confirm the consensus will obtain different results depending on where they set the boundaries. So ANY attempt along these lines can be criticized.

But there's also the experience of people working in the field to contend with. Almost nobody with any chops in physical climatology doubts that the climate of the near future is going to be drastically different from the climate of the recent past. The issue there is whether to concede Lindzen and Spencer as having any real chops.

So Oreskes got it right. (By an interesting analogy, so did Mann, Bradley & Hughes '98 a.k.a. "hockey stick"; even if the statistical methods could have been refined a bit.) Pioneering work is generally imperfect. The fact is that ANY science can be criticized. If a work stands up, it is not because it is perfect, but because its imperfections don't matter and the investigator found a path to elucidate truth.

The FACT that Oreskes got it right is something that everyone who has actually spent time in the physical climatology community knows. It's like doctors arguing whether a genuinely sick patient has real pain or is malingering. They may have to do that in some cases. But if you're the patient, you know the pain is real.

Tom said...

The narrow scientific consensus is real. 66% of published climate scientists in three different surveys say that half or more of recent warming is caused by humans. (von Storch/Bray et al 2008, Pielke 2009, Verheggen et al 2012).

All three of the over-hyped literature reviews (Oreskes, Prall et al, Cook et al) have holes big enough to drive a truck through. Their conclusions are that 97% of the papers they found either support the thesis or have no opinion. But none of them thought to use a Bayesian informed prior ('I know there are skeptics. I know their names. Let me do a separate search by author...') and when the inevitable deluge of papers they missed is brought to their intention it is called a slip-up.

By the way, Oreskes never published her methodology. She even had to correct her paper after misreporting the search terms she used.

Monckton would endorse Cook's proposition--that some of the warming in recent years is attributable to greenhouse gases. So what do we learn from Cook?

The reason Oreskes, Prall and Cook cooked up their phony 97% was because the real figure--66%--wasn't good enough for climate messaging. It sounds more like a majority than a consensus.

Thanks for proving my point about objectifying the opposition. I guess you didn't get Dressler's or Real Climate's memo reviving Lindzen's idea bout the Iris hypothesis. Or is it just much easier to say he jumped the shark? By the way, if you're going after someone with credentials like his, wouldn't it be appropriate to offer evidence?

Freeman Dyson is one of the smartest people on this planet. He worked in climate science for 15 years. He consulted with Manabe regarding climate models.

Is it so hard to say that some bright and well-credentialed scientists don't agree with you?

As for Mann, Bradley & Hughes, I think Mark Steyn just published a book filled with quotes from climate scientists disparaging one of the authors and his work. There are many papers that support the blade of the Hockey Stick. Finding ways of massaging the pesky Medieval Warming Period out of existence is a bit tougher.

“A precarious and threatening situation has developed for climatology: a tremendous effort was made to land research funds in all countries, mostly the USA, on the basis of frightening people about the possible drastic effect of Man’s activities." Hubert Lamb, first director of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit.

Or did he jump the shark too?

Michael Tobis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael Tobis said...

Please take this to your own blog, Tom. I do not want to turn moderation on again just on your account.

I just want to add that I have read Lamb's magnum opus. Lamb's historical and archaeological erudition was magnificent, but his grasp of physics was weak, and his grasp of statistics was terrible. He was wrong, like many pioneers in science stubbornly so, and he died in 1997 at the age of 84. So he missed the boat. It happens.

The rest of your points are tediously argued elsewhere. I'm not interested in discussing them here.