Why We’re Doomed

Posted by: Keith Kloor  :  Category: climate change, climate politics, climate science

Last June, I explored the blogospheric polarization of the climate debate in this conversation with two climate bloggers who consciously avoid hyperbole. Naturally, their readership is tiny compared to WUWT and Climate Progress.

I got to thinking about this climate divide again after I read a comment by Zeke Hausfather on Judith Curry’s “Heresy” post. Zeke nails the cause (my emphasis):

I think part of the problem (and, frankly, the retrenchment among some scientists) is how monochromatic climate science has been cast. You are either a warmest or denier; you either believe every word of the IPCC or believe all of climate science is a scam. Any flaw or criticism gets trumpeted as “bringing down the house of cards” or “driving the final nail in the coffin of AGW”, and this tends to create an environment poisonous to good skeptical science. These strawmen do not reflect the way the majority of scientists think (or people in general, I would hope), but tend to be overwhelmingly present in blog discussions.

Its quite possible to criticize parts of the IPCC (hello working group III…) or how uncertainties have been systematically understated by media reports and advocacy groups while still being concerned by the facts that doubling CO2 would increase radiative forcing by ~3.7 watts per meter squared and that the vast majority of evidence we have collected to date suggests that climate sensitivity is positive.

The lack of a basic foundation of agreement to argue upon has the unfortunate effect of making many blog discussions something of an exercise in futility.

A similar point was made in a comment over at Roger Pielke Jr’s blog, in a thread that also pertained to Judith’s “Heresy” post. The reader asserts that,

those who disagree seem to be unable to even find a venue that they can debate in. You and Curry want to do it in blogs that are dominated by dogmatists who don’t even accept the basics that you and Curry do, and you expect them to wade through that. They want you and Curry to do the debate in traditional journals. You and she do that to some degree, but your efforts in your blogs fall on deaf ears in their community for the most part.

I don’t know what the answer to all of this is, and I’m not saying it’s ALL your and Curry’s fault. But it certainly isn’t all the IPCC/RC crowd’s fault either. We live in a partisan world and that partisanship undermines rational debate in many areas, not just the explicitly political.

In other words, we’re doomed.

Seriously, I don’t see any way around this. Judith Curry wants to talk about “climate models” and “climate sensitivity” in this environment? If the blogospheric debate is so thoroughly dominated by partisans and dogmatists who snipe at each other from opposite sides of the climate divide, then what is the way forward?

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38 Responses to “Why We’re Doomed”

  1. Gene Says:

    I found that particular comment to be rather peculiar - the presence on Dr. Curry’s blog of a commenter with fringe views makes it impossible for him to read?  That (and similar commenters) dominate her blog?

    It seems that the person who posted that ignores the range of views (and an opportunity to get his point of view across) and gives up because the dogmatic person won’t be swayed.

  2. Zeke Hausfather Says:

    The usefulness of the discussion (signal to noise ratio, if you will) varies a lot from blog to blog. I’ve had a lot of good discussions at places like Lucia’s blog, Bart’s blog, Climate Audit, or the Air Vent. Less so at places like WUWT or Climate Progress. At Judy’s place, it seems to depend a lot on how widely the post has been linked at other places.

    Regardless, the general point was that blog discussions would be much more interesting in general if there were more agreement on the basics. Explaining why water vapor is generally a feedback rather than a forcing (and why “CO2 doesn’t matter because WV is the majority of the greenhouse effect” is a silly argument) for the umpteenth time gets old quickly when I’d rather be discussing various papers on estimating climate sensitivity.

    What gets in the way of good discussion is the tendency of folks on both sides of the debate to somewhat-uncritically accept ideas that support their preconceptions regardless of their scientific validity, be it the THC shutting down and triggering a new ice age or the silliness of folks like Beck, G&T, etc.

  3. Rocco Says:

    I don’t see what the problem is. If somebody has something useful to contribute to the science, they should publish in the literature. Blogs are mostly for PR and lulz.

    Also, in before false balance.

  4. Tom Fuller Says:

    There’s always the Pielke Sr. solution-disable comments…

  5. Keith Kloor Says:


    Thanks for the elaboration. It also seems that technical and/or specialized topic threads have that higher signal to noise ratio.

  6. Zajko Says:

    Well, there’s no ideal blog for every discussion, and commenter demographics count for a lot. I’m not dissuaded from engaging with people/partisans holding entirely different assumptions because I like to unpack those assumptions, but if I were discussing something more technical a certain level of agreement would be a prerequisite. Repetitive zombie claims are a problem, but these can be worked on if there is a ready-made response to refer to.

    There is a question whether a blog such as Climate Etc. can cover the sort of wide ground it is attempting to and do so effectively, or whether it would be best to specialize as a certain sort of space (which might also cut down traffic). I’m still watching this particular experiment, but I do see some reasons to be hopeful.

  7. Gene Says:

    No doubt the “noisiness” of some blogs makes them much more of an echo chamber than a venue for discussion.  For what it’s worth, I tend to put Dr. Curry’s blog in the latter group.  I’ve seen much less ranting to the choir there than at WUWT or Real Climate.  I tend to the skeptic side, but both Lucia and Dr. Curry have given me some perspectives that help moderate my views (Lucia re: the anomaly method, Curry re: academic vs. regulatory science).

    I agree that carving out common ground is important.  From what I’ve seen so far, there is a base of agreement between scientists that are portrayed as being poles apart - the disagreements seem to be more in degree and detail.  Politically, of course, there is a wider range of views.  Not all of those are as grounded as they could be, but the moderates tend to stay silent and the extremists get the attention.  That doesn’t mean the moderates aren’t listening, however.

    My previous comment was aimed at the one from Roger Pielke Jr.’s site.  It seems to me that the truly fringe opinions on Climate, etc. seem to be dealt with by ignoring them, and they don’t seem to be dominating discussion there.

    I will also agree that confirmation bias is a problem on both sides of the aisle.  It is a very human trait, and requires a good deal of self-discipline to overcome.  That being said, we’re only “doomed” if we choose to quit talking altogether.

  8. thingsbreak Says:

    All of this blogospheric navel-gazing has virtually nothing to do with whether or not aggressive avoidance of dangerous climatic impacts is pursued. On this, I’m in good agreement with Roger Pielke Jr.
    People already support governmental action on climate change in the abstract (even though they are not particularly conversant with the underlying science), but only as far as it doesn’t significantly conflict with pursuit of economic growth.
    Where I part ways with Roger is how this seemingly intractable problem can be overcome. Roger thinks we should throw money at a breakthrough solution and pray for the best. I think that there has been a fundamental failure in framing our future economic paths in relation to climate change. Right now the idea of tolerating economic costs to combat climate change is being mentally compared by the general populace to emissions growth at no cost, which is (if nowhere else certainly at the outer bound) ludicrous.
    How many people would be willing to buy insurance for their homes if they believed the cost of a house fire would be zero?
    If by “way forward” you mean achieving some sort of widespread blogospheric agreement, then I agree but I’m not sure I see the importance. The vast majority of Americans (let alone people around the world) will live their lives in complete ignorance of and indifference to climate blogs. Does it matter if a blog détente is never reached? People can die believing that the Medieval Warm Period somehow precludes a significant anthropogenic perturbation of the carbon cycle and ensuing climatic effects. Eppure si riscalda.

  9. Marlowe Johnson Says:

    A few suggestions.
    1. when talking science stick to facts.  Do you best to situate those facts within an appropriate context.
    2. ALWAYS refrain from speculating about motives either directly or indirectly as RPJr and JC do so often (that’s my impression fwiw).
    3. when talking about policy, talk about the implications of facts in the context of certainty/uncertainty and how these intercect with value positions (e.g. risk aversion, equity, etc.).
    4. Avoid the temptation to oversell/overgeneralize a valid point.  Conversely, avoid minimizing mistakes/shortcomings/uncertainties etc.

  10. The Blackboard » We are not doomed! All is not futile. Says:

    [...] Why We Are Doomed, Keith Kloor raises one of Co-blogger Zeke’s comments about the futility of climate blogging [...]

  11. Lucia Says:

    My thoughts were too long to include in comments! I agree with Zeke that certain aspects of blogging are futile, but I didn’t focus on those. Instead, I focused on a case where we have broken out of futility.  That example relates to the Surface Temperature Record blog discussions- and involves Zeke himself participating in not-futile blog conversations.  (Zeke-Why do you think I was thrilled to let you post on something I didn’t want to spend time on?  I think that blog conversation is very not-futile.)

    For the time being, I am deferring defending certain other issues as “not futile”. But I think there have been some more  issues where blog discussions were “not futile”. However, with respect to political issues, “not futile” sometimes means one POV on an issue has gained wide spread or wider spread acceptance.  To the extent that blogging resulted in the advance (or retreat) it is not futile to those blogging.   Bringing up those examples will be contentious though.  (I’m also sure they will be brought up. But I’m going to the gym now. :) )

  12. Keith Kloor Says:

    In suggesting that bloggy climate debates are doomed to futility, I should say that  I recognize a certain irony in my using comments from other blogs to make my case.

    (As longtime readers know, I have much respect for commenters and often like to highlight particular comments, be they from this site or others.)

  13. Brian Hayes Says:

    This comment is my small appreciation and thanks. Patience is a virtue because, well, patience is a virtue. Sometimes I think climate models might be fun overlay on social models, a little dust here, a lot of gas there, and before you know it we’ve got volatility. Volatility is not futility; both annoying and painful, neither are permanent. From my layman’s perch, much is being achieved, policy is bending worldwide, cash is steering, none of will know if we’ll succeed, but all of us have no better tool than simple persistence.

  14. AMac Says:

    I saw firsthand the refusal of Pro-AGW Consensus scientist/advocates to concede that the uncalibratable Tiljander data series could not be used as paleotemperature proxies.  This primed me to believe claims on WUWT and other websites that the instrumental temperature record was so flawed as to be untrustworthy.

    Zeke’s careful walk-throughs of the data and methods for temperature anomaly calculations (e.g. GISStemp) convinced me that these records are robust .

    (Can/should they be improved?  Of course.  But they present a valuable picture of the Earth’s recent climate history, as-is.)
    I believe that there are many of us who are open to persuasion.

    We are not doomed.

  15. Shub Says:

    Zeke, you said:
    “Explaining why water vapor is generally a feedback rather than a forcing (and why “CO2 doesn’t matter because WV is the majority of the greenhouse effect” is a silly argument) for the umpteenth time gets old quickly”
    Dr Roy Spencer says:
    “I can tell reading the paper, their claim is that, since our primary greenhouse gas water vapor (and clouds, which constitute a portion of the greenhouse effect) respond quickly to temperature change, vapor and clouds should only be considered “feedbacks” upon temperature change — not “forcings” that cause the average surface temperature of the atmosphere to be what it is in the first place.
    Though not obvious, this claim is central to the tenet of the paper, and is an example of the cause-versus-effect issue I repeatedly refer to in the past when discussing some of the most fundamental errors made in the scientific ‘consensus’ on climate change.”
    Is there a valid reason for the kind of question zombies you are talking about then?

  16. Zeke Hausfather Says:

    To move away from the “we’re doomed” rhetoric a bit (which I think Kieth was being a tad tongue-in-cheek with), I certainly would argue that blogs can be useful laboratories for hashing out scientific ideas. As someone who went from arguing with Anthony on a comment thread at WUWT to creating and blogging about temperature reconstructions to collaborating with other bloggers and researchers at the National Climate Data Center on an academic paper, I’ve seen how blogs can be quite constructive.

    On the flip side, however, they can often dissolve into cheap point-scoring and partisan proxy-battles, particularly on more highly trafficked sites and comment threads. There is also a large group of folks who appear to have thrown the proverbial climate science baby out with the bathwater, and are so convinced that anything to do with climate science is a scam that it can be difficult to have a basic conversation. On the flip side, there are those who think anyone skeptical about the science must be funded by an oil company or be politically motivated, and such rhetoric can simply drive folks further away.

  17. Zeke Hausfather Says:

    I presume Roy isn’t talking about an external WV input acting as an independent climate forcing (though a link to the source of the quote would help), but rather external forcings potentially affecting cloud formation and the resulting effects. Clouds and absolute humidity are somewhat different beasts, and the former is subject to considerably more uncertainty than the latter, even though both are technically composed of water.
    The primary reasons why water vapor cannot be a cause of climate change are its short atmospheric residence time and a basic physical limitation on the quantity of water vapor in the atmosphere for any given temperature (its saturation vapor pressure). The addition of a large amount of water vapor to the troposphere would have little effect on global temperatures in the short term due to the thermal inertia of the climate system. The Earth’s thermal inertia, largely due to the enormous amount of water covering two thirds the planet’s surface, is the primary reason why half the Earth does not freeze over every night and bake every day. As a result, different areas warm over the course of years (for land surface temperatures), decades (for ocean surface temperatures), and even centuries (for deep ocean temperatures and ice sheets).
    For the troposphere to sustain higher absolute humidity requires an increase in air temperature. Water vapor cannot itself catalyze temperature increases in the short time (estimated at around 10 days) that a discrete water vapor influx would remain before precipitating out. A sustained increase in tropospheric water vapor requires a strong external forcing to provide the initial temperature increase.
    In general, the amount of water vapor in the troposphere does not vary significantly over time so long as temperatures remain stable. However, if some external forcing causes tropospheric temperatures to increase, there will be a water vapor feedback. Warmer air can sustain a higher absolute humidity than cooler air. Furthermore, warmer temperatures tend to (but do not always) increase evaporation rates, leading to a higher concentration of atmospheric water vapor. This feedback acts in a number of different and at times contradictory ways.
    Water vapor is a greenhouse gas, and sustained additional water vapor concentrations (resulting from higher average temperatures) will trap additional heat and result in additional warming. Increasing temperatures also influence cloud formation, though the relationship is complex and humidity is but one of many contributing factors.
    Unlike water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide are long-lived greenhouse gases. Carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for about 100 years (though this is somewhat of a simplification, as some is removed quickly, some stays for around a century, and some remains almost indefinitely). Methane stays in the atmosphere for a dozen years on average before decomposing into carbon dioxide and water vapor. Nitrous oxide remains around for over a century.
    These long-lived greenhouse gases produce sustained warming, which drives the water vapor feedback. If concentrations of greenhouse gases are reduced, the planet will cool and the water vapor feedback will work the opposite way: lower temperatures lead to lower atmospheric water vapor concentrations, further cooling the Earth. The short residence time and relatively constant magnitude of evaporation as a function of temperature mean that water vapor will always follow, not lead, changes in long-lived greenhouse gases.

  18. Roger Pielke, Jr. Says:

    Keith- Blogs are good and we are not doomed ;-)
    Few quick replies:
    **tb: “Roger thinks we should throw money at a breakthrough solution and pray for the best.”
    Um, not even close.  Read the book please.
    **Marlowe J: “as RPJr and JC do so often…”
    Examples please.

  19. Jack Hughes Says:

    Here is the way forward.
    A competition for climate scientists. Like the man-powered flight competition or the US military robots-in-the-desert competition.
    The test would be to show their skill by making some kind of verifiable prediction - say 18 months into the future. With a definite measure - like how many feet of snow fall in a season at 3 designated ski resorts. And the total hours of sunshine in same resorts. Mean July temperatures in same places.
    The test would have to be definite and measurable - claims for 80 years time won’t wash.
    This is how science used to work - you show your skill by making accurate predictions then observing what really happens.
    Enough of this meta-meta-meta nonsense of personalities and blogs about blogs. Put your cards on the table.

  20. David44 Says:

    A large part of the problem in my view, is the assumption  by scientists of the role of advocates in the political and policy arenas.  A very interesting historical treatise on the twisting of research results to fit a policy agenda by government “big science” is the 1994 book “The Firecracker Boys” by Dan O’Neill which tells the story of the attempt by Edward Teller and the Atomic Energy Commission’s Plowshares Program to blast an artificial harbor on Alaskan native land at Cape Thompson on the Chukchi Sea.
    Permit me an extended excerpt from the book:
    After World War II ended with the dropping of two atomic bombs on Japan, Barry Commoner [a name any environmentalist should instantly recognize], a plant physiologist then at Washington University in St. Louis, began to think deeply about what is generally called the social responsibility of the scientist.  Obviously, the possibility of nuclear war was a preeminent concern, as was the danger inherent in testing nuclear weapons in the atmosphere.  Just as obvious was the fact that reasoned public discourse on these political issues involved some understanding of scientific information. Unless citizens intended to abdicate their democratic prerogatives to government experts, some public education was essential.  And Commoner believed that scientists had a responsibility to explain this technical information and thereby assist the public in making these science-related -but POLITICAL- decisions.
    None of the several associations of scientists that had sprung up after the war seemed to Commoner to fill the bill.  Groups such as the Federation of American Scientists, the Pugwash movement, whose organ was the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, and the Society for Social Responsibility in Science were all cognizant of the scientist’s new role in public affairs.  But all seemed to project a view of the scientist as an expert either in the analysis of political matters or in the analysis of social ethics.  And scientists had no more claim to be arbiters of the public good or mediators of moral philosophy than had any other human being.

    Experts -statisticians and epidemiologists, radiobiologists and ecologists, economists and politicians- might be able to assign a PROBABILITY to these eventualities, but who could assign the VALUE to be placed on economic advantage, or on human suffering?  An Edward Teller might see the balance tipped one way, an Albert Schweitzer, the other.
    Barry Commoner’s notion was that in these matters it was not the scientist who was the authority, but -through the political process- the ordinary citizen.  And the scientist’s contribution ought to be more along the lines of a technical consultant’s who could sift through the facts, outline scientific principles, discuss the limits of accuracy and alternate interpretations, then step aside and let the public determine its will.

    By 1960, Commoner chaired a Committee on Science in the Promotion of Human Welfare for the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).  With his fellow committee members, one of whom was Margaret Mead, Commoner analyzed the role of science in the political affairs of the modern world:
    “Having become a major instrument in political affairs, science is inseparably bound up with many troublesome questions of public policy.  That science is valued more for these uses than for its fundamental purpose -the free inquiry into nature- leads to pressures which have begun to threaten the integrity of science itself.”
    Without mentioning the Atomic Energy Commission by name, the AAAS committee singled out ardent nuclear partisanship as a cause of the erosion of such scientific values as “objective open communication of results; rigorous distinction between fact and hypothesis; candid recognition of assumptions and sources of error.”  And the result, said the committee, was that “the identity between science and an objective regard for the facts” has become clouded.
    End of excerpt.
    I hope that the parallels with the modern situation involving climate scientists, politics, and the IPCC are as obvious to others as they seem to me.

  21. RB Says:

    Jack Hughes #19, the examples of skill you suggest are a bit extreme. However, Annan has <a href=”http://julesandjames.blogspot.com/2005/06/betting-summary.html”> standing bet </a> about future temperatures - prominent skeptics haven’t taken him up on it but finally two lesser known names have.

  22. RB Says:

    Ok, this link.

  23. willard Says:

    If what we want is climate scientists talking to each other, why not have a blog where only climate scientists talk to each other?   There are times when moderation has merits.
    It would not forbid any scientist from coming at Keith’s tavern for a paint with the plebs.
    Noise will lead us to our doom.

  24. Jonathan Gilligan Says:

    One thing that hurts blogospheric discussion is the tendency, which I don’t see in more formal scholarly arguments, to personalize things.
    Disputing something in an IPCC report is one thing, but all too many critics don’t leave it there, but go on to say something bad about the character or professional judgment of the IPCC authors.
    Similarly, discussions of ideas that Judith Curry or Roger Pielke, Jr. promote, are too often conflated with inferences about their motives, character, or judgment.
    So I don’t think the problem is the polarization into opposing points of view, but the personalization where people in one camp can’t imagine that the folks in the other are sincere and well-intentioned. So long as each side can grant that the other might be honestly wrong, I have faith they can find ways to compromise on policy disputes and empirically address the scientific disputes, or at least have fun arguing; but if one side is convinced the other is acting in bad faith, it’s impossible to have a productive discussion.

  25. Shub Says:

    Dear Dr Hausfather,
    Thanks for your response. My aim in posting Dr Spencer was wondering whether the issue of how water vapor is understood within the climate system is a zombie question at all. Dr Spencer’s post containing the above passage lies here.
    What is interesting to me, and which forms part of the reason why I quoted the above passage, is the fact that Dr RS has alluded to a ’cause-effect confusion’ in the understanding of water vapor’s role. In my field of work, such cause-effect zombies constantly roam the landscape - the good students and scientists only wisely avoid getting into the issue and so they continue to roam the landscape.
    To avoid answering a question for its chicken-egg conundrums is a prudent thing, but to claim that such questions have been answered ‘umpteen’ number of times is a different thing. Closer to which side do you think understanding the role of water-vapor lies vis-a-vis Dr RS’s perspective linked to above?

  26. Jonathan Gilligan Says:

    Willard (#23): I also think there’s a lot to be said for heavily moderated conversations between scientists and non-scientists. If we filter out both the vacuous Amen corner and the nasties, I think a good discussion can develop; but when we have to wade through several dozen “You go!” and “You’re just an evil tool of the dark side” posts to get to something with content, people with something to say will mostly decide to say it elsewhere.
    OTOH, one thing I think needs more discussion about the use of blogs is the danger of the Internet’s eternal memory. Blogs could be great places to fly trial balloons, but lots of folks fear that anything they say informally on a blog will follow them forever, out of context. Look at the history of the infamous partial quotation of Stephen Schneider’s “double ethical bind” statement to a reporter and think about the implications for participating in a free-wheeling blog discussion.

  27. Shub Says:

    Dear Jonathan
    You say ‘people’ “… go on to say something bad about the character or professional judgment of the IPCC authors.”
    We have witnessed firsthand the official response to revelations about errors in the IPCC report from its chairman and other stalwarts in the climate science field. Many of them are aggresive and distinctly unprofessional, by choice.
    “voodoo science, asbestos powder, schoolboy science, retired old man, light on upstairs, crimes against humanity, fossil-fuel funded disinformation campaign, deniers etc.”
    We have witnessed the consensus blogs and professional scientists response to the IPCC misadventures about the Amazon. These scientists and bloggers have made a valiant effort to defend the IPCC in its use of WWF report texts.
    The IPCC and establishment can lead by example, in terms of scientific integrity and professionalism, to avert the name-calling on both sides.

  28. Zeke Hausfather Says:

    Not a Dr. quite yet, unfortunately :-p
    Reading Spencer’s article, I don’t really see a fundamental disagreement. He allows that it is unlikely that water vapor fluxes alone could drive temperature changes, but posits that changes to cloud covers due to natural factors may be getting short shrift, and in general water vapor cannot be considered to be -only- a feedback.
    I’m not completely convinced that natural factors driving cloud cover changes are a particularly compelling mechanism for calling WV a forcing (after all, what are the external natural factors involved? Solar/Cosmic Rays? The evidence there is still rather sketchy), but he makes a reasonable point. It doesn’t detract from the fact that WV primarily acts as a feedback rather than a forcing, nor does it suggest that he would agree with the statement that CO2 is unimportant because WV constitutes the majority of the greenhouse effect.
    Gavin wrote quite a good post on the WV feedback a about 5 years ago that is worth reading: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2005/04/water-vapour-feedback-or-forcing/

  29. Jonathan Gilligan Says:

    I agree that we need to end name-calling on all sides; and I hope my comment about unfair ad homs against RPJ and JC made it clear that I agree the name-calling happens on all sides.
    But then to say, “I’ll stop name-calling after the IPCC does” is silly. Neither you nor I has any control over what anyone else says, so waiting for others is a way to keep the fight going forever. Instead, why doesn’t each of us simply decide to stop the ad-homs unilaterally?

  30. Lucia Says:


    after all, what are the external natural factors involved? Solar/Cosmic Rays?
    How can you have forgotten so quickly. It’s <a href=”http://rankexploits.com/musings/2009/you-can%E2%80%99t-make-this-stuff-up-ii/”>leprechauns! </a>

  31. grypo Says:

    Zeke and Shub,
    DR. Spencer has a conversation about this with Lacis in the comments of the thread which puts his views in more light:

    Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D. says:
    October 17, 2021 at 6:50 AM

    Thanks for taking the time to offer input here.

    I agree with all you have said. Indeed, water vapor and clouds provide strong feedbacks on temperature change…although we might disagree on the magnitude, or even the sign of those feedbacks.

    I am merely pointing out that, before people infer that your paper has “proved” that CO2 is the main climate driver and other components are more “responders”, this is still an assumption for long term climate change. In my mind, you are putting some long-needed computational details behind your (and others’) particular view of what forces climate change, which is indeed useful.

    In my alternative view, the warming over the last 30 years (or even any centennial time scale temperature change) can be the result of low-frequency oceanic circulation changes that affect either planetary albedo, or average precipitation efficiency (and thus free-tropospheric humidity).

    The fact that coupled climate models like those from GISS actually produce such non-feedback variations on shorter time scales shows up in those phase space plots of temperature versus radiative flux I am always talking about. The big question is whether such things can be forced by oceanic circulation changes, which then necessitates that ocean AND atmospheric processes have to be well understood.

    Unfortunately, our long-term global datasets are not accurate enough to document whether such changes have happened. So, the science establishment has implicated what we know HAS changed: carbon dioxide.

    I just try to make people aware that CO2 has not yet been *proved* to be the main culprit in climate change. They are misled into believing it has through the simplifications added by people like Al Gore, and through the media.

    (BTW, I very much enjoyed visiting with you after my feedback talk at the Fall AGU meeting last year. I do respect your work.)


  32. RB Says:

    The perceived behavior of scientists is only part of the issue. This issue was partisan long before email-gate and even before McIntyre’03. I’m not saying that those who think news coverage was not exaggerated in these polls were informed observers, but I doubt that many of those who think that coverage was exaggerated are even aware of Mann/McIntyre. I wonder what a climate scientist’s objective should be in reaching out. Personally, I think being transparent with code and data  is sufficient so that something similar to the temperature reconstructions can transpire. Asking people to conform to some sort of particular behavior is not practical - most of what is public to the blogosphere involves a minority of some specific characters with a history of interaction that we may not be entirely familiar with.

  33. keith kloor Says:

    Jonathan Gilligan:
    Excellent points about the personalization of this debate. I also think you’re right about the fear many scientists have about participating in these forums.
    Honestly, I’m quite ambivalent about the value of blog discussion in these threads. On the one hand, I like the informal aspect, the give and take, and plenty of blog threads (including some here, I hope) have been fruitful.
    On the other hand, for reasons that you listed, it’s quite easy to derail a thread or poison it.
    Despite my own frustration, I very much appreciate people’s participation, and as should be plain to everyone, I enjoy being actively engaged with readers here.

  34. Alex Harvey Says:

    The polarised nature of the blogospheric climate change debate makes it frustratingly difficult to judge who is telling the truth, who is deliberately trying to mislead, who really understands, and who is just confused.
    It is not impossible, however. And in fact, the job of a science journalist should be no more difficult — and no less — than the job of a political journalist.
    Politicians are trained to tell the truth, but not the whole truth. A good political journalist presses politicians to give away more of the truth than he or she would otherwise do.
    For a science journalist, the job is both easier and more difficult. It is easier in that a scientist is unlikely to have the political acumen of a professional politician. But it is more difficult in that climate science is harder to understand than politics.
    So it’s not impossible, and the only reason there is little success is that most science journalists just aren’t trying. Take Michael Lemonick, for instance. He is obviously not interested in the science, and I don’t believe he has a clue or even a care as to what the actual controversy is about. He is a ’science journalist’ who puts the science itself in the ‘too hard basket’ and prefers instead to just take it all on faith from scientists he likes.
    His Scientific American article is concerned with only one question: why has Judith Curry dropped the party line?
    Best, Alex

  35. keith kloor Says:

    Alex (34):
    Much of your comment (especially your ascribing of motives to Michael Lemonick) is a shining example of what Jonathan Gilligan was talking about in #24.
    I also disagree with your characterization of the SciAm article.
    I wonder if your interpretation of it is influenced by Lemonick’s related blog post.

  36. Alex Harvey Says:

    If you feel my tone is derailing or poisoning the thread, then I apologise.
    I fully agree with Jonathan Gilligan in #24, but he is talking about ad hominem attacks against scientists, whereas Michael Lemonick is not a scientist, but a journalist. I suppose I feel that journalists are thick skinned and give as good as they get, as appears to be the case with Lemonick.
    In this case, Lemonick has called Judith Curry a ‘heretic’, and concludes that she is ‘perhaps’ a ‘dupe’. And in his blog post, he’s far less polite.
    But it has raised the question, what exactly is the role of the science journalist?
    In his blog post, he says,
    ‘… as a science journalist, my job is to try and ask the sort of questions the non-scientific public might ask — and in the contentious area of climate science, one key question is: “when scientists disagree, how do I know whom to believe?” It’s a particularly important question when it comes to climate, because the stakes are so enormously high. If we fail to act, the consequences could be dire; if we act unnecessarily, the consequences could also be costly.’
    To me, that is saying, “As a science journalist, my job is to do advocacy”. He doesn’t seem to see any part of his job as actually understanding the science. Indeed, throughout (and indeed throughout most science journalism), it seems that he wants to convey a specific message that the understanding of science is the business of a privileged elite, viz. the IPCC.
    Later he writes,
    “Simply by giving Judith Curry’s views a respectful airing, I’ve already drawn accusations of being irresponsible — and it’s valid to raise the question of whether giving her any sort of platform is a bad idea. I argue that her name is already in the news, and that non-scientists need useful information about her and her views.”
    To me, that is like saying, “Despite my fundamental responsibility to do advocacy, occasionally I must do journalism”.
    I agree we shouldn’t second guess the motives of people, but he’s being quite plain about this, no?
    But if we forget about Lemonick, wouldn’t you agree, as a science journalist in topic area like climate change, that part of the job is to get scientists to be honest? If not, then surely we are doomed?
    Best, Alex

  37. Pascvaks Says:

    Q:  Who gains more than anyone at the Blog from the Blog?
    A:  The Owner!

    Does Keith Kloor get the same benefit from his Blog that anyone else in the Blog Biz gets from their blog?  Probably not, people are different!

    Are Blogs Doomed?  Probably not, there’s one born every minute!

    Are we Doomed?  Probably not, there’s more than one born every minute.   

  38. Dean Says:

    The quote in this blog post from Pielke’s blog was by me. And I would like to emphasize that the problem with the noise is not just that you need to filter or bypass it. It was motivated in significant part by a post of mine on Curry’s blog. Somebody responded and we went back and forth a few times, and then I saw that their opinion overall was that there is absolutely no proof for AGW at all - it’s a complete fabrication. This meant that my time debating this person was a complete waste, and led me to not go back to her blog for some time.
    But my larger point was in the latter part of the quote. At least in the United States, partisanship seems to be filtering deeper into our society. Elections have always been nasty and the things candidates called each other in 1800 is worse than what they do today.
    But now we see that people are segregating themselves geographically based on politics. Red and blue states aren’t just descriptions of results on election day, but it seems that it is a criteria on where to live for some. God forbid I should live amongst “them” and have to suffer their culture. And of course it defines where they get their “news”, if it really can be called news.

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