Climate Communication Soundbites:  
“One-sided skepticism is no skepticism at all.”

Many defenders of science have tried to clarify the difference between skepticism and denial, but nobody has nailed it as succinctly as Dr. Michael Mann, author of The Hockey Stick & the Climate Wars, in a recent interview in Slate:

“When it comes to climate change, true skepticism is   two-sided.     One-sided skepticism is no skepticism at all.”

Bravo!    It’s long past time to reclaim the term “skeptic” from true-believers who are only skeptical about things that conflict with their pre-existing beliefs.

One-sided skeptics scrutinize climate science for the tiniest flaw or uncertainty, but usually swallow whole any cherry-picked fact, anecdotal “evidence,” logical fallacy or wild conspiracy theory that supports their worldview.

True skepticism — questioning all claims, consciously putting aside one’s biases,  insisting upon seeing all the evidence, and subjecting it all to equal scrutiny — is too central to scientific inquiry to let it be hijacked.

I would have preferred that Mann had stopped with the quote above, but he added

“I will call people who deny the science ‘deniers.’ I won’t be deterred by the fact that they don’t like the use of that term and no doubt that just endears me to them further. It’s frustrating of course because a lot of us would like to get past this nonsensical debate and on to the real debate to be had about what to do.”

While sharing Mann’s frustration, we now avoid using the term “denier” at ClimateBites.     Though accurate and concise, labeling people “deniers” simply shuts many more doors — and minds — than it opens.     I have heard several anecdotes about partially open-minded skeptics, including meteorologists, taking offense at the label, which they associated with Holocaust denial.     No doubt, at least some undecided onlookers feel the same way, and that’s our real audience.    Bottom line:    In most situations, the costs of branding people “deniers” simply outweighs the benefits.

And whenever possible, it’s usually wiser to avoid labeling people altogether, and focus instead on the psychological process of denial — to which we are all susceptible. Since we all do it, we can even find some common ground there.

Read more on “The difference between skepticism and denial” in our FAQ section, and in several bites in the category “Skepticism & Denial”

165 thoughts on “Climate Communication Soundbites:  
“One-sided skepticism is no skepticism at all.”

  1. Brian Ettling

    Great quote by Dr. Michael Mann by skepticism. It is one thing to be skeptical. After all, I am skeptical that the world can throw over 36.7 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide each year, according to the Global carbon project, and this will somehow not effect the planet. I am skeptical that we can just keep maintaining “business as usual” with burning fossil fuels and there will not be planetary consequences. I am getting more skeptical and cynical of the “closed minded skeptics.” Somehow, every single scientific finding about climate change is wrong.

    Thank you for steering us away from the term “denier.” Because of your postings, I am breaking myself of the habit of using that word.

    Great posting. I enjoyed reading this.

    1. D. J. Hawkins

      Considering that the total annual flux of CO2 is on the order of 700 billion metric tons, I’ll keep my scepticism, thank you very much. A perturbation of 5% or so is nothing. And the fact that the temperature trend has flattened in the last 10-15 years despite continuing increases in CO2 output doesn’t do much for the cause of climate-change extortionists like Mann. And please, before you bring it up, Chinese coal-fired power plants are no worse than those of the West; better, in fact, since they use the latest technologies. “Dirty” plants are inefficient plants, and no one, the Chinese included, is going to throw away money if they can avoid it.

      1. Neal J. King


        Over the last 150 years, the atmospheric concentration of CO2 has increased by 38%, because the CO2 released into the atmosphere does not just disappear, but hangs around for several hundred years. The build-up of CO2 is the bottom line, not the emissions during a year.

        The temperature profile over the last 15 years is actually not meaningful, because the atmospheric system has a lot of dynamical events that can confuse a long-term trend. It’s considered appropriate to run a 20-30 year averaging window to detect climate trends; just as you don’t look over a 12-hour period to detect a seasonal trend.

        1. D. J. Hawkins

          “Hangs around several hundred years”? I’m guessing this is based on the simplification of the Bern Carbon Cycle model as presented by the IPCC. It’s important to note that the time constants do not necessarily track with any true physical process, but are simply tuned to provide the simplification of the model with the ability to back-cast CO2 fluctuations in the atmosphere. If you look at 4AR, Annex I, p. 948 “Lifetime” you can infer it is 3.14 and 6.65 years respectively for natural and anthropogenic CO2. How chemical processes manage to differentiate the two is a mystery, but that is apparently the claim.
          “20-30 years”? More goal post moving. Ben Santer originally said at least 15 years, more recently 17+ years. I suppose soon he’ll be saying 20 years, then 22, then 23.5, then…, well you get the idea.

          1. Gillian King

            Hi DJ,

            I thought 30 years has been the standard for a long, long time now.

            I get your frustration with a sense that goalposts might be moving.

            Re: How chemical processes manage to differentiate the two… I’ve read that not all CO2 is the same, there are chemical finger prints that indicate origin.

            “Fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas, for example, have no carbon-14, and neither does the CO2 that comes from burning them.”

            So, not so mysterious…

          2. D. J. Hawkins


            I don’t know if my reply will appear above or below yours, sorry if it looks confusing.

            I recognize that the threshold of “climate” vs “weather” is generally 30 years (some say 60). It’s the question of how long you wait until you can say “Half a mo’, something odd here”. Santer originally said 15 years, then said 17+. It was always either 15 or 17+. If Santer made a goof, he could have said “Sorry lads, mucked it up the first time, here’s why” and I, at least, would have given him the benefit. On that score, anyway.

            On isotopic differences, 12C, 13C, and 14C are, to all intents and purposes, identical as far as bulk chemistry are concered. Chemical processes don’t care. Carbon dating is not about differential uptake, but isotopic decay from a known baselline. Now, there is evidence that some biological processes do have preferential uptake paths, but the delta is really, really, tiny. Not enough to cause a difference of 100% on an annual time scale, IMHO for CO2 dwell times.

          3. Gillian King

            Thanks DJ (like you I’m hoping this appears below the last comment in this thread),

            I hear you re Santer, I’m not across the details of Santer’s statements, so I can’t really comment. I agree that it’s always nice when people acknowledge they are now saying something different to previously.

            Again, I’m not into the micro-detail of isotopes, not being a scientist. I’ve read the headline that ‘finger prints’ can indicate that some CO2 comes from burning fossil fuels. Makes sense to me.

            I’m just glad somebody is working on it. And I hope the folks working in that field are not throwing ‘alarmist’ and ‘denier’ at each other. I suspect they’re not.


        2. Don

          For folks that don’t have AR4 handy, the definition for lifetime is below.
          The issue is complicated, because as the IPCC notes the turnover time for CO2: “is only about four years because of the rapid exchange between the atmosphere and the ocean and terrestrial biota. However, a large part of that CO2 is returned to the atmosphere within a few years.”
          Best regards,

          **** AR4 p. 948
          Lifetime Lifetime is a general term used for various time scales characterising the rate of processes affecting the concentration of trace gases. The following lifetimes may be distinguished:
          Turnover time (T) (also called global atmospheric lifetime) is the ratio of the mass M of a reservoir (e.g., a gaseous compound in the atmosphere) and the total rate of removal S from the reservoir: T = M / S.
          For each removal process, separate turnover times can be defi ned. In soil carbon biology, this is referred to as Mean Residence Time.
          Adjustment time or response time (Ta ) is the time scale characterising the decay of an instantaneous pulse input into the reservoir. The term adjustment time is also used to characterise the adjustment of the mass of a reservoir following a step change in the source strength. Half-life or decay constant is used to quantify a first-order exponential decay process. See response time for a different defi nition pertinent to climate variations.
          The term lifetime is sometimes used, for simplicity, as a surrogate for adjustment time.
          In simple cases, where the global removal of the compound is directly proportional to the total mass of the reservoir, the adjustment time equals the turnover time: T = Ta. An example is CFC-11, which is removed from the atmosphere only by photochemical processes in the stratosphere. In more complicated cases, where several reservoirs are involved or where the removal is not proportional to the total mass, the equality T = Ta no longer holds. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is an extreme example. Its turnover time is only about four years because of the rapid exchange between the atmosphere and the ocean and terrestrial biota. However, a large part of that CO2 is returned to the atmosphere within a few years. Thus, the adjustment time of CO2 in the atmosphere is actually determined by the rate of removal of carbon from the surface layer of the oceans into its deeper layers. Although an approximate value of 100 years may be given for the adjustment time of CO2 in the atmosphere, the actual adjustment is faster initially and slower later on.

  2. Dennis

    Yes, this group will stop talking about science and accuse you of bad behavior if you mention the “D word.” I’ve tried to think of an acronym to describe their brand of scientific discourse and the best I’ve come up with is PLOT: Published Literature Objection Theorist. Given that their argument often boils down to that the world’s scientists are either a) universally very, very, very wrong or b) are all engaged in a giant conspiracy, I suspect they will take offense to being called “plotters” as well.

    1. Harpo

      Plotter seems fairly innocuous, though clearly intended as an insult. I think the argument of the article is that it’s a bad idea to label people at all.
      As for what sceptics’ (plotters, whatever) argument boils down to, it has nothing to do with conspiracy theory – that’s the province of those who go on about ‘big oil’. Really it comes down to this: please show us some evidence that the undoubted recent warming of the planet is mainly due to CO2.

      1. Rob Honeycutt

        The evidence is overwhelming. You just can’t add 4W/m^2 to the radiative balance of the planet and expect that it’s not going to warm things up. There are uncertainties in how the planet will respond to that forcing but there is enough data out there to have high confidence that this is a significant and rapid change in the climate system.

        It all boils down to risk management. There is a lot of data out there suggesting this could be serious to very serious. There is a very low chance that there is an unknown negative feedback that will save us (but it could happen). And there’s a small chance that the climate response will be far greater than we expect (but it could happen).

        The question becomes, what is the appropriate response to the levels of uncertainty. Do we do nothing and risk it? Take the chance that nearly all the research done so far is wrong? That strikes me a very poor risk management.

        1. Brian Ettling

          Great comment, Rob! You hit the nail on the head. Today, I listened to the late Dr. Stephen Schneider give a lecture at Climate One in 2009. What you wrote is very consistent to what Stephen Schneider used to advocate in his remarks about climate change. Thanks for taking the time to write that. Dr. Schneider would be proud.

        2. Tom Smerling Post author

          Rob’s point is perhaps the most important. In all other matters, when experts warn us of a 1% catastrophic risk, we change our plans. Who would send their child on a plane that most aeronautics engineers gave even a 1% chance of crashing?

          In this case, climate science tells us there is a high risk of catastrophic impacts if we continue “business as usual.” If we act, and the scientists have erred, the worst that would happen is that we’ve spent funds and moved toward clean energy faster than was necessary. If we fail to act, and climate science proves correct, we face catastrophic changes that will impact almost everybody and are likely irreversible for a thousand years or more.

          Even if one is confident — after reading, say, some persuasive dissenting views — that 97% of the people who’ve spent their lives studying this are wrong, why would anybody want to “bet the house” on that?

  3. garethman

    This is a lovely post, though I agree Michael Mann should have stopped before he got to the derogatory descriptions part. Maybe he’s an angry man due to the unfair stick he has had over the years. I really hope that I am a skeptic on both sides of the debate, and the bottom, and the top. It just so happens that most of the science confirms what I believe. I suppose I am also skeptical that any government will trade profit for our children’s future wellbeing. Great site by the way!

    1. Tom Smerling Post author

      Thanks! I think ‘one-sided skepticism’ is a universal human vulnerability. The universal human tendency to accept information that confirms our preconceptions — and to ignore information that doesn’t — is something that all genuine truth-seekers must constantly guard against.

      That’s the genius of peer review; there’s nothing like critical scrutiny of one’s work from respected peers to keep us all on our toes!

      1. Richard Case

        I greatly appreciate the sentiment here of not labeling the one-sided skeptic as a denier. It does no absolutely no good to purposely use a derogatory name such as this. In fact, it’s going to turn away more of the “undecideds” or “on the fence” folks than it’s going to gain. I know, because I’m one of those who has been a two-sided skeptic and the rhetoric and advocacy of Mann, McKibben, Hansen and others has made me believe that these scientists are quite unprofessional (and actually quite childish) in their behavior. As much as I want to trust them, this poor behavior really makes me start to question their methods and motivations as well. On top of that, their unwillingness to share their data and methods with fairly reasonable skeptics such as McIntyre (at least he seemed to be before the behavior got so ugly) does them no favors either. It would do WAY more good than harm for the cause to “gain” an independent mind such as him and win him over. Or at least to the point of believing that there’s nothing being hidden or subverted in the research and findings. But they’re only going to do so by working with him, and not by withholding data and methods.

        In your own parlance Tom, I’m very concerned that the climate scientists here such as Mann, Schmidt, Hansen and others have become one-sided skeptics in their own right. This does no one, including themselves, any good.

        1. Tom Smerling Post author

          RIchard — I just want to say that I really appreciate your thoughtful comments, and your tone. Such a refreshing change from the closed-mindedness and name-calling that characterizes so much of the debate.

          I hope you keep writing and commenting on ClimateBites– it enriches the discussion.

          I can’t really comment on the specific dispute with McIntyre, but I have never seen any evidence that Mann, Schmidt or Hansen are stopped treating evidence — on any side — with scepticism, or stopped following the evidence where ever it leads.

          Occasionally it does happen, however, that a dissenting scientist will get “stuck” in his position, and refuse to modify their views when presented with new evidence. (This happened with plate tectonics, as you probably know.) The lone dissenters stop providing adequate defense of their work, and stop responding when peers point out flaws in their methodology or contradictions in their arguments, And that’s why they start to have difficult publishing, not because of some conspiracy.

          At some point, other scientists realise that a holdout (or maverick, as some call them) has left the world of scientific give-and-take, so the others give up trying to argue with them and move on. That has happened to Lindzen and others.

          But I don’t any of that happening with the mainstream scientists you mention. I know of no objections to their work that they haven’t grappled with. They have modified their view s many times in the fact of new evidence, and continue to do so. Can you cite some specific examples of your assertion that they have “become one-sided skeptics in their own right?” If so, I’d be interested in seeing them.

  4. Michael Liebreich

    Here’s my problem with Michael Mann. He wants to be taken seriously as a scientist, but then he says the “real debate” is about “what to do”, which makes him an activist. You can’t run with the hare and hunt with the hounds on this stuff. Same with Jim Hansen: his forays into policy devalue his important contributions to the science.

    1. Tom Smerling Post author

      You raise a valid and important question that many scientists — of late, climate scientists in particular — have wrestled with. Needless to say, not all scientists are in agreement . . . about almost anything, and certainly about this.

      My friend Dr. David Blochstein explored this question in some depth a decade ago in a thoughtful article in BioScience.

      Please say a bit more about your perspective. When a scientist discovers something that could be terribly harmful — the proverbial “iceberg in the water, dead ahead” — what should, or shouldn’t, he/she do? As a perceived threat to human life draws closer, and deadlines for effective action become imminent, what is the morally-responsible position for a scientist who has been studying the problem?

      I’ll be happy to share my views too, but first I’d like to hear Dr. Mann’s, who I know has wrestled with this himself. I’ve shared your comment with him, and if he responds, I will post his reply here, as an update to this comment.

      [update 5-19-12 TS] Dr. Mann replied as follows:

      “My point here was simply that we can have a good faith debate about what to do about the problem of climate change, i.e. that there is room for a range of opinions regarding policy.

      But there is not room for a good faith debate about the reality of the problem.”

      I might add: Over many decades of early research, there was plenty of room for “good faith debate” about whether the earth was warming due to human activity, and whether that presented a serious problem. But that time is now long past.

      1. Richard Case


        That’s a terrific question you pose and I’ve often thought the same thing. But I would tend to think that, in the face of such a potentially catastrophic outcome, human nature would be to search for any possible reason for the theory NOT to be true. Say, for instance – If scientific astronomers had calculated that a certain known asteroid was on track to make a catastrophic impact with earth in less than say, 2 years, wouldn’t the imminence cause the scientists to be willing to consider ANY input from any source that the mathematics or methods were wrong? Or would they be screaming DENIER at anyone who might possibly be able to prove their methods and math faulty? Wouldn’t the scientists LOVE to be wrong in such a scenario? Well, that’s truly the correct scientific attitude that needs to be present in ANY situation and just not one with a potentially imminent apocalyptic outcome.

        On the other hand, AGW is only potentially catastrophic for future generations. And the scientists don’t appear to want to be proven wrong at all. There almost seems to be disappointment on part of the climate scientists that global temperatures haven’t continued to rise over the last 14 years. Shouldn’t human nature be to want to look at this lull as potential evidence that the methods and mathematics are wrong? Wouldn’t that be great for mankind if carbon dioxide wasn’t the contributory factor to temperature that it’s believed to be? I don’t believe the climate scientists feel this way at all. I think they feel it’s more important for them to be right. And I think the true science is taking a back seat as a result.

        1. Neal J. King


          I think it’s very unlikely that a majority of climate scientists just want the scientific consensus to support them: Even from a selfishly competitive point of view, there’s no glory in being part of the consensus, even when it is right. So much more exciting to find a hole in the consensus – and to be right!

          So there is a very strong incentive on a scientist to find something different and new, and as fundamental as possible. Part of that adventure is finding things wrong in what other scientists are doing, and correcting them.

          1. Richard Case

            I’m not in terrible disagreement with you – about the way that science should work and the incentives that should naturally be there. And this does seem to be the way that science (and scientists) works in most research areas. But climate science has gotten so politicized and there’s so much money being made available, I think the whole multidisciplinary field no longer resembles an area of scientific research at all.

            I’ve written enough grant proposals in my day to understand the funding aspect of the science as well – and what incentives/motivations that can create. I think I just saw something that said there was nearly $70B of government funding that’s been doled out since 2008 towards climate change research. While I find the magnitude of that number very hard to believe, I also realize that there is nonetheless an incredible amount of available funding for those who are looking to find anthropogenic causal evidence of climate change than there is for anyone looking to disprove such a causal relationship. It’s human nature to be piqued at proving such a causal source. It’s not human nature to be piqued at disproving it. And human nature (and politics) greatly determines who and what gets funded. And who and what doesn’t.

            1. Tom Smerling Post author

              Richard — I appreciate your tone; so much online discussion descends into name-calling. However, you make a lot of strong assertions about the corruption of climate science, without citing evidence to back them up. Can you cite any sources? For example, where does your $70B figure come from? The incentive for scientists is not to reinforce a consensus view, regardless of research funds. The big incentive is to find something new that goes counter to pre-existing belief. No doubt a Nobel Prize awaits whoever discovers some new, convincing line of evidence that overturns a major aspect of climate science. But every effort to date has failed, not because of some wild conspiracy, but because the research proved to be flawed.

          2. Richard Case


            Sorry, I had to go back and figure out where I saw the $70B figure. Here’s where I found it: And while I would normally tend to take Sen. Inhofe with a grain of salt, he does cite these numbers from the Congressional Research Service. It was more like $68B apparently as well. I have not had time to research the CRS report and see what constituted the magnitude of this spend, but I hope to be able to do so shortly. But like I said in my last post, I still do find this number a bit hard to believe.

            I don’t know that anyone does research with a Nobel Prize as a goal or anywhere in their mind. I doubt that’s what you were really trying to say, but I would also hope you’d concede that money is also a powerful motivator. Many well educated and trained scientific researchers (in other scientific specializations – not climate science) are now doing something well outside of their intended field due to lack of research funding. I’m not suggesting that (m)any are getting rich in this field, but given the disappearance of many research jobs in other disciplines, it’s often just about being thankful to be able to put food on the table.

          3. Gillian King

            Hi Richard,

            Thanks for finding the actual source, it’s good to be talking about real things. I have a couple of doubts about the $70B figure. Firstly, it probably includes all the normal weather monitoring science that we’d do anyway. So, in a sense, it’s not targeted at ‘fighting climate change’, it’s the usual business of providing reliable weather information. So, there’s a lot of exaggeration in the $70B figure.

            Second, I accept the evidence that climate change is hugely dangerous so I support further research into the subject.

            As you say, funding for this growing area of science is sucking in resources (people and money) that might otherwise be used differently. I would guess that as well as taking a larger share of the ‘science pie’ it is also making the pie bigger by attracting more funding for science projects.

            Overall, I don’t see that as a bad thing.

          4. Richard Case

            I just found the actual report that was provided by the CRS. Here it is: . I think it’s an important piece of information, as the CRS is a function of the Library of Congress, and as such should not be ideologically biased in any way.

            Ok, upon reading the report, perhaps I shouldn’t have doubted the magnitude of the numbers, as an important note in the text of the memo reads: “…the amounts in the following tables likely represent an underestimate of federal funding for the
            period, perhaps on the order of tens of millions of dollars (i.e., not billions)…”

            Gillian, I surmised the same thing, and there may well be a lot of things buried in these numbers, but the memo does list the accounting methodology they used here – and the four line items they used. Nonetheless, the magnitude of the finances are staggering, considering that this is for only 4 years. And it’s only for the US Government.

            1. Tom Smerling Post author

              Thanks for digging this up Richard. You are challenging me to stretch my knowledge, in areas I haven’t looked into closely.

              I’ll have to look into the $70 billion (over 5 years). But 2 points: 1) researchers don’t “line their pockets.” the money goes to equipment and to the host institution to cover a % of staff salaries. A professor’s salary doesn’t increase with a grant, though it does increase their prestige and the number of staff they can hire.

              Also, the research topic may be influenced, but the outcome is not determined by the funding. In fact, anybody who reports some contrarian findings — and their methodology proves sound — is far more certain to receive renewed funding than somebody who just reconfirms what was previously understood. The way to “fame and fortune” in science is to find something new, not to reinforce an existing consensus.

              1. Richard Case


                I agree that only a fraction of this money likely goes towards funding research. But nonetheless, a fraction of this much money is still an awful lot of money.

                With regard

          5. Richard Case

            Also, I forgot to note that it’s very clear that all $68B of this funding did not go towards scientific research. It’s hard to tell how much actually did. And, it’s spread over the course of 5 years not 4. But what should be fairly clear is that at an average of $17B a year, this is an industry in itself. An industry that’s going to provide more than 100,000 jobs. I guess I see this as 100,000 working people who need anthropogenic climate change to continue to be real. And this is only the direct spend. And this is only in the US.

        2. Rob Honeycutt

          Any disappointment about the trend of the past 14 years is not a matter that it wasn’t expected. In fact pauses in the surface temperature responses are part and parcel to what IS expected for how the planet responds to warming. The disappointed that you might be sensing is that it has come at a very very crucial moment in time when we should be well past people asking if this is happening and moving on to, “What are we doing about it?”

          It absolutely would be fantastic if the climate response to increased concentrations of CO2 ended up being low. The chances of that being the case are truly very small.

          There is no doubt in the minds of most scientists involved in this field where this is going. There are some quibbles about how fast and what the responses will be, but everyone is clear that the planet is warming and without action the consequences may be very severe.

    2. Neal J. King


      A scientist is also a human being, who lives on the planet, has family and children, etc.

      So, although the role of being an activist is not part of the role of being a scientist, it is reasonable for a human being (who is convinced of a danger, through his scientific experience or otherwise) to decide to become an activist. Being a scientist is not incompatible with being a human being nor with being an activist.

    3. Gillian King

      Michael, I see it differently. When scientists speak out on public policy it doesn’t diminish my respect for their contributions, instead it shows they are serious about the issue.

      Indeed, for many people this enhances their relevance. I’ve seen people dismiss the science, saying, “If these scientists really believed what they say, they’d be marching in the streets.”

      I have no problem that Mann points to the problem and says, “Come on guys! Do something about it.”

      And I have no problem that Hansen suggests specific solutions.

      Their work has withstood decades of scrutiny by the finest minds, and it stand well.

      1. D. J. Hawkins

        It might be one thing if they were simply cheerleading, but Mann and Hansen are lining their pockets on this issue. Simply put, now “They have a dog in the fight”. Their economic well-being and prestige are now invested in the AGW meme, and there is no graceful exit. No other explanation exists for Mann’s refusal to share his methods with McKitrick. Do you understand that NO ONE has been able to replicate Mann’s original work? And I don’t mean come close by guessing and crystal ball gazing as McIntyre and McKitrick have done despite Mann’s petulant refusals.
        When I was a lad at Stevens, we were taught to carefully record as much information about our experimental work as possible; reagents used (manufacturer, grade, lot number), equipment (make, model, calibration dates), methods (step-by-step process, formulas with references), atmospheric conditions (temperature, humidity, barometric pressure) and above all, THE DATA. In the notebook went the raw observations, and if appropriate the corrections called for by the equipment calibration. You sure didn’t tell the lab TA to drop dead if he asked to see your work.
        In the end, it doesn’t matter if the scientist “believes he’s right”. A little ways up thread Richard Case talks about an analagous situation with a rouge asteroid. But in that case, others could point their telescopes to the same point, observe the motion, and independantly confirm the observation. Here, Mann has the only telescope, and he won’t share. Do you know the origin of the phrase, “Buying a pig in a poke”?

        1. Gillian King

          DJ…. I don’t buy the ‘lining their pockets’ line.

          All scientists earn money doing their job. Just like teachers, train drivers, and anyone else. Their income depends on them doing a good job. Their reputation depends on them doing a good job.

          I’m more concerned by the twisted misinformation paid for by industry lobbyists. I include WUWT in that, as it gets funding from Heartland.

          You have said several things that are factually inaccurate …

          > Sharing Mann data and methods.

          Mann’s data and methods are in the public domain – above and beyond the standard required by the National Science Foundation.

          “The full data and necessary methods information was already publicly available in full accordance with National Science Foundation (NSF) requirements, so that other scientists had been able to reproduce their work. NSF policy was that computer codes “are considered the intellectual property of researchers and are not subject to disclosure”, as the NSF had advised McIntyre and McKitrick in 2003, but notwithstanding these property rights, the program used to generate the original MBH98 temperature reconstructions had been made available at the Mann et al. public ftp site.”

          > Replicating Mann’s original work

          There have been a number of proxy studies analysing a variety of different sources including corals, stalagmites, tree rings, boreholes and ice cores. They all confirm the original hockey stick conclusion: the 20th century is the warmest in the last 1000 years and that warming was most dramatic after 1920.

          It is not helpful to errors and misinformation circulating. I hope that you are diligent in spreading the correct information (Mann’s study has been replicated several times and Mann has shared his data and methods).


        2. Tom Smerling Post author

          Lining their pockets? Come on. Now let’s see, if you were a newly-minted PhD in earth science, and motivated by money, which would you choose: Slog away for years as an assistant professor and hope to make tenure one day? Or go to work for Exxon-Mobil? Which do you think would prove more lucrative?

          How about this example: H. Leighton Steward, a vocal climate change dissenter, gets was paid $617,000 a year just to attend occasional board meetings of EOG Oil & Gas (formerly Enron).

          Come on. Money is no doubt a motive for at least some, but not all, advocates in this controversy. And if you want to know who is most likely corrupted by cash, just take Deep Throat’s advice: follow the [big] money.

          1. Richard Case

            Come on Tom. You know full well that the major oil/energy companies are no longer funding anyone advocating a skeptical argument, and haven’t for some time now. It’s too much of a PR nightmare for them and no longer in their best interests. As well, there’s way too much money to be made from government incentives from being green and siding with the fight against global warming.

            Enron went bankrupt in 2001. How much longer are we going to hear these same tired missives being launched at “Big Oil”? I’m being honest here Tom… this argument isn’t winning anyone over anymore.

            You say “follow the [big] money”. I’m in complete agreement with you. Is there any money even remotely close to what the government is providing? As I noted (and cited) in my other comment, $70B over 5 years is truly [big] money. Tom, you really seem like a sincere and thoughtful guy, but it’s not doing the cause any good to still be using the Big Oil meme, and trying to make villians out of such small fish such as the Heartland Institute.

            1. Tom Smerling Post author

              Richard — I like your engagement here, because you challenge us to rethink assumptions.

              I think you are correct that oil companies have cut back on direct funding of climate dissent. I’ll have to look into it, but I recall now that while the oil companies still do some funding through surrogates (think tanks, etc.) but the big money for climate dissent now comes from the Koch Brothers, ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council), and some highly-conservative fat-cats and foundations. Your challenge will prompt me now to “nail down” who funds climate dissent today.

              On the details:

              — Enron went bankrupt, but soon re-organized under a new name, EOG. Still an energy company, of course. So not exactly true that they don’t exist.

              — Exxon apparently has cut back, but not eliminated direct funding for climate dissenters (e.g. $76K for Willie Soon in 2011)

              — Heartland may be a “small fish” but has a pretty sizable media presence, which is what its all about. I haven’t villianized them (I barely ever mention them). They did themselves in when they “jumped the shark” with their billboards.

              My main point however still stands, so obvious it barely warrants mentioning: For earth scientists who want to profit financially, the big money is in private industry — particularly oil and gas — not in academia. Furthermore, research money that you find “staggering” goes to the host universities, which then disburses it to pay for equipment and to defray a percentage of salaries. The PI (Principal Investigator) who wins a $2 million grant doesn’t pocket that money, nor see a salary increase.

              1. Richard Case


                I think you’re confusing me with another commenter. I never suggested that researchers were “lining their pockets” line, yet you’ve used that phrase in two different responses to me.

                In this comment above, I was replying to your own line of “following the [big] money”, and I suggested that $70B would be where you’d likely find [big] money. Seriously, is $76K really big money?

                And is it really fair to label Dr. Soon a “dissenter”? And didn’t you intend for there to be a negative connotation to that term? Isn’t he a well educated and accomplished scientist? So what if he attaches himself to a different theory than “the consensus” ? Does that make him less of a scientist? Less than a person? Isn’t this what you’re suggesting scientists should do, to be contrarian and challenge the orthodoxy? And doesn’t the funds he receives from any oil interest go towards his institution as well (for salaries and equipment and such)? There’s a bit of disingenuous- ness to your argument here Tom.

                Isn’t science science, regardless of who funds it – so long as it’s being done by qualified individuals? I do fully understand that research is almost always geared towards finding something – testing a hypothesis. And funding is often determined based on which something is being looked for – or which hypothesis is being tested. But in the Climate Science world, it certainly seems like one can only test one hypothesis – or essentially look for one result: something that further validates that anthropogenic CO2 is warming the planet. Looking for anything else is pretty much villianized – or at least given a semi-disparaging label, such as “dissenter”.

              2. Tom Smerling Post author

                Richard — Thanks for flagging my error on “lining pockets.” Sorry about that! I was confusing you with different commenter (it gets hard to keep it all straight, though you’ll notice some spacing improvements!). So I removed that from my earlier post, and I’ll search for the other instance you mention.

                Re: Dr. Willie Soon being a “dissenter.” My point is simply that he consistently dissents from the majority scientific views on climate science. I’m still searching for an acceptable yet accurate term for those holding the minority view. Contrarians? Mavericks (as they’re often termed by scientists)?

                What do you suggest?

                I have no idea whether Dr. Soon profits personally from his research grants, beyond his university salary which he would earn anyway, and I have no reason to believe he does.

                According to SourceWatch, “every grant Dr. Soon has received since 2002 has been from oil or coal interests.”[5], including Exxon-Mobil, Koch, API, etc. So I wouldn’t be shocked to find that they found ways — like with some other dissenters, via consulting fees or board member fees — to show their appreciation. But as far as I know, Soon could be a paragon of rectitude who the temptations, for which I would applaud him.

                Getting back the the $13 billion/year for research, I notice that this is about 4% of the total amount for scientific research in the US (Wikipedia).

                But I really think you err in assuming that because funding influences the topics scientist will study, therefore it influences their findings.

                The same grant for measuring say glacial melt will be given regardless of what you find (about 10% of mtn. glaciers or growing or staying the same). If fact, your change of another grant increases sharply when you find something new, contrary to the majority view, so long as your methodology is unimpeachable. You don’t get famous in science by simply reconfirming what others have already established.

                My observation is that errors sometimes persist for a while, but it really is a self-correcting system, over time, because so many competitors — competitors for funding and recognition — looking over your shoulder, ready to catch you in an error.

              3. Richard Case


                Thanks for the thoughtful reply. I too appreciate the tone, and I do think there’s a lot more discussion I’d love to have with you on this matter, but this is already an old thread and the space is getting thin here (even with the format changes – thanks for doing so.).

                The bottom line (and I’d like to think you’d agree with me here) is: I think there’s a lot of truth out there that’s getting completely missed because of the hyper language and over-policizing of everything seemingly at stake here. A lot of misinformation and a ton of name calling. It’s embarrassing and not doing anyone any good. Now that I’ve found your site, I’ll try to comment in other posts as I’m able. Hopefully I’ll have something useful to contribute.

              4. Tom Smerling Post author

                Thanks Richard. I look forward to continuing the dialogue, on other posts. It’s really refreshing.

                You’ve already given me a short list of things to look into further. More importantly, it’s great to have a discussion that’s more than “one hand clapping.” It makes us far more aware of how we come across to others.

                And it helps us remember that, ultimately, among open-minded people this is a common search to discern truth, dimly, through the mist, not a wrestling match.

  5. Pingback: Integrity Score: ClimateBites 1, Mann 0 | Watts Up With That?

  6. Eve

    That last comment by Dr Mann [correction to avoid confusion — please see reply below – TS 5-18-12] “As the threat to human life draws closer, and deadlines for effective action become imminent, what is the morally-responsible position for a scientist who has been studying the problem?” shows him to be an activist.
    Dr Mann, if you believe that the use of fossil fuels is harming the planet, stop using them. The same goes for everyone who believes this. The morally responsible position for a scientist who has been studying the problem and thinks he has the answer is to lead by example. Show us!

    1. Tom Smerling Post author

      Eve — Point of clarification. Just to make sure nobody else gets confused about this: The question you attribute to Dr. Mann (“As the threat….”) was my personal question, not a comment from Dr. Mann. I’ve rearranged the paragraphs in the comment to make this 100% clear.

      FYI I have not yet received a reply from Dr. Mann to my inquiry.

    2. Neal J. King


      Unfortunately, the climate issue is not going to be resolved by minor modifications to lifestyle: That will at most delay issues a bit.

      What we have to do is to transform the power-production technology, so that the civilization is running on a more-or-less sustainable basis. Sooner or later, we are going to run out of fossil fuels anyway, so if we can make the change now, before irreversible changes have been made to the planet, we will be ahead of the game.

      1. Gillian King

        Hi Neal (no relation!)

        True enough, individual actions won’t be enough, we need systemic change.

        Nevertheless, individual actions help.

        BTW, does anyone have enough info on Mann’s lifestyle to be able to say how his carbon footprint compares with average Americans? It’s unwise to assume he has a heavy carbon footprint.

        Disclosure: I worked out my carbon footprint using an online calculator and I was pleased to see that I am right on world average, or 1/4 of the Australian average. Nevertheless, as the world average is too high, I need to get it down a bit more. I’m looking at getting solar hot water.

        1. Neal J. King


          I don’t know Mann personally, but since he is a prominent scientist, I would assume that he takes a higher than average number of airline flights per year, going to conferences and giving talks. That would raise his carbon footprint, unfortunately.

          That is part of the scientific lifestyle: You have to contribute to the scientific community, and trains aren’t always workable.

          1. Gillian King


            Yes, people who fly a lot need to use offsets, which I’ve seen described as a second-best option. Still, better than nothing.

            As an aside, I find I have a trigger response to those ‘think the worst’ assumptions about public figures.

            If I were Mann, I’d be in two minds about sharing personal information, like carbon footprint. It distracts from the BIG issue. Not being a public figure, I’m happy to share mine! [Or maybe I shouldn’t have?]

          2. Neal J. King


            The significance of the personal carbon footprint has to be understood in the context of one’s life:

            – For example, doing a search on Google has been estimated to generate about a gram of CO2. But how much CO2 would you have generated driving to a library to do a book search? Of if you never did the search, and the quality of your work was accordingly reduced?

            – And if some technologist discovers a cost-effective means of taking CO2 out of the air, that would more than pay for all his airline flights – but would it show up on his/her CO2 footprint?

      2. Eve

        Hi Neal, I agree, individual actions will not change the amount of C02 being released into the atmosphere. Personally I do not believe that C02 has anything to do with the planet’s temperature. Please stop calling this climate change and go back to global warming. Climate change is a dumb term as the climate has always changed and always will. During the Younger Dryas, the planet’s temperature went up and down 10 degree’s C in less than a decade. There was some climate change.
        The planet may run out of fossil fuels someday. The sensible thing to do now is to work on research and development of new fuels. Let’s stop wasting money on climate change measurements and propoganda. Let’s work on what is important, new energy sources. Do not count the already failed wind, tidal and solar. We have nuclear and the sensible thing would be for all countries to use nuclear power and hydro to make electricity. Save the fossil fuels for transportation, etc.

        1. Gillian King

          Hi Eve, That’s a different view!

          I love my solar PV, it’s covering the cost of all my electricity and saving me $1,000 a year. It gives me independence from ‘big business’.

          Solar is as lovable as teddy bears. All that nice clean sunshine turned into power for my home.

          My vision is that this little teddy bear will grow into a thousand pound grizzly, and wop the big coal monster in the next couple of decades.

          1. Eve

            Hi Gillian, I am glad to hear your solar panels are covering all your electricity needs. How many panels do you have and how much did it cost. How long will the solar panels continue to provide all your electricity?
            Solar availability depends on where you live. Where I live in Canada, solar panels could never provide all my electricity even if I covered the whole house or better, if I had 2 or 3 free standing arrays. The savings would never cover the cost. Maybe if I willed the house with panels to a relative, it would pay off for them but only if the panels lasted about 40 or 50 years.
            I just purchased a house in the Bahamas. I thought the Bahamas would be great for solar. I forgot about hurricanes.

          2. Gillian King

            Hi Eve,

            Yes, solar panels are not the answer in high latitudes. I hope your Bahama property does well.

            Scotland is more comparable with Canada, with respect to latitude. Glasgow is at 56N.

            Did you know that Scotland is aiming at 100% renewable electricity by 2020? At first they aimed to achieve this by 2025, but they’re so far ahead of schedule that they brought the target forward.

            I find it inspiring to see countries getting on with the shift to renewables. They will protect themselves from price shocks that are already happening.

            It’s exciting to see wind and solar are already cost effective in different locations. There seems to be a dramatic drop in costs each year, so it’s good to keep an eye on it. What was true five years ago isn’t true now.

            I have cousins in Vancouver and Edmonton, so I have a bit of an understanding of climate conditions in Canada.

            I live in Sydney, Aust. My panels cost $4,000 (price is lower now) and should last 20-30 years. After the first four years (two to go!) I will get free electricity for the rest of my life. Not many investments give this kind of return.

            I hope your Bahama home brings you delight, and misses out on hurricanes!

  7. Harpo

    When I hear the word ‘denier’ I am always interested to know what the user thinks is being denied. That CO2 is a greenhouse gas? That the planet has warmed recently? Neither of these things are denied by any but a weird fringe. What is, in fact, being denied is that we can or should believe something to be true without any convincing evidence.

      1. Eve

        Bob, I disagree. I do not know if there is a “fringe” anywhere that does not believe that Co2 is a greenhouse gas and that the planet has warmed. Certainly no one in any government expresses the “fringe” position. C02 is a minor greenhouse gas. Water vapor is the major greenhouse gas. The planet has warmed since the little ice age. The planet has cooled since the Medieval Warm Period. The planet has cooled since the beginning of the Holecene and has cooled since the last interglacial, in fact the planet has been cooling since it was fornmed. These are the facts and no one is denying them. What we skeptics are denying is that there is anything unnatural about our present climate. Considering that the planet’s temperature since the LIA has been the most stable at anytime, makes all this hysterial even more laughable. That said, the global warming alarmists are allowed to stop using fossil fuels. Just turn it off.

        1. Gillian King

          Hi Eve,

          The position you hold (nothing unnatural about our present climate) is not supported by practicising climate scientists, except for a couple of contrarians.

          I’m happy to accept the scientific views that are supported by EVERY national science institute on the planet.

          I want govt policy that is based on mainstream science, not on fringe views. And especially not on fringe views that are propagated by industry associations for their own benefit.

          I want govt policies that recognise the damage caused by greenhouse gas emissions. I want the polluters to pay. This goes beyond individual action, though individual action is important, in itself.

          Thanks for sharing your views. It would be easier to hear you, if you avoided labels like ‘alarmist’. Terms like that are totally meaningless when they apply to the govts of the 194 countries who have policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

          1. Eve

            Hi Gillian, I am afraid you are incorrect that the view of the present climate being normal is not supported by practicising climate scientists. Where do you think I learned it? Again, this alarmism (it is alarmism) during the most stable climate period in possibly the entire earth’s history makes it laughable.

          2. Gillian King

            Yes, true enough, there are a handful of scientists who have a different interpretation of the role of CO2 in causing climate change. However, I have to go with the vast majority.

            I can’t put aside the fact that every national science institute on the planet supports the mainstream science.

            So, given that I accept the science, then I have to look hard at what the consequences might be. It’s not pretty. It’s like you pointed to earlier with respect to oil running out. It will happen. It is happening.

            It’s disturbing to me to see lobbyists supported by money from coal/oil/gas interests spreading doubt, fear and confusion when the vast majority of scientists accept the evidence that greenhouse gas emissions are causing the planet to warm.

            It’s always hard when some say ‘this’ and others say ‘that’. Who to believe? I’ve come down on the side of the thousands of scientists who say CO2 emissions are causing the planet to warm.

            I’m glad to see that most countries are beginning to take steps to reduce emissions.

            Wishing you well, Eve..

    1. Gillian King

      I find the evidence very convincing.

      Thousands of pieces of research by thousands of scientists working for decadesin multiple fields of research (atmosphere, rocks, oceans, arctic, chemistry, physics, etc, etc.). Scrutinised every day. Supported by every national science institute on the planet.

      What more could I ask for?

    2. Jeff

      You mean convincing evidence such as changes in measurements via satellite of specific frequencies of radiation growing in the troposphere (See the CO2 absorption band centered at 667cm^-1) and the measurements of CO2 atmospheric concentration growing at a current rate of 2ppm/year or 15.6 billion tons while human emissions amount to over 33.5 billion tons pr year just from fossil fuel use and cement manufacturing? What you are denying is the fact that there IS convincing evidence. You just choose not to see it. If you do not think that evidence is convincing how about providing another explanation for those measurements other than a conspiracy?

  8. kcom

    “True skepticism — questioning all claims, consciously putting aside one’s biases, insisting upon seeing all the evidence

    This is where the problem fundamentally started. The scientists who sprung this Chicken Little tale on the world wanted it to be a fait accompli and wanted the world to take their word for it. “We’re the scientists, we’ve studied this, we know what we’re talking about, and this is a huge problem,” is basically what they were saying. When people like Steve McIntyre came along and said “I’d like to work this out for myself and check the math” that’s when the problem started. All he did from the very beginning was insist on seeing the evidence that supports this conclusion. And he was continuously rebuffed by the unethical and unscientific behavior of those climate scientists. They actively resisted providing the evidence. They jumped through hoops to avoid it. One of the most colossally stupid things ever said by a scientist came from Phil Jones, “We have 25 or so years invested in the work. Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it.” That pretty much sums up the reason there is a large skeptic community out there. The climate scientists want to play by different rules than the rest of science. And when these problems of non-cooperation are overcome (usually through some FOIA act that shouldn’t be necessary) and there is the opportunity to check their work, it frequently doesn’t add up.

    There’s also this: “That’s the genius of peer review; there’s nothing like critical scrutiny of one’s work from respected peers to keep us all on our toes!”

    In theory that’s good. But the Climategate emails and experience of skeptics provide plenty of evidence that certain papers are given much more critical scrutiny than others and that the peer review process is being manipulated to provide pal review far too often. The climate scientist community is fairly small and it seems many of its central members feel no compunction about throwing their weight around in ways that could hardly be described as unbiased.

    Having seen all this, is it any wonder that some of us seriously question the integrity of the scientific conclusions that come out of a process that seems to lack integrity.

    1. Tom Smerling Post author

      Several independent investigations of the hacked emails, by unrelated scientific institutions, found no evidence for your charge that the peer review process lacks integrity.

      1. Ed

        Tom, those were whitewashes, not independent investigations. The rock stars of climate “science” are condemned by their own words in the Climategate emails of corrupting peer review and publishing.

        Now of course that doesn’t make their claims necessarily wrong. To determine that, compare what was predicted with what has happened. In the late 80’s, Hansen predicted that if CO2 continued to grow at the same rate (in fact that rate increased), temperatures would continue their then present trend also. That prediction has been falsified, diverging significantly since the turn of the century.

        An actual scientist would conclude that something important is being missed. That the Mann’s of the world do not do so shows he and the rest aren’t scientists

        1. Gillian King

          There were eight different enquiries in two countries carried out by govt, independent scientists and host organisations. I don’t see how all of them COULD be whitewashes.

          I have confidence in the findings. And the UEA has responded responsibly.

          All of the data is in the public domain and updated quickly.

          Ed, with respect to Hansen’s 1980s prediction, you see glass half empty and I see glass half full.

          The prediction was in the right direction (temperatures have gone up) and the magnitude of change has been close to predicted (a bit different but not hugely). Since then, we’ve had 30 years to improve the predictions, so we should be paying even more attention to current warnings.

        2. Rob Honeycutt

          Whitewashes? Really? Okay, one whitewash I might buy. Two would be a stretch. Three, completely unrealistic. Four, nearly impossible. Five, completely and utterly impossible.

          How many independent investigations have there been now? I think we’re up to close to ten.

  9. theduke

    Question for Dr. Mann: Is Steve McIntyre a “denier?” If he is under your definition, then the term needs to be re-evaluated and re-defined. His carefully detailed work has exposed yours as flawed and the dubious conclusions based on your work as unsupported. If Steve McIntyre is a “denier” then we should all be proud to be labeled as such.

    I remember in the 60s when the “silent majority” turned loud and began calling young people who grew their hair and protested against all manner of things “freaks.” At first the term was viewed as derogatory. Then it was embraced by those at whom it was directed. “Let your freak flag fly.” It became a badge of honor. In that spirit, I would welcome being called a denier, based on what I see as the thrust of so-called “consensus climate science.”

    But the reality is that too many people find the term to be a smear. Based on that, I’ll offer you a deal, Dr. Mann: I won’t call you a “fraud” (a term I’ve never used and one Mr. McIntyre forbids on his website) if you don’t call me a “denier.”

    1. Gillian King

      In the wish for sweet discourse, will those who object to the evidence on climate change stop labelling responsible scientists, more than half the population, every national science organisation, the US Navy, etc, etc, as ‘alarmist’ or ‘warmist’?

      Will they?

      Perhaps they won’t try the ‘murderers, tyrants and madmen’ line too soon, either.

    2. Rob Honeycutt

      My question is, where is McIntyre’s multiproxy reconstruction that shows Mann’s 1999 conclusions are wrong? To date we’ve had about a dozen other multiproxy reconstructions produced and none of them conflict with Mann’s work.

      It would be quite extraordinary if Mann’s methods were so awful as McIntyre tries to claim and yet he managed to get results that have been replicated that many times. And even more extraordinary that no one in the …er, “skeptic”… camp has yet to produce anything that shows anything to the contrary.

        1. Gillian King

          Mann addresses the limitations of McIntyre’s work in his book “The Hockey Stick Wars” and gives detailed accounts of some of the papers published on the topic.

          I’ve not heard Mann refer to McIntyre as a ‘denier’, so maybe we can relax a bit, yes?

          One of McIntyre’s subsequent papers on the topic of temperature proxies has not stood up to peer review (rejected by ‘Nature’), even when he had the chance to nominate reviewers.

          1. Richard Case

            Good point about Mann not referring to McIntyre as a denier. I don’t think he sees him as such. But I also don’t know why he doesn’t try to collaborate with him at all. Opening the kimono to someone who’s completely independent and not part of the internal machine would be a great way of furthering his credibility.

            As far as papers and their peer review… I do think the defined “peers” are a bit less than objective. The community would be better served if the peer review in the field of climate science didn’t come across as a self-serving club that doesn’t allow any non-members to participate.

          2. Gillian King

            Hi Richard,

            Yes, it doesn’t help when peer review is like a self-serving club. As I understand the process, some journals ask the person who writes the paper to nominate who some of the reviewers are. I have read that in the case of McIntyre’s paper for ‘Nature’, he nominated two of the reviewers. There were four reviewers in total and all pointed to flaws. None recommended that the paper be published.

            That seems like a fair process to me. Maybe it only SEEMS like a closed club.

            I don’t know what more they could do than give writers a chance to nominate some of the reviewers. You wouldn’t want writers dictating who ALL the reviewers should be.

            Your point about ‘opening the kimono’ is wonderful. Productive collaboration among diverse individuals is one of the great strengths of democratic societies.


  10. JamesS

    A classic straw man from Mann. My degree is in geology,and I am extremely skeptical about the human causes of the slight warming we’ve seen since the end of the Little Ice Age. Yes, I’m just as skeptical about claims from “the other side,” because — surprise! — of my training as a geologist and the many science courses I had to take. I just happen to believe that the GCMs are not very good models of the Earth’s natural climate system — and their output is certainly not “data” by any normal understanding of the word; it is “prediction.”

    So what would Mann do with me, and the millions like me? You see, he makes up a mythical “one-sided skeptic” who is only skeptical of the alarmism of folks like him, but what about the “one-sided skeptic” who is only skeptical (or outright dismissive) of those who offer evidence against CAGW?

    That sword cuts both ways.

    1. Paul Nevins

      Good blog entry, and JameS thank you for your comment. My degrees undergrad chemistry, grad physics and education. I have been trying to find evidence that the likely problems of human caused climate change are worse than the cure. I have not succeded. I think that JameS hit the nail on the head. So many people are basing so very much on the models. But, all of the models I know of are based on assumptions now known to be wrong.

      1. Rob Honeycutt

        I think you guys are completely wrong on two things. You’re wrong that everyone is basing this on model outputs. Watch any lecture by Ben Santer and he clearly states that models are far from perfect. They are clearly useful but they are clearly not the basis for our understanding of AGW.

        The basis for our understanding is just physics. Radiative transfer. It goes all the way back to Fourier and Tyndall. You just can’t add 4W/m2 to the planet and think everything’s going to be okay.

        1. JamesS

          It’s agreed upon by everyone that the effect of CO2 is logarithmic and that each doubling would add approx 1.5 C or so of warming. The problem with the GCMs is that multiple positive feedbacks never yet observed in nature are built into those models that multiply that small effect. Forgive me for being skeptical “of unnecessary entities.”

          1. Neal J. King


            Feedbacks include:

            – When the temperature goes up, the absolute amount of water vapor increases; so the greenhouse effect due to water vapor increases
            – When the temperature rises, the amount of floating ice decreases, exposing more “black” water to the sunlight, leading to more absorption of sunlight and hence more heating.
            – When the temperature rises, the arctic tundras defrost, releasing methane into the atmosphere, contributing more to the methane contribution to the greenhouse effect.

            So which of these mechanisms doesn’t make sense?

            When you drop an egg from a 10-story building, the odds are that it will make a splat when it hits the pavement. Not everything needs to be tested in order to be credible.

          2. D. J. Hawkins


            To address one point, re water vapor.

            There has been no discernable increase, despite concurrent elevations is CO2 and temperature. And note, you don’t have to disprove every bit of a theory to knock it down. One part is enough.

      2. Neal J. King


        If your question relates to the significance of the climate impacts, it of course depends on how high one thinks the temperature will rise. The book by Mark Lynas, “Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet” discusses the specific conditions on earth at different temperatures.

        To be specific about the temperature depends on complex calculations that depend on hard problems, like the total impact of clouding. But the basic story doesn’t rely on models, Radiative transfer theory is enough to understand why the greenhouse effect makes sense, and that it gets stronger as the amount of CO2 in the air increases.

      3. Rob Painting

        James S – “My degree is in geology,and I am extremely skeptical….”

        Paul Nevins – “My degrees undergrad chemistry, grad physics and education”

        This is a logical fallacy often employed by those who deny climate science -fake expertise. You can’t expect to be more knowledgeable on a subject outside your field of study, than those who actually specialize in that field. Indeed both comments are merely handwaving.

        What features of the climate models do you think are not handled well?

        1. JamesS

          They do not handle cloud formation at all, nor do they account for the ENSO. They also do not match the observed temperatures of the past fifteen years.

          As for my degree in geology, the point I was making is that as the Tim Allen character in “Galaxy Quest” said to the bad guy alien, “You don’t have to be a great actor to spot a bad one.” I don’t claim “climate science expertise.” But I do understand error bars, measurement error, and the scientific method. Do you know what sent me over the fence to the skeptic side? When Phil Jones of the UEA’s CRU told Warwick Hughes, who requested his data set in order to attempt to reproduce Jones’s results, ““Why should I make the data available to you,
          when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it?”

          That, plus the rewrite of the 1995 IPCC report by one man that contradicted the actual conclusion of the report that no human influence on climate was discernible, left me with a bad feeling about what was being done to the actual science. Being a strong follower of Karl Popper’s “falsification” principle for scientific hypotheses, I started looking for where the line was — what, in the mind of climate scientists, would falsify the AGW hypothesis. I have found nothing.

          Every weather phenomenon is traceable to AGW: flood; drought; heat waves; cold snaps; early springs; early winters. Nothing I have seen on the subject has ever said in effect, “If we don’t see this observation, perhaps our hypothesis is incorrect.”

          Are you aware of any of these critical conditions for falsifying the hypothesis?

          1. Rob Painting

            I don’t know where you get the notion that climate models don’t handle cloud formation, that’s a preposterous idea. Check out this video for instance.

            And most, but not all, models simulate ENSO. In other words La Nina and El Nino just naturally evolve in the model runs – as a consequence of the equations upon which they are based.

            No one is proclaiming the models are perfect. They perform poorly in aspects which are rarely blogged about. This is a given – the models cannot replicate many microphysical effects, and are simply rough approximations of the real world. But the alternative would be?

            As you’re a geologist, it surprises me that you seem to omit the paleodata which shows a very strong relationship between global temperature and atmospheric CO2 concentrations for hundreds of millions of years. It’s the Earth past, present observations, and modeling, based on known physics, that give rise to concern of global warming.

    2. Rob Honeycutt

      Part of the problem here is that the other side of the extreme – the “screaming hairy conniption fit side,” as Richard Alley calls it – is not heard from. Well, we used to with Lovelock but now he’s more aligned himself with the actual science. But there clearly are CS studies out there that show 8C-12C for 2XCO2. And those are just as rational and just as empirical as Lindzen’s 0.5C studies.

      This is what Mann is talking about. Science is just as skeptical of the 12C side as it is of the 0.5C side. But the 0.5C side gets an extraordinary amount of press and gets put up against the IPCC figures of 3C as “balance.” It’s not. It’s false balance.

  11. rabbit

    Any nuanced or provisional view of global warming inevitably gets denounced as “global warming denial”. To say something like “man-made global warming appears to be occurring, but the uncertainty in our understanding and predictions of it are understated” brings down the wrath of the true believers.

    1. Gillian King


      I don’t see that happening. (“man-made global warming appears to be occurring, but the uncertainty in our understanding and predictions of it are understated” brings down the wrath of the true believers.)

      I see scientists getting on with the job of measuring temperature, sea level, ocean acidification, glaciers, ice sheets, sea ice, biological responses….

      I see scientists talking about levels of uncertainty all the time.

      I see a lot of noise from a blogosphere of interested onlookers spreading misinformation and talking about the politics of science.

      I see mischievous lobby groups funding misinformation and smear campaigns (yes, Heartland). (IMHO these organisations deserve our wrath.)

      I don’t see any scientists wrathful of other scientists who question levels of uncertainty. Some of them get a bit annoyed by the folks who deny the greenhouse effect, deny that temperatures are rising, or refuse to look at evidence for links between rising temps and extreme weather. The anti-climate change camp is a very mixed bag.

      Perhaps we live in different worlds, you and me.

  12. rabbit

    Science can withstand “one-sided skepticism” just fine so long as it’s made up of many researchers with many views, all of whom are given a fair — if not necessary equal — hearing. The whole, in other words, is greater than the part.

    What science can’t withstand is to have any one view rejected and demonized out of hand, precisely what Mann is doing.

    1. Neal J. King


      Alternative views are not “rejected and demonized” out of hand. The fact is that the science of the greenhouse effect, and related climate concerns, has been discussed for well over 100 years. So a lot of ideas that might appear to be reasonable have already been examined and found wanting, much earlier on in the conversation.

      In fact, nearly every alternative interpretation about global warming that is promoted can also be found in the history of climate science – in the “discard” file. Scientists that have been trained in climate science have been through this history, and know why those ideas haven’t worked out. That is why 97% of working climate scientists agree on the big picture of the greenhouse effect and global warming.

      1. rabbit

        I was talking of the last 15 years, not the last 100 where all sorts of ideas were put out there. But that was before climate science became horrifically politicized.

        There is clear evidence that researchers and research skeptical of at least some aspects of global warming claims are being ostracized. The fact that the two best known climate scientists in the world — Manning and Hansen — resort to name calling, even darkly hinting at times that deniers should be criminally prosecuted, is evidence of that.

        And if 97% of climate scientists (a highly dubious statistic) agree with the claim that global warming is occurring due to human action, so what? What are they afraid of that they cannot tolerate other opinions? Do they think that being in a strong majority settles the matter?

        I am a scientist. I know what a healthy science looks like. Climate science isn’t it.

        1. Gillian King


          “before climate science became horrifically politicized”

          It is odd that the subject is most politicised in countries with large fossil fuel deposits — US, Canada, Australia.

          Countries that don’t have large fossil fuel deposits have bi-partisan support for policies that move the economy to a low-carbon future.

          Funny that…

        2. Neal J. King


          The 97% number is actually pretty good: It’s based on a count of actually published scientific papers.

          It’s not a question of “tolerating” other opinions: It’s a question of pointing out that some opinions are out of synch with the body of evidence and/or the basic principles of physics. If Newton says that the force that holds the moon to the earth is the same as the force that holds an apple to the earth, and Joe Schmo says that it’s all magnetism, Joe Schmo is probably wrong. And hopefully 97% of working physicists will point out that he’s just wrong.

          In my opinion, climate science is reasonably healthy: They’re still discovering things from time to time, although the big picture hasn’t changed in many decades. What has become politicized is not the science, but the reaction of people to the implications of the science. Unfortunately, this is not surprising: When the conclusion you come to is that a central watch spring of modern industry is responsible for changing the world’s climate, you can expect people to feel threatened and upset.

          However, the planet will not care whether people are upset or not.

          1. rabbit

            Counting papers is a poor way to do it, The 97% might indicate a real consensus, or it might indicate a bias in funding or in the acceptance of papers. With the politics as heated as it is, this possibility must be considered.

            Certainly if I was a young climate scientist with a family to feed, I would think twice before putting forward an opinion that might be described as “denying” — not when Manning and Hansen are on the war path.

          2. Rob Honeycutt

            Rabbit… The research stretches back far earlier than when this ever became a heated political issue.

            As Neal pointed out earlier, scientists aren’t out to agree with each other. That’s a piss poor way to distinguish yourself in science. The way to make your mark, and every scientist knows this, is to bring something to light that has previously not been understood. Funding is not going to affect that.

            If you were a young climate scientist you’d actually probably get much more attention for yourself by denying AGW. But a good young scientist is going to let the research lead him to the conclusions rather than the other way around.

    2. Gillian King

      It looks to me like the science is withstanding it nicely.

      Thousands of folk keep working in the field and turning up new evidence to reduce uncertainty and tackle the tricky issues, like the impact of clouds and links between rising temps and extreme weather events. These are worth studying.

      No one (as far as I know) is trying to figure out whether or not carbon dioxide or methane have a greenhouse effect, cos it’s done and dusted as far as actual physicists are concerned. Those members of the public who claim it’s not (and I have encountered some) should be treated with courtesy, but their views shouldn’t guide decisions about where to invest research money.


    3. Gillian King


      I don’t see Mann demonising people. I see him dismissing those who persist in promoting positions that have been debunked repeatedly.

      How should we respond to people who don’t accept volumes of evidence? After time, we just walk around them and get on with our work.

      But when wrong views are taken up by lobby groups and promoted as fact, surely then they have to be addressed, head on.

      Most of the time, ‘denier’ is applied to lobby groups, bloggers and advocates like Monckton. Hardly anyone applies it to practicing scientists, and especially not to practising climate scientists. That could be because they practise good faith scepticism, not outright rejection of a whole field of science.

  13. John Mason

    kcom, you state: “The scientists who sprung this Chicken Little tale on the world wanted it to be a fait accompli and wanted the world to take their word for it.”

    There was no “springing” at all. None whatsoever. It was a slow and steady process of discovery, enquiry and scientific endeavour over two centuries or so. See:

  14. kcom

    New York Times

    Until now, scientists have been cautious about attributing rising global temperatures of recent years to the predicted global warming caused by pollutants in the atmosphere, known as the ”greenhouse effect.” But today Dr. James E. Hansen of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration told a Congressional committee that it was 99 percent certain that the warming trend was not a natural variation but was caused by a buildup of carbon dioxide and other artificial gases in the atmosphere.

    “He and other scientists testifying before the Senate panel today said that projections of the climate change that is now apparently occurring mean that the Southeastern and Midwestern sections of the United States will be subject to frequent episodes of very high temperatures and drought in the next decade and beyond.”

    This is the Chicken Little moment. Let’s hold a Congressional hearing, play games with the thermostat in the room, and tell everyone we’re 99% certain this is true (even though we admit that there is no measurement that proves this). Let’s skip the part about actually proving it, and let’s skip the part about getting confirmation from others outside our small circle, and let’s go straight to this:

    “Now, the Congress must begin to consider how we are going to slow or halt that warming trend and how we are going to cope with the changes that may already be inevitable.”

    That’s the fait accompli.

    I guarantee the vast majority of the population didn’t know anything about this question before this hearing and suddenly they’re told it’s 99% proven. And, moreover, it’s not our place to question that conclusion or how it was arrived at, but rather we’re only allowed to discuss how to fix the problem we can’t even prove (In Hansen’s own words “Dr. Hansen, a leading expert on climate change, said in an interview that there was no ‘magic number’ that showed when the greenhouse effect was actually starting to cause changes in climate and weather.“)

    Ever since that day it’s been a full court press to stifle dissent and any questioning of that conclusion so that we can “move on” to talk about the solutions, which inevitably involve ceding vast sums of our money and vast chunks of our freedom to a group of self-appointed busybodies who know what’s best for us and all humanity.

    I would actually divide those people into two groups. Group One would be those true believers who genuinely thought they saw an imminent, looming disaster and who wanted to skip the part about justifying themselves and get onto the solutions because time was short. Understandable but not really defensible in a democracy. But, obviously, 25 years later, they have been proven wrong as to the imminence of the problem. James Lovelock admitted as much recently. In Group Two I would put everyone else, i.e. those who are busybodies by nature – activists, politicians, and others – who recognize a gravy train when they see one and hop aboard. For them the gravy is not always money, sometimes it’s power (politicians), sometimes it’s righteousness (activists) and sometimes it’s the smugness of feeling superior.

    In any event they all made a huge mistake in trying to short circuit a real discussion and debate and rush this past people to get what they wanted. People recognize a high-pressure sales job when it’s shoved in their face. And it naturally makes them suspicious. Those advocating the problem of global warming did themselves no favors with this tactic. If they had done it right, and laid out their case, tried to convince through persuasion, given people time to consider what they were saying, had supplied their data and shown their work, then they might have gotten somewhere, even if it was a little slower than they preferred. But the fait accompli of “Hey, here’s a problem, take our word for it, now let’s talk about how many billions of dollars it’s going to cost to solve.” was bound to fail. People aren’t sheep and waving around credentials isn’t going to work (at least not with everyone). And when the global warming crowd, instead of learning their lesson, taking a step back, and showing their work and succeeding through persuasion instead decided to double down and started in with the ad hominems and the blatant lying and tried to intimidate their way to success they only made matters worse. And that’s how we’ve arrived at the present situation.

    Here’s a quick hypothetical: An amateur astronomer discovers an asteroid he believes is heading for Earth. He announces that we’re all in grave danger. When people ask him for proof does he say, “I’ve got a lot of time invested in this discovery and if I show you my data you’re just going to try and find something wrong with it.” or does he lay it all out for everyone to see, answer every question, address every concern, and make it clear that truth is his ultimate aim? And if some people were skeptical of his methods in calculating the asteroid’s path and didn’t think that a collision was in the cards, would he call them deniers or would he listen to what they say and recheck his calculations? Are climate scientists acting like they are committed to truth or are they acting like they’re committed to a cause.

  15. jdiamond

    I continue to use the word “denier” because it has meaning and usefulness and, because of its uniqueness (i.e., lacking synonyms), it can’t be readily replaced.

    The association of the denial of Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) with Holocaust denial is preposterous and fantastical. In the places I’ve lived in the United States Holocaust denial existed only amidst kooky crazies facing deportation, and the President of Iran. Such a linkage wouldn’t exist, except via the other side’s creativity, victimhood, and casual attitude towards reality.

    By my memory, this Holocaust complaint is also relatively new. I first encountered it at WUWT about three years ago.

  16. Gillian King

    Hmm… maybe you’re not aware that most of the big databases are in the public domain and updated often (daily in many cases)

    > temperature (weather station and satellite)
    > CO2
    > Arctic sea ice
    > sea levels
    > glaciers

    etc etc etc

    Here’s a quick ACTUAL: A team of scientists discovers the planet is warming.
    They announce that we’re all in grave danger. When people ask them for proof, they say, “Check this out…”

    You get the picture, yes?

    1. Eve

      Gillian, yes the planet has warmed since the little ice age. Yes the planet has cooled since the Medieval Warm Period. Yes the planet has warmed since the Dark Ages. Yes the planet has cooled since the Roman Warm Period. Yes the planet has warmed since the last glaciation. Yes, the planet has cooled since the last Interglacial. Yes, we are living on a planet orbiting a star and yes someday that star will grow and englulf us. Yes, all climate scientists know this. And yes, we are all going to die,

      1. Gillian King

        Hi Eve,

        I accept the mainstream view. Here it is expressed by the American Physical Society (physicists).

        “Emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities are changing the atmosphere in ways that affect the Earth’s climate. Greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide as well as methane, nitrous oxide and other gases. They are emitted from fossil fuel combustion and a range of industrial and agricultural processes.

        “The evidence is incontrovertible: Global warming is occurring.

        “If no mitigating actions are taken, significant disruptions in the Earth’s physical and ecological systems, social systems, security and human health are likely to occur. We must reduce emissions of greenhouse gases beginning now.”

        I want govt policy based on mainstream science. We’ve paid for the science. Why get a dog and bark yourself?

        1. Eve

          Gillian, I do not think the government needs to make any policy at the moment. If the government makes an energy policy, it should be based on a proven (beyond a shadow of a doubt) theory, not a hypothesis that has no real world evidence to support it. Call it mainstream science if you wish, call it anything but until there is real world evidence the AGW hypothesis is still an unproven hypothesis.
          The blurb from the APS, shows exactly why people are losing faith in scientists and AGW.

        2. Gillian King

          Hi Eve…

          I agree that govt policy should be based on solid evidence. The evidence that the planet is warming and that human activity is a forcing factor has been collected, scrutinised and debated for decades.

          In most countries there is bi-partisan support for policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

          As it happens, the countries where there is NOT bi-partisan support are those with large and powerful mining interests – Canada, US and Australia. This is not coincidence, is it?

          I worry that good people are being manipulated by the misinformation, lies, doubts and fears propagated by vested interests. Organisations like Heartland fill me with dismay. For example, a course on climate science at Carelton University, taught by one of their ‘experts’, was found to have 147 factual errors. The University didn’t discover this, but when it was brought to their attention, they suspended the course. Reputable educational institutions can’t afford to let their courses by hijacked by lobby groups for vested interests.

          I’m sorry you don’t have confidence in scientists who understand the physics of climate science. What would give you more confidence that they know what they’re talking about?

          With good wishes…

          1. Eve

            I am not being manipulated by Heartland or any other organization. I have a brain and I can read. When all this global warming stuff started, I wondered “did we do that?” So I started reading, everything, both sides. I looked at the original hypothesis, I read all the IPCC statements, I went to real climate. I read the original studies from climate scientists. What I read made me doubt the alarmist part. Then Michael Mann came out with his hockey stick. All of a sudden, climate periods that we know existed, were gone. That jumped the shark. If anyone here talks to Dr Mann, let him know that. Everything since. like climategate has only strenghtened my conviction. The whole thing smells like a scam.
            The silly thing about all this is that we are blessed to be living in a warm interglacial and it looks like we are in a remarkably stable part of it. I doubt that you would have wanted to live in a glacial period or during the Younger dryass period or even in the little ice age. Maybe you should start reading about the climate history of this planet. Then you would know how lucky we are.
            What is horrifying is that these policies are killing people. The carbon taxes in the UK kill a person a day in the winter. Even in prosperous Germany, 15% of the population can no longer afford electricity. In Africa, people are being thrown off their farms, their homes are burnt, to make may for tree farms for carbon credits.
            No amount of “we are sorry, we made a mistake” will ever make up for that.

  17. kcom

    they say, “Check this out…”

    If only.

    Read the Climategate emails. It’s all about supporting the cause and how to manipulate the science to exclude anyone who isn’t in agreement with them. There’s nothing honest or open about it.

    1. Gillian King

      I don’t read the emails that way and neither did the eight independent enquiries into them.

      The British govt made the following response to their 2011 review of issues raised after the stolen emails were published.

      It is a primary concern to the Government that the evidence base for policies is robust. Where this evidence base is questioned, it is right that allegations are properly assessed and scrutinised. After two independent reviews, and two reviews by the Science and Technology Committee, we find no evidence to question the scientific basis of human influence on the climate.

  18. Brian Ettling

    Great conversation with people on all sides of the climate change issue. It is important for those of us who disagree about the cause of climate change to dialogue and engage each other with thoughtful discussion. I appreciate Tom Smerling’s assertion to stop using the term “Deniers.” He has influenced me to drop the term since dissenters of climate change do find the term to be so offensive. That term does not help win friends on the other side.

    On May 12, 2011, Brian Merchant wrote a fascinating article “Do Climate Skeptics Change their minds?” In the article, very intriguing quote by Anthony Watts. He was asked by Brian Merhant what could lead him to accept climate science. A “starting point for the process,” Watts said, wouldn’t begin with more facts but instead with a public apology from the high profile scientists who have labeled him and his colleagues “deniers.”

    I saw this as an opening and I immediately tried to contact Anthony Watts in an e-mail on Watts up with that. I documented it with my blog posting: “Extending an Olive Branch to a Climate Change Adversary.” Here is the link:

    I never heard back from Anthony Watts. That’s ok. Just want to find that way that those of us can disagree about climate change without being disagreeable and resorting to name calling. Overall, I have been very impressed with the tone as we all try to engage each other on this issue with the comments on this bite. I just want to wish everyone all the best today.

    1. Brian Ettling

      I just posted this comment on “Watts Up With That.”

      Anthony Watts:
      Did you see the e-mail I sent you in March? I never heard a response. That’s ok. After engaging with Tom Smerling and others at AGU, I have stopped using the term denier also, since you do find it to be so offensive. Just trying to find a way that those of us that disagree about climate change can engage each other without being disagreeable and resorting to name calling. I cannot speak for Dr. Michael Mann, but I can speak for myself.

      However, I was very intrigued by your quote in the May 12, 2011 Slate article by Brian Merchant, “Do Climate Skeptics change their mind?” Merchant asked you could lead him to accept climate science. A “starting point for the process,” he said, wouldn’t begin with more facts but instead with a public apology from the high profile scientists who have labeled him and his colleagues “deniers.”

      I saw this as an opening for dialogue and I immediately tried to e-mail you on this website. I never heard back from you. No problem. I did try to blog about the experience: with my e-mail to you copied in the blog posting.

      Frankly, I was more shocked at the response of people who agree with me about climate change, but yet refused to give up the term “denier.” I found their responses to be discouraging to say the least. Apparently, there are offensive statements being made by both sides.

      I have been in contact with Dr. Mann in the past. I do have a lot of respect for him and his science. He has been very gracious in his correspondence with me also. Any chance if I could contact Dr. Mann and encourage him to drop the term “denier,” you would still be start the process of listening to the science and engaging directly with Dr. Mann? My offer still stands.

      I am still very concerned about the impact of human caused climate change for my nieces & nephews, future generations, indigenous peoples across the world, poor people in coastal areas, etc. It is so important for me to do what I can to communicate my concerns about climate change, including engaging you.

      Just want to wish you peace.
      Brian Ettling

  19. Tom Smerling Post author

    In response to WUWT’s post on this topic — “Integrity score: ‘ClimateBites 1, Mann 0′” — I submitted the following comment on WUWT to set the record straight.

    climatebites says:
    May 19, 2012 at 8:19 am

    As the author of ClimateBites, I appreciate the accuracy of the excerpt in your post and the relatively civil tone. However, I find the post title misleading. My disagreement with Michael Mann over use of the term “denier” has nothing whatsoever to do with integrity. It is simply a difference of views on the best terminology for effective communication, and on that score there is plenty of room for honest differences (even among WUWT readers, as witnessed in comments above). In fact, my own view changed only recently, after discussions at the December 2011 AGU meeting.

    To be clear: Michael Mann is an accomplished scientist of the highest integrity. No climate scientist’s work has undergone more scrutiny by multiple, independent investigative bodies. Their findings: Even those most eager to find wrongdoing — such as Attorney General Cuccinelli — have failed to produce the slightest shred of evidence for deception or unprofessionalism. Case closed.

    A final point: Disagreement over use of the term “denier” was a relatively minor, secondary point in my ClimateBites post. My main point was in the headline and opening passage, pasted below so WUWT can see the full context and judge for themselves. Posted 2/24/12:

    “‘One-sided skepticism is no skepticism at all.’”

    “Many defenders of science have tried to clarify the difference between skepticism and denial, but nobody has nailed it as succinctly as Dr. Michael Mann, author of The Hockey Stick & the Climate Wars, in a recent interview in Slate:

    ‘When it comes to climate change, true skepticism is two-sided. One-sided skepticism is no skepticism at all.’

    “Bravo! It’s long past time to reclaim the term “skeptic” from true-believers who are only skeptical about things that conflict with their pre-existing beliefs.

    “One-sided skeptics scrutinize climate science for the tiniest flaw or uncertainty, but usually swallow whole any cherry-picked fact, anecdotal “evidence,” logical fallacy or wild conspiracy theory that supports their worldview.

    “True skepticism — questioning all claims, consciously putting aside one’s biases, insisting upon seeing all the evidence, and subjecting it all to equal scrutiny — is too central to scientific inquiry to let it be hijacked.

    [see next two paragraphs excerpted in WUWT post above.]

    “And whenever possible, it’s usually wiser to avoid labeling people altogether, and focus instead on the psychological process of denial — to which we are all susceptible. Since we all do it, we can even find some common ground there.”

    1. David L. Hagen

      Bravo for your stand to not denigrate others by labeling them “deniers”.

      I support your efforts to uphold true skeptical science and look at ALL the data.

      Bias: People have difficulty in obtaining or using evidence that contradicts their initial beliefs. This problem is especially serious for people who view themselves as experts.

      Global Warming: Forecasts by Scientists versus Scientific Forecasts* Green & Armstrong, Energy and Environment, Version 43 – July 10, 2007

      See Nigel Fox, head of Earth Observation and Climate of UK’s National Physical Lab, on the TRUTHS project. Fox addresses the need to reduce the very large uncertainties in current satellite data. e.g. <a href= the TRUTHS about climate change

      Until we improve satellite data by an order of magnitude and strongly reduce cloud feedback estimates, we have little ability to distinguish between models that project 0.5 C versus 5 C by 2100.

  20. kcom

    Tom, you might have stopped using a specific word (and I give you credit for that although I don’t think your reasoning for doing so is very robust) but you still have a fundamental lack of understanding as to your cluelessness in addressing people skeptical of the claim of catastrophic global warming due to anthropogenic CO2. Your most recent comment is full of examples that illustrate that.

    Example 1: “To be clear: Michael Mann is an accomplished scientist of the highest integrity. …have failed to produce the slightest shred of evidence for deception or unprofessionalism. Case closed.

    That might be clear in your mind but for many of us the case is far from closed. Material in the Climategate emails and other behavior, both personal and scientific, from Michael Mann shows him to be far from a paragon of professional integrity. You are obviously entitled to your personal opinion of him, but it’s simply not within your power or authority to close that case.

    “A final point: Disagreement over use of the term “denier” was a relatively minor, secondary point in my ClimateBites post.”

    It might be a minor point to you but it’s a central point to many of us since it is, in most instances, a bald-faced lie. Directly and openly insulting someone you’re trying to talk to by publicly lying about what they believe is not conducive to any sort of dialogue. As I said above, it’s good that you have stopped using the term “denier” but it sounds like it’s simply a tactical move on your part and not as the result of a fundamental shift in your understanding of who you’re talking to and why that term is reprehensible.

    “True skepticism — questioning all claims, consciously putting aside one’s biases, insisting upon seeing all the evidence, and subjecting it all to equal scrutiny — is too central to scientific inquiry to let it be hijacked.”

    And yet, in the Climategate emails, there’s rampant talk of who is part of “the cause” and who isn’t, and rampant examples of how those two groups are treated differently. Manipulation of peer review is evidenced among many other sins. It doesn’t give the appearance that all sides are subject to equal scrutiny. The use of the term “the cause” is, itself, a huge warning klaxxon that something’s not right.

    “And whenever possible, it’s usually wiser to avoid labeling people altogether, and focus instead on the psychological process of denial…”

    I thought you gave up that word? If you mean that sentence seriously then you still lack understanding of who you’re talking to.

    1. Tom Smerling Post author

      To clarify — I try to avoid using the label ‘denier.’ But the psychological process of denial is universal to all of us. We all block out new information sometimes that makes us feel really uncomfortable, for whatever reason (see “Who hasn’t delayed opening a bill to postpone the bad news?”)

      There’s a big difference between describing a behavior, and labeling the person. Imagine catching you child in a lie. It’s one thing to say, ‘You lied to me, that that bothers me a lot.’ It’s another to brand the child with ‘You’re a liar.’ Sticking a label on somebody might imply that they do it all the time, it’s a deep character trait, and it’s possible unchangeable.

      Same difference with branding somebody a ‘denier’ versus observing that they seem to be ‘denying’ something or are ‘in denial’ about it.

      A few years back, I caught myself slipping into denial about my blood pressure. The first time it tested high, I had good reason to be skeptical (never been high before; test performed on a lark by a friend, not a doctor, in her home; not a professional-level meter; one-time test only, etc.) The second time, during my annual physical, I made more excuses (“white coat syndrome,” “I feel fine,” blah blah). As the evidence mounted, I was slipping from rational skepticism into irrational denial, because I just didn’t want to accept the disturbing truth, which threatened my self-image, and then have to cope with it.

      It similarly took me many years, from the time I first heard the term ‘global warming,’ to become aware of and accept the gravity of the problem. (I am probably still in partial denial about the full implications.)

      The bottom line is that it’s just very uncomfortable to seriously consider the possibility that our strongly held views — of ourselves, others or the world — might be incorrect. It’s just so much easier to block out (deny) the new information than to go through the wrenching process of modifying our opinions.

      But if we care enough about something, want to know the truth, and want to cope effectively, we have to overcome the all-too-human tendency to deny uncomfortable facts.

  21. kcom

    Brian, it sounds like you mean well and I’m glad you posted but, again, I’m disappointed by the naive cluelessness (for lack of a better word) evidenced in your most recent two posts.

    “He has influenced me to drop the term [deniers] since dissenters of climate change do find the term to be so offensive.”

    Congratulations. But why? That’s the key question and I can’t tell if you have even an inkling of the answer.

    Brian Merchant wrote a fascinating article “Do Climate Skeptics Change their minds?”

    Plenty of people change their minds on the climate issue. Websites are full of people who previously accepted the CAGW narrative at face value but over time have changed their minds after they studied the issue themselves (instead of just listening to the GW lobby and the press). They changed their minds because the case in favor was unconvincing to them. Yes, I know you didn’t mean that, but you shouldn’t look at people changing their minds as simply a one way street. In the case of some people, they would have to change their mind back. Many people have very specific, well-thought out reasons for taking the position they do. They are not simply clueless, as would be comforting to believe.

    “He was asked by Brian Merhant what could lead him to accept climate science.”

    This is the cluelessness I was talking about. Do you not see the profound bias in this question? Anthony Watts already accepts climate science. He’s studying climate science. He’s participating in climate science. He’s contributing to climate science. That’s the whole point for him starting his site, and for his surface stations project, etc. What he doesn’t accept (in my interpretation since I’m not speaking directly for him) is the conclusions of a certain subset of climate scientists as to the future evolution of the atmosphere and the development of the climate and the certainty thereof (especially as it relates to carbon dioxide). Notice how the question neatly (and disingenuously) conflates “climate science” as an entire science with a specific hypothesis within that science that is being promoted by a group of scientists within that discipline. If you don’t agree with the particulars of that hypothesis then suddenly it becomes “you don’t accept climate science”. That’s ridiculous. Do you see how this relates to my first point?

    “Frankly, I was more shocked at the response of people who agree with me about climate change, but yet refused to give up the term “denier.” I found their responses to be discouraging to say the least.”

    Frankly, I’m not shocked at all. It’s been that way since day one. And I’m not shocked that you were shocked at what you found. It’s easy to miss if you’re well-intentioned and don’t do it yourself and don’t hang out on sites that are on the receiving end of it. But now you might understand why some of us have our hackles up. The disrespect inherent in that term and the casual way (or often times the vicious way) it’s thrown about will do that. Then add in the fact that’s it’s crap and it’s not surprising that it’s not received well.

    “Any chance if I could contact Dr. Mann and encourage him to drop the term “denier,”

    More power to you if you can succeed at that. But none of us are holding our breath.

    Anyway, again thanks for posting. I hope I wasn’t too harsh. I was simply trying to be direct and not offensive (but frustration can lead to that on both sides). Just think about that word “denier” and everything that it implies and you’ll understand the impetus of this post. It’s offensive (even apart from any Holocaust allusion) and if you understand that, and most importantly why that’s true, you’ll be a long way toward understanding the dissenters instead of demonizing them. And then you might find they’re actually ready and eager to talk. (BTW, I find ther term “dissenters” a perfectly acceptable word in this context.)

    1. Gillian King

      Hi kcom

      Thanks for putting your views… you have an interesting slant on things…

      You say..

      What he doesn’t accept (in my interpretation since I’m not speaking directly for him) is the conclusions of a certain subset of climate scientists as to the future evolution of the atmosphere and the development of the climate and the certainty thereof (especially as it relates to carbon dioxide).

      But that’s not exactly true… the bit about “a certain subset of climate scientists” looks like wishful thinking to me.

      Watts isn’t disagreeing with a subset, he is disagreeing with the mainstream science that is accepted by every national science organisation on the planet. He’s disagreeing with the science that is the basis of policies to reduce greenhouse gases in 194 countries.

      Do you not see that? Are we living in different universes? Or are you deliberately misrepresenting the lake as a puddle?

      As you’re so keen to avoid terms like ‘denier’, are you similarly enthusiastic to stamp out ‘alarmist’ and ‘warmist’, which I, personally find incredibly insulting.

  22. kcom

    Do you not see that?

    Yes, I see that. But it doesn’t affect my point. However large it is, it’s still a subset of climate science and climate scientists. Conflating a particular hypothesis held by some with the entire science is a mistake. Despite the propaganda, there are learned climate scientists with PhDs and plenty of other scientists with PhDs in associated fields who don’t believe the case has been made properly that CO2 is the root of all evil. And asking, “What will it take to get you to accept climate science?” is an entirely biased question in that context. That’s a pretend question, not what’s really being asked. What’s really being asked is simply, “Why won’t you agree with me?” And the answer is very simple, “Because I don’t believe you’ve made your case rigorously.”

    “He’s disagreeing with the science that is the basis of policies to reduce greenhouse gases in 194 countries.”

    While that may be true, it doesn’t make it right. Capturing a group of politicians to pursue a particular policy says nothing about the correctness of the policy. If reducing greenhouse gases will accomplish nothing then it’s a tremendous waste of time and money no matter how many people are doing it. Do we really have to go through the litany of failed but extremely popular ideas in the past that “everybody” supported wholeheartedly until they were proven wrong? Popularity does not prove accuracy. I’m not saying Anthony Watts is right or all the politicians who’ve jumped on this bandwagon are wrong, but I am saying it’s possible to look at the evidence as it stands today and sincerely believe that the case is far from proven that CO2 will cause terrible problems 50 years from now. And if that’s someone’s sincere belief, based on the evidence (and all the problems with the proponents’ evidence) then calling them a “denier” is reprehensible.

    “As you’re so keen to avoid terms like ‘denier’, are you similarly enthusiastic to stamp out ‘alarmist’ and ‘warmist’, which I, personally find incredibly insulting.”

    Have you seen me use those words?

    And, out of curiosity, why do you find them incredibly insulting? I was going to take a guess but I won’t assume anything and just let you tell me. I will say that I think the case against the use of “denier” is much stronger than the case against the use of either of those.

    1. Gillian King

      Hi kcom…

      OK, your use of ‘subset’ is probably unique to yourself. ‘Vast majority’ is not usually characterised as ‘subset’. You point to ‘learned PhDs and plenty of other’… a group that is a genuinely small subset.

      Yes, popularity does not prove accuracy. But it does set the context for the debate and demolishes the false notion that Watts is arguing against a ‘subset of climate science and climate scientists’.

      Have you seen me use those words? You are strenuously defending WUWT who does use those terms. If you run with dogs people will take you for a dog.

      Sorry, I won’t be drawn into the minutae of debating which insult is worst. The point Tom makes about effective communication is that if the listener thinks you are insulting them, then you won’t get your message across. Why should I imagine someone has anything of substance to say to me when they are calling me ‘alarmist’, ‘warmist’, or ‘murderers, tyrants and madmen’?

      If someone argues against the use of ‘denier’, as you do, I want to see them argue with similar force against ‘alarmist’, ‘warmist’, or ‘murderers, tyrants and madmen’. If they’re not doing that, they aren’t sincere about communication. They’re just trying to score points for their team.

  23. kcom

    “Hmm… maybe you’re not aware that most of the big databases are in the public domain and updated often (daily in many cases)

    > temperature (weather station and satellite)
    > CO2
    > Arctic sea ice
    > sea levels
    > glaciers

    You mean like the ones that are posted every day on Watts Up With That?, by Anthony Watts, the man who “denies” climate science?

    ■Atmosphere Page
    ■Atmospheric Oscillation Page
    ■ENSO (El Nino/La Nina Southern Oscillation) Page
    ■Geomagnetism Page
    ■Global Climatic History Page
    ■Global Temperature Page
    ■Ocean Page
    ■Oceanic Oscillation Page
    ■Polar Vortex Page
    ■Potential Climatic Variables Page
    ■Scafetta’s Solar-Lunar Cycle Forecast -vs- Global Temperature
    ■Sea Ice Page
    ■Solar Page
    ■Spencer and Braswell Papers
    ■Tropical Cyclone Page
    ■US Climatic History Page
    ■US Weather History Page

    1. Gillian King

      Good to know… It would be lovely to see WUWT actively squashing the much repeated lies about scientists who don’t share their data. They do try to squash that lie don’t they?

      It’s a pity they foul their nest with their sycophant adoration of Heartland, the people who go beyond ‘alarmist’ and ‘warmist’ to stand behind their famous ‘murderers, tyrants and madmen’ claim.

      Sorry, kcom, apologists for WUWT will have trouble demonstrating that Heartland are angels of light and mercy.

      1. kcom

        “Sorry, kcom, apologists for WUWT will have trouble demonstrating that Heartland are angels of light and mercy.”

        And who ever made that claim? And why is it anyone’s responsibility at WUWT to demonstrate that? And since it’s obviously a meaningless standard why would they bother?

        Your response is also telling in a way I’m sure you didn’t intend. When you said “Good to know” you made clear that you had no clue that those extensive climate references are a standard feature of WUWT. So you obviously aren’t very familiar with the site. And yet you feel no compunction about criticizing it from your position of ignorance. If you’d looked at the site recently you’d see there is no “sycophantic adoration” of Heartland. Heartland has been criticized directly and sharply on WUWT over the last two weeks. The only way you could think otherwise is by not actually looking at the facts but rather repeating what you hear in the echo chamber on your side. Shouldn’t facts be more important than the echo chamber?

        “It would be lovely to see WUWT actively squashing the much repeated lies about scientists who don’t share their data. They do try to squash that lie don’t they?”

        It’s lovely the way you mix two different situations and try to pretend they are one. Yes, a lot of climate reference data is readily available. But all you have to do is read the Climategate emails (You have done that, right, since you’re committed to arguing from a position of knowledge? You didn’t form your opinion of them just by listening to the echo chamber, did you?) to discover that there was a long, concerted effort to hold back data that was the basis of several important, highly influential climate papers. It’s all in the emails. All you have to do is read with an open mind. Don’t take anyone else’s word for it, do yourself a favor and read it yourself. And, after you’re done, see if you can use the word “lie” with a straight face any more.

        Of course, here’s the epitome of the attitude of withholding data:

        Phil Jones: Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it?

        He is also the one who suggested his colleagues delete emails and otherwise try to foil FOI requests. (You have read the Climategate emails, right?)

        There seemed to be more bluster than content in your latest response. But that’s a common theme in those willing to outsource their opinion to someone else. Just be careful, though, in putting your blind trust in someone else. It can come back to bite you.

        It sounds to me like you’ve let other people form your opinions about things without looking into them more directly. You’re entitled to that, but blind trust can often come back to bite you. How do you know you’re trusting the right people?

  24. kcom

    And, also, are you aware that errors in those charts and graphs have been brought to the attention of their makers more than once due to the astute attention of Anthony Watts and other denizens of Watts Up With That? and other skeptic sites? Before those government agencies even noticed or acknowleged any problems? (And sometimes at first even denied there was a problem.) I know you have ultimate faith in them but they’re human and fallible like everyone else. Does this really sound like the actions of a “denier”?

  25. Tom Smerling Post author

    Never let it be said that climate dissenters lack a sense of humor! Stefanthedenier, replying to my statement on WUWT in defense of Dr. Mann’s, contributed this gem:

    “Tom Smerling, that is the biggest overstatement you produced, since Homo Sapiens invented the language.”

    Right up there with the classic injunction to “Eschew Obfuscation!”.

    Update 5-21: Another great one, in the same vein, this time from WUWT commenter Gunga Din:

    “I should proof read my comments before I psost them.” (sic)

    Hard to argue about that!


  26. kcom

    “Saint Anthony?”

    No, I’m just saying “denier” is such a stupid word for someone who obviously cares so much about the science. It’s a lazy ad hominem and doesn’t address the source of the disagreement. Would you actually feature all the current data on your site if you were denying the validity of climate science?

    And speaking of that, as far as I can tell Anthony Watts “believes” in all the weather satellites and their data collections, the ARGO system, thermometers, hygrometers, UV detectors, sunsport records, sea level records, precipitation records, EL Nino/La Nina, the AMO, the PDO, ice measurements, glacier measuements, etc, etc, ad nauseum. From what I can see he reads and studies papers in climate journals and discusses the contents of the science. But somehow, it’s claimed, he doesn’t “accept” climate science unless he agrees with one specific proposition within it. Do you see the absurdity of that?

    1. Gillian King

      I don’t see ‘denier’ as lazy. I see it as economical.

      In my view, use of ‘alarmist’ and ‘warmist’ reflect the warped worldview of a fringe minority (a loud minority).

      I’m not too concerned by the extreme fringe, though there’s a kind of awful fascination in encountering some of the weirdness.

      I care more about the large number of people sitting more in the middle.


      1. kcom

        “I don’t see ‘denier’ as lazy. I see it as economical.”

        So you’re not interested in truth then? Just being economical?

        “In my view, use of ‘alarmist’ and ‘warmist’ reflect the warped worldview”

        Unlike denier, they’re actually descriptive of your position. You’re raising an alarm because you think the world is warming dandergously. No? That’s being economical while actually describing your point of view. Note that I’m not saying that’s the preferred way, but it least it has the benefit of some basis in truth.

        And whether a few people use a term or many do, that is unrelated to its accuracy, either in the case of denier or alarmist. But you keep seem to be trying to make the case that numbers determine accuracy (a form of might makes right). They don’t. Logic does.

        “there’s a kind of awful fascination in encountering some of the weirdness.”

        You mean like this?

        1. Makan

          Economical and factual.

          Alarms save lives. ‘alarmist’ is used as a derogatory and dismissive term. I reject that position as insulting.

          The problem is real, people are saying we have a problem and should do something about it. You call them alarmist to marginalise them.

          It’s a rhetorical device, nothing to do with truth.

          Your responses here are disingenuous. You’re playing games.

          1. kcom

            “The problem is real, people are saying we have a problem and should do something about it.”

            Yes, some people are.

            “You call them alarmist to marginalise them.”
            “It’s a rhetorical device, nothing to do with truth.”
            “I reject that position as insulting.”

            So now you understand the problem with “deniers”. It fits all the objections you made above. It’s a term used to marginalize and not to inform. Just read pro-AGW comments on just about any blog and you’ll see the cavalier and sneering way it’s thrown about.

  27. kcom

    “climate dissenters”

    What exactly is the definition of that term?

    Is there a climate being dissented against? Is that like being a neutrino dissenter in particle physics? Is such a thing possible? Does the climate talk back? Do neutrinos? Or is the dissent with other actual beings and not actually nature itself?

    1. Tom Smerling Post author

      Climate change dissenters: Those who dissent from the mainstream position on climate change. By mainstream position, I mean the IPCC, 97% of surveyed climate scientists, and all the major science academies in the world.

      Actually, this is the very first time I’ve experimented with using the term ‘dissenter’ (for the first time), as an alternative to ‘denier,’ so I’m interested in your opinion on this.

      Some people who object to being labelled “deniers” have written that they had no problem with “dissenter.” (Dissent, is of course, a proud American tradition and integral to democracy, as in “a dissenting opinion” among judges. It doesn’t imply that either side has an inside track on “the truth.”)

      Of course, as you can see from the comments on WUWT, many WUWT’ers proudly embrace the term ‘denier’ (e.g. stefanthedenier who blogs at globalwarmingdenier There seems to be many different views on preferred terminology, on both sides.

      I’m curious, kcom. What term do you prefer as short-hand to characterize those who share your views on climate change?

      Scientists from various fields — not just earth scientists — sometimes refer to “contrarians” or “mavericks” to characterize those who takes stands that are contrary to the dominant, majority view. But these terms mean little to non-scientists.

  28. kcom

    I don’t have a problem with the word “dissenter”, as I said above. But tacking it onto the word climate is both meaningless and misleading.

    How’s this for an analogy. At one point there was a dispute in science between the supporters of the steady-state theory of the universe and the supporters of the Big Bang theory. Would it have been appropriate for either side to call the other “universe deniers” or even “universe dissenters”? Of course not, because it doesn’t say anything about the nature of the disagreement. Both sides accepted that there was a universe (just as both sides now accept that there is a climate). What was in dispute was the development of the universe, how it came to be and where it was headed (as is the same today with climate). Calling someone a Big Bang dissenter or a Steady State dissenter would make sense. Calling them a universe dissenter would just be stupid.

    The dissenters aren’t dissenting against the climate or climate change. The are dissenting against a theory put forth to explain the climate. They are dissenting against the theory and “climate” is not the theory. Anthropogenic global warming, anthropogenic climate change, and most specifically the claim of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming (based on CO2) is the focus of the dissent. CAGW dissenter is perfect shorthand because it accurately describes what the dissent is about. It’s about that specific theory.

    In fact, if anyone should be able to claim the title as climate change supporters it’s the dissenters. They have recognized all along that climate is perpetually changing. It was the absurd notion evidenced in the hockey stick graph that climate was in some kind of steady state up until the 20th century that led to a lot of this delving into data (and it’s unavailability) that exposed the problems in climate science in the first place.

    “Actually, this is the first time I’ve experimented with using the term “dissenter” (for the first time).”

    I congratulate you for experimenting. I’m just suggesting you think a little deeper about what the terms you use are really saying.

    “97% of surveyed climate scientists”

    Go research that one. There’s a lot less “there” there than you think.

  29. Gillian King

    Joe Romm has a good piece about ‘denier’ today.

    Among other things, he notes that the term has become part of common usage. He notes that some deniers embrace the term, and gives examples as Richard Lindzen and Heartland (see the video clip). Minnesotans for Global Warming and other major denier groups go so far as to sing, “I’m a Denier!”.

    Effective communication is about using terms that people recognise and understand.

    1. Richard Case


      Isn’t Joe Romm (and Marc Morano for that matter, on the other side of the issue) symptomatic of everything that’s wrong with the Global Warming debate/issue? There’s no reasonableness. No willingness to compromise or even entertain a different viewpoint. They are attack dogs and political agents, and nothing less. Exactly who are they trying to win over? It’s rhetorical pornography.

      1. Gillian King

        rhetorical pornography nice phrase.

        It’s true that Romm and Morano are not trying to win anyone over.

        The difference for me is that Morano spouts lies and misinformation, whereas Romm makes a lot of sense.

        1. Richard Case

          Both are preaching to their own congregations, so does it really matter? I guess it all comes down to which religion one ideologically aligns with, as to what are lies and truths. From the most objective standpoint, both are disingenuous to the extreme. Romm shouts people down and doesn’t allow the slightest of dissenting comments on his blog. Morano doesn’t even have a commenting forum at all – pro or con comments. Romm is funded by CAP – essentially George Soros, an extremist on the left. Morano is almost certainly funded by some one/organization on the far right, but I don’t know that has been made public.

          1. Gillian King

            Hi Richard,
            which religion one ideologically aligns with

            Yes, I understand there is research that indicates that our ideology/ worldview shapes our capacity to accept evidence. The poster boy for this is Rumsfeld. He’s quite open that he used to accept the evidence for climate change until he realised that he didn’t like the proposed solutions for reducing emissions.

            Nevertheless, even if our worldview / ideology (let’s not muddle things by calling this ‘religion’) is the primary determinant, we can look at the facts and reason that are brought to bear to justify the position we take. In my view, the facts and reason of mainstream science with respect to climate science are far superior to the nonsense peddled by Morano’s team.

  30. kcom

    “Effective communication is about using terms that people recognise and understand.”

    Yes, if your goal is to communicate falsehoods it would be an excellent strategy to use misleading terminology. I agree with you there. And that’s why that tactic has been especially popular among the warmists and alarmists. 😉

    See what I did there, I used those terms with tongue in cheek. Said with humor, due to our earlier discussion up above. And what do you know, the Minnesotans for Global Warming are doing the exact same thing. Don’t you recognize comedy when you see it. Its their way of criticizing people who would use that term in a serious manner.

    But if you actually want to communicate, as opposed to propagandize, it would be nobler and show more integrity to be truthful in your terms, instead of derogatory.

    As to Joe Romm, nothing by him is generally very good. But I did read it. And the rationalizations he made for acting like a propagandist are what you’d expect. But the crazy thing is he proved my point in doing so. In his own words:

    “and, obviously, one whose worst impacts are yet to come.” I would add only impacts are yet to come.

    “The climate science deniers, however, are very different and far more worrisome. They are not marginalized, but rather very well-funded [we all laugh when we read that] and treated quite seriously by the status quo media. They are trying to persuade people not to take action on a problem that has not yet become catastrophic, but which will certainly do so if we listen to them and delay acting much longer.”

    In light of what he said, I’ll ask the fundamental question I’ve been asking since day one. How can anyone deny something that’s never happened? It’s simply impossible.

    Listen to his description of a Holocaust denier. “since climate science deniers are nothing like Holocaust deniers. Holocaust deniers are denying an established fact from the past.”

    So what are global warming deniers denying? An established fact from the future? Do you see the absurdity of that term? There are no established facts from the future. There are only predictions. We dispute the predictions. We’re dissenters, we’re doubters, we’re skeptics, but we’re certainly not deniers. You can’t deny something that has NEVER happened. All we have is Joe’s promise that something will happen. Sorry but that’s not a fact and should not be treated as one.

    And you’ll find precious little evidence that anything happening today shows a conclusive global warming signal. Yes, claims abound. But the real data refuses to cooperate.

  31. kcom

    Let me edit that slightly in the last paragraph. There’s plenty of evidence the world has warmed since the Little Ice Age (that Michael Mann tried to Deep Six), so yes to global warming. But there’s precious little evidence that the current warming is anything out of the ordinary.

  32. Makan

    kcom – misleading terminology

    But it’s not misleading to call people who deny the evidence, deniers. It’s factual.

    There’s a huge camp of deniers of all spots and stripes. You wiggle around and say your particular stripe isn’t denying anything. I don’t buy it.

    The basis of our difference is that you “find precious little evidence that anything happening today shows a conclusive global warming signal”, whereas I accept the volumes of evidence.

    I also say that those who dismiss the evidence are a small and loud fringe group found mostly in countries with large fossil fuel industries. That’s not a coincidence.

    I also say that those who accept the evidence are in the vast majority. Deniers are tilting at windmills. They use rhetorical devices to present themselves as valid, important and in the majority.

    In my view, all climate science denier positions are not valid. The denier camp is a small minority. And their importance will wane with time.

    1. Eve

      Makan, there is no evidence that C02 causes CAGW. None. Please find some and show it here. No climate models. Real world evidence that shows C02 is causing Catastrophic Global Warming. Not the .7 C that has happened since 1850. Real world evidence that shows C02 is causing Catastrophic Global Warming.

      1. Makan

        Sorry Eve, I have found that it’s not at all useful to ‘debate the evidence’ on internet comment threads.

        I can point you towards some reputable sources of information, but I am sure you already know them and dismiss them.

        I accept the mainstream science. And I want govt policy based on mainstream science, not on fringe views propelled by industry lobbyists. WUWT is in that camp. He accpts funding from Heartland, which in turn is funded by the coal industry.

        Why trust amateurs who accept money from fossil fuel industry over thousands of highly qualified scientists in many countries?

  33. LarryL

    While I appreciate your efforts to show respect to those that “dissent” from the views of 97% of climate scientists and 100% of the world’s National Academies of Science, I think there may be a flaw in your argument. Please correct me if I’m reading this incorrectly.

    Your original post had the following statement:

    “Though accurate and concise, labeling people “deniers” simply shuts many more doors — and minds — than it opens.”

    I wish there was the possibility that the doors in the mind of conservatives (assuming most WUWT members are conservative – which is likely) opened to new evidence, unfortunately, the evidence suggests that this is not the case. They have found their truth and that is that, and nothing, I mean nothing will change that view.

    In fact, studies have shown that the more evidence that is given that contradicts their worldview, the harder they hold onto their misguided view (search “the backfire effect”).

    You can not reason somone out of something they were not reasoned into.

    Sure, the WUWT members could say the same of the “warmers”! But it simply is not true.

    You know damn well that you would change your view on CAGW if there were compelling evidence to contradict the theory – hell, I bet you would absolutely love to have the theory turned upside down! We would be jumping for joy! Plus we could get on with our lives instead of hanging our on internet forums beating each other silly.

    Yes, we should show respect for the individuals, if not for their ideas. However, to think they will have an open mind to changing their views is not likely at all and may actually backfire into an even stronger hold onto their misguided beliefs.

    I think we need objective honesty more than anything and that we should call them what they are – “Deniers of the Scientific Consensus” or Deniers for short.

    I am, however, open to alternative perspectives.

    1. Eve

      Okay LarryL, I will ask you the same thing I just asked above. Show real world, real time evidence that C02 causes CAGW. No climate models. Real world evidence that shows C02 is causing Catastrophic Global Warming. Not the .7 C that has happened since 1850. Real world evidence that shows C02 is causing Catastrophic Global Warming.
      Then we can talk about who is the denier.

      1. LarryL

        the fact that you would even ask that question, here on a Climate Bites discussion forum, suggests the following:
        a: You have no understanding of how science works (scientific proof here in this little text box?)
        b: You have no understanding of just how much of an increase .7 degrees is

        Btw, don’t worry about that little lump in your breast or wherever. It’s really small and certainly not “catastrophic” yet, so I’m sure it will be fine.

    2. kcom

      There are plenty of alternative perspectives right here on this page that make more sense than what you said. It’s simply ad hominem stereotyping. Everyone who questions the CAGW theory is not *horrors* a conservative. And there are plenty (but I grant you not 100%, but, hey, even 3% of climate scientists are apparently “deniers”) who would change their mind if there was clearcut evidence. They have science degrees and care about science. But this wishy-washy, computer-modeled, shoddy statistics, manipulated science doesn’t pass that test.

      “Deniers of the Scientific Consensus” or Deniers for short.

      You realize the word consensus indicates an opinion, right? A bunch of people get together and claim an opinion in common. It can no more be denied than I can deny your favorite color. It’s ridiculous and you look foolish making such a claim. I understand how you don’t like disagreement and how it might be unsettling to you but that’s life in the grown-up world.

      “the views of 97% of climate scientists”

      Again with the meaningless 97% reference. Check out the story behind that figure.

      It’s a pretty good example of shoddy science itself. Note what the survey asks and especially what it doesn’t ask.

  34. kcom

    “But it’s not misleading to call people who deny the evidence, deniers. It’s factual.”
    I see you’re having a hard time distinguishing between data and conclusions. Satellites readings, thermometer readings, sea level readings, etc. are data. Nobody is denying those. But no satellite came up with the idea that CO2 is causing dangerous warming in the atmosphere. Neither did any tidal gauge. That’s a conclusion drawn by human beings looking at the data and interpreting it. And conclusions aren’t facts. And people who disagree with conclusions aren’t denying. They’re disagreeing. In this case, they are disagreeing because they think the data has been incorrectly interpreted, or the data is not sufficiently reliable to support the conclusion drawn, or there is insufficent evidence to make the sweeping conclusions with certainty that some have drawn (either due to the weakness of the evidence, the lack of crucial evidence yet to be gathered, or insufficient understanding of the relationship between the various lines of evidence). Or, in fact, that the wrong evidence is being emphasized. Einstein waited years for experimental confirmation of his General Theory of Relativity. I wonder if he called people “deniers” before his theory had been confirmed. (And, actually, the solar eclipse readings were simply the first step, although a critically important one, in that confirmation.)
    “I don’t buy it.”
    And yet it moves
    “I also say that those who accept the evidence are in the vast majority. Deniers are tilting at windmills.”
    Again with the appeals to might makes right. That really doesn’t win any arguments in science, at least not in the long run. Back to Einstein again: No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong. The idea being that one man with the right evidence can disprove 10,000 others with the wrong evidence. It’s not about how many, it’s about the underlying facts.
    The history of science is literally littered with ideas that were accepted by the “vast majority” and yet turned out to be wildly wrong. I’m sure you’ve heard some of that list before. Static continents – obviously true, until it was proven false. Ulcers aren’t caused by bacteria – obviously true, until proven false. Black holes don’t really exist – except now it’s proven that they do. Shrinking black holes – complete balderdash, until it was proven they exist. The universe is expanding faster and faster – yeah right, except it’s been proven true. Life can’t possibly exist in the hellish conditions at deep ocean thermal vents – and yet it does. Venus is Earth’s sister planet – actually it’s not, it’s a high temperature hellhole completely unlike the Earth.
    And then there’s this one:
    “The finding for which this year’s Chemistry Nobel was awarded earlier today was sufficiently unexpected and counter to the orthodoxy of the time that today’s prize winner was tossed out of his own research group for reporting it.
    “But, Shechtman’s 1984 paper did not change everyone’s mind instantly. It was met with a combination of disdain, criticism, and uneasiness.
    “People just laughed at me,” Shechtman recalled in an interview this year with Israeli newspaper Haaretz, noting how Linus Pauling, a colossus of science and double Nobel laureate, mounted a frightening “crusade” against him, saying: “There is no such thing as quasicrystals, only quasi-scientists.”
    “The shy, 70-year-old Shechtman said he never doubted his findings and considered himself merely the latest in a long line of scientists who advanced their fields by challenging the conventional wisdom and were shunned by the establishment because of it.”
    So you see, numbers don’t mean anything if the truth is on your side. And Linus Pauling’s behavior was as reprehensible and egotistical as some of today’s climate scientists. But it didn’t make him right.
    “and in the majority”
    I don’t think they’ve ever claimed that. But neither did any of those listed above when they presumed to tell the world they had a different idea of how things worked.
    In my view, all climate science denier positions are not valid. The denier camp is a small minority. And their importance will wane with time.”
    Time will tell. But don’t take it too hard if that doesn’t work out for you.

    1. Makan

      I expect that most of those who have rusted on to non-mainstream views on climate science will quietly revise their positions over time. Afterall most of them (well, the more sensible ones, some are still stuck along the way) have already made the following steps…

      > from denying the basic physics of greenhouse gases, to accepting
      > from denying that temps are rising, to accepting
      > from denying that temps are rising at unprecedented rates, to accepting
      > from denying it will be a problem for future generations, to accepting

      Those who have got to this point are still denying either a) we can do anything about it, or b) we can afford to do anything about it.

      These are some of the various spots and stripes of the ever-shrinking contrarian camp.

      Meanwhile 194 countries accept the science and have policies to reduce greenhouse emissions. They’re realists, and they’re getting on with the job of economic transformation.

  35. LarryL

    Everytime I see a denier posting here, I think of this quote by Donald Brown of Penn State:

    “Words fail us about how to characterize the magnitude of the harm that is being done in the name of ideology. It is too absurd on its face to think that any reasonable observer can seriously conclude that climate change science is a hoax or that the consensus view that humans are causing climate change has been debunked.: in fact we are looking for the right metaphors to simply describe the sheer harmfulness of what has been happening.. We would appreciate ideas on this issue. Only poets can approach this task until we come up with the right metaphor.”

    Respect? RESPECT? no, they certainly do not get my respect, in fact, it is quite the opposite.

  36. kcom

    You really are incapable of learning, aren’t you, Larry.

    Ad hominem is not really an argument. But I guess if it’s the best you’ve got. And you obviously find it comforting, so more power to you. Just pull that cocoon a little tighter. Mmm, cozy.

    1. LarryL

      Kcom, Yes, I am capable of learning, in fact, my mind is a sponge, but thanks for asking.

      I also understand that ad hominem is not a argument. I was not making an argument, I am expressing frustration and dismay in humanity.

      Re: “And you obviously find it comforting, so more power to you. Just pull that cocoon a little tighter. Mmm, cozy”

      no, frankly, I really do wish I could be a denier myself. I can assure you that denying the reality of what we are facing is far, far more comforting than accepting it. It’s terrifying.

  37. Tom Smerling Post author

    Larry — Here’s my current thinking, which I keep revising as I learn more:

    It’s a mistake to treat all vocal dissenters alike. While the most vocal critics often seem locked into their position, impervious to new information, at least some of the people writing here, though critical of Michael Mann and arguing against AGW, do not seem 100% closed-minded.

    And there are likely many more who are reading this, but not writing (the ratio seems to be at least 20-to-1), who are likely even more open-minded.

    These partially-open-minded skeptics and “undecideds” (the middle of Yale/GMU’s Six America’s studies) are the real audience we should keep in mind as we talk about the issue.

    And even the closed-minded dissenters will someday need a face-saving way back to a sad reality. As David Brooks famously wrote, “Climate change is real (conservatives secretly know this).” Brooks may be underestimating the self-blinding power of denial, but he talks to a lot of people, all day long.

    As the evidence of — and increasingly, real-time damage from –climate change piles up, more and more people are going to wake to an unpleasant reality, and a lot will have to revise their views. We should avoid driving them deeper into their bunkers, and keep the world of observation and measurement, evidence, logic, and expertise — i.e. the world of science — a welcoming, not hostile, place to someday return to.

    That means resisting the temptation to show contempt or use sarcasm, even when we feel it is warranted. Just think about the scientists who many of us consider the most effective climate communicators: Katharine Hayhoe or Richard Alley. As you know, I often fail to live up to this standard, but I know its the right direction to go.

    1. LarryL

      Tom, I appreciate that insight, I really do understand your point and will try to restrain myself better in the future.

      However, when I think about the harm that is being caused, and the exponentially greater harm to be born by MY children and grandchildren, it’s difficult to keep one’s head from exploding with frustration and despair.

      I’ll try to keep my emotions in check.

      1. Tom Smerling Post author

        Larry — Thanks for engaging. I can totally relate about exploding heads. As often as not I miss my own mark (I even lost it today, on WUWT, slipping into snarkiness). But it helps me to keep my two heroes, Katharine H. & Richard A. in mind.

        Truth is, to do this work, we all need to work through the fear, grief and anger about it. Because this thing is so slow, but so huge. It’s almost impossible to hold: A very significant risk that we’re leaving our kids and grandkids (and countless unborn generations) a radically diminished — and perhaps ruined — world. And for the poor, far worse. The culpability of those intentionally blocking action? Major. But it’s bigger than them.

        I know that to be effective, we have to face this all head on, without blinkers, find a way to work through all the feelings, and come out the other side, ready to work. I’m only beginning to do that emotional work myself.

        I’ll write more about this, but in the meantime check out this important article by veteran climate reporter ABC’s Bill Blakemore, Hug the Monster, for Realistic Hope

  38. Eve

    I wondered if anyone would offer any evidence of CAGW. I see no one has. As I thought, no evidence and not enough belief to turn off your energy source. Don’t bother offering evidence now, I will not be back to see it.
    Please understand. This is a war between those of us who think killing humans is wrong and you who have now killed more people than in 2 WW2’s.

    1. Gillian King

      Eve, I have two problems with your expectation that you will be satisfied by the evidence you find in an Internet comments thread:

      1. The subject of atmospheric physics is more complex than a comment thread can accommodate.

      2. If you’re not persuaded by the excellent data and logic presented by the world’s top science institutions, you’re hardly likely to be persuaded by anything we can say.

      You see it as a war. So do many others.

      History will indicate which side was right. Over the past 20 years, all the accumulating evidence has piled up on the side of those who say climate change is real, that humans are contributing, and the outcome will be catastrophic.

      Wishing you well in the turbulent times we’re in.

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