Launch of ClimateDialogue.org

Goal of ClimateDialogue.org

ClimateDialogue.org offers a platform for discussions between invited climate scientists on important climate topics that have been subject to scientific and public debate. The goal of the platform is to explore the full range of views currently held by scientists by inviting experts with different views on
the topic of discussion. We encourage the invited scientists to formulate their own personal scientific views; they are not asked to act as representatives for any particular group in the climate debate.

Obviously, there are many excellent blogs that facilitate discussions between climate experts, but as the climate debate is highly polarized and politicized, blog discussions between experts with opposing views are rare.

Background

The discovery, early 2010, of a number of errors in the Fourth IPCC Assessment Report on climate impacts (Working Group II), led to a review of the processes and procedures of the IPCC by the InterAcademy Council (IAC). The IAC-report triggered a debate in the Dutch Parliament about the
reliability of climate science in general. Based on the IAC-recommendation that ‘the full range of views’ should be covered in the IPCC-reports, Parliament asked the Dutch government ‘to also involve climate skeptics in future studies on climate change’.

In response, the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment announced a number of projects that are aimed to increase this involvement. Climate Dialogue is one of these projects.

Topics

We are starting Climate Dialogue with a discussion on the causes of the decline of the Arctic Sea Ice, and the question to what extent this decline can be explained by global warming. Also, the projected timing of the first year that the Arctic will be ice free will be discussed. With respect to the latter, in
its Fourth Assessment Report in 2007, IPCC anticipated that (near) ice free conditions might occur by the end of this century. Since then, several studies have indicated this could be between 2030-2050, or even earlier.

We invited three experts to take part in the discussion: Judith Curry, chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology; Walt Meier, research scientist at the National Snow & Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colorado; and Ron Lindsay, Senior Principal
Physicist at the Polar Science Center of the University of Washington in Seattle.

Future topics that will be discussed include: climate sensitivity, sea level rise, urban heat island-effects, the value of comprehensive climate models, ocean heat storage, and the warming trend over the past few decades.

Our format

Each discussion will be kicked off by a short introduction written by the editorial staff, followed by a guest blog by two or more invited scientists. The scientists will start the discussion by responding to each other’s arguments. It is not the goal of Climate Dialogue to reach a consensus, but to stimulate
the discussion and to make clear what the discussants agree or disagree on and why. To round off the discussion on a particular topic, the Climate Dialogue editor will write a summary, describing the areas of agreement and disagreement between the discussants. The participants will
be asked to approve this final article, the discussion between the experts on that topic will then be closed and the editorial board will open a new discussion on a different topic.

The public (including other climate scientists) is also free to comment, but for practical reasons these comments will be shown separately.

The project organization consists of an editorial staff of three people and an advisory board of seven people, all of whom are based in the Netherlands. The editorial staff is concerned with the day-to-day operation of researching topics, finding participants for the discussion and moderating the
discussions between the experts. The main task of the advisory board is to guard the neutrality of the platform and to advise the editorial staff about its activities.

Editorial Staff

Project leader is Rob van Dorland of the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI). Van Dorland is a senior scientist and climate advisor in the Climate Services section and is often operating at the interface between science and society.

The second member is Bart Strengers. He is a climate policy analyst and modeler in the IMAGE- project at the PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL) and has been involved in the discussion with climate skeptics for many years.

The third member is Marcel Crok, an investigative science writer, who published a critical book (in Dutch) about the climate debate.

Questions

We welcome comments on this blog and are happy to answer any questions regarding this project.

You can send an email to info [at] climatedialogue [dot] org.

Comments:

  1. I'll add here the same "Postscript" that I added at my personal blog (the above is a guest post from the ClimateDialogue editors):

    Disclaimer: I am involved in this initiative as a member of the advisory board.

    I think ClimateDialogue is a unique project in both its organization (people with wildly different views are involved) and in its aim: Facilitating a public discussion between scientists with strongly differing opinions.

    Discussion topics are chosen to be relevant and interesting to the general public as well as receiving scientific attention. Discussants are chosen to reflect different stances in the spectrum of scientific opinion, explicitly including ‘sceptical’ voices. Naturally, the ensuing discussion is not necessarily representative of the full spectrum of scientific discussion (painting it as such would likely lead to a ‘false balance’).

    The idea is that the discussion can alleviate the polarization between ‘sceptics’ and ‘mainstreamers’ and provide some clarity in background of the (dis)agreements. Moreover, having scientists discuss their scientific disagreements in a public setting can go a long way to increase the public trust in science, which has suffered from the (imho incorrect) impression of being closed-minded. All in all, I think that ClimateDialogue provides a valuable service to both the public and the scientific debate. That doesn’t mean that it’s free of risks, but these are more in the framing and the perception than in the discussions itself. Naturally, the participation of good scientists is a necessary condition to make this experiment a success. Don’t hesitate to contact the editors if you fit the bill and are not afraid of a public debate!

    • This would perhaps be sensible if there were any sensible 'sceptical' [sic] voices.

      I was frankly not impressed either by the clarification of disagreements in the first example. If you find yourself calling on the same people for many issues to provide "disagreement", it would seem to me to constitute evidence that there is no serious, informed disagreement on those issues.

      Surely you could have found substantive disagreement among scientists about the sea ice prognosis. But it would not have solved the problem of representing 'sceptical' voices.

      This all said I am not afraid of a public debate. But you did not have one. You simply had three assertions.

      I think it is a good idea to preannounce a specific issue and solicit a spectrum of opinions on it from people who consider themselves qualified. Then you could either select the most interesting, or simply publish all of them, along with credentials.

      If there was a specific controversy in the present case, it was not obvious from the reponses.

      • If the discussions result in "evidence that there is no serious, informed disagreement on those issues", then I think that would be a worthwhile conclusion, since that is not widely shared amidst the general public.

        I would have liked to see more debate between the invited experts myself.

        Interesting idea to have the discussants self-register (after a check of credentials) rather than hand picked. I'll throw it in the group.

        Bart

  2. I have yet to see Dr. Curry do anything but evade serious questions, attack her interlocutors, and seek the limelight for what as far as I have been able to discern are scientifically unsupportable conclusions that support false skeptic positions. I became interested when she first appeared on RealClimate a few years ago, and her refusal to answer technical questions and tendency to act like the questions were some kind of persecution were outstanding. She then was featured alternatively with Dr. Gavin Schmidt at CollideaScape (Keith Kloor's vehicle). Dr. Schmidt tried very hard to support Dr. Curry, and she went on with the evasion and unanswerable defense.

    Now these rather publicly stated opinions are nothing but what I think, so you are welcome to take it with a grain of salt. But I've never had occasion to think differently about her, and I do tend to read things through. It's been a few years.

    Now if you want to spent some time on something really knowledgeable and put together well, try this:
    http://climaterealityproject.org/
    "Climate Reality Project: The Dirty Weather Report"
    now in hour 18.

      • I looked at her publication record a few years ago. Some nice papers, often with individual measurements but not many that demonstrated ability to synthesize climatic information. (non-expert impression)

        On the other hand I saw her post-doc, Jiping Liu, present their work for a faculty spot. It seemed first-rate and was well within the IPPC consensus.

        http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2010/08/09/1003336107.abstract

        I don't take Curry seriously. Suffering from not-invented-here syndrome.

  3. "Based on the IAC-recommendation that ‘the full range of views’ should be covered in the IPCC-reports, Parliament asked the Dutch government ‘to also involve climate skeptics in future studies on climate change’."

    Well, there's your McGuffin.

  4. Presumably after enough iterations we'll see a pattern emerge: out of every 1000 discussants 50 will be unable to reach agreement with the remaining 950. If history is any guide, from this seemingly conclusive outcome we'll determine that more discussion is necessary.

    Wait; isn't that exactly what we've been doing for about 20 years? There's something deeply strange about an officially sanctioned process that seeks to imitate what's already transpired over the past two decades, far beyond any remaining iota of utility.

    Another means of styling this procedure-- in a way more reflective of the reality of the situation-- would be to have a "discussion" wherein a single dissenter is challenged to defend their position against 9 other participants. If anything that's a disproportionately generous quota but as we humans don't divide into fractions we're faced with increasingly cumbersome numbers of interlocutors if we want to better represent the true ratio of the disintegrated vs. integrated thinkers.

    • Think of Zeno's paradox. Of those 50, next time it might be 10 out of the 50. Then it will be 2 out of the 10. Then we have to start cutting the people up? How long, o lord, how long ... (Speaking of which, if I understand correction it would be more like 20 or 30 of the 1000.)

      So those for whom real calculus is beyond their reach (I count myself in the number, but I do get Zeno which puts me in the logical instead of the left behind sector, unfortunately a tiny minority).

  5. Luckily this is a Dutch project, not Danish (where Lomborg and friends might still have some say)...

    Who is Marcel Crok (a nomen omen?)? Is he a Fritz Vahrenholt (who in the German "debate" this year was considered "honest" by e.g. Hans von Storch)?

    • Sorry for the late reply.

      Here's where I first heard the name:

      > A late report on my visit to Holland. I don’t think that I’ve talked as much in a month as I did in 36 hours in Holland. I had two main presentations -one at KNMI in the morning; one at the Free University in the afternoon. I also had two long newspaper interviews and a long meeting on Friday morning with a Dutch mathematician. After the KNMI presentation, I had lunch with Rob van Dorland, Nanne Weber, Jos de Laat of KJNMI, all of whom were very cordial, and spent much of the afternoon talking with them. Throughout I was very cordially entertained and guided by Marcel Crok of NWT (and his charming wife) Any success that I had was largely due to Marcel’s initiative.

      http://climateaudit.org/2006/09/24/trip-report-holland/

      Ah, the good ol' days.

  6. Unfortunately, Dr. Curry has made herself such a target in the sector where real science is understood that the other members of the panel are almost invisible. Is anyone else able to speak to their qualifications?
    ---
    Scratching the sore spot, had Dr. Curry not already done so, nobody should continue to be deceived about her since she said "it plays well in Georgia." Why does the anti-reality-based universe have such a thing about facts that they'd rather stumble on a rock than acknowledge its existence?

  7. Meta-discussion.

    Off Topic:
    Does anybody know a good article on various models that evaluates them hemispherically? As there is a lot of talk of the see-saw mechanism (in decadal-centurial scale) during the glacial terminations, might this effect be noticeable also in shorter periods of time? Annually, semi-annually, seasonally, monthly, even weekly? If a model is behind in time on NH is it ahead in time on SH? If they are, what have they omitted?

  8. Thanks moderators for deleting my last one written in too emotional state. I think it's just that the particular version of the M-theory J.Curry seems to be advocating gets me sometimes in that mood. Here's another example of that sort of excercise in mathematics: http://julesandjames.blogspot.fi/2012/11/polynomial-cointegration-tests-of.html When everything is possible why bother with physics.

  9. Some trenchant remarks (especially in the comments) at RabettRun express my disgust and despair at the ongoing effort to fill the airwaves with useless talk. Things are no longer at the stage when we have a few more years to prevaricate.
    http://rabett.blogspot.com/2012/11/eli-has-seen-this-movie-before.html

  10. Doug's suggestion at Eli's is interesting:

    "Bart, this is a waste of your time. Do something more useful, such as persuading AGU and MIT to tell Lindzen that while his early research is honored he cannot expect employ their names to legitimize the rubbish he spews on Australian talk radio, etc. It's time to change tactics."

    This makes some sense. It is one thing to propose to censure someone like Lindzen. It is another to insist that he not present himself as representing the authority of the organization. Did he actually do so?

  11. Why has Climate Dialogue ground to a halt? Rob van Dorland in particular seemed to be pushing for some actual answers but his questions have been left hanging in the air. Did the experts think they had reached an approximate consensus? It certainly doesn't feel like that to me.

      • "in some circles" - the lower circles of Dante's Inferno, Boehner's recalcitrant far right caucus (who want *more* guns now), and the ever-active fake skeptic PR machine - I think mt is right. Further events in Washington make it yet clearer that in these circles only those who take and hold are real and the rest of us aren't quite human and are unworthy of consideration.

      • Has the smiley disappeared? It has for me. That was meant to be my clarification! I don't really disagree - who could? But then we ask that question a lot.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>