Wherefore art thou Climate Change?

Wherefore Art Thou, Climate Change?

OK, let’s start with a bit of a language lesson.

Juliet is not pining for an absent Romeo when she says “wherefore art thou Romeo?” You knew that, didn’t you? I mean, if you’re a native English speaker after about 1750, you should have been exposed to this fact at some point. She is not saying “where the f are you Romeo” she’s saying “look, this is too hot for stupid old feuds to get in our way”.

Well, education isn’t what it used to be.

Look at the transcript!

No, Juliet is discussing Romeo’s name; she is asking why he has the name he has, such that her family had a sworn undying and unconditional enmity toward him. She movingly entreats him to “deny his father and refuse his name”, and asks “what’s in a name?”

And speaking of “too hot”, well, we who are wrapped up in the sustainability/futurism have a nomenclature problem too. So we may say, “wherefore art thou climate change”.

Now we are being mocked for “changing our minds” about what to call “it”. What “it”? The question presumes that “global warming,” “climate change”, and “climate disruption” all meant the same thing. So it’s just the wrong question.

In the late 60s, we teenagers trolling for dimes and quarters from friendly neighbors would say “it’s for the environment”, and the old folk at the door would smile and holler to their spouse “They’re collecting for the ecology, honey, bring me a few coins from my wallet, would you?”

Under the circumstances, it would seem a travesty to correct the nice old folk for their scrambled etymology.

Environment, ecology, what’s the difference. Let it slide.


We Need To Be More Careful Nowadays

But we didn’t have a bullshit industry arrayed against us. Collecting for “the environment” was a good thing, andnobody was poised to mock the entire move toward environmental responsibility, which seemed like a broad consensus at the time. Nixon signed EPA into existence, right?

Now fast forward to what “global warming”. This is the entire structure of the energy sector that we are talking about. So when someone like me advocated for using “global warming” to mean, and only to mean, “a tendency of a particular (probably spherical) body’s mean surface temperature to increase.”

You will recall that (*) way back in 2004 I wrote an article on RealClimate arguing that scientists should avoid saying the phrase “global warming” except in narrowly defined cases where the topic at hand was exactly the mean surface temperature. Specifically, that “global warming” should not be synonymous with “climate change”.

I wrote:

If someone asks me in my capacity as a climate scientist whether I “believe in “global warming”, they are not asking the question in a literal sense. They are asking “what am I to make of this confusing topic called “global warming”?

In the end they are usually asking some combination of questions like 1) whether greenhouse gases are accumulating? 2) whether the greenhouse effect is established science? 3) whether global warming has been observed? 4) whether future climate change is expected to be big enough to worry about? 5) whether cooling at a single location falsifies the “theory”? 6) whether to expect super-hurricanes? 7) whether the Gulf Stream will shut down instantly glaciating Scandinavia and Britain? 8 ) how you can model climate when you can’t predict weather? etc. Often they will bounce incoherently from one to another of these sorts of exasperatingly-missing-the-point sorts of question.

Once in a while someone will have more sophisticated questions like 1) what’s the magnitude of the anthropogenic forcing compared to natural forcings? 2) what’s the lag time in the system response? 3) what is the magnitude of the most disruptive plausible scenarios? 4) what’s the likelihood of the discontinuous shifts in system regime? etc., When I hear people asking the right questions it makes my day, but it’s pretty rare.

What people outside the field universally don’t mean by “global warming” though, is “a tendency for the global mean surface temperature to increase”!

Therefore I suggest to my colleagues that we avoid the phrase in public communication. We should be talking about “climate”, “climate forcing” and “climate change”, and about the “scientific consensus” and the “policy implications”. It might be wise, given the present confusion, to go so far as to publicly use expressions like “increasing average surface temperature” when we mean “global warming” in the literal sense.

To the public and the press, I suggest three things. First, define your terms carefully when talking to a scientist and tolerate the scientist’s insistence on doing so. Second, try to stick to one subject at a time. Finally, among the questions you should be asking scientists is “what are the most important questions?”

Unfortunately, things have gotten much worse. We have some sort of a hiatus or near-hiatus in global mean surface temperature; this is not really a scientific mystery – if anything we have too many explanations;  if they all pan out the underlying rate of change of surface temperature is actually on the high side! But it’s certainly true that the behavior of the system is not captured by the CMIP ensembles.

I claim that sloppiness with nomenclature has allowed bad things to have happened in the public discourse.

 


The First Bad Thing – The Kick Me Sign

First, because of the overemphasis on “warming” deniers have something to deny, at least in the short run. They do not believe or do not choose to believe that we understand the system well enough to be certain that CO2 accumulation is a major forcing. Physical understanding dismissed, they say everything is based on “models” of dubious value. And if all eyes are on global temperature changes on decadal scales, although the models never claimed much skill in this matter, reality is in fact unfolding on this dimension more slowly than anticipated. So they get to say that our “global warming theory” has been falsified.

See this smug tweet, which tries to posit this sort-of-failure as three different points in evidence that Not-The-IPCC. (When I pointed out that this person had made the same point three times, by the way, the reply was “No, I don’t think I did. Something wrong with your reading comprehension?”)

Now this is hardly dispositive, because models are primarily scientific tools, not prognostic devices. Failures are just as informative as successes, and there have been many successes in the model world. But as long as the actual trajectory of the world doesn’t diverge too far from that described in 1979 by the Charney report, the core ideas of how human activity will change climate remain actually far more robustly verified than they are challenged.

 


The Second Bad Thing – Shifting Goalposts

Because we rolled over and played dead and allowed the Charney report predictions to be called “global warming”, the temptation is huge to say not only that “global warming has not stopped” (fair enough) or “global warming has not slowed down” (sort of arguable) but even “global warming is proceeding as predicted”, which goes too far. To say the missing heat is unexpectedly in the deep sea is probably correct. (Kevin Trenberth rarely makes categorical statements without very strong evidence)

But to say this means that “global warming has moved to the oceans” is flat out moving the goalposts. “Global warming” is a trend in planetary “skin” (surface) temperature. It always has been a trend in skin temperature. To say it’s still happening because it is something else opens up the side of sensible advocacy for decarbonization to ridicule. If we had really used sensible nomenclature, distinguishing between “climate change” and “global warming”, we could sensibly say “we think the slowdown in global warming is temporary, and climate change is happening faster than ever”. But because the words are seen as synonymous, that sounds insane.

 


A Third Bad Thing – Overly Broad Connotations

Confusion is by no means limited to the denier end of the spectrum. Almost everywhere in the world, natural ecosystems are in stress or decline. Climate stress is, as yet, only a small contributor to this decline. This problem is every bit as crucial as anthropogenic climate change is, and is related, but it’s very different. But the more concerned end of the spectrum has taken to calling all of this “climate change”, and that simply adds to the confusion. When confronted with deniers, they are baffled, as they see evidence of decline everywhere. But that is not primarily climate related in most places. Yet. This further stokes the fire of our incapacity to communicate.

 


Climate Disruption – A Third Name for a Third Thing

Both climate change in general and global warming in particular, of course, happen naturally. Indeed, human-caused climate change would be a small concern if it were comparable to normal natural changes. The problem, of course, is that the change is becoming very rapid, and in the context of a civilization that arose during a period of unusually stable climate, especially threatening. One could default to the clinical “anthropogenic” prefix, and the deniers are fond of referring to “AGW” (anthropogenic global warming), specifically as a “hypothesis” or a “theory” in which they disbelieve. But if it’s hard to get people worked up about “change” or “warming”, it’s especially hard to get them worked up about a mouthful of latin or its three letter acronym.

Presidential science advisor John Holdren has stepped up to the rescue with a name that captures the nature of the problem and avoids denier nitpicking smoothly; it is “climate disruption”. This is excellent as a name not for the specific phenomenon of surface warming or the general phenomenon of climate change nor for the contemporary human-caused versions thereof, but for the problem we ought to be discussing; the real problem at hand. The problem is that human activity is now large enough as to disrupt the climate system, and it shows every sign of getting worse for decades to come; possibly centuries or even longer. It is humanity doing it, and it is necessity for humanity to summon the maturity and responsibility to stop doing it.

We certainly don’t need to be nitpicking about tree rings under the circumstances. It’s not about “global warming”; it’s about how much we should allow ourselves to disrupt the lives of future generations for our own convenience. It’s an ethical question, and “disruption” is the right word or what we are doing.

Of course, this allows for still more mockery… (this egregious cartoon appeared in the Austin STatesman-American, our mixed blessing of a daily paper which actually publishes readable articles but on the whole is a paragon of false balance).


Social Science Muddies the Waters Again

Anthony Leiserowitz, responsible for infecting people’s minds with the (in my opinion counterproductive) “six Americas” paradigm (a topic for another time, perhaps) has also invoked Romeo and Juliet in addressing this question, which he does in a disturbingly shallow way with a poll.

We found that the term “global warming” is associated with greater public understanding, emotional engagement, and support for personal and national action than the term “climate change.”

Right? He compares them as if they meant the same thing! And he explicitly believes, apparently, that in the future, the two terms may become interchangeable, and that as the public learns that science prefers “climate change”, therefore the gap in poll responses they produce is likely to narrow. (!)

Okay. I think the Yale boys get their social science badly wrong, but this is just getting the whole basis of the investigation wrong. Don’t believe me? Listen to Mike Mann and Richard Alley.

Mann:

This is always a frustrating discussion to many of us in the climate science community, because to us, these are two equally appropriate, complementary terms that describe different aspects of the same phenomenon. Global warming is perhaps the single most robust response of the climate system to increasing greenhouse gas concentrations. The underlying physics is very simple—we know that the surface of the Earth must warm in response to increasing greenhouse gas concentrations. But there are many other response of the climate to increasing greenhouse gas concentrations that are equally or more significant from a societal impacts standpoint. Sea level rise (which is a result of the warming of the oceans, the melting of the ice), shifting wind and ocean currents, changing rainfall and drought patterns, changes in the frequency and intensity of extreme meteorological phenomena, these are all potential impacts of human-caused greenhouse warming of the planet.

Alley:

have used both terms, choosing the one that is more appropriate. (You can see this in, e.g., my book Earth: The Operators’ Manual; I paste the two relevant entries from the Index below…) Burning fossil fuels and releasing the CO2 to the atmosphere turns up the planet’s thermostat, causing global warming (or, more accurately, globally averaged warming; warming will occur unless a cause of similar-sized or bigger cooling is also introduced). The global warming in turn will cause many other climate changes, including an increase in the most intense rainfall events, expansion of the subtropical dry zones, drying of many grain-belt regions in summer, etc. The global warming is very strongly supported by physical understanding, a range of models, and fingerprinting exercises with recent data; the others I mentioned are strongly supported. Global warming from our greenhouse gases is part of climate change, but it is so well understood that failure to call it out specifically deprives readers or listeners or viewers of important information.


mrnatch
Got It??

“Global warming” and “climate change” and “climate disruption” are useful related concepts.

They do not mean the same thing!!!

Use the right tool for the job! Use “climate disruption” when the topic comes round to policy, and use it when it is time to bring the topic around to a policy discussion. Which is more often than not. “Climate disruption”, more often than not, is the phrase you are casting about for.

And I would propose “environmental disruption” for the ecological piece of the puzzle, overlapping but not identical with climate disruption, and related to but not identical with the “sixth extinction” problem which is one of its consequences.


The Information Deficits are Huge

Also, this reconfirms a perennial point of mine. Selling climate change is not like selling soap. There is no information deficit in selling soap, but as long as people are confused, moving them on the less-concerned to more-concerned axis is worthless. We are not far enough on the well-informed to poorly-informed axis to even bother.

It pains me to live in a world where it is worth saying this, but here it is. Using the right word for any particular occasion is a better idea than trying to decide which word is “better” after their distinction in meaning is lost.

In conclusion: to’jaso. (**)



(*) Ingles: You will recall that: Nobody but me remembers that…

(**) Canadian: To’jaso: I told you so.

Image stolen from Bob Crumb and thanks a lot, kid!

Comments:

  1. Interesting post. It's taken me a while to realise that even climate scientists use "global warming" to refer only to the surface. I had assumed that it referred to warming of the globe and hence, essentially, to overall warming and that surface warming was simply a proxy for this. Now that I've now realised that it has been used to refer to the surface only, I have wondered why there wasn't more care taken about terminology.

    Having said that, I also realise that when discussing science, scientists will often use terms that aren't always ideal but that they can always explain if someone wants to know more. They aren't, typically, used to people disputing the science because the terminology isn't ideal. I'm not really sure that there is any terminology that could have been used that would have avoided such nit-picking. Being aware of the nit-picking and trying to avoid possible pitfalls would certainly have helped, but probably wouldn't have prevented those who want to deny the scientific evidence, from finding something to criticise.

  2. Arguably a "globe" is a spherical surface, so the nomenclature is precise.

    "Warming", to me, should refer to temperature, and not heat, since we have the word "heating" for that.

    • To be clear, I was just presenting my initial impression of the meaning, rather than arguing that it was appropriate. Is it true that "globe" is a spherical surface, though? That wasn't my understanding, but that doesn't mean I'm right. You're right about "heating" versus "warming" and I'm aware that some have suggested using "global heating" in some circumstances (although, if I was being pedantic, I might argue that temperature is just one representation of energy). One possible confusion, though, is the term "anthropogenic global warming". I'd always taken that to be the process of increasing atmospheric GHG concentrations reducing the outgoing long-wavelength flux and hence increasing the energy in the climate system. That would seem to refer to overall energy, rather than surface temperature only, but maybe I'm wrong about the use of that term too.

      Ultimately, though, I agree with what I think you're trying to say in this post. Getting the terminology right is important and could avoid a lot of confusion - although I doubt it will remove it entirely, but that's probably unavoidable.

  3. Like ATTP, I used to assume, incorrectly, that Global Warming referred to the increase in temperature of the whole planet. After all, where is the surface: the top of the solid, liquid or gaseous part? I suppose that the answer is that the surface of the globe for climatologists is near the base of the gas. For the majority of us who don't learn these things in a classroom, it's not obvious.

    Climate change and global warming have become interchangeable terms for non-specialists and the distinctions important to insiders get lost in the translation from scientists to laymen. Other examples of interchangeable terms for the public would be continental drift/plate tectonics or evolution/natural selection. The toothpaste is already out of the linguistic tube for all of these terms and scientists communicating to the public had better understand that they don't speak the same language as the rest of us.

    Which reminds me, when discussing terminology for global phenomena, English is not the only language. The French tend to refer to réchauffement climatique literally "climate warming", which is neither one thing nor the other.

  4. Can't get rid of the 'denier' word, can you? And you can't see how it poisons discourse, either.

    Write another essay using each of your bolded subheads about how using the term denier has screwed up your cause six ways from Paducah.

    Call someone a piece of s**t every day for 10 years and then wonder why they don't listen to you. And then write about magical thinkng.

    Idiot. You probably made some good points in this piece. But nobody who doesn't already agree with you will ever know.

    • "screwed up your cause": nothing to do with the campaign arising out of big tobacco and the way anyone will seize anything one says and turn it on its head as long as it serves their purpose. Whole lot of anger going on here.

      This argument contains several assertions and exaggerations. I don't think anyone is calling you or those who fail to exercise due curiosity about what almost all the scientific community has concluded and continues to try to elucidate a "piece of s**t". As far as I'm able to discern, you seem like a high-morality kind of guy doing his best to improve the world around you. Our disagreements about the atmospherics of our atmosphere aside, I'd agree that there is too much assuming the other guy is not "nice" because he disagrees with you, but there's a lot more of that coming from the phony skeptics from where I sit, and they're succeeding in the distraction and misdirection quite well.

      "Idiot": same.

      As for denier, here's the dictionary. The attempt to make it about holocaust deniers so a little tar can be spread around does seem to be coming from the incurious anti-skeptic "skeptics" and insistence does not make it true, any more than the rest of the tactics and techniques. If tactics and techniques are all there is, doesn't it merit a further look, at the actual science and the actual evidence?

      de·ni·al
      the action of declaring something to be untrue.
      "she shook her head in denial"
      synonyms: contradiction, refutation, rebuttal, repudiation, disclaimer; More
      the refusal of something requested or desired.
      "the denial of insurance to people with certain medical conditions"
      synonyms: refusal, withholding; More
      a statement that something is not true.
      synonyms: contradiction, refutation, rebuttal, repudiation, disclaimer

      Here's Merriam Webster:
      : a statement saying that something is not true or real : a statement in which someone denies something
      psychology : a condition in which someone will not admit that something sad, painful, etc., is true or real
      : the act of not allowing someone to have something

      I left in the second MW because it illustrates what this is all about: it is about not allowing the human race to take action on climate change resulting from global warming caused by an accumulation of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in our atmosphere.

      • Ellen Goodman thinks differently. So do a string of others who I could quote ad tedium.

        It's a political term used to damage the standing of those who oppose you.

        It's also hate speech--the way it's used in climate discussions.

      • I have been called a denier. It is no fun. It pissed me off and made me unwilling to engage with the person who called me a denier.

        Had I been called a racist I would feel that way too. But that does not mean that no racists exist.

        If people call you a denier, Tom, I will defend you and boot them off. You are not one. Even McIntyre or Curry, who are not exactly constructive participants in the conversation in my opinion, are not deniers in my book. I use the word carefully to refer to the most dishonest actors, not generally to people I disagree with.

        But to deny the existence of any deniers makes no sense. They plainly exist. What word do you suggest one uses for professional activity intended to confuse the public and derail the conversation?

      • Susan, you also seem to have your heart in the right place so I will try to be direct but polite.

        The 'conspiracy' that you seem to see as the cause of policy difficulties regarding climate change, if it exists at all, has done nothing compared to the damage caused by your own team. And I'm not just talking about your tone deaf terminology. The marketing teams at organizations like Greenpeace, etc., have specialized in own goals for more than a decade. Worse, some scientists, such as Michael Mann, have ignored the James Hansen model of engagement and aggressively pushed their own findings and have ignored honest criticisms, with predictable results. Even worse, pseudo scientists such as Stephan Lewandowsky and Jim Prall have consciously sought to inflame their opponents with shoddy science meant to paint their opposition as psychos. That went over well, didn't it?

        Calling your opponents 'deniers' is just more of the same. First, although there is a legitimate use of the term, that went out the window about 10 years ago when dozens of journalists adopted the meme of equating climate change skeptics with Holocaust deniers.

        Second, it is not the user of a term who gets to define its effect. You can say all you want that you have the pre-Goodman meaning of the word in your heart. But what skeptics hear is 'skinhead denier of the Holocaust'. And they are mortally offended. In my lifetime I have heard white people use similar explanations for their continued use of the 'n' word for black people and 'k' word for Jews. It doesn't fly in the real world.

        I'm not a skeptic, but I hang out with them (on the internet), mostly because what the consensus has done and the way it has acted has appalled me with its stupidity. And believe it or not, they are real people with real lives and they have feelings to hurt. You all have succeeded in doing so. And many members fight so hard to keep 'denier' in the lexicon that it is obvious they are aware of its effect. It's worse than wrong--it's a mistake.

        Well, the topic was language.

        [ Godwin, not Goodman, presumably. But we still need a name for people who behave irresponsibly, indeed unbelievably irresponsibly. If you refuse to provide one you are basically, er, refusing to affirm that this phenomenon exists, in the face of un-refuse-to-affirmable evidence. A clear if ironic instance of refusing-to-affirmism in itself. ]

      • There has been a concerted effort to label calling someone who denies climate change is real and all the background that makes this clear (almost two centuries, almost all scientists) a denier as a practitioner of "hate speech". This in itself is, imnhso, a form of, well, I don't even here want to use the word hate, but it is an attempt to create prejudice in the face of facts.

        I tried to back off to the dictionary definition because I am so tired of not being able to use words to mean what they say, for fear it will offend someone who either has excessively sensitive feelings, or is choosing to brand the facts as "hate speech". For myself, I coined the term fake or phony skeptic, and since clarity is always for sale in the marketplace of words, I often point out that scientists are true skeptics and these "skeptics" are not skeptical at all. They appear to be incurious as to what the facts in the case are, and highly selective as to what is "acceptable" speech, largely using bias and innuendo to prevent any straighforward statements at all.

        This is simply not true. Deniers are not holocaust deniers. People who deny reality should not be so prickly about the consequences.

        And speaking of consequences, the consequences in this case are so bad that it's time we stopped quibbling over a word in common usage that has a specific meaning, just to serve the interests who created this controversy.

      • As for labeling, the labels appended to Mike Mann, Rajendra Pachauri, Ellen Goodman, John Cook and Skeptical Science, Al Gore, and others are quite spectacularly hostile. I include her because she's a good reporter, and I've never heard her use low slang to make points about the difference between reality and falsehood. Al Gore was an early case and catchup was required there, as his message was so effective. You could say that the effectiveness of the message is the motivator for speech and writing that attempt to discredit the source.

        The development of active avoidance of SkS is illustratively intentional. Those who promote the denial of reality powerfully dislike anyone who organizes rebuttals to falsehood, and the campaign has been unrelenting and fierce.

      • There has been a concerted effort to label calling someone who denies climate change is real and all the background that makes this clear (almost two centuries, almost all scientists) a denier as a practitioner of "hate speech".

        Yup. And what do you know - if you spend long enough trawling the Internet you can always find eveidence that supports your position. But my, one has to look hard to find those few examples. Should this tell you anything? You'd have thought. Tom appears willing to do one aspect of the hard work.

      • Just to be clear, with respect to Tom Fuller I meant what I said about him:

        "a high-morality kind of guy doing his best to improve the world around [him]"

        I'm not assuming ill will in any way about him; his work commands respect, as far as I've been able to see from limited encounters here and elsewhere. He's probably nicer than I am it it comes to that, and I believe he does a lot of good.

      • Haha! Denier whining again.
        What other wørd? Skeptic? That's ridiculous.

        It does not matter if deniers think the wørd is "hate speech". Such paranoia just reflects their state of mind. Or their sophistication in manipulation. Climate science deniers either are
        1) under-informed
        2) paranoid ostrichs
        3) criminal liars.
        ---
        1) is no longer an excuse (having not done some homework for decades). Plus, it is often a result of actively evading bad news, i.e. a symptom of 2).
        2) with paranoid ostrichs you cannot debate.
        3) dito for criminal liars (e.g. U.S. senators).

        Therefore, it makes no difference for the "debate" if any denier feels insulted. They do not want to have an honest debate.

        Actually at least 1/3 of them should be publicly ridiculed and intelligently insulted. For, as long as denial is socially acceptable, it will perpetuate. Cf. e.g. Kari Norgaard's book, "Living in Denial".

        -----------
        Anyhow, WTF: Me German has seen quite a lot of Holocaust deniers. Some of my Grandpa's buddies were in the SS. The psychodynamic parallels are shocking. E.g. the moral outrage. It often feels like one of these old SS clowns reincarnate in the "climate debate", turning sissy over some wørd.

        P.S. Oops, Obama just used the wørd in a commencement address! It seems he's getting it.

      • You get upset when called a denier? You will kick people out if they call me a denier? See Mr. Gisser below.

        Ah, but wait: "The force was strong on this one, as the denialists naysayers went into full-throated apoplexy. Here, for example, is Tom Fuller calling Stephen Schneider “dumb” in response to Schneider’s appearing as a coauthor on publication of that list." Michael Tobis, March 19, 2012

        How many more instances of this should I place in front of you?

      • OK, no link, but it definitely sounds like me.

        You got me. I should have left "denialist" out. "Naysayer" looks like a deliberate effort to edit "denialist" out but I forgot to erase it.

        Sloppy. My apologies.

        My intent is to publicly use "denialist" to refer to deliberate misrepresentation, not honest disagreement. I clearly intended to squelch my use of "denialist" there but got sloppy. An explanation but not an excuse.

        Let's leave discussion of Jim Prall's investigation, its publication, and the subsequent reaction off this thread, please. We still are completely in disagreement about that.

      • Susan Anderson says

        As far as I'm able to discern, you [Tom Fuller] seem like a high-morality kind of guy doing his best to improve the world around you"

        Surely, this can't be the same Thomas Fuller who is a co-author of "CRUTape Letters"?!

        Here's part of the blurb that accompanies advertisements for that book

        "for those who have heard that this scandal is just 'boys being boys'--well, boy. It's as seamy as what happened on Wall Street."

        Well, at least some of "what happened on Wall Street" was "crime", not in my opinion, but by the SEC's and Justice Department's own determinations.

        So, whoever wrote that blurb is effectively equating "Climategate" with "crime."

        Perhaps Tom Fuller can explain what is meant by that. Does it mean Michael Mann is a criminal? Phil Jones? Who? Under what laws? In what courts were they found guilty?

        And if Tom Fuller did not write that blurb himself, he surely must be aware of it's existence because it accompanies almost all references to the book (it's obviously a piece of marketing propaganda).

        It is all so very interesting when some folks play the "innocent victim of invective" (denier) while at the same time hurling abuse (if not libel) at those who have certainly never been charged with a crime and actually been cleared of any professional wrongdoing by the Universities they work for.

        Yet, the implication that Climategate involved criminal activity remains a part of the official propaganda used to sell Thomas Fuller's book.

        I'm not a lawyer, but i would say that the latter is in itself a crime (libel) or damned close to it.

        Or perhaps the author of that book is a different Thomas Fuller?

    • I would be happy to live in a world (well,visit climate blogs--almost the same thing, innit?) where we discussed the issues instead of each other. This isn't that world.

      To the various members of the Bloom Thought Police Patrol, I leave you with this.

      You (the climate consensus) are where you are because of what you have done.

      If you like where you are then keep doing what you have been doing.

      However, I thought the very existence of this blog at least was a sign that some members of the consensus recognized a need for change.

      As Mr. Bloom so aptly notes, tolerance of deniers like me (who merely accept the science of climate change--so sadly not enough any more) can have your own motives called into question. I'm living in a country that knew how to do that quite well back in the early 70s.

      As the Thought Police have arrived, blustering about their pleasure in hurling insults, I'll let this blog return to doing what it does best. Have you figured out what that is yet?

    • Excuse me? Complaining that using the dictionary word denial as it is defined is making a Nazi implication but common usage, which I should have known to spell out, SkS which stands for SkepticalScience, is OK? Biased much?

      SkepticalScience is much hated by fake skeptics because it provides well referenced and thorough explanations in one place, easy to find, so each argument does not have to be laboriously reconstructed.

      This is way beneath the intended level of discourse for Planet3.0, and it is time to stop this. I know Tobis is busily searching like Diogenes with his lantern for an honest man on the skeptical side, but this isn't it. All the false arguments are lining up in the usual fashion. Full prickles out, ready to see insult where none is there, and a complete failure to take in any information that corrects it.

      I realize we need people to wake up, but this is a waste of everyone's time. A good man chooses to buy phony material in the marketplace of ideas, there's only so far one can go to suggest they get a little curious about what they are so busy putting down.

  5. First paragraph of the Wikipedia global warming article:

    "Global warming is the unequivocal and continuing rise in the average temperature of Earth's climate system. Since 1971, 90% of the warming has occurred in the oceans. Despite the oceans' dominant role in energy storage, the term "global warming" is also used to refer to increases in average temperature of the air and sea at Earth's surface."

  6. Can't get rid of the 'denier' word, can you? And you can't see how it poisons discourse, either.

    Write another essay using each of your bolded subheads about how using the term denier has screwed up your cause six ways from Paducah.

    Call someone a piece of s**t every day for 10 years and then wonder why they don't listen to you. And then write about magical thinkng.

    You probably made some good points in this piece. But nobody who doesn't already agree with you will ever know.

    • I guess it's probably good that you recognised (between 10:16pm and 1:37am) that complaining about someone using a generic term like "denier" to refer to a non-specific group who deny something, while referring to that individual as an "idiot" may seem a little hypocritical. Kudos.

    • Mr. Fuller, there are three broad classes of understanding about Anthropogenic Climate Change (ACC).

      There are people who accept the scientific consensus as summarized by the National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society in Climate Change: Evidence and Causes, because even if we aren't ourselves competent in the relevant disciplines, our scientific meta-literacy tells us the consensus has a high likelihood of being correct.

      There are people who have no firm opinion about ACC, perhaps because they haven't been paying attention, or because they don't have the reasoning ability or the education to understand what it means. It's not appropriate to call them deniers.

      Then there are people who explicitly reject one or more of the basic conclusions explained in the NAS/RS booklet: either that climate is changing, that human activities are responsible, or that if ACC isn't already having serious consequences for large numbers of people, it will if it continues unabated. That makes them "deniers" under the most trivial definition cited by Ms. Anderson. Beyond that, it's reasonable to wonder why someone would reject the collective judgement of the most qualified experts. Again, scientific meta-literacy tells us that the burden is on the deniers to make a convincing case against the consensus. Since none have been able to do that, we may assume that they have non-scientific motivations for persisting in denial. Either they are subconsciously influenced by factors such as religion, ideology or cultural identity; or they are are consciously defending their employers' and/or their own selfish interests.

      What would you call someone who denies that the scientific consensus on ACC is correct but doesn't offer valid evidence against it, Tom? Either the consensus is correct or it isn't, but Science is still the best way we have to apprehend physical reality. In the case of non-experts, simple ignorance isn't enough to justify explicit denial, although no doubt the Dunning-Kruger effect plays a role; and experts really ought to know better! Whether expert or not, ACC-deniers at best are fooling themselves, and at worst are facilitating dislocation, deprivation and premature death for millions of people. I haven't seen MT call anyone "a piece of s**t", but some pejorative connotations of "denier" are appropriate for these people, even if they aren't all comparable to Holocaust deniers. In any case, gentle persuasion is demonstrably ineffective against them.

      So what cause do you think the use of "denier" has screwed up six ways from Paducah? Is a commitment to intellectual honesty a cause? Is outrage at deliberate disinformation (i.e. "lying") for private gain a cause? And if preferring climate stability to climate chaos is a cause, who's cause is it?

      • I think being in denial is not sufficient to call someone a "denier". All of us are in denial about something or other; it's part of the human condition. In my lexicon being a "denier" or "denialist" means to consciously and deliberately promote denial. As a personal policy, I try to avoid naming names but anyone following the issue closely will have no trouble coming up with a few.

        Fuller thinks I am in denial about the shortcomings of the scientific community or its processes. I am not - I have many complaints and in a better time I would be voicing them. But we have bigger fish to fry these days.

      • Scientific metaliteracy must include awareness of the shortcomings of the scientific community or its processes. It also must include the understanding that despite Science's shortcomings, without it we might as well resort to divination with a sheep's liver. In any case, anyone who took a science class in high school should be able to apply basic physical principles to the multiple lines of evidence for ACC, well enough to see for themselves what's coming.

        Michael, there's no justification for assigning only one narrow connotation to "denier". I agree there's a distinction to be made between those who deny ACC for subconscious reasons and those who, as you say, consciously and deliberately promote denial. The former are only dishonest with themselves, so they don't rate the same degree of opprobrium as the latter. Nevertheless, the unconscious deniers can't escape personal responsibility, since they can choose to examine their motives and recognize their errors. Failing that, they are useful idiots for the knowing disinformers, and as the Earth's climate deteriorates they will inevitably be known by the company they keep.

        Take Roy Spencer (please). As a credentialed scientist who has signed An Evangelical Declaration on Global Warming, he's announced his willingness to let his religion influence his scientific judgement, but he insists that his rejection of ACC is a result of his expert analysis of the evidence, and he whines that "alarmists" aren't applying the same criticism to supporters of the consensus who are also religious, like Katharine Hayhoe, overlooking the fact that Hayhoe doesn't let her faith affect her scientific rigor. there's no good reason to think Spencer isn't sincere, but he's obviously deceiving himself, and his credentials may in turn deceive those who aren't scientifically meta-literate, even if they're not otherwise predisposed to deny ACC. Worse, he allows mercenary deniers like James Taylor to claim his support. I have no qualms about calling Spencer a denier too.

        Lastly, "hate speech"? Really, Tom? I'd never have expected you to oppose the First Amendment.

      • I think being in denial is not sufficient to call someone a "denier". All of us are in denial about something or other; it's part of the human condition. In my lexicon being a "denier" or "denialist" means to consciously and deliberately promote denial.

        Personally I don't see this as being as clear cut as you imply. I would say that the term denier is appropriate for anyone who has been engaged in the debate for long enough to be in a position to make a reasonable judgement about where the balance of evidence lies but who still actively argues from an obviously and egregiously partisan position (and yes, that does mean that it could apply to a small proportion of people from what might be termed 'our' side of the debate, though clearly by arguing in this way they certainly wouldn't be on our side).

        It's also important, I think, to consider what it is that's being denied. William Connolley recently said something like 'it's denial of the IPCC position', but I see that as too narrow a definition and not one that effectively characterises the nature of the denial. Rather, what is being denied, in my experience, is any need to take significant action to address the threats from anthropogenic climate change (or, I should say, climate disruption). This may well often take the form of denying the science, but if someone is intent on not taking responsibility for their actions it doesn't really matter to them what justification they choose.

      • I didn't really finish my first thought there - what I meant to add was that someone who chooses to avoid challenging their own beliefs and yet who continues to argue these positions actively can validly be termed a denier even if they are not conscious of arguing an indefensible position.

  7. Pingback: Another Week in the Ecological Crisis, June 15, 2014 – A Few Things Ill Considered

  8. >> "... it’s especially hard to get them worked up about a mouthful of latin ..." [i.e. AGW]

    s/latin/greek/

  9. Fuller:

    The 'conspiracy' that you seem to see as the cause of policy difficulties regarding climate change, if it exists at all, has done nothing compared to the damage caused by your own team.

    Tom, "conspiracy" may not be exactly the right word to describe the campaign by self-interested parties to impede the migration from fossil fuels to alternative energy sources. It's legal, after all, and especially before 2010 it was mostly conducted in the open. Do you honestly doubt its existence, though? Do you find fault with Jane Mayer's fact-checking? What about Oreskes and Conway? Robert Brulle? If you don't think those sources are credible, what evidence would you accept?

    It's safe to assume that the people who've made billions of dollars by socializing the external costs of fossil-fuel production know it takes money to make money, so why wouldn't they be willing to spend hundreds of millions to protect their investments? Where do you think funding for "think tanks" like the Heartland Institute and the Competitive Enterprise Institute come from (see Brulle's Supplemental Material)? Do you think the more than half a billion dollars spent on the 2012 elections by the business-as-usual crowd have nothing to do with the fact that, despite the advice of the National Academy of Sciences (created in 1863 specifically to advise Congress on scientific matters), 163 members of the 113th Congress have made statements either denying that climate is changing, or that humans are responsible? Do you think James Inhofe or Harrison Schmidt really believe that global warming is nothing more than a conspiracy to impose socialism on America?

    Tom, these are the forces the Earth's climate ("our team", if you will) are up against. If you honestly believe genteel language and the presumption of good faith will make a difference against that kind of power, I won't call you a denier, but I will call you a [ *snip* ; suffice it to say he disagrees with that position -mt ]

    • Regarding Inhofe and Schmidt, yes, I think they believe that. It's amazing what humans can convince themselves of.

  10. Well, this is interesting.

    For at least two thousand years rational and rigorous thinkers have been complaining about the undue influence of those who practise Rhetoric and fancy talk, rather than sound reasoning and argument from evidence. So smart-asses have been recognised and disliked for a long time.

    I can't help thinking that permitting discourse to be about the details of terminology too much (though there's nothing wrong with debunking abuses of language) is playing into the hands of the failed lawyers who can only subsist on games with words and tricks, because they have no arguments or reasons to work with.

    TF shouldn't worry too much about being called names, and TBH any outrage at such is not especially plausible -it's too reminiscent of the child who complains about being hit by a sibling after breaking one of said sib's toys...

    Final point for now, if you're gonna dish it out, you gotta learn to take it. I'm sure Josh Billings said it better. No sympathy at all for TF, and no apology. Call me what you like; I know a lot of great insults :)

  11. Back on topic, I've had a related thought kicking around the back of my head for some years, and over at ATTP just now I finally wrote it down:

    Speaking of model uncertainty, something I’ve thought for a while is that it would be much more effective with the public (including policy makers) to state it in terms of temp +/- time rather than the more usual time +/- temp. The latter has the drawback of making it easy to imagine that maybe we only need to worry about the bottom of the range, whereas a better focus for concern would be the inevitability of the upper part of the range. What I’m suggesting is already done somewhat, and is typical with specific consequences, e,g, Arctic sea ice loss, but mostly what’s heard is time +/- temp.

    I think there’s also an implication of the usual time +/- temp formulation that the stated time (commonly 2100) represents the end of our proper concern. Something like “on our present course, we will reach +3C sometime between 2070 and 2130″ presents less room for that.

    But maybe I’m missing some obvious reason for sticking with time +/- temp.

  12. So you say you don't want the thread hijacking, yet you let that first flamebaiting comment stand? Go figure. (Note, FWIW, that I at least have learned from past experience to ignore those. But when others don't, and when you dive right in after them, there too, so often, follow I. But I very much realize it's only Climateball when I do it.)

    So you called it polite, I called if flamebaiting. Let's see:

    Can't get rid of the 'denier' word, can you? And you can't see how it poisons discourse, either.

    Write another essay using each of your bolded subheads about how using the term denier has screwed up your cause six ways from Paducah.

    Call someone a piece of s**t every day for 10 years and then wonder why they don't listen to you. And then write about magical thinkng.

    Idiot. You probably made some good points in this piece. But nobody who doesn't already agree with you will ever know.

    Polite? Srsly?

    • Well, he resubmitted without the epithet, but I said "politely enough", not politely.

      There is a real point in there. I think that gives me the launching point for my next article.

      • One real point is that you put a lot of thought into this post and it got threadjacked before there was much of a chance for discussion to get going. Because Fuller. But it's mainly your bandwidth, not mine, so feel free to be as profligate with it as you like.

        FWIW, between this business and your odd incomprehension of Rignot, these days I'm not a very happy reader of this blog.

      • I disagree with Rignot's spin, which I take to be excessive. Another topic for another day.

        There is a dynamic afoot that applies distrust to anyone who doesn't take the most terrifying side of any question. If you think that approach is supportive of science or sound policy, then please be unhappy with me, because we disagree on something far more fundamental than ice sheet dynamics.

      • I replied to your prior Rignot comment on that thread.

        The other thing may be interesting to discuss. I assume it refers to my comment above:

        (A)nother problematic view, one that seems to be an inevitable outcome of the way we acquire scientific understanding and is common even among the otherwise level-headed, is the assumption that what the IPCC describes is anything like the worst case, or indeed that something quite a bit worse isn't much more likely. There are far too many known unknowns and unknown unknowns still out there, and while some may be relatively benign others are going to bite us in our collective butt. I don't think this variety of denial can be called a form of lukewarmerism, although it's related. (Here we have the Bayesian vs. frequentist thing rearing its head again, note.)

        OK, that was pretty summary, but I think it makes the point. What's your disagreement?

  13. This thread contains many fascinating examples of why climate policy is bogged down. The inflammatory ones are easy to identify so I won't bother.

    It is this one that is really killing you, however: "Fuller thinks I am in denial about the shortcomings of the scientific community or its processes. I am not - I have many complaints and in a better time I would be voicing them. But we have bigger fish to fry these days."

      • I refer to my earlier comment--you are where you are because you have done what you have done.

        Instead of attacking Hulme, Miles Allen and even Judith Curry and Roger Pielke Sr., had you honestly and openly criticized the errors of your own side you would at least be credible.

        Instead, what you (more the Blooms than you personally) wanted was a rabble alarmed. What you got was a rabble in arms.

      • Regarding myself, I never recall saying anything publicly about Myles Allen; I think he's sensible on policy and a bit alarmist on sensitivity, for technical reasons I won't discuss here. I am not sure why he's up there in your list. I am quite unimpressed by the others, sorry.

        I do not recognize that there are "sides" in the sense that journalists and activists portray it.

        I think there are people who understand climate science and people who don't, and the mismatch in the spectrum of opinion about policy in the two categories is a striking failure of society. I am interested in how this failure happened, how to repair it, and how to avoid similar gaps between science and society in future.

      • Tom is wrong. What I look for here, and find in yourself and Dan in particular, is an attempt to be as objective as possible about where praise and criticism is due.

      • Really? You didn't see the long thread at Bart's where the usual gang of morons was calling Allen a denier? You should get out more.

        I don't really care who impresses you much or at all. But the organized defamation campaign against Pielke Sr. should shame all of you. For 10 years he insisted that measuring heat accumulation in the oceans was the correct metric for analyzing climate change. But because GAT was rising at the time you made fun of him, slimed him and shut him out of the IPCC process. You hurt the man's career. Now you're climbing on his bandwagon--and he doesn't impress you. Whooptydo.

        As for Curry, you still owe her an apology. You acted abhorrently. And you know it.

      • Makes sense to me. It seems that Tom has a gatekeeper who allows only certain objects of abhorrence through. It appears to have very subjective views.

      • Fascinating way to put it, new to me.

        Morton's Demon is having a great time these days, in climate issues and elsewhere.

      • Yes, a useful way to picture it - thanks to Steve for the reminder.

        By the way, I clearly haven't being paying attention - could you point me in the direction of this abhorrent behaviour of yours towards Judith Curry? And do you know of the thread-of-morons at Barts?

      • Me and Curry:

        http://initforthegold.blogspot.com/2010/10/judith-curry-born-beyond-shark.html

        http://initforthegold.blogspot.com/2010/10/willard-on-curry.html

        ---

        This was a gutsy move for me while my scientific career was still holding on by a thread and some people still gave Curry some default credibility. I did not save my career but I think I materially reduced Curry's influence outside political circles.

        As for the Myles thread at Bart's, no idea. Anybody?

  14. A related article about communication from George Monbiot in the Guardian. The first paragraph seemed slightly ironic to me and put my hackles up:

    If we had set out to alienate and antagonise the people we've been trying to reach, we could scarcely have done it better. This is how I feel, looking back on the past few decades of environmental campaigning, including my own.

    He could scarcely have better alienated and antagonised me. The perception of fear and doom is largely something created by those who want to paint us as alarmists and doom-mongers. But getting past that first paragraph I found the rest of what he says reasonable and interesting.

    Twenty years of research, comprehensively ignored by these parties, reveals that shifts such as privatisation and cutting essential public services strongly promote people's extrinsic values (an attraction to power, prestige, image and status) while suppressing intrinsic values (intimacy, kindness, self-acceptance, independent thought and action). As extrinsic values are powerfully linked to conservative politics, pursuing policies that reinforce them is blatantly self-destructive.

    Does the term 'climate disruption' provoke extrinsic values more than the preferable intrinsic ones? Extrinsic values are, apparently, promoted by emphasising threats. So how do we talk about the future in a way that promotes intrinsic values instead? Perhaps by talking about what we value and what it's worth fighting to keep. Talk about 'maintaining future climate stability' rather than warning of 'climate disruption to come'?

    • Monbiot's article has the I-word tossed out by Tom put in the right place: Appeasing deniers is idiotic. (See my other comment for the math.)

      We've tended to assume people are more selfish than they really are. Surveys across 60 countries show that most people consistently hold concern for others, tolerance, kindness and thinking for themselves to be more important than wealth, image and power. But those whose voices are loudest belong to a small minority with the opposite set of values. And often, idiotically, we have sought to appease them.

      (My emph.)
      That's why there is no constructive conversation on climate etc., just the same old lame stuff regurgitated for decades. First, stop wasting time with appeasing deniers and bullshitters.

  15. Tom,

    I know RP Sr and like him as a person, but he can be his own worst enemy sometimes; for every valuable and legitimate argument he has produced is an equal and opposite misjudged statement, or so it seems to me. I also think you are over-simplifying the IPCC situation to help make him out as a victim.

    The main problem some in the community had with RP Sr was that they insisted that by understating the relative significance of CO2 he was missing the elephant in the room, while he kept insisting that they were overstating it. As a result, his opinions gave material and support to the irrationals, something which he has not especially encouraged, but neither has he disavowed. Given Jr's career path, to do so would have meant undermining his own son, something no parent would want to do.

    But suggesting that there was some malicious campaign of blackballing is a vast misinterpretation, and serves to suggest by implication that you are one of those whose contribution to debate is intended primarily to be obfuscatory, rather than reasoned, but again, that's just my opinion.

    • There was a malicious campaign against Roger. It resulted in him being, not blackballed but marginalized. It is documented quite well in the Climategate emails, pictures included.

      And now he can't get a grant for a study. Heckuva job, team. Heckuva job.

      • If you posit for the sake of argument that he isn't actually very good, the transcripts and grant history look very different.

  16. OK, I'm really really tired of the credulity and lack of skepticism that goes into picking a pantheon of anti-science material and taking on all comers who try to point out that expertise is expertise and intelligence is intelligence.

    I will not continue to give rope to people who choose to promote, for example, Climategate and Judith Curry. I have relatively little maths so I have to trust experts, but Dr. Curry's behavior at RealClimate and Kloor's at the outset of all this was a stellar demonstration of playing victim to avoid answering real questions about real stuff. It was clear to me as her evasions mounted and her claims of being persecuted mounted. I didn't need anyone to tell me; I could see it for myself. Her insistence that anyone who didn't believe or wish to pursue Montford was pure garbage. Dr. Schmidt's very real courtesy to her was set at nought, because she had an agenda. She's done a lot of harm, and we will all suffer from those like her who pursue politics rather than truth.

    There's plenty of real science, excellent science, and all one has to do is become a mite curious about what it says.

    Climategate was a very effective tactic, but on investigation was revealed to be a carefully constructed tissue of lies. Only someone who wishes to believe and refuses to look further could go on being convinced that it has substance as a condemnation of the best scientists and their work.

    The body of disinformation is distressing and dangerous, and, as the years go by, more so. The truth matters.

      • Yes Steve, it was partly your remark that got me reflecting on tolerance and how to respond to nonsense without further alienation. The fact is, though we are in trouble, that trouble cannot be solved without the cooperation of people who seem unable to look outside their chosen views. There is enough quasi-convincing material that it's quite possible for people who mean no harm to opt out of the genuine and fall for the surface.

        You should know that over the years I have always paid attention to what you have to say. This statement was meant to make clear what I actually think when I'm not trying to meet people more than halfway on garbage.

        The further hijacking and continuing citations of material I know, having done my homework and in some cases observed for myself, makes it clear that, knowingly or unknowingly, the proliferation of nonsense is a self-feeding disease.

        I will, however, continue to assert that good people can be wrong without knowing the harm they are doing to themselves and others.
        --
        Since I'm here, I should mention that the careful arrangement and contextual distortion is what makes climategate's special text a false document.

      • We don't use the C-word here. Words do matter. The CRU pseudo-scandal is my suggested alternative.

      • mt, in case you were so busy reacting you didn't take my point, here it is in "proper language":

        "Since I'm here, I should mention that the careful arrangement and contextual distortion is what makes the CRU pseudo scandal's special text a false document."

        btw, CG explanation referenced something I said earlier. I don't think this was useful but it was distracting, and prevarication is irksome. A quibbling semantic change will not alter what almost everybody all all "sides" (with which word no doubt you will also argue) names something.

  17. "Haha! Denier whining again."

    "Climate science deniers either are
    1) under-informed
    2) paranoid ostrichs
    3) criminal liars."

    "Actually at least 1/3 of them should be publicly ridiculed and intelligently insulted. "

    "I won't call you a denier, but I will call you a [ *snip* ; suffice it to say he disagrees with that position -mt ]"

    "the *blatant* propagandist Fuller "

    "Are there worse forms of denial and denialism? You bet (and, as an active propagandist attacking the science, Fuller is one of those worse forms)."

    "Monbiot's article has the I-word tossed out by Tom put in the right place: Appeasing deniers is idiotic. (See my other comment for the math.)"

    And my modest contributions are blocking discussion and so are disappeared down the memory hole. I've said this before, Tobis: You have a moral blankness that renders all your attempts to be civilized meaningless.

  18. On the main topic, I am in agreement that precise usage of the three terms global warming, climate change & climate disruption would be helpful. Propagating precise usage is hard, but possible.

    On the hijack topic, it seems odd that T.F. says the side of science has harmed its cause by applying a label to its entrenched opposition. He seems to be saying we made them intransigent by labeling them. But we only needed a label after they dug in. If there hadn't been an (unscientific, and to us, irrational) opposition, we never would have needed to describe them. (However, there may be a subgroup worth discussing - see below.)

    Martin Gisser's three categories could use a little nuance. I'm going to discuss by analogy to the US political system. The reason political systems are relevant is that you (we) can't deny the existence of people who are deeply interested in politics while being indifferent to policy. It's very strange to me, but they exist in significant numbers. This includes many journalists as well as politicians. Such people have either joined a "team" or enjoy the spectacle of the clash of teams. Their participation is typically their employment. People who care about policy outcomes are actually less visible. They span a range from "do-gooders" (who usually, though not always, are actually promoting good policies) and the more purely self-interested (who can include people whose self-interest would be good for others, but mostly are a net-negative to the common weal). The voting public tends to fall on a behavioral spectrum which runs from somewhere on the do-good/self-interest spectrum out into "low information, votes by social identity" space. Note that "low information, votes by social identity" can include people whose vote winds up on either side of any issue.

    So, reversing Gisser's order to run top-down (and also moving the divisions a bit) we have
    1) Vastly wealthy, acting in self-interest
    2) Apparatchiks (the ones on the wrong team for this issue)
    3) Low-information (the ones whose social identity puts them on the wrong team)
    4) Low-information, completely disengaged.

    1. Probably includes some who fully realize they are causing future misery, but mostly they're using motivated reasoning to avoid realizing they are causing future misery. That's definitely a form of denial. But "with great power comes great responsibility" and I think it's OK to say it's criminal to wield that much power without honestly trying to understand the consequences.

    2. Are the "interested in politics, indifferent to policy". Some are doing the motivated reasoning thing, which is a form of denial. But some are just so truly of the "everything is politics, just playing the game" mentality that they don't realize this issue is different. It matters on an existential level that many other issues (maybe even worthy issues to you or I) don't. To them, it's just another playing field for the teams. This isn't quite the same as denial, and I don't know what to call it. I don't know if these people can be reached, or how to reach them, but it's possible that some of them could be turned off by being lumped in with deniers. So T.F. could have a point for this subgroup.

    3. Much less important. Probably includes many of the unpaid Dunning-Kruger types one runs into on the internet. Includes Gisser's "paranoid ostriches" but it's important to understand the ostrich behavior is because their team-identity is threatened.

    4. Would be nice to reach these people, but there's a reason they're completely disengaged. Likely just too busy surviving. Not what we'd call deniers.

  19. MT asks:

    Do supporters of the consensus habitually cavalierly dismiss people who honestly disagree with us, doing so hastily and contemptuously and dismissively?

    That raises, not to say begs, more questions:

    Who are the supporters of the consensus?
    - Can they all be held responsible for the actions of any one of them?

    Who are the people who honestly disagree with "us"?
    - Who is "us"?
    - Disagree with us about what, specifically?
    - Does "honestly" mean "with scientific justification"?

    I propose to define:

    "the consensus" as "The answers to the 20 common questions about ACC in Climate Change: Evidence and Causes", the joint publication of the NAS and the Royal Society, as some soi-disant skeptics don't respect the IPCC, but may be more inclined to respect the NAS and the RS;

    "us" as anyone who accepts "the consensus" as I've defined it, and doesn't insist on anything that goes beyond that;

    "people who honestly disagree with us" as anyone who genuinely unconvinced of any of those 20 consensus statements, is able to say just why he/she is unconvinced, and is willing to be convinced by a sound argument. This group should not include anyone whose motivation for disagreeing is demonstrably non-scientific, e.g. religious, ideological, or a matter of cultural identity. It may include, inter alia, high-profile scientists, journalists/bloggers or politicians, but should not include anyone who disagrees just because one of those high-profile people does. For the sake of argument, let's assume that there is at least one person in this group!

    Is that enough to keep a meaningful conversation going here? Any counter-proposals?

  20. It saddens me that it's easier to get conversation about disruption of conversation than it is to get conversation about things that merit taking alternative positions on.

    • Michael, my previous comment was in preparation for deciding what things merit taking alternative positions on. If a commenter takes an alternative position that has no merit, the response should be "go see what the a href="https://nas-sites.org/americasclimatechoices/more-resources-on-climate-change/climate-change-evidence-and-causes/">NAS has to say about that." Persistence in that position can then be dismissed as disruptive.

      So, I'm asking (you or anyone else) "what things merit taking alternative positions on?"

  21. IMO the global warming/climate change question has only become of interest because recently the deniers have started to claim that it used to be called global warming but now it's called climate change because they think that there has been no warming for X years.

    I reply to them by pointing out that the IPCC was set up in 1988 and then ask them if they can guess what the CC stands for.

  22. It seems to me from my own experience that the word "denier" does cause people to get reactive and shut down more, which might be counterproductive to establishing communication. If it's a closed system, you're not getting in, and if you try to go against it directly, you'll engage their defense mechanisms. It's cumbersome verbiage, but I refer to them in discussion as "those who disagree". I've found that because the word "agree" is in it, it suggests to both of us that agreement is in fact possible.

    By listening to them and presenting my evidence in the form of questions (i.e., "What are your thoughts on[this evidence]?", they often relax a bit and open up somewhat. I also use humor, and keep a neutral, friendly, and open demeanor. I try not to let anything they say trigger my closed systems on the subject (I'm pretty convinced in the reality of anthropogenic climate change, after all).

    I listen to them also, because even if I'm not convinced of their basic argument, I can learn something valuable about why they are resisting the information. This helps me hone my communication skills. I was thinking of submitting an article to this site sometime on communicating effectively with those who disagree, if people might be interested.

    I have been able to successfully penetrate some people's closed systems this way, and some have actually changed their views. And when they haven't, we ended up having a cordial conversation, and I know my thoughts may have stimulated their insights for later.

    Just my 2 cents and FWIW.

    • Hi Susannah,

      "I was thinking of submitting an article to this site sometime on communicating effectively with those who disagree, if people might be interested."

      While I'm not a proprietor, publisher, moderator, etc. of this site and really have done nothing but drop in semi-regularly and comment occasionally, my strong suspicion is that the proprietors/publishers/moderators of this site would be very interested in such an article. If they aren't, they should be imho. Frankly, I'm surprised that they haven't eagerly taken you up on the offer.

      The communications gap you describe seems to me to represent a significant component of the "activation threshold" necessary to initiate the kind of unified response from society at large (nationally and worldwide) that I think is the sine qua non of attacking the multiple threats we face from the full panorama of stresses "we" have placed on our life support system.

      It seems to me that it's a thing that can possibly happen, though I'm not confident. As an anecdotal point, I listen to "Radio Classics" on Sirius/XM frequently. It's a channel that plays shows from "the Golden Age of Radio." As such, I hear comedies like Jack Benny, dramas like "Suspense," westerns like "Gunsmoke," cop shows like "Gangbusters," detective shows like "Sam Spade," etc. But to the point here, they also play "vintage ads" and quite a few feature things like encouraging citizens to minimize the use of public transportation so that soldiers on furlough and businesspeople going to facilities for war materials production, etc. would have access. Other examples include saving soap and oil residue, use of rationing coupons, purchase of "war bonds," and other things necessary in the collective effort to win WWII.

      While I don't know what contribution such societal participation actually had in the outcome, I do believe that a very large segment of society was unified and mobilized in a common cause. Whether such a thing is still possible I don't know, but I believe it to be a necessary (though not necessarily sufficient) condition to avoid the worst possible outcomes of our current trajectory.

  23. "[ O/T; This site is not intended for discussion of Tom Fuller. ]"

    Michael, as I know you know, the thread hijacking occurred when you allowed his inflammatory first comment through. That's happened so often, both here and on your previous blog, that I begin to wonder about a mismatch between stated and actual intentions.

  24. Nope. We moderate ad argumentum and not ad hominem.

    Though Tom and I have had really terrible disagreements in the past, and arguing with him on technical matters can be frustrating, I have not the slightest doubt that his intentions are honorable. In the present case I believe his point has enough claim to validity and was presented politely enough that it should be addressed ad argumentum.

    My or others' past disagreements with Fuller are not relevant to the P3 moderation policy.

    Do supporters of the consensus habitually cavalierly dismiss people who honestly disagree with us, doing so hastily and contemptuously and dismissively? Anyone looking at this thread would not have to look too hard to find evidence of that.

  25. I have not the slightest doubt that his intentions are honorable.

    contrasts rather strongly, in my view, with:

    First they came for Revkin... then they came for Kloor... Watch it, Tobis, there are disturbing signs of ideological impurity here.

  26. And with the wholly arbitrary boreholing of this comment, Michael, you cease to be worth trying to have a discussion with. It's no longer reasoned discourse.

  27. The new boreholing facility (thanks, Dan!) makes it much easier to take comments off the main thread while leaving them visible, but it doesn't make it easy for me to edit them and let them pass. Most of your submission was helpful but the sentence beginning "Fuller is..." is out of line.

    To be honest, we do not care what Fuller is. That is not a topic for this site.

    That sentence brought the rest of the article down. Resubmit without that sentence please.


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  1. I'm in general agreement with Mal Adapted and Opatrick. Michael's and, to a lesser extent, Susan's tolerance of the *blatant* propagandist Fuller is a puzzlement.

    It's a simple and IMO airtight case: Lukewarmers of various stripes are deniers, plain and simple. When they propagandize for their lukewarmerism they become denialists. Lukewarmers are deniers to begin with because there's something important they're denying, which is (pick one or more) the consequences of BAU, the inevitability of a BAU-like climate trajectory absent sharp action, the intolerability of the effects of anything like BAU, or the practicality of the needed sharp action using current technology. There may be one or more other categories I'm not thinking of at the moment, but you get the idea.

    Are there worse forms of denial and denialism? You bet (and, as an active propagandist attacking the science, Fuller is one of those worse forms). But lukewarmerism is probably the worst in terms of its ability to derail the needed actions.

    So, let's make it all better by defining such people to be something other than what they are, right?

    FWIW, I am a very optimistic person by nature. That's a coping mechanism, perhaps, but I try not to let it distort my view of reality.

    I'll add, since the above probably isn't controversial enough to be very interesting, that another problematic view, one that seems to be an inevitable outcome of the way we acquire scientific understanding and is common even among the otherwise level-headed, is the assumption that what the IPCC describes is anything like the worst case, or indeed that something quite a bit worse isn't much more likely. There are far too many known unknowns and unknown unknowns still out there, and while some may be relatively benign others are going to bite us in our collective butt. I don't think this variety of denial can be called a form of lukewarmerism, although it's related. (Here we have the Bayesian vs. frequentist thing rearing its head again, note.)

  2. See, Tobis, you can't resist the tribalism. You continue to slime Pielke. Maybe this week you've sworn of using the denier word, especially since your pet poodle Gisser will urinate on any tree you point to, but you can't resist the sliming reflex.

    "If you posit for the sake of argument that he isn't actually very good, the transcripts and grant history look very different."

    What of his work have you read? What causes you to posit that he isn't actually very good? What qualifies you to make that statement?

    It turned out when you slimed Curry that you hadn't read any of her work prior to calling her incompetent. Here's the chance to prove you weren't as sluggish and sloppy when you were younger.

    [ I mostly like Martin, but I don't always agree with him. He is no poodle of mine, any more than you are. But he seems able to manage to hold a conversation even when we disagree. Unlike other non-poodles of my acquaintance. -mt ]

  3. Bloom you have 5 comments on this thread as of June 17 6:22 p.m. Shanghai time. Two are about the topic. Three are about how horrible I am and how I hijacked the thread.

    Nobody forced you to write about me.

    [ A fair complaint, but not one leading in a productive direction. -mt]

  4. RP Sr. got slimed, and properly so, because he was proposing placing weight on a metric that didn't exist. Anyone who disagrees with that needs to point to the data of the time needed to construct one. Even though there are more measurements available now, note that it's still not enough to construct such an index.

    Michael, this is exactly the sort of thing that convinced me long ago of Fuller's insincerity.

  5. Gisser, there is no productive conversation on climate change because people like you actively prevent it. You're the problem, not the solution.

    [ Well, another attempt to open a productive conversation with Fuller fails ]

  6. Yeah, Tobis but you were part of the slime team at only in it for the glory and you slimed him without positing at all on his quality You did not once write about his science, only his political position. To you he was just the opposition.

    And considering your whole community is now adopting his metric, maybe if you once got drunk and posited 'Roger? he's no effin' good', maybe just once over the intervening decade you could have taken the time to check your premises.

    [http://initforthegold.blogspot.com/2009/08/pielkes-all-way-down.html

    http://initforthegold.blogspot.com/2009/08/my-final-word-on-klotzbach.html

    The "community" is not "adopting this metric". Some people are muddying the waters with it, and the parent article is explicitly about me objecting to that. Again, to many people's surprise arrayed on the "sides" of the "debate", there is more than one thing.

    Pielke Sr. has perfectly sound qualitative points, but when it gets down to the nuts and bolts of actual science, he proves shockingly weak at anything except self-citation.

    I am sure he is a nice person. Reid Bryson was a nice person. Judith Curry is a nice person, unlike myself perhaps. That doesn't make their attempts at science hold water.

    -mt ]

  7. "I have not the slightest doubt that his intentions are honorable."

    The co-author of "The CRUTape Letters"? Really? One wonders what he would have to do to generate even the slightest doubt.

    Climateball isn't refereeable, Michael, although someone trying to be a ref can certainly be worked.

    "In the present case I believe his point has enough claim to validity and was presented politely enough that it should be addressed ad argumentum."

    Maybe it would help if you were to try to state what you think that point was.

    "Do supporters of the consensus habitually cavalierly dismiss people who honestly disagree with us, doing so hastily and contemptuously and dismissively?"

    At this point who here aside from you thinks what Fuller is engaged in is honest disagreement?

  8. That wasn't my implication. Michael's stated intention is to have useful conversations relative to the purposes of the blog. Threads featuring you aren't useful conversations, at least to the extent they feature you.

  9. Ah, yes, the Tim Lambert protocol. Leave the slurs up until the conversation is over and then self-righteously note that you have moved them off the thread.

    As someone who is proud of his character assassination, we should expect no less.

    The Kilmate Konsensus: No tactic is too low for our goals are high.

    [ If I could get paid for this, maybe I could do a better job, but it isn't easy to manage when somebody shows up trying to make trouble. -mt ]

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