sceptics vs. academics

This is part of a long term project to try to understand why the “two sides” in the climate debate look at pretty much the same information and come to very different conclusions. Having met both sides, and tried to understand their motivation and outlook, I am thoroughly convinced that both approach the subject in what they think is the right way and both are horrified at the “antics” of the other. If I have said anything that can be taken as derogatory, that was not the intention. I am sorry but I have done my best to describe what I see.

[From early responses it is clear I need to define more precisely what I mean by sceptic and non-sceptic. Broadly, those supporting the IPCC conclusions that we are heading toward catastrophic warming would be on one side and those who are sceptical of this on the other. For a more precise definition of sceptic I would consider sceptics to be those who generally agree with the statement outlined in the: “The Sceptic View“]


Sceptic Non-sceptic
(Academic/ “warmist”)
Employment sector Commercial & non-governmental Academia, public sector & campaign charities
Employment Electronic engineering, chemical engineering, energy engineering, general engineering, weather forecasting. Environmental science, life sciences, climate science, civil service, journalism, campaign charities & general sciences.
Main focus Prediction & hard facts. Understanding & empathy.
Viewpoint Individualistic, libertarian & conservative (not politically)
Public sector, Guardian liberal.
Viewpoint of Natural variation Natural variation is around us everywhere and dominates natural systems. Many things vary naturally and we capture these in our models. With enough data, measurement errors can be processed  data so that we can ignore them.
Model of natural variation. Measurement = Nat.Var.
after careful work …
Measurement =
f(t) + Nat.Var.(t)

Theory = Natural system.
(After enough data measurement errors -> 0)

Main Expertise Prediction, design & decision making
Theory, understanding and/or modelling through hindcasting. Communicating ideas.
Main Aim Best decision Best explanation
Attitude if prediction/model doesn’t match new data. Poor quality like this cannot be tolerated by professionals. Good decisions require good models which include normal variation.
Those involved should sort the problem out or find another job.
That is to be expected because this is how we improve our models.
Attitude if they don’t understand what is happening Real life is like that and you learn to cope. That is a dreadful admission. How can you say you can’t explain what is happening. A careless attitude like this cannot be tolerated.
Those involved should sort out their problems or find another job.
Attitude to long term forecasting. Forecasts get worse and natural variation increases the further away we try to predict from measured data. Errors become smaller with more data so over the long term measurement errors can be ignored.
Extra discipline skill set. Holistic, multi-skilled, complex, time & resource limited.
Includes practical economics, understanding how people react in real situations and how they reach decisions in the real world.
Used to complex systems with non-linear, non-deterministic behaviour, real time decision making, safety critical. Able to cope where there is not enough time or resources.
Single subject.
Focused on own area of expertise. Secure job with time to get to grips with subject. Reliant on peers to provide good data. Avoids messy, non-linear, non-deterministic systems operating in real time. Is almost never involved in commercial situations where there is too little time and resource (to involve academia).
Problem solving approach Bottom up
Start with the brass tacks facts, assess the situation to a professional standard & if there is time make make sense of it.
Top down.
Start with the overall picture & fills in the details as understanding improves. Ignore all extraneous detail which cannot be modelled.
Experience in decision making Real time, high cost, critical to company’s survival and/or safety critical. Resource & information limited. Which journal/newspaper to send latest work to?
What to do next to get next grant?
What quality means
Getting it right first time Work accepted by peers, newspaper, manager as “novel enough” & interesting enough for publication


What is normal and is there any sign of anything abnormal happening which requires attention?
How do we model the system and what do our models suggest will happen?
Basis for validation /falsification of hypotheses
Empirical data derived from real-time physical observations or reproducible experimentation.
Model simulations based on theoretical considerations supported by interpretations of selected paleo-climate proxy data


1.0 after fair comment that the the text was patronising re the non-sceptic view of natural variation it has been changed as follows:

Columns: “Academic (warmist)”
changed to
‘Non-sceptic (Academic/ “warmist”)’

Model of natural variation under “non-sceptic”:
“(Ignoring measurement errors)”
changed to
“(After enough data measurement errors -> 0)”

Viewpoint of Natural variation
“Natural variation? You mean measurement error.”
changed to
“Many things vary naturally and we capture these in our models. With enough data, measurement errors can be processed  data so that we can ignore them.”

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239 Responses to sceptics vs. academics

  1. An explanation from when socialists were progressive:

    “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”
    ― Upton Sinclair, I, Candidate for Governor: And How I Got Licked

    After several years I* have still not found any alarmist able to name a single scientist, anywhere in the world, out of the 60% of them who are not ultimately paid by the state, or Greenpeace, who supports the catastrophic warming “consensus”.

    Since this totals several million people it is clearly statistically impossible that this could be chance.

    PS I have had several people claiming the title personally but all either turned out not to be scientists, or state funded, or both or refused to identify their salary source. This has not persuaded me that alarmists are more honest than I thought. But perhaps, if any supporter of the claim decides to engage in dialogue with you they will have an explanation.

    • Neil, that is an important point. However I think there is something within the culture of the public sector which makes them predisposed to the IPCC way of thinking and hostile to the sceptic viewpoint.

    • jon leach says:

      Neil : I found this a really interesting hypothesis to test. I think i can paraphrase your hypothesis as “no private sector scientist supports the catastrophic warming consensus”. Tell me if that is not what you are claiming…

      So, thinking i’d start with a really big company i googled “BP scientist global warming” found the name of the BP Chief Scientist and googled her to find this…

      “In an October 24th talk sponsored by the MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI), Ellen Williams, chief scientist at BP, starkly acknowledged the daunting proposition involved in achieving energy sustainability, a goal embraced by BP. Scientific and engineering innovation will be essential to achieving this goal, she said, as well as greater collaboration between academia and industry.

      “It is not too much to say that the future of civilization depends on our maintaining access to abundant and relatively low-cost energy,” said Williams. She first zeroed in on the critical matter of greenhouse gas emissions. The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased from 300 parts per million to 400 part per million just since 1960, due to “vast increases in the amounts of energy that we use from fossil fuels,” said Williams. “Scientists know and predict that to keep temperature rise resulting from greenhouse gas warming…to less than two degrees centigrade by the end of this century, we need to stabilize CO2 in the atmosphere at 450 parts per million.”

      This will be very difficult, she said, because increased energy demand continues to drive up emissions. BP estimates that in the next 20 years or so, the world’s energy use will increase approximately 40%, and most of that growth will occur in developing countries, which rely on gas and coal. The corresponding CO2 increase likely means a four degree uptick in the world’s temperature by the end of the century. “That’s not good,” said Williams.

      Video: Watch the event
      But this dire scenario “need not happen, and it’s not what we think should happen,” Williams continued. Capping the impact of climate change to a maximum 2°C increase in world temperature is possible, she believes, with the help of new low-carbon fuel sources and expanded efficiency and conservation measures.”


      So i guess you need a new hypothesis. Or need to take the thing up a level as to why a BP Scientist is saying all this. But then might need to generate a falsifiable hypothesis at that level to make sure you don’t end up in “un-proveable conspiracy” terrain?

      I’m very happy to test this new hypothesis for you (it would help if you could make it as clear cut as the last one) – it only took me two minutes to test the last one as Google is pretty quick!

      Just another thought. There is a hypothesis (just a hypothesis i.e. quite refutable either personally or generally) that people seek facts to support their feelings rather than just seek the true facts. It did make me wonder what you were up to all those “several years” when you were searching for these non-state paid for scientists when it took me two minutes to fine one…

      • The hypothesis would be that public sector tend to support global warming alarmism and private sector tend to be sceptical.

        Neil has often said he has been unable to find a single person in the private sector. However, from my own experience in the wind industry I’m not exactly impressed by your press release. Because BIG OIL aka BIG WIND, …

        … you are intelligent enough to work out the rest.

        But seriously, thanks for that as I will be interested to find out more about her. But either way, I’d be interested to hear Neil’s comment.

        • Jon Leach says:


          I think Neil was saying “none” not a tendency.

          And not sure if Big Oil = Big Wind is that solid a claim (BP may be into a lot of green stuff, e.g.biofuels, but have no investments in wind, looking at their website To be fair Shell are getting into wind so maybe there is an emerging tendency here but not an equivalence as yet of Big Oil = Big Wind)

          So if Big Oil don’t count what about scientists in other private sector companies? GSK must employ a lot of scientists, i thought, and 20″ later Google had revealed that their scientists are all over the health challenges/opportunities from CAGW. Let me know if them being Big Pharma disqualifies them from Neil’s challenge. But i think the myth is busted, as the TV show has it.

          JBTW, ust to anticipate things i checked out the CBI (which is fully private sector and self funded, i think).
          They seem to be “believers” as they have an “Energy and Climate Change Board : A group of 18 business leaders committed to tackling the UK’s triple challenges of energy security, affordability and decarbonisation”. They look like pretty heavy hitters to me who probably employ (privately, non-public-fundedly) lots of scientist to inform their choices. Another one for Neil there…

          And then I also wondered what other non-state funded entities have taken the GW/AGW/CAGW side.

          As i understand your (or Neil’s) concern it is that state funded actors are in some way tainted by their dependence on their funding and so can not be relied on to be objective.

          I think this excludes, for you, all politicians, all government scientific instititutions (e.g. NASA), the BBC, global entities like the UN or OECD or WHO to name a few.

          An interesting one to look at is the military. Yes, they are state funded, but they seem to live in a very pragmatic world where you have to make hard predictions and choices because lives depend on that. They are planning on CG as far as i can say (and i think are agnostic on the A in AGW but are very interested in the C bit in CAGW)..

          There if of course the Free Press and the Free Broadcasters. A lot of them seem to be proponents. But i don’t think that will work for you.

          So i thought, what about The Church? Now, the Catholic Church in particular has “previous” on being on the wrong side of history on a few scientific findings, so i thought rather than check otu all religions i’d try them first. 30″ later, yup, the Pope is a believer in CAGW. I fancy exploring this road a bit more when i have the time (Neil? Are you in?)

          Finally i got to compiling a list of entities in either the proponent or sceptic column (i do really like what you have started off here). Where I got to was

          Proponents of C/A/GW: politicians, governments, broadcasters, journalists (most), scientists (almost all), the military, the church, scientifics meta-entities (e.g Royal Society), global meta-entities (e.g. UN, WHO, OECD), big business, environmental lobbying groups, some of the blogosphere

          Sceptics : some of the blogosphere, pundit-type journalists, scientists (small minority), libertarian lobbying groups

          Now my point here is not “give up, you’re outnumbered”, I think your spirit of sceptical enquiry is healthy (as long as you “allow the facts to alter your opinion”, natch)

          No what i wanted to share was what happenedd when i got to the group called “engineers” (i think you tend to say that as a group they tend to be sceptics). So i thought, well individuals may vary (as will Catholics no doubt), but collectively what do engineers think? Officially, if you like?

          A quick visit to Google found the Royal Academy of Engineers (fully independent., funded by private subscriptions, i think) offering a short four page summary of their views for the benefit of the government

          Click to access Climate_public_understanding_and_policy_implications_April2013.pdf

          Feel free to peruse, and ceratinly their point on the confusion the public has between GW, AGW etc. is interesting, but a couple of statements caught my eye

          “Storms such as Katrina and Sandy caused almost 2,000 deaths and costs of over $100bn3. Attributing these extremes in weather to anthropogenic climate change can be difficult, but several studies have increasingly found evidence that this is the case. See, for example: Hansen et al, PNAS 20124; Pall et al, Nature 20115; and Otto et al, Geophysical Research Letters 2012”

          And later on

          “The nature of public dialogue on climate change must move beyond arguments over the science, to engage the public in debate on the political, technological and lifestyle changes that are needed to deal with its effects.”

          I think, as a group they are believer. By your classification, right columned if not right minded….

          So somewhere within your explanation of why “the other side looks at the these facts and gets it wrong” could you just make sure you cover not only academics but also (if you think the facts about these groups stated views are real data, i’ve only spent an hour on google looking at this) private sector scientists, big business, the military, the church and engineers.

          Sorry about the long post….

      • neilfutureboy says:

        I apologise for missing the above reply – don’t know why.

        She is a genuine scientist, though a chemist not a climate scientist which would draw brickbats from the other side if she had expressed doubts.
        She is described elsewhere as being “very interested” in getting women and minorities into her field, which, while not wrong, does suggest she has, or is using, a political agenda.
        As Mike points out she is working for a company and in a field that is intensely dependent on political approval.

        But most of all looking at her words “scientists know & predict” does not mean that she knows anything on the subject, or is one of those scientists who have certainty, but only that this is the background against which she has to work. Nothing there shows she knows as a matter of personal certainty that a 2 C rise is inevitable, let alone a “catastrophic” rise above that, indeed she says it is not inevitable (admittedly depending on whether BP get their way).

        The only thing there which has the ring of personal certainty is “the future of civilization depends on our maintaining access to abundant and relatively low-cost energy” which is certainly absolutely true and would, I think, justify her being a little economical with the actualite, to not make waves, I’ll wait till she says she has personally looked at the evidence and is convinced a catastrophic level of warming is coming.

  2. kim says:

    I prefer skeptics vs alarmists, because that is the distinguishing characteristic in the camps, the degree of alarum. And I don’t care about the spelling of skeptic; it means the same in both mothers’ tongues.

    • An interesting point as I struggled trying to find a “value neutral” label for non-sceptics. I think many would like to be known as “climate scientists”, but that would falsely suggest a division between one side as scientific and the other as not. Indeed, a regular criticism is that non-sceptics are not following the scientific method.

      • TinyCO2 says:

        Well I’m told they prefer Climate Hawks and I’m happy to oblige them because it makes them sound like idiots. But perhaps Consensiuns?

      • Foam says:

        So why label a person who looks at facts and makes decisions based on the scientific process a ‘sceptic’?

      • Joseph Gi says:

        Have you considered using the following terminology that avoids any kinds of judgement of the value of their opinion?
        – Climate change detractors, or simply detractors for short
        – Climate change proponents, or simply proponents for short

        I think that, in order to engage with people we disagree with, it’s important to hold the olive branch and to hold the high moral ground. I like what you’re doing, but I think the “proponent” side still needs work and it still feels rather one-sided. I am not well placed to propose revisions since I am not one of them.

        BTW, I would add “mechanical engineers” to the list of professions that tend to be skeptical of climate science. Not only because I am one, and not only because most of my coworkers are as well, but also because it has some particular relevance to the topic considering that thermodynamics, fluids mechanics and heat transfer are all branches of mechanical engineering, themselves engage in thermo-fluidic models and the interpretation of results, commonly use climate science as a means of characterising the terrestrial environment for design purposes, and generally are their only appropriate counterpart outside of academia and thus the only people who understand how (in)accurate the science of thermofluids can be.

      • PaulB says:

        Perhaps you could look for a value-neutral label for “sceptics” also. A sceptic in ordinary parlance is “a person who tends to disbelieve”. Whereas there’s a huge amount of utter tosh put out by self-described “climate sceptics”, which other climate sceptics seem only too happy to believe. How about “AGW dissidents” and “AGW mainstream”?

        I appreciate that you’re trying not to be derogatory about the people you disagree with, but alas you’ve failed. Do you really think that people choose to work in climate science because they want to “avoid messy, non-linear, non-deterministic systems”?

        Your entry “Attitude to long term forecasting” is revealing. Now, there are various sorts of uncertainty. Random measurement errors are reduced if you increase your sample size. Systematic measurement errors are not. Extrapolating over long periods, high-frequency oscillations become less important, but unforeseeable events become more important. If you want to tells us that “sceptics” get only half of that, I suppose I should believe you, but you’re wrong to think that mainstream climate scientists understand only the other half.

        It would be more meaningful to start by dividing the world into people whose views are informed mainly by the science, and people whose views are informed mainly by their prejudices. Questions of why scientists disagree with each other can be answered by careful reading of the scientific literature. But for that large part of the blogosphere which doesn’t bother to read the literature before offering opinions, I suspect the difference is mainly one of political outlook. Those who tend to dislike government action – call them “libertarians” if you like – are disinclined to believe anything which would justify more of it. Whereas those who think more government would be the answer to many of our problems – call them “Guardian liberals” if you like – are inclined to welcome any justification for government to do more.

        • > It would be more meaningful to start by dividing the world into people whose views are informed mainly by the science, and people whose views are informed mainly by their prejudices.

          It certainly would, but I suspect that the “sceptics” and the “warmists” would disagree which camp they primarily fall into.

          There are no perfect labels in all this, but having considered I think the best labelling scheme would be “pro IPCC” and “anti IPCC” (or you could use “con IPCC” perhaps). It captures the vast bulk of the practical division, and it is largely value-neutral considered as text.

  3. manacker says:

    Scottish sceptic

    Good summary, but you are missing a key differentiator:

    Basis for validation/falsification of hypotheses

    Empirical data derived from real-time physical observations or reproducible experimentation

    Model simulations based on theoretical considerations supported by interpretations of selected paleo-climate proxy data


  4. Mike, I don’t like the headings, because I am a sceptic and an academic!
    Admittedly there are not very many of us, and according to Roger Harrabin we don’t exist at all.

    • Apologies – I struggled to find a suitable label. I would be very interested to know why you think you have a different perspective from your academic colleagues.

    • Ted Swart says:

      I too am also an academic (D.Sc in Chemistry, Ph,D in maths/computer science) and a sceptic. And I think there are far more of us in this category than is commonly recognized. Have a look at:
      if you don’t believe me.
      I think the only meaningful distinction is between — those who maintain that the preponderant cause of recent warming is the extra CO2 we humans have been putting into the atmosphere — and those who regard this idea as being preposterous. And, this has no direct connection with being an academic or not being an academic.
      I think Lewandowsky’s attempt to put all sceptics in a neat box is both dishonest and misguided. I am sick and tired of being accused of being unconcerned about the environment, sick and tired of the implication that the only valid climate science is the kind that goes in for CO2 alarmisn, sick and tired of the suggestion that I don’t accept the moon landing, don’t accept[the occurrence of evolution and so on and so on.
      Orthodox — alarmist style — climate science is nothing other than a modern day version of Lamarkism.
      Ted Swart

    • Ted Carmichael says:

      I am also an academic and a skeptic. My field is computer science; specifically, modelling and simulation (but not climate models – general complex systems).

  5. PaliGap says:

    I think this is an illuminating analysis. One impression I have is that when someone has the status “emeritus”, then although their background might be a good fit with your right hand column, they are more likely to be sceptic. Also, given that there is a rough mapping between alarmism and the Left, perhaps it would be appropriate if the columns were reversed?

    • On the assumption that is the US usage which is effectively retired from active duty, then that could either support the hypothesis that a change in outlook could be responsible for the differing views … or it might just support the grumpy old person syndrome!

      Perhaps a step back from the limelight removes pressure to “explain” everything and the benefit of age and experience and less pressure allows a more reflective attitude which is more likely to see where problems exist?

      • Brian H says:

        It’s much more obvious than that. They are no longer dependent on warmist superiors for survival and making a living.

  6. Schrodinger's Cat says:

    It is difficult to fit some complex behaviour into a small table, but this is a good effort.
    One thing I think is relevant is the nature of the output of academics compared with that of industry scientists. The former tends to be published papers while the latter is usually a more tangible product, process, explanation or solution. Success or failure in industry is usually easy to judge.

    What has this got to do with climate change? Experimentation in climate science is not very practical and the timescales of change can be decades or even centuries. Success or failure is difficult to judge and this makes the science more open to abuse, bad science and controversial theories than most other sciences.

    Published papers are judged by peer review. We have seen how this can be abused, but it seems to me that the academic establishment regards peer review as the gold standard without exception. Some of the climate related papers I have looked at are just a joke, but then I’m no expert.

    I suspect that blind faith in peer review explains why the Royal Society and all the rest of the great and the good believe in the whole warmist story without question. Then again, I’m no academic.

    • A good point that success or failure is easy to judge in industry. That may lead industrial scientists & engineers to be far more cautious than their academic counterparts.

      But isn’t there far more to this? I’ve never experienced such hatred from one group of “upstanding” individuals in academia against people whose only crime was to use their professional judgement & experience to come to a different conclusion than the academics. I think there is more to this. That by being a sceptic, we are not only challenging their interpretation but also challenging their values. I have wondered whether “global warming” may be a proxy for “caring for the earth”. Asserting a belief against “polluting” with CO2 is in effect affirming a belief that “we must be good to mother earth (expressing a personal relationship with the planet)

      The time-scale and lack of verifiability is as you say another factor. However, there are other subjects like geology which are just as unverifiable which do not appear to have this problem. One possibility is that climatology is a young discipline – and like the young it has done things it will later regret. Another possibility is that all academic subjects suffer from the same problem, but it is just visible in climatology because eventually the evidence comes in and the paradigms based on “who thinks what” need to change to “what fits the evidence as it comes in”.

      • Does the ostensible nobility of their cause (saving the Earth) simply blind them to recognising where they might be wrong , while the urgence to act gets them frustrated with those who would be more considered in approach ?

      • cd says:

        However, there are other subjects like geology which are just as unverifiable…

        I think this is a bit unfair. In climate science we only have one climate. In geology one can construct hypotheses that can be tested against several sources (many geologies of scale, composition and nature). For example, one can “balance” geological structures, and from this construct stress field evolution. In order to test this one could sample the minerals in the rocks, perform mineralogical, stereological and chemical analysis in order to determine under what types of stress-fields they evolved or grew – and hence cross-validate your balanced section. You could also make testable predictions about neighboring geology based on this. So in short geologists have many sources of information rocks, minerals, fossils, structures…etc to compare and contrast but in the climate you only have one global system.

      • catweazle666 says:

        “However, there are other subjects like geology which are just as unverifiable which do not appear to have this problem.”

        I think Alfred Wegener, the father of plate tectonics, or Barry Marshall and Robin Warren, who demonstrated that the vast majority of gastric ulcers were caused by helicobacter pylori infection, and thus readily cured by a simple course of antibiotics – thus depriving the pharmaceutical industry and abdominal surgery profession of a serious chunk of income – would be interested to hear that!

        • Perhaps “similar problems with verification”.

          But if we are talking theories of plate tectonics & global warming, this might be of interest: A new theory to explain moving techtonic plates

          In summary: when it warms, the plates heat up and expand, that causes subduction, metamorphosis and volcanic activity and about 20-100,000 years later global cooling kicks in, plates contract and then we get building of areas like mid-Atlantic ridge. My estimates are that the scale is about 50% of typical plate movements and the timescales for surface temperature are right, but the obvious candidate would be a greenhouse gas which would have the opposite effect (although it is still possible if there are phase lags of 180degree)

    • Brian H says:

      The deluded elevation of peer review to more than specialist editing of papers to comb out the most egregious errors is key. It’s unpaid work, and not directly rewarded; this makes it susceptible to all manner of personal motivations and careerist manipulations.

  7. I would suggest something to cover self-categorisation. Perhaps – Sceptics: ‘Self-taught rational enquirers’, Non-Sceptics: ‘Professional experts’.

  8. Phillip Bratby says:

    As somebody who was employed in energy engineering in the private sector, so fitting in the first two categories as a sceptic, I was surprised (although I shouldn’t have been) at how all of the other sceptic items fitted my experience to a tee. It’s no wonder sceptics win all the arguments with warmists (when warmists are prepared to debate), as they have all the necessary background and experience.

  9. TinyCO2 says:

    I agree with most of the above and I think there’s an element of personality, experence and personal situation involved. Sorry for the following not being entirely on topic but I’m thinking aloud-

    CAGW proponents will usually admit that a catastrophic future is not guaranteed but we can’t afford to wait to find out. A sceptic would usually admit that a catastrophic future is not impossible but that there isn’t enough evidence to embrace a guaranteed financial/societal catastrophe ‘just in case’, especially as most solutions being thrown at the problem don’t work.

    We are repeatedly told that if only we understood risk assessment we’d understand climate change. Well we do. We realise that life is not just about one risk. Action is a fine balance between risks, costs and timescales. The psyche brigade scratch their heads and wonder if people aren’t acting because of deep seated politically motivated reasons. They miss the obvious answer that people are reacting to tangible problems today rather than theoretical problems in the future. Ironically the vast majority of believers are doing the same, which is why #greensgobyair. Do they ever self examine? One of the reasons that the wealthy often worry more about AGW than the poor is because they have less immediate problems like unemployment or hunger and have the luxury to play ‘what if?’

    The public really did take notice of the warnings about AGW. They watched Al’s movie or some BBC alarm fest and they were ready to be persuaded. Then nothing. There has been no more persuasive informamation presented. On the contrary, most of the alarming ‘certainties’ turned out to be wrong and we’re left with ‘coulds’, ‘mights’, ‘probablys’ and ‘more likely than nots’. People have shrugged and got on with life. After all, we’re a species that has been endlessly threatened with an eternity of brimstone and pitchforks if we don’t follow some arbitrary religious rules. A bit of global warming hardly trumps that.

    Sceptics mostly don’t dismiss the problem (if only becuase some tit of a polititian is frittering our money on it). We realise that to do something about the problem you first have quatify it. All the work on whether the rainfall will increase in Cumbria or mosquitos will breed better in Gambia is nonsense until you can put your finger on how much warming we can expect. It’s all work designed to bulk up the hazard but if we don’t care about likelihood (genuine measureable likelihood rather than a guess) then there are far greater threats than CAGW. We know that taking a toothpick to tackle a giant redwood is just as wrong as taking an chainsaw to tackle a bit of something in the teeth.

  10. Martin A says:

    “What quality means
    Getting it right first time”

    Years back, a department in a large company I worked for asked me to help them sort out their (software) quality issues. My first question was “what do you mean by ‘quality’,because if you don’t know what you are trying to achieve, you are not going to achieve it.”. This took a long time to figure out. The answer is to be found in “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” by Pirsig: Quality is whatever the customer wishes it to mean, using whatever criteria the customer chooses

    Getting it right first time would probably figure high on the list of many customers. And on the list of many who count themselves AGW sceptics.

    • How could I forget the key role played by customers in creating the culture in “commerce?” The culture of any successful business is customer focussed. But that would apply to academics involved in lecturing.

  11. Reinder van Til says:

    Hmm, as if sceptics cannot be academics. There are scientists with PhD who are sceptics. Look at PhD Don Easterbrook in a hearing for a senate commission in Washington. Het is a geologist. Start watching at 10 minutes and 30 seconds

  12. Schrodinger's Cat says:

    I have been fascinated by this subject for a couple of years.
    The levels of polarisation, emotion, vitriol and yes, probably hatred, are huge. These can appear on both sides. I tend to think that the sceptics are more tolerant with these emotions reserved for perceived extreme behaviour by the other side. Some warmists show the behaviour at the general sceptical community.

    I think the sceptics are driven by a judgement about the science which may be unconscious or well thought through, a gut feeling or through relevant expertise. I think the warmists are driven by a more complex mix of environmental feelings such as the desire to protect the planet, political feelings, such as capitalist exploitation of the planet, Big Oil, etc. Certainly the IPCC is using climate taxation to redistribute wealth. Perhaps the warmists see scepticism as deliberate violation of these secondary feelings. Academics, I’m told, tend to be left leaning. Environmental activists usually are and the Guardian certainly is.

    The sceptics then get frustrated because the glaring scientific errors that they see cut no ice with the sceptics. There is a sort of mis-match between the two groups that makes a meeting of minds very difficult. I’m not sure how this applies to the met office, but that may be a special case.

  13. Just ran across this reason for alarmists to stay alarmist given by Freeman Dyson some years ago.

    “But I have studied their climate models and know what they can do. The models solve the equations of fluid dynamics and do a very good job of describing the fluid motions of the atmosphere and the oceans. They do a very poor job of describing the clouds, the dust, the chemistry and the biology of fields, farms and forests. They do not begin to describe the real world that we live in.

    The real world is muddy and messy and full of things that we do not yet understand. It is much easier for a scientist to sit in an air-conditioned building and run computer models than to put on winter clothes and measure what is really happening outside in the swamps and the clouds. That’s why the climate model experts end up believing their own models.”

  14. Schrodinger's Cat says:

    A difference in behaviour appeared yesterday. Steve Jones and Bob Ward are furious because the BBC broadcast an interview with Bob Carter. They accused the BBC of betraying its values. The BBC broadcasts warmist stuff all the time. This irritates sceptics but they don’t kick up such a huge fuss about it. Sceptics are more bothered about the BBC bias. But then, this was reported in the Guardian, so it was probably just another PR event in the war they are waging against scepticism.
    Am I becoming paranoid?

    • Reading between the lines, the BBC realised that it was only a matter of time before some sceptic took them to court. There was also a change of government and strangely whenever the government changes the “impartial” BBC changes its tune. I get the feeling that the management are now attempting to be impartial – but the staff are overwhelmingly one-sided in their views. And to be honest, I prefer BBC staff who express their own views even when I don’t agree with them – but obviously something has to be done if they are all so hostile to real science and engineering as they were on climate.

  15. For a discussion of how Britain got into implementing such stupid climate and energy policies see the opening paragraphs below from the post at This post provides an insight into the difference between the sceptic (empirical) and alarmist (theorectical ) mindsets and also a forecast of the timing and amount of the coming cooling.
    There are seven prominent establishment scientists who have played an important role in promoting the flawed scientific basis for Britain’s truly irrational and economically disastrous climate and energy policies. Their views on Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming have been trumpeted by the Ecoleft press, the BBC and Britain’s chattering classes and largely unthinkingly, adopted by Blair ,Cameron ,Clegg, Miliband and a large majority of MPs as the basis for policy without any serious independent self consideration of their likely validity.
    The seven are Sir John Houghton, Sir Bob Watson, Sir David King, Sir John Beddington, Sir Robert May, Lord Rees and Sir Paul Nurse. Their titles indicate that they have been good reliable chaps and played the British Political Establishment’s Honours game with some skill. It is increasingly clear, as the earth obstinately refuses to warm up, that they have got it all wrong .They and the Politicians need to start again from square one and rethink the whole thing. Here are some helpful suggestions.
    If you want to know what future temperatures might be you might reasonably start not by building a detailed climate model but by looking at the current range of temperatures and what factors seem to cause them to change. You might observe the following amazing facts
    a) Night is colder than day.
    b) Winter is colder than summer.
    c) It is cooler in the shade than in the sun
    d) Temperatures vary more wildly in deserts and hot humid days are more uncomfortable than dry hot days – humidity might be an important factor.
    e)Since you likely have a few A levels- and even a degree or two in something or other you might well have heard of the Ice Ages and their relationships to the Earths orbit around the sun and the tilt and wobbles of the Earth’s Axis i.e the Milankovitch cycles. Surely you must conclude that these are the major climate drivers on the scale of thousands of years.
    f)You might also consider whether the current climate is unusually hot or cold. Some slight knowledge of history might bring to mind frost fairs on the Thames and the Little Ice Age. Even perhaps the Maunder Minimum without sunspots during the 17th century . The 300 years of Viking settlements in Greenland during the Medieval Warm Period and viniculture in Britain suggests a warmer world in earlier times than at present while the colder Dark Ages separate the MWP from the Roman Climate optimum.
    g)Having heard of Greenhouse Gasses you might note however that CO2 is about 400ppm of the Atmosphere and think ,reasonably ,that it is very unlikely that such a little tail should wag such a big dog.
    Conclusion – a person of reasonable common sense and intelligence might well conclude that given these simple observations the main temperature drivers were the number of hours of sunshine, the amount of cloud cover, the humidity and the height of the sun in the sky at midday and that the present day was not outside the range of climate variability for the last 2000 years and that no government action or policy was required or would be useful with regard to GHGs. These common sense conclusions embrace much more of the truth than the Seven Alarmists ever managed to grasp or to admit, while Britain’s leading political leaders are apparently incapable of using what little common sense they might possibly possess in this particular. area ”
    In short the alarmists of the IPCC were not interested in investigating climate science but were agenda driven i.e. they set out to provide power point slides and propaganda for the political agendas of their paymasters in their various governments and show that anthropogenic CO2 was the main climate driver. How much of their output reflects a basic lack of common sense, scientific incompetence or intentional misrepresentation is difficult to determine.

  16. Dr Page, thanks. A good article but I read the article without finding much to much to explain why the “7” should have looked at very similar information to us sceptics and come to very different conclusions. The parts that did seem to say something were these:-

    “common sense conclusions embrace much more of the truth than the Seven Alarmists ever managed to grasp”.

    “It simply assumed climate change was anthropogenic and in fact defined “climate change “as being anthropogenic for its purposes.”

    “This is where scientific judgement comes in – some people are better at pattern recognition than others… This is where the Seven Alarmists scientific judgement was lacking – they embraced the CO2 meme with irrational exuberance”

    ” Their titles indicate that they have been good reliable chaps and played the British Political Establishment’s Honours game with some skill.”

  17. Schrodinger's Cat says:

    Dr Norman Page:
    You have articulated exactly what I meant a few comments above when I said this:
    “I think the sceptics are driven by a judgement about the science which may be unconscious or well thought through, a gut feeling or through relevant expertise.”

    People with a scientific or logical mind would compare the warmist claims with their knowledge of the past. This knowledge may be expert or amateur and the thought process may be unconscious or deliberate. You have filled in all the details. Going through this process made me a sceptic.

    Now, many warmists are also scientists or logical in their thinking. We need to understand why they come to a different conclusion. Also, a great many people have no scientific thought processes at all. They would probably accept the advice of the scientists. I suspect that the majority would tend towards the warmist advice.

    That last point is a gut feeling, but I feel that many people have an adverse view of their own scientific or logical thinking ability and would feel more comfortable with adopting a view which embraces an environmental or political sentiment. They are more likely to get that from warmists.

    Perhaps warmists simply get the right sort of feedback which is more associated with life values, while the sceptic sees climate as a purely scientific issue. That is not to say that the sceptic has no interest in the wellbeing of the planet. The sceptic doesn’t mix the scientific judgements with the environmental ones. They are interlinked but are not to be confused. Maybe for the warmist, they become the same.

    I hope I have not upset any warmists with these thoughts, or with the “warmist” label. I am just striving to understand the polarisation.

    • SC, I see the CAGW issue in terms of what policies best promote human well-being. Whether or not warming is occurring, and whether or not further warming would be net harmful (and I have seen no convincing evidence of that), my concern is that the CAGW-push has led to harmful, wealth-destroying policies. The future never turns out as expected, we know that there will be surprises, the question is what policies will help us best to deal with whatever future eventuates. Broadly, in my experience as an economic policy adviser, I see the need for policies which foster innovation, enterprise, adaptability and self-reliance. Such policies will have short-term benefits – fostering the best use of resources and development of skills – and provide the best foundation for the long-term. This implies a smaller and less intrusive role for government, lighter-handed regulation, removal of rigidities, not protecting special interests, greater dependence on free markets and competition. The approach to dealing with alleged CAGW has been the reverse from this and, as Lomborg and others have calculated, has involved huge costs for miniscule potential reductions in future temperatures. Whether or not you believe in CAGW, this is irrational: but the approach favours those who believe in big/world government, state-directed morality etc, suggesting that the support for CAGW is based on ideology and politics as well as, or more than, science. My work in government has given me a very strong belief that less government is better, but the nature of bureaucracy and government-dependent institutions is to foster perceived self-interest and growth of the organisation and its responsibilities – putting people concerned in the right-hand column, whereas I am firmly in the left-hand. (Have to go.)

  18. most of the academics are Skeptics or agnostic; but they are in different professions, not climatology;

    • Indeed, isn’t it just a cacophonous minority that’s sweeping many of us along , convinced by only their good intentions and the nobility of their cause ?

      • As Neil rightly pointed out there is a very strong correlation between “public service” and being non-sceptic. We find non-sceptics are most prevalent in the BBC & Guardian (a paper predominantly read by the public sector), we find that the chief advocates are civil servants and academics. It is too pervasive to be “just a cacophonous minority”.

        Some academics have tried to explain this in terms of political outlook, but unfortunately they can’t see the log in their own eye for the splinter they see in ours. The result is they reach the conclusion that it is “being outside public service that makes people ‘deniers'”. When the real conclusion they should draw is that it is something about being in public service that makes people predisposed to believe irrespective of the overwhelming evidence against this view.

        However, I am struggling to understand what it is about the attribute of “public sector” which affects their ability to see a simple rational argument. Why does working for the non-commercial sector create irrational fears and prejudices that lead people to deny the pause, deny the lack of trends in extreme weather and generally engage in a hate campaign against us?

        • TinyCO2 says:

          Public sectors have aways been generous with what they allow themselves to have. Pensions are good, perks are extensive and eventually pay caught up and in many cases overtook the open market. But they also took care of anything else they thought their sectors needed. Generous maternity leave… no problem, up tax to pay for it. Good redundancy packages… kerching. Ergonomic chairs… well they’ve got have them, so the public had better pay up. And if they decide that CO2 has to be cut then they’d expect the budget to go up to pay for it.

          • soarergtl says:

            I think it’s simpler than that. In the Public Sector, you can be very, very wrong and retire with a pension and, if lucky, a knighthood (or dameness). This can also be true in large corporates in protected markets (major banks being the best example).

            In free market commerce, bad decisions will cost your company and, most likely, you personally. There is simply no equivalent risk/reward mechanism in public service, so poor teachers are seldom fired, medical staff whose mistakes cause patient deaths are ‘retrained’ and social workers who have children die on their watch are ‘overworked and under-resourced’.

            This is not to say that most public service workers do not try their best, and often perform outstanding service. But they do this in spite of the system within which they work, not because of it.

            So, if the publicly funded climate scientists are wrong – well its not going to cause them any problems as they were ‘trying to do the right thing’ and were ‘wrong for the right reasons’. There is no mechanism to make them responsible for their errors.

            • Worse if they are right for the politically wrong reasons.
              Watson saying that Africans do badly in IQ tests and having to retire.
              Dr Kelly being right about Iraq and being found dead in the woods.
              Tam Dalyell on a whole range of things.

              Or on the other hand Sir Andrew Muir Russell, officially the only person responsible for the Parliament building fiasco, because he said he had concealed the fact that it was overbudget from Dewar and the other politicians, who thus weren’t to blame. He had to retire but got several lucrative jobs including running Glasgow University (badly) and investigating whether the climategate emails showed anybody had done anything wrong.

              And so it goes.

        • AJ says:

          There is a substantial degree of self selection that goes into choosing to work (or continue to work) in either the public or private sectors. A quick search online didn’t reveal any obvious correlation with Myers-Briggs profiles but I did stumble across this bit of research on decision making that looks interesting. The critical quote is:

          ” The study finds that private sector managers are more apt to support budget decisions made with analysis and less likely to support them when bargaining is applied. Public sector managers are less likely to support budget decisions backed by analysis and more likely to support those that are derived from bargaining with agency people.” (

          In the private sector you have to deliver tangible results so you have to be confident that you can deliver. Hence the focus on analysis. Contrast this to the public sector where the output tends to be less tangible (and maybe there’s more of a focus on politics and aligning yourself with the right factions?) so the focus is on bargaining.

          Hence private sector people are more likely to analyse the data around global warming and form their own (sceptical) conclusions whereas public sector people are more likely to align themselves with the dominant view (safer) and see all of this analysis stuff as irrelevant. They just want to get on and start bargaining over which policy to institute.

      • I wouldn’t call it nobility; it’s more of: staying on the gravy train indefinitely

  19. Rick Bradford says:

    I believe a fundamental difference between skeptics (S) and non-skeptics(N), is the attitude towards the abstract concept of ‘fairness’.

    S accept as a given that the world is not fair and never will be; N feel bound to pursue the notion of ‘fairness’, wherever it leads (for an aggravated case, see Mary Robinson and Climate Justice).

    N think S are heartless; S think N are mindless. And so the two groups spend their time talking past each other.

    (Of course, the British TV show Yes Minister put it this way: “The history of the world is the history of the triumph of the heartless over the mindless.”)

  20. Rick Bradford says:

    To develop the theme, the S mindset could be seen as individual and preferential, while the N mindset is communitarian and insistent.

    So when it comes to ‘climate action’; N say “We demand..” while S say “I would like..”

  21. Eliza Doodle says:

    Adherents of the Catastrophic Global Warming meme, cause, movement , call it what you like, come from all walks of life, but of course it will include those who’s livelihood depends on it, and others from their circle of friends & dependents.

    Sceptics otoh. tend to rail against causes because they are popular.
    Not to be awkward, but because they are mindful of what may have been missed or overlooked in a wave of popularity.
    (What we ‘know’ is a working assumption based on a few things we understand and still a lot of guesswork).

  22. How many Sceptics does it take to change a light bulb.

    It is impossible to say as it must await for one sceptic who agrees it needs changing, whereas a Warmist would have changed it in advance, just in case it would have failed later.

    • Drokk! says:

      No, the warmists would ban the light bulb, raze the house, throwing the occupants out into the street, just in case another light bulb failed, and hand themselves prizes for being so compassionate.

    • manacker says:

      How many skeptics to change a light bulb?

      Only one.

      And only after it became clear it needed changing.

      But a rational skeptic would have a spare on hand.

      How many academics to change a light bulb.

      Only three per light bulb (eventually), but the process would be different.

      First, a scientific consensus opinion would be needed that all light bulbs globally need changing based on theoretical scientific deliberations and model studies simulating the lifetime of light bulbs in similar usage conditions, etc.

      Then it would be necessary to create a fear-based rationale for changing ALL light bulbs globally NOW, rather than later, to avoid the horrible catastrophic consequences of anthropogenic global darkness that could result.

      Then the government would need to get involved in setting a globally enforced top-down policy for changing light bulbs in order to avoid anthropogenic global darkness.

      To finance the research work and model studies related to catastrophic darkness and the early change-out of all light bulbs, a globally enforced light bulb tax would need to be implemented.

      A separate committee under the UN would need to be created in order to administer this new policy and tax.

      This committee and its supporters would meet bi-annually in (well-lit) attractive resort locations in order to discuss and decide on policies related to the global light bulb problem.

      It would also be necessary to issue periodic 2,000-page summary reports with the findings of the various research and modeling groups in support of the scientific consensus opinion and to justify the prescribed action programs required to stop anthropogenic global darkness.

      Each light bulb globally would need changing according to a master plan devised by this committee, using the scientific basis provided by the models.

      This would require:
      – one government scheduler, who would decide that the bulb needed changing plus establish and write the change schedule
      – one changer
      – one government inspector, who would validate that the bulb had been changed and write the confirming report, with a copy going to the scheduler, in order to establish the schedule for replacing the new bulb.

  23. Coldish says:

    Hi, I followed your link from Climate Audit as I mistakenly thought you might be comparing the scientific or technical standpoints of the skeptic and alarmist camps. That would not be an easy task, as there seem to be substantial ranges of opinion on either side of the fence, as well as a few centrists (I’m thinking of Tom Fuller, Roger Pielke Jnr, and others). A major division, possibly the most important division in the whole climate field, exists between the so-called ‘sky-dragon slayers’ and all the rest, both skeptics and alarmists. There are also serious divisions on the alarmist side, for instance between the Michael Mann group and its critics such as Richard Muller.
    Like some other commenters, I don’t think your ‘skeptic v academic’ categorisation is useful. So many people belong to both these categories.

  24. Your ‘warmist’ characterisation of natural variation , as measurement error, is either ignorant or patronising in the extreme.
    Natural variation is by definition that which is caused other than by mankind (that mankind isn’t considered a natural contributor is just how it’s used – not my definition).

    After considerations of how much is really happening , attribution to mankind or ‘natural’ is what it’s all about.

    • Thanks for posting and apologies if you felt it patronising. I’m not sure exactly where the problem is but perhaps it is the phrase “ignoring natural variation”. The intention was to say “because we can ignore” or “… believe that by certain procedures natural variation can be effectively eliminated as not needing consideration particularly in longer term forecasting”.

      However even if I did not express it well, there has got to be a fundamental difference between the two “sides” in how we interpret the effects of natural variation.

      Perhaps the point is better expressed here:

      Sceptics (because of natural variation)… Forecasts get worse and natural variation increases the further away we try to predict from measured data.

      Non Sceptics … Errors become smaller with more data so over the long term measurement errors can be ignored.

    • On rereading, I saw your point and have attempted to reword accordingly.
      Please tell me if you think this is fair.

      • Well thankyou for taking my savage reaction so well. I appreciate your attempt to improve on it.
        I don’t get this likening NV to measurement error though.
        NV includes cyclic processes, which when known may be modelled, but also includes just about everything else that can’t be attributed to ‘un-natural’ anthropogenic causes.

        Now warmists would have it that NV just modulates an overall warming trend, giving the appearance of pauses at times, whereas sceptics wouldn’t necessarily disagree but maintain that most NV is unknown, not understood and dominates anthropogenic factors.

        The argument that thousands of measurements justifies giving significance to such minuscule temperature changes (by reducing the errors) is an entirely different one, isn’t it ?

        • Mike Haseler says:

          Sceptics who predominantly come from an engineering background are used to complex systems which cannot be easily characterised. As such we often start with a completely uncharacterised system so that the system is completely “unknown” or “natural variation” or “noise”. A common first step with any system from a manufacturing process to radio transmission is to characterise the system. This creates a conceptual model of the noise and because systems vary we have a rich “vocabulary” of concepts to describe “what we don’t know”.

          In contrast, those from an academic background whose aim is to understand systems, focus on the patterns. Some of those patterns are what you call “natural variation” – known variations due to nature. On top of this is the noise which is an extraneous interference which isn’t really of interest. The noise isn’t something that needs modelling except in so far as it obscures measurements.

          Where we seem to be having problems is that when engineers talk of “natural variation” we are talking about anything that is not known. It is the null hypothesis. It is a systems whose inner workings are undetermined. That does not mean it cannot be characterised. One simple way to do this is to describe it in terms of its frequency characteristics (white, pink, red). So, e.g. we can have a system where we have no idea what is going on inside, it’s exact behaviour is non-deterministic, but we can say that the macro characteristics are of a system with pink noise variation of such and such an amplitude.

          Academics use the term “natural variation” to describe a property within a system which is due to variation from nature. This is a micro-property of the system. This is possible, because academics are usually dealing with natural systems which are either accessible by all academics or largely reproducible. This allows them to be well studied. In contrast sceptic-engineers tend to be “fire-fighting” individual system that may never have been studied at all and they are doing so with limited resource and time due to commercial pressures.

          Academics develop a rich “vocabulary”of concepts for explaining how systems work at a micro level.

          In contrast, Sceptic-engineers with limited time and resource and who usually do not have time to fully understand their systems at a micro level, have a rich “vocabulary” of concepts for how systems operate at a macro level.

          E.g. academics will talk about the PDO as being “natural variation” … whereas sceptics will talk of the whole system or its macro property (global temperature) being natural variation. The academic viewpoint tends to result in micro-models of “natural variation” which are causal and therefore deterministic in nature. The Sceptic-engineer tends to end up with macro non-deterministic models which are not causal.

          Because of the differences in systems, academics tend to see “noise” as measurement error that stops a system being perfectly accessible. In contrast, sceptic-engineers see “noise” as a property of a complete system.

          And I haven’t even started to go into the reduction (or not) of errors by increasing the number of samples. … but I have to go out.

          • JK says:

            I think the ‘natural variation’ question is important, but I don’t think this is primarily about engineers vs. academics. (Of course there are plenty of academic engineers who come up against the need to ‘fire fight’ individual systems. Many of them work on renewable energy, and even fossil fuels. By academic you may mean academic climate scientist – but many of the characteristics you mention are of academics per se.)

            I think it’s much more closely related to what you have under Main Aim.

            I think the difference is that skeptics primarily come at the climate question because the question has arisen in the sphere of politics. They want an answer to the question: do we need to alter human activity (increase taxes, more expensive energy, reduce freedom to travel, etc.)

            To answer that a key question becomes: is change likely ‘natural variation’? If the answer is yes, then alarmist politics can more easily be dismissed. If no then perhaps it requires a more serious answer.

            I think it is this political outlook that shapes the skeptic approach to the natural variation question. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong – I’m just trying to get at where positions are coming from.

            Let me leave aside climate campaigners, NGOs, politicians and journalists for a moment and focus on the majority of climate scientists, who are not primarily in these categories (for some purposes they can be lumped together, and they do share some common characteristics, but just now I want to focus on scientists.)

            You may not believe that any such scientists exist. I disagree. But if so please try to imagine a class of person not motivated by the need to turn a profit, but motivated by trying to understand the climate system.

            How would these imaginary people respond to the idea of ‘natural variation’ as an explanation for climate dynamics? I think they would see that as a very narrow question. First, it is hard to separate human and natural influences. But more important to label something as ‘natural variation’ doesn’t really take forward understanding. All it says is the negative statement ‘not caused by humans’. So what? If you are interested in understanding the climate you want to understand what it is caused by: the sun? orbital changes? the oceans? ocean-atmosphere interactions? biological interactions? etc. Natural variation just isn’t an explanation. If you’re after explanations it won’t be of much interest.

            From the point of view of politics, that doesn’t much matter, and that’s why I think skeptics are more interested in 1) posing the question of understanding climate dynamics as natural vs. human and 2) see natural variation as an interesting and important explanation.

            While many climate scientists may not be perfectly disinterested explorers, I think there is enough of an echo of that outlook that they just don’t see the question of ‘natural variation’, in itself, as a critical question.

            • That is a very good assessment and I largely agree with it except for your classification of sceptic decision making as being “politics” …. unless you mean the actual Greek derivation from the “politi” which meant the city.

              If we redefine “politics” as “what concerns the city” … or “what concerns ordinary society” then this is indeed the focus of the sceptics. We don’t form our views because of “party politics” but because of our concern for “politi” for society.

              In contrast the non-sceptics are working for the good of society by trying to understand. As you say for them it is most unhelpful to label something as ‘natural variation’ because it doesn’t really take forward understanding.

              In contrast for the sceptic/engineer understanding and making decision based on natural variation is a necessary part of the job. It would be better if everything were perfectly understood at a micro level, but when it is not we have to use the macro characteristics of “natural variation” to make the best decision we can for the politi.

              But whilst they are different, they are two facets of the same thing – understanding (experience & training) make better decisions. But just as engineers have to be able to trust the science … so scientists have to learn to trust those who are trained to make decisions and allow them to decide what is best for the politi.

          • JK, the importance of understanding natural variation is two-fold: (1) it gives us an inkling into the range of what, in the normal course of events, might occur, so that we know what we might have to deal with, and we have a better basis for weather and longer-range forecasting; (2) it gives us a baseline from which to determine any additional change related to anthropogenic influences, so that we can assess their impact and then whether or not they of potential concern. Recent info suggests that the potential anthro influence/climate sensitivity might have been overstated, this seems to have been related to being focussed on finding an anthro signal rather than better understanding climate, natural variation and all. Once we better understand human impact, we can begin to assess whether or not it is beneficial or harmful and whether or not intervention is useful or desirable. If the approach of focussing first on better understanding climate and natural variation had been adopted 25 years ago, we probably wouldn’t have the strife and divisions we have now. And would have saved a lot of resources for higher-return activities.

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  26. johnbuk says:

    A very interesting thought process – I would only mention that I’ve seen the “hatred” in another area of disagreement – Religion. May or may not be relevant.

  27. Brian H says:

    Sceptic: Reluctant to pay more in insurance than the value of the potential loss.

    Believer: Willing to spend all of your resources on maximally inflated loss estimates. None of his own; the issue doesn’t arise because he will be collecting your premiums.

  28. Pingback: Skeptics vs academics | Climate Etc.

  29. omanuel says:

    I am a skeptic, an academic, and a former chairman of an academic department in a public university that granted tenure to faculty members that successfully generated external grant funds to support their research – mostly from the government.

    Therein lies the answer. Research agencies give grants to investigators who will find scientific evidence to support government policies.

    Universities grant tenure to faculty members who have been successful in attracting external grant funds.

    If your research findings disagree with government policies, your request for a renewal of funding will probably be denied.

    Oliver K. Manuel
    Emeritus Professor
    Nuclear Chemistry
    Former NASA Principal
    Investigator for Apollo

  30. Mark Bofill says:

    An interesting effort. I wonder if it misses the forest for the trees though. I suspect that the reason AGWers and skeptics look at the same information and come to wildly different conclusions has to do mostly with what human beings do in the face of uncertainty. Perhaps AGWers and skeptics do precisely the same thing; in general terms, we fall back on other beliefs, values, behaviors, and heuristics in an effort to respond to the uncertainty in a way that seems consistent to us.
    ~shrug~ or not. Just thinking out loud really.

  31. Eeyore Rifkin says:

    The premise is faulty. The warmists are considering a smaller set of facts, some of them quite dubious.

    That said, the key difference is the one between reason and magical thinking. The rest is clutter.

  32. chris moffatt says:

    I don’t see where you are making allowance for deliberate malfeasance by alarmists. Cherry-picking data, hiding results, deliberately skewing results, refusing to provide data to other researchers, violations of FOIA, corruption of peer review process, harassment and attempted firings of critics have all been perpetrated by alarmists. These are not simple matters of different ways of interpreting data.

  33. Greg says:

    Guardian liberal.

    Avoid using american term “liberal” to mean left-wing. In Australia the Liberal Party is conservative, in Britain it’s middle of the road and in coalition with centre-right Conservative Party. In America it seems to mean bourgeois centre-left.

    Perhaps centre-left was what you meant, don’t know but ‘liberal’ is a bad choice.

  34. Greg says:

    Though the unthinking masses whose political skills end at deciding whether they are in the blue team or the red team may fit the rather clichéd stereotypes you are building, this may not be the best way to approach your question.

    Your declared aim is to understand how intelligent people can hold such different views on the same “data”.

    While opinions on this issue are like most things based on bias confirmation and our existing world views, building a detailed profile of stereotyped categories like you are doing here seems to tell us more about your own biases than those you claim to want to understand.

    The pattern you are describing sounds like academics/warmists are left-wing loons who would be unable to earn a day’s money in the “real world”. Sceptics are smart and serious with proper jobs so we’re right.

    The vibe I get off this so far is that it’s about as biased as Lewkeovsky but leaning the other way.

    Declaration of interests: left-leaning sceptic with science/engineering background. BTW I read the Guardian, which does a lot of serious journalism but is crap on enviro/climate coverage.

    Followed link form Curry’s site because the idea sounded like an interesting way forward.
    Leaving disappointed by the shallowness of what I found.

  35. ChrisM says:

    A possibly better values-free series of labels for the two groups could be “CAGW doubter” and “CAGW believer”. That then gets to the core of the issues.

  36. JK says:

    If I may add a few other comments:

    Main focus: Prediction & hard facts vs. Understanding & empathy.

    I find this interesting, as I do think the emphasis on ‘hard facts’ corresponds to an outlook that I often encounter in the skeptic blogosphere. I see this as related to the preoccupation with ‘raw data’ and skepticism toward any form of adjustment.

    On the other hand, many skeptics also seem keen on emphasizing the open ended and provisional nature of scientific knowledge.

    I find skeptics emphasizing ‘what the data tells us’ more often that I hear climate scientists declaring that science is ‘settled’ or ‘irrefutable’ (at least in the scientific literature – I have to say some climate scientists do say foolish things in the media.)

    In general I think that the skepticism on the part of scientists toward the focus of climate skeptics on ‘hard facts’ is partly a result of a correct appreciation of uncertainty. What looks like a ‘hard fact; may turn out to be one part of a bigger picture. Scientific research tends to engender that outlook.

    I agree that academic climate scientists are often focused on understanding. I’m not sure how empathy fits it.

    I would see the intellectual center of climate science as publications in Geophysical Research Letters, Nature Geoscience, Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, Journal of Geophysical Research, Journal of Climate or Climate Dynamics. If we take that as the reference point then I don’t see a great deal of empathy. Arguably there is more ’empathy’ in journals like Environmental Research Letters and Nature Climate Change, although even there I think it’s hard to see this as a ‘main focus’.

    Maybe you mean that alarmists get worked up over polar bears, because the cubs look cute on TV. If so, then OK. But then I would like to see some substantiation to the idea that this is the main focus of, for example, the journals I mentioned above.

    Alternatively, maybe you see the main contingent of alarmists as among journalists, NGOs, civil servants and politicians. But in that case I think you may need to broaden some of your characteristics as at present they seem rather directed at academics specifically.

    Also, how would you characterize skeptics who emphasize fuel poverty or winter deaths from cold? I would say that is more genuine empathy than concern with polar bears (which I think is imaginary). Is empathy a bad thing? I think empathy (with human beings) is important in political debates about what to do. Here skeptics (and others) should be proud of empathy. In trying to understand climate dynamics it doesn’t seem so useful.

    • I’ve had a suggestion of “social good” rather than “empathy” which I think is better.

      This makes it Main focus: “Understanding and social good”.

      • JK says:

        But then the skeptic counterpart to ‘social good’ would surely be ‘individual freedom’ or ‘economic growth’ or something that indicates an answer to the question of what to do?

        From my reading this is a main focus of some skeptics. It’s not at all captured by the ‘predictions and hard facts’.

        Maybe you mean ‘scientific focus’? But then you have to be more careful about how the question of social good enters in to that on the alarmist side. Are you suggesting the scientific questions that one side asks are shaped by politics, while the science put forward by skeptics is not? That would seem bizarre. Surely most climate skeptics would never have started thinking much about climate had it not become a political issue.

  37. JK says:

    “Attitude if they don’t understand what is happening: Real life is like that and you learn to cope. vs. That is a dreadful admission. How can you say you can’t explain what is happening. A careless attitude like this cannot be tolerated. Those involved should sort out their problems or find another job.”

    Seriously? Have you actually met an academic scientist or are they just creatures you have read about on blogs?

    Any one who says that not understanding what is happening is ‘a dreadful admission’, whether skeptic or alarmist, whether they call themselves a scientists or not, is not really a scientist.

    I can only speak from personal experience, but the scientists I know are perpetually baffled. The difference, I think, is that those without the luxury of being scientists must adopt the skeptic attitude: ‘Real life is like that and you learn to cope.’ In their personal lives scientists are in the same boat as every one else and they learn to cope in diverse ways: religion, alcohol, friendship, etc. But in their professional lives they have the luxury of being able to set out to systematically resolve questions.

    Remarkably, through this process science does indeed make progress.

    But no scientist I know imagines that getting answers will lead to anything except more questions. How does it even make sense to imagine that we could finally ‘understand what is happening’? Surely no scientist believes this.

    Perhaps you were inspired here by Trenberth’s infamous remark: “The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t”?

    However, as I have tried to explain, I don’t think that this fits your description of the supposed academic. Academic scientists (real ones) show a desire to try to answer questions, not a desire to stop asking them.

    • re: “How can you say you can’t explain what is happening” … I was trying to put into words the way many non-sceptics insist that there is an explanation for the rise in global temperature – and Trenberth is a classic example. Unfortunately I used expressions more suitable to a factory environment than academia.

      I like this: “the luxury of being able to set out to systematically resolve questions.”

      • JK says:

        Re: “many non-sceptics insist that there is an explanation for the rise in global temperature’

        I’m a bit confused by this. Presumably whatever global temperatures are doing is in some sense determined by physics and chemistry. Are you saying there may be no explanation? Or it’s not an explanation we could ever grasp? Or it’s not worth getting to the explanation? And how can we know there’s no explanation until we try to find one?

        Skepticism is an important part of science, but I don’t think it defines science. A philosophical skeptic in the broader sense can always doubt all knowledge, and can easily dismiss all enquiries before they even begin. Science takes as its starting point that, until we show otherwise (e.g. we have good reason to think that comprehensive weather forecasting beyond two or three weeks is not possible), we should look for explanations.

        • I’m saying that the best explanation may be OK for academia because it is a step forward, but if the “best” is so bad that it leads to bad decisions then it is worse than no explanation at all.

          For example, there was a serious incident where a number of fire fighters were killed. When academics view the incident they talk of a “loss of group identity”. When a sceptic/practitioner looks at the incident they see that the group broke up because they didn’t understand how setting a new fire could create a safe area.

          The academic explanation may possibly be right (and the academics seem very happy with it), but accepting that explanation would not highlight the need to ensure all firefighters are trained in the use of setting fires to create safe zones.

          A sceptic wants an actionable explanation, an academic wants a “theory” based explanation. An actionable explanation enables people to take action to save lives. An academic explanation makes them happy that they know what is happening … and to be fair, by understanding their explanation, one might find situations where this explanation helped save lives … but unfortunately, not in the case I’m quoting.

  38. JK says:

    “What quality means: Getting it right first time vs. Work accepted by peers, newspaper, manager as “novel enough” & interesting enough for publication”

    Do you think this might be a bit self flattering?

    Plenty of academics have to get it right first time. Space missions are a good example. Try searching youtube for ‘seven minutes of terror’ (it worked). I know an academic scientist building a satellite sensor is not the same as an EU biofuels lobbyist. But I didn’t lump them together. Your original post did.

    More broadly, I disagree that academics are not ever under this pressure. I am not a climate scientist. I am an academic medical scientist. One project I am helping with right now is an HIV vaccine, which has just gone in to humans for the first time. I can assure you there is pressure to get that right first time. When we take a blood sample from the volunteers I feel more pressure to get the analysis right first time than in an experiment on a mouse. For several reasons that probably obvious I don’t want to go back and say ‘we messed that up, could we take some more?’

    It is true that academics are judged by publications and grants. But the flip side of that in the commercial sector is, I think, profitability.

    Measures of market success certainly have their virtues. But I think making a profit is not a perfect proxy for truth seeking. Again, take the example of medicine. Drug companies are fantastic. Without them we would have no new medicines. Academics may develop concepts and even initial testing. But that is a far cry from a product on the market. Yet the profit motive is not pure. There is evidence that scientific studies sponsored by drug companies are consistently more favorable to their own drugs. Marketing departments have been known to ‘stretch to the truth’ even further, dressed up as scientific fact.

    Further, although ‘getting it right first time’ is sometimes a necessity it is not always so.

    Open discussion and being prepared to revise one’s position is the best way to get to the truth. e.g. I think it’s fair enough that Anthony Watts flags some of the more outlandish contributions as ‘for discussion’.

    It is also the case that while in practical life we might be satisfied with ‘good enough’ answers it is quite right that academic scientists are never satisfied with the answer they have. They cannot ‘get it right’ first time because there is no absolute ‘right’. They are always working on the next time, when we will get an improved answer.

    I don’t think many skeptics really believe there is a ‘right answer’ to understanding climate dynamics that can be given ‘first time’ with no need for a revised answer ‘next time’. I would be interested if there were, and I’m afraid to say I think it would likely merit the label ‘anti-scientific’.

    But my understanding is that skeptics are less interested in improving understanding than in making decisions.

    (Sorry I left journalists out of this – they are again a different case.)

    • Interesting what you say about medical researchers having also to “get it right first time”. That is not however my perception of climate academics .

      Profits – how could I forget profits?

      They are always working on the next time, when we will get an improved answer. … That’s a good way of expressing it.

      But my understanding is that skeptics are less interested in improving understanding than in making decisions. – that fits in with some other work I’ve done which suggests that the academic way of viewing a situation is to understand it, whilst that of the “practitioner” is to ensure the right decisions are made.

      • JK says:

        Re “Interesting what you say about medical researchers having also to “get it right first time”. That is not however my perception of climate academics .”

        I gave the example of space missions. Satellite launches have to work first time. Do all the people who planned and built the very numerous satellite systems which provide data on which understanding of the climate system is built not count as climate scientists? Perhaps only partly and perhaps only some. But I think you will find that many who have helped build these missions are a) academics and b) have scientific views broadly in line with IPCC working group I.

        As I said in my comment, that group may not overlap with many green activists. But I’m not the one trying to lump them all together.

        • JB Harshaw says:

          >I gave the example of space missions. Satellite launches have to work first time. Do all the people who planned and built the very numerous satellite systems which provide data on which understanding of the climate system is built not count as climate scientists? Perhaps only partly and perhaps only some. But I think you will find that many who have helped build these missions are a) academics and b) have scientific views broadly in line with IPCC working group I.

          You are conflating significantly different roles.

          The people who BUILD and LAUNCH the satellite systems are “rocket scientists” (mainly engineering and technical people). Now the “climate science” people who you say “helped build these missions” may have been involved in various “consulting” roles and part of committees or teams regarding the types and manner of data to be gathered, purposes of the devices, etc — but they do NOT design or construct, and are no more than peripherally involved in, much less responsible for, the actual hardware, electronics or the software that RUNS the things.

        • NASA have actively pushed environmentalism in order to secure funding for several big projects from monitoring the Ozone to global warming research. They have clear financial interests to promote global warming in the $100millions if not $billions.

    • “But my understanding is that skeptics are less interested in improving understanding than in making decisions.” As a (retired) policy adviser, my concern has always been to have a sound basis for decision-making, which means having relevant data and improving understanding.

      As for your space point below, many former NASA scientists and engineers, dating back to the Apollo project, are highly sceptical of the IPCC position and the scientific basis for it – cf blog posts and multi-signed letters to the press.

  39. Its sweet that you try to claim the “hard facts” for your side. But that’s hard to reconcile with your view, that you say most “skeptics” support, that “Current estimates of about 0.8 C temperature rise in the past 150 years are very likely too high. There is compelling evidence of malpractice, urban heating and poor instruments & siting. A figure of 0.5-0.6C warming appears more likely”, and which you say is based on

    “We had a discussion on this on WUWT (which I cannot find!!) where the consensus was around 0.5-0.6C from memory!! I felt if we said “the 0.8 figure is wrong”, I had to give a sense of what kind of warming we felt could be realistic.”

    There are no hard facts in your revision, just your memory, which is as fallible as everyone else’s.

    If the IPCC tried to produce temperature records, or evidence for or against UHI, based on “errm, a discussion we had somewhere, I can’t find it now” you would (correctly) rip them to shreds. But when it comes to your own words, suuddenly your “skepticism” disappears.

    • Welcome William. And thank you for your contribution. In this table I was stating an observation that sceptics tend to be obsessive about the facts. Likewise I have had experience of engaging in discussions with non-sceptics and finding that all I am doing is chasing from one paper to another to another in a long string of one author citing another who cites another.

      Regarding the 0.5-0.6C figure … that is what was agreed by sceptics as representing our views. It is a statement of our views. Another way to describe it is our first look “best estimates” which we are happy to provide for free – but if you want something more substantial from a group that included many experts – we would be happy to give it but it will cost – however, given the unanimity I doubt a final figure from a detailed analysis would be that different.

      It was included because it is generally felt by sceptics that the figure quoted is too high and when discussed by those who had knowledge of the subject from a range of disciplines, this is the kind of figure that was coming out. I suppose what we are really saying is that there are serious problems with the temperature record … but the bulk of warming in the 20th century is probably real.

      And I am in a very good place to judge whether this figure is right. As someone who designed precision temperature control equipment, erected meteorological equipment, worked in temperature control in industry and have heard from people who were there in the “good old days” of hand measurement I’ve got hands on experience of what actually happens with equipment and people in real life and I’m in a far better place than you to judge this figure.

      “If the IPCC tried to produce temperature records, or evidence for or against UHI, based on “errm, a discussion …”.

      If you had not noticed sceptics almost never say what they think is happening but instead spend all their time criticising others who say they think what is happening. So, this figure is fairly unique.

      The document was drawn up when I was trying to form a sceptic association in Scotland. The main purpose behind the document was to try to find out whether there was enough common ground for us to be able to agree what we said on climate.

      Unfortunately, sceptics are reluctant to commit – and the process was a bit was like drawing blood out of a stone, but it did turn out that most of us had similar views and could largely agree to the document.

      However, in terms of that figure, the important thing is that a range of people approached the problem of “what is the figure likely to be” and even though they used different approaches, they all ended up somewhere around the figure quoted. This indicated that there is not a huge range of figures that most sceptics would feel comfortable with if (as happened) they were asked to state a figure.

      What it is worth remembering is that this was a group of people with a range of different skills and experience of taking data, other people’s opinions, their own investigations and their own experience and combining them for use in a commercial environment. All we did was what e.g. an investment company or perhaps an insurance company would do if they did not fully trust the data they were getting in from others. This is how people in commercial environments have to estimate the figures – from the number of sales to the rate of failure.

      In real life not everyone is entirely scrupulous in the way they handle data and there are no reason to believe climate scientists would not be like everyone else. So we are extremely aware that humans have their failings. When a sales rep says they “will definitely sell … so many units” we know that figure will be affected by their own experience, any kinds of bonuses they may get, whether they are trying to impress …and to be frank salesmen are always too optimistic by nature. Likewise production guys are always grumbling and in my experience tend to understate what can be produced because that gives them an easy life. So, any commercial engineer learns to spot the signs of people egging up the figures or dropping them down.

      That doesn’t make us sceptics infallible, but when you’ve made these kinds of decisions in a commercial environment it does make our guesses worth a lot more than yours.

    • catweazle666 says:

      Would you happen to be the William Connolly AKA ‘Stoat’ of – inter alia – Wikipedia notoriety, by any chance?

      If so, do you not consider it would have been courteous to have admitted to have a very considerable vested interest in this debate before posting the above diatribe?

  40. Michael Larkin says:

    I think religion/spirituality may be a factor. If one has a belief in something transcendent–a purpose and a plan in the universe (however conceived of)–that is greater than day-to-day concerns, then one is perhaps more likely to be sceptical. That’s if all other things are equal and one doesn’t have particular expertise: think perhaps of your ordinary person just getting on with life, which most people are whether they’re sceptical or not: and I’m not implying that people like this aren’t intelligent: they could be very intelligent.

    My observation is that a sense of the transcendent is very much in the minority in academia, the MSM, leftist and centrist politics, and indeed in politics in general, though more on the right tend to have this sense. These are all areas that are influential in human affairs.

    If one doesn’t have it, if one is an atheist and perhaps a secular humanist, then life becomes more precious, because it’s all anyone has. The new original sin is that of not living as long as possible, of not having a healthy lifestyle; it is one’s duty to promote such a lifestyle, and prevent lifestyles deemed threatening. Classic examples include the second-hand smoke issue, and, indeed, the AGW issue. Risk becomes intolerable, unconscionable, punishable.

    The need for some set of guiding moral principles does not disappear in secular humanists. Nor the need to marginalise and vilify, or feelings of guilt. They’re as alive and well as they ever were. In an increasingly irreligious (western) world, we’re groping towards something to replace religion, but the underlying structure of the replacement is nothing new. Political Correctness is a new and dominant dogma, and it’s as pernicious in principle as any inquisition ever was, albeit that we don’t burn people at the stake these days.

    I long ago gave up orthodox religion, but I’m not about to adopt this new religion either; and I still have a sense of the transcendent. Which I believe gives me a sense of proportion, really, and accounts for my sceptical approach to most things. I know I know next to nothing, and I know that applies to most if not all of us. If you want to identify a true sceptic, you have to look carefully, because they don’t stand out in a crowd. They don’t shout loud on either side of an issue: they’re rather humble, actually. The passionate on either side are often not sceptics: they’re driven by religion, even if it’s in a secular guise. What is being addressed in this article may have less to do with actual scepticism, and more to do with identifying what drives people to be passionate in different ways.

    True sceptics are in a minority, and always have been throughout human history. Vociferous AGW “sceptics” and “proponents” alike are for the most part not true sceptics. They’re batting for their religion, and that’s why there’s so much venom in the game. Neither is worse than the other: they’re doing what human beings do and always have done. One can only hope that one day humanity will mature and recognise its limitations.

    Of course, either CAGW is true, or it’s false, but believing one way or the other, or being able to declare victory is neither here nor there: that which is the case, whatever it is, will prevail. Based on my personal analysis, the whole AGW thing is a Trojan Horse, or a proxy battle being fought over different worldviews. If it wasn’t AGW, it would be something else, and the battle would still have to take place until some new equilibrium were reached in a largely post-religious society. If eventually the “sceptics” win on this issue, nothing will change unless it causes large numbers of people to become truly sceptical as a way of being. In the end, that may be a doorway into a sense of the transcendent.

  41. Rufus says:

    While it does not directly answer your question, Arnold Kling’s book called the Three Languages of Politics, breaks down politics into three orthogonal dimensions.

    oppressor/oppressed [naturally preferred by progressives]

    civilization/barbarism [naturally preferred by conservatives]

    freedom/coercion [naturally preferred by libertarians]

    I think the political view of the researcher is likely a large component of why they believe their research is the correct view. It also explains why we can’t have a discussion about the science because we are using language that the other side either misinterprets or rejects.

    • The one thing I’ve noticed on WUWT is that as soon as anyone mentions politics we all start finding out how much we disagree with each other. Same on religion – to put it in context, it gets as much mention as sport. As a result it is very difficult to know what sceptics actually think about politics and religion.

      It just occurred to me I could check that out so I googled a lot of words on WUWT and the number of hits I found these “right wing” phrases were:-

      “Capital punishment”: 32
      “death penalty”: 145

      Then I thought I should compare those with other terms and this is the ordered list. It certainly seems to bare out what I thought that sceptics almost never talk about traditional “right wing” policies. Gore is obviously high up … but that is because I know he is talked about a lot.

      “Gore”: 15,700
      “cloud”: 11,000
      “Africa”: 7760
      “economic”: 7370
      “Hockey stick” :5930
      “car”: 5590
      “walk”: 5220
      “factory”: 1550
      “Kennedy”: 1450
      “Bible”: 1030
      “Punishment 1030”
      “Cream”: 717
      “racist”: 599
      “wool”: 549
      “Supermarket”: 363
      “abortion”: 245
      “Beatles”: 210
      “feminist”: 95
      “economic slowdown”: 36

      • Rufus says:

        Perhaps do the same on Skeptical Science and look for “left wing” phrases. Or maybe the same? Of course with the number of comments on the site, I’m not sure if 36 is a significant number. Are The Beatles really right wing? I’d think more Pink Floyd.

        • I selected Beatles, wool, supermarket, cream as common words which are not climate and not political to get an idea of the level at which common words appeared.

          The very low level of “feminist” and low level of “abortion” seems to support the hypothesis that general right wing issues are not very common on WUWT.

          In contrast, where you have people with a high degree of involvement in climate like Gore the count is very high. This strongly suggests that these are primarily there because of their views on climate, and their political leaning is very much a relatively unimportant afterthought (although some comments about Gore have expressed a political leaning).

          However, perhaps on other blogs it is more political?

  42. Mike, I think your table is excellent, and indicates why there is so little meaningful contact between the two sides. I’m totally on the left-side, except that I worked mainly as a public service economic policy adviser (UK, Australia, Queensland). Fair to say that I wasn’t the average public servant.

  43. David L. Hagen says:

    Compliments Mike Haseler for your thought provoking comparison.
    Here are some rapid comments to further your analyses. (They need to be summarized).

    Publications vs commercial results
    I have migrated from the academic to the Engineering/Scientist/Applied Research camp.
    Having “published”, I now invent / research / develop / commercialize what is needed to solve major societal problems. e.g. provide replacement liquid fuels, develop direct local processing of natural resources to high quality products in developing countries, ultra clean combustion without catalysts, higher efficiency combined heat and power systems for more efficient lower cost energy generation with heat use. etc.
    Projects developed must be commercially successful.
    Therefore it must work better, cheaper, more efficiently, cleaner, lower risk etc. than what is available. No time to waste on iffy projects with poor prognosis.

    Start with what works, find the gaps, develop improved systems that work.
    Models must work accurately.
    No time to waste and no benefit from models far adrift from reality.
    Patents and successful business proposals are more important than publications.

    Fooled once, twice shy
    In 1990 I believed the warnings from the IPCC and prepared a 330 page report on ways to use solar energy to mitigate anthropogenic global warming.
    Hagen, D.L. & Kaneff, S. “Application of Solar Thermal Technologies in Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions – Opportunities and Benefits for Australian industry” for Anutech Pty Ltd to Dept. Arts, Sports, the Environment, Tourism and Territories, Canberra, Australia, June 1991

    Now I find the IPCC models predicting from 1979 are going 2 sigma 95% outside reality of current global temperatures. E.g. see evidence by Christy in Roy Spencer’s evidence to Congress.
    For engineers, after 24 years of working at it, I would have expected steady improvement with temperatures falling well within the model error bounds. Instead IPCC’s CR5 models are so far removed from reality as to be off in La La Land, apparently by focusing on alarmable anthropogenic impacts while ignoring natural variations, or assuming that they will average out. The IPCC and academics hawking GCM’s now have to work doubly hard on validation and accuracy to become believable.

    E.g. see aerospace engineer Burt Rutan. He spent his life devouring large volumes of data, reviewing aerospace performance against models and making life/death decisions with 100 million dollar decisions. He was finally persuaded to look at global warming. Check out Rutan’s review for an engineer’s perspective.

    What get paid for
    Green environmentalists and academics appear to raise hundreds of millions of dollars and get grants from making alarmist predictions to pressure politicians. They get paid millions for insisting on “mitigation” policies that have very poor economics compared to reasonable “adaptation”. E.g., insisting on mitigation that costs 100:1 more than adaptation.
    Engineers raise funds to develop commercially successful projects based on accurate models and strong financial returns. Wildly unrealistic predictions with very poor economics are a sure fire way to bankruptcy, highly likely loss of job, and having to find new employment.

    Engineers and financial professional need models that work. Academics appear to prefer unexpected alarming results to increase probability and dollar value of getting the next grant.

    Conservative vs alarmist forecasting
    E.g. see J. Scott Armstrong’s compilation and handbook of major well established principles of Forecasting
    Most academics appear to hire grad students to dive in and develop models with little understanding of the principles of scientific forescasting or of strict commercial verification and validation. This appears to be gradually improving with GCM’s.
    However current GCMs appear to be nowhere near NASA standards established for the Moon shot. With the errors of current GCM models, spacecraft would more likely end up on Venus or Mars than on the moon.
    Few academics appear to be demanding full forecasting audits with commercial duty validation.
    Compare publications by Kesten C. Green , Armstrong & Soon.
    Contrast professional forecasters in commercial financial and engineering disciplines.

    Academics vs Einstein’s razor
    Einstein’s Razor “Everything should be as simple as possible, but not simpler.”
    Forecasting experts first use the simplest models that achieve the best expectation of accuracy followed by declining accuracy with greater complexity and/or longer forecasts.
    J Scott Armstrong, Kesten C Green, Andreas Graefe 2013/7/11 Golden Rule of Forecasting: Be Conservative
    Armstrong & Green suggest that even the simplest naive model of no change is better than Al Gore’s/IPCC’s alarmist predictions. See Climate Bet where Armstrong’s naive no change prediction is winning over Al Gore’s 0.03C/year alarmist prediction.

    Then use the next improvement is to use a two parameter linear gradual warming since the little ice age. Then add the 60 year Pacific Decadal oscillation for a four parameter model. E.g. see Syun-Ichi Akasofu On the Recovery from the Little Ice Age 2010. And
    On the Present Halting of Global Warming 2013. Climate 2013, 1, 4-11; doi:10.3390/cli1010004

    The rise in global average temperature over the last century has halted since
    roughly the year 2000, despite the fact that the release of CO2 into the atmosphere is still
    increasing. It is suggested here that this interruption has been caused by the suspension of
    the near linear (+ 0.5 deg C/100 years or 0.05 deg C/10 years) temperature increase over the last
    two centuries, due to recovery from the Little Ice Age, by a superposed multi-decadal
    oscillation of a 0.2 deg C amplitude and a 50~60 year period, which reached its positive peak
    in about the year 2000—a halting similar to those that occurred around 1880 and 1940.

    Models that can forecast/hindcast from half the data to the other half of the data appear more believable to me than those that cannot. E.g. those by Nicola Scafetta
    Simple models that apply Einstein’s Razor and which give reasonably close projections appear far more believable to me than billion dollar Global Climate Models that are ALL running so hot as to be far adrift of reality. GCM’s are so far afield that they appear to be missing major physics and/or have climate sensitivity way too hot, or to have their cloud feedbacks far off or probably backwards etc.

    Statisticians vs Academics
    Academics / IPCC appear to be following the noble cause corruption where the end justifies the means. E.g. obfuscating errors by are acceptable to obtain the next grant. Novel models that show alarmist “hockey sticks” are basis for major academic kudos and must be advocated for greater grants — even when exposed as statistically invalid by multiple blue ribbon peer review. Academics developing GCM’s appear to assume natural variations will average out, therefore the major rapid increases must be evidence of anthropogenic warming. Ignoring natural ocean oscillations appears to be one of the major errors in current GCM’s.

    Statisticians find climate academics and the IPCC abysmally clueless. RGBatDuke exposes the numerous statistical errors of academics and GCMs. E.g.,

    The mean of many runs of INDEPENDENT GCMS is not a statistically meaningful quantity in any sense defensible by the laws of statistics. The standard deviation of that mean is not a meaningful predictor of the actual climate.
    . . . For EACH model ask — is this a successful model? Not when it spends well over 95% of the time too warm. Repeat for the next one. Ooo, reject it too! Then the next one. Outta here!
    In the end, you might end up with ONE OR TWO models from the entire collection that only spend >>80%<< of their time too warm, that aren't rejected by a one at a time hypothesis test per independent GCM. Those models are merely probably wrong, not almost certainly wrong.

    Academic “evidence” vs professional validation
    Professional engineering statisticians like Steve McIntyre expect documented validation of proposals. Used to mining industry quality due diligence McIntyre wrote:

    I innocently assumed that there would be some sort of due diligence package that had been prepared for his auditors . . .To my astonishment, Mann said that he had forgotten where the data was. It seemed that nobody had verified the study in the way that I was used to things being verified. . . .
    He chopped off the inconvenient portion of the Briffa tree ring data – the portion where it goes down – and tucked the end point under other data, giving a rhetorical impression of consistency. To make matters worse, the deletion of data wasn’t mentioned in the IPCC report and post-1960 values of the Briffa reconstruction were excluded from the archived digital version.

    In the view of finance and engineering professionals, such tactics by academics would land one in jail in the commercial world.

    Allow for the full range of natural variations.
    Civil engineers may have millions of lives at stake from floods and droughts due to their decisions. They must account for extreme events with recognition of climate persistence.
    See WJR Alexander’s opus magnum in collecting > 100 years of comprehensive data with evaluation of precipitation, stream flow and droughts/floods in Southern Africa. He finds significant 21 year Hale solar cycle driving floods/droughts – but little anthropogenic contribution. See:
    WJR Alexander Causal linkages between solar activity and climatic responses, Water Resources & Flood Studies, U. Pretoria, 1 March 2006
    WJR Alexander et al. Linkages between solar activity, climate predictability and water resource development 2007
    See WJR Alexander’s publications

    Allow for climate persistance
    Climate modelers appear to come from the geek squad delighting in millions of lines of complex code including all the possible parameters – but with little connection to hard reality. Most appear to assume climate variations are random and average out. They do not appear to have heard of climate persistence, nor of Hurst Kolmogorov Dynamics. E.g., See hydrologists: Markonis, Y., and D. Koutsoyiannis,
    Climatic variability over time scales spanning nine orders of magnitude: Connecting Milankovitch cycles with Hurst–Kolmogorov dynamics, Surveys in Geophysics, 34 (2), 181–207, 2013.
    Alarmists seem to panic over seeing 2 sigma (>95%0 variations using conventional statistics based on random variations. They do not apear to realize that natural Hurst-Kolmogorov dynamic variations can be twice as large as random variations. Consequently the same event is just a 1 HK sigma (68%) event (if I understand correctly the statistics reported. See D. Koutsoyiannis et al. comparative evaluation of ice core fluctuations from random vs HK analyses.) especially fig. 10.
    Thus civil engineers are far more focused and concerned over the probabilities of 100, 500 and 2000 year natural events than over anthropogenic warming. They are also far more pragmatic in addressing the situations with can do practical engineering. E.g. see the Dutch allocating their land into numerous regions, each with its own plan for accommodating rising ocean and storm variations and rising rates. No panic. Just do it with realistic expectations and eyes wide open.

    Myopic decadal focus vs 100 million year geological event focus.
    The alarmists appear to come from trying to fit the last few decades with their global climate models. The rapid change must be anthropogenic argument appears to be primarily an unvalidated argument from ignorance rather than validated full accounting for all natural variations.
    By contrast civil engineers and geologists come from seeing major variations over centuries, millennia, to geological aeons. E.g. see Bob Carter, or Don Easterbrook.

    ”Anthropogenic” vs “Type B” error
    Academics appear to say “after accounting for volcanoes, aerosols and solar variations, the difference must be anthropogenic” – i.e, an argument from ignorance. From an engineering perspective, the wide divergence of GCM projections from real temperature data shouts massive “Type B” error with very unreliable models. (In this case systemic major systematic error.) Most academics do not appear to have even heard of “Type B” error. Guide to the expression of uncertainty in measurement – BIPM JCGM 100:2008.

    Alarms vs Pragmatism
    Academics appear to have a lemming like fascination with alarms over catastrophic global warming alarms. Geologists/engineers see much larger faster natural variations in the past. They take the pragmatic “Get over it. Mankind has adapted before and can again.”
    Natural cooling with the next glaciation appears to be a far greater threat to agriculture and cities than distant global warming. E.g. with massive famines from crop failures and with thousand foot glaciers bulldozing Montreal and Chicago.
    The current alarms over realistic scenarios of inches to a few feet of warming are minor by comparison and are readily accommodated. Flood plains like the Ganges delta rise with sedimentation to accommodate increasing sea level. Coral reefs naturally rise with rising sea level. What’s the panic over other than short term myopic focus?
    Academics appear to be very narrowly focused with a strong Chicken Little complex in contrast with the wide breadth of evidence of natural variations over time evaluated by civil engineers, geologists etc.

  44. manicbeancounter says:

    Trying to understand an alternative point is view, or simply exchanging views, is always helpful in conflict situations. And there is conflict here, in terms of opposing sides.
    Any terms that you use to describe are bound to cause some measure of antagonism and ambiguity. The term “sceptic” was used as a term of derision to those who disagreed with the consensus. It has now been claimed by some of those who support the consensus. I prefer to the more neutral terms of “acceptors” and “rejectors” of the climate change hypothesis. This hypothesis means both accepting that there is a (potential) nontrivial problem AND that global mitigation policies are the best way of tackling the issue.
    It is very difficult to characterize sceptics, as the reasons are various. Last month I tried to characterize some of my complaints with the consensus point of view, which (by inference) show some of my sceptical points of view. These include.
    1. Failure to distinguish the positive from the normative. That is the “is” from the “ought”.
    2. Undefined terms such as “science”
    3. Lack of boundary definitions, such as between climate science, policy formulation and policy implementation.
    4. Lack of distinction between the trivial and nontrivial.

    A feature of working in the public sector is that decisions are made by consensus. Those in the public sector tend to give much greater emphasis on what others think.

    • That’s all good stuff, but the last made me think. I would almost say that in the private sector there is a “decision making process” to contrast with your “in the public sector decisions are made by consensus.”

      I notice this trait with friends in the public sector. They seem to enjoy wasting whole days discussing decisions which it was obvious could have been made within minutes. For me, if there is almost nothing to choose between A, B & C, then my attitude is to just pick one and get on with it – more than likely there will many things you don’t know that are far more significant that will crop up so why waste time of the trivia you know and leave time to cope with the major issues that will turn up.

      But no, they have to discuss all the trivial differences, And things that I wouldn’t even notice – things I would be quite happy just to cope with – become a major time-consuming issue on which they make a decision.

      It’s the “you can have any colour so long as its black” problem. Give people no choice, and they are perfectly content and decide very quickly whether or not to buy. But give them a choice of colours and not only do they waste huge amounts of time on trivial detail (which wouldn’t concern them if there was no choice) … but worse they tend to focus on the trivial issue like looks and then spend far less time on the important issues like reliability, cost, etc.

      Of course marketing people know this. So, they give a huge choice to the customer on the basis that they will focus on the trivia – which costs little to do – and ignore the substantial issues that cost.

  45. catweazle666 says:

    With regard to the category “Model of natural variation”.

    Most naturally occurring systems such as climate are by nature non-linear and chaotic, hence ruled by such effects as extreme sensitivity to initial conditions..

    This means that they are “computationally intractable” in the strict meaning of the term, and so are NEVER going to be amenable to any form of computational analysis.

    Ironically, one of the first scientists to recognise this intractability and explain the reason for it was Edward Lorenz, a meterologist himself.

    An excellent text on the subject of Chaos Theory, an understanding of which is critical to the understanding of modern science across a large number of fields is ‘Chaos: Making a New Science’ by James Gleick.

    This explains why the non-sceptic’s (After enough data measurement errors -> 0) concept cannot possibly occur, and anyone who considers it can ever be otherwise, is utterly deluded. So basically, all the non-sceptic Warmists can be accurately described as ‘non-linearity’ or ‘chaos theory’ deniers, andclimate models or even long term weather forecasts, no matter how much computational effort is devoted to them, will become increasingly unreliable beyond a fairly short time period.

    Then consider, would you prefer to fly on an aeroplane that was designed by a group whose main focus was on ‘prediction & hard facts’, or ‘understanding & empathy’?

    And then ask yourself which even the most dedicated Guardianista would use to take his children on holiday…

    • One of my working hypothesis is that the two sides work on the same natural systems but one deal with as you put it “computationally intractable” issues and the other ones that can be described by theory.

      This leads to a whole range of outcomes. One area tends toward universal laws and easy reproducibility and so team work is not only relatively easy but positively beneficial. The other tends to be issue specific knowledge which results in smaller isolated groups and difficulties of cross-issue “consensus”.

      One area is theoretical model rich, the other is theory poor and experience rich. One is full of international meetings to discuss … , the other is full of experts who have to cope with being the only expert in their company if not their whole field (of perhaps only a few people all in commercial competition).

      So, we have a whole group of people, skilled at co-ordinating efforts to get government grants to boost their reputations to prevent outsiders from the “consensus” getting any resources … who haven’t a clue what they are doing on as you put it “computationally intractable” problem.

      And then we another group of experience people who have extensive experience working “computationally intractable” problems … but who are not used to working together and certainly not internationally. Who have no idea how to persuade government to accept their viewpoint (unless its a costed project proposal) who have no money, have very little influence (in government), don’t really understand how the public sector makes it decisions … but can just see from their own experience that this is a “computationally intractable” which is being approached in the wrong way.

    • > would you prefer to fly on an aeroplane that was designed by a group whose main focus was on ‘prediction & hard facts’, or ‘understanding & empathy’?

      Um. You’re taking those categories as factual. But they aren’t: they are just the labels “your side” has chosen to apply. And guess what? You’ve chosen to take all the good labels for yourself.

      Don’t mistake names for reality: this isn’t Earthsea.

      > Most naturally occurring systems such as climate are by nature non-linear and chaotic

      Weather is definitely chaotic (with bounds). The belief, though, is that climate isn’t chaotic. Within climate models, this is definitely true. Within the real world, it appears to be true within the Holocene: there is no clear evidence for extreme sensitivity to initial conditions: climate appears to have been quite stable before we started pushing it. There’s a more detailed discussion at

      • you are right the table is slanted. Apologies for that. The next version will be much better but it will take time to produce. Also, I recognise that it is possible that I have only included differences where they are seen as important to one side. If you would like to suggest some others please do so.

        I would prefer you are frank rather than not speak at all. However, to avoid being attacked, may I ask that you preface any list (which is likely to be seen as contentious) with


      • On the particular issue of stability … a stable system means one with negative feedbacks. An unstable system is one with positive feedbacks. A system that flip-flops between two states has non-linear feedbacks which in the case of the climate would strongly that the feedbacks for any increased warming tend are low to negative and the feedbacks to any cooling are higher and tend to increase for more cooling.

        As for link – thank you – I was looking for something that neatly encapsulates the viewpoint of your side.

        • > flip-flops between two states

          Sorry, I wasn’t able to understand what you are saying there. If you’re suggessting that the climate has, in the past (in the Holocene?), varied between colder-than-now and not-much-warmer-than-now, and that *therefore* feedbacks are likely to push us back to colder-than-now, then you’re wrong.

          During the Holocene, the climate has been largely stable, and has not flipped between states. Glacial-interglacial states are, obviously, very different; but the glacial states themselves are various. Perhaps you’re thinking of D-O? I can’t tell.

          Anyway, the point is that the system is currently moving in response to forcing (remember, you agree with that; all you disagree with is, is how large the response will be). Although the size of the feedbacks could vary with the base state, as far as we know that isn’t a significant effect at this size of change.

          • By “flip-flops between states” I meant ice-ages and inter-glacial.

            And yes relative to these it has been stable since, but as I know from my other campaign work the present climate since 2000BC has been relatively cooler and wetter than it was in the Bronze age as the hut circles on the high ground all testify.

            Actually – If I can TOTALLY digress … do you know any hydrologists who would be willing to work for free to assess the hydrology of a peat bog?

            • > do you know

              Sorry, no.

              > present climate since 2000BC has been

              Be careful of extrapolating from one site to the globe.

              > I meant ice-ages and inter-glacial

              Ah, in that case I think your “strongly that the feedbacks for any increased warming tend are low to negative and the feedbacks to any cooling are higher and tend to increase for more cooling” is quite unjustified.

              Again: it comes down to “hard facts”: you have none, just your own speculation. Or at least, if you have more, you’re not supplying it.

              • Although I would love to discuss this, unless we can agree simple things like whether the temperature is currently warming, then it is pretty pointless going into other areas until we can understand why we keep having these arguments which are just so frustrating to both sides.

                Indeed, I am wondering whether this table format for differences may have hit upon a fundamental difference between sceptics and non-sceptics whereby it suits the way sceptics think.

                • Um, well, we haven’t yet tried to discuss whether its presently warming or not, have we? We have discussed a related issue – the temperature trend over the last century or so. And there we have indeed discovered why we don’t agree: its because you’ve taken the commonly accepted published record and arbitrarily lopped 0.2 oC off it. Obviously, I’m not going to simply agree to that – you’d need to present a closely-reasoned and well referenced justification. But as far as I can tell, you don’t have one. So not only do we not agree, but we can’t meaningfully discuss you disagreement, because you won’t justify it.

      • And by happy coincidence, has come up just now. If you read it, read it carefully.

  46. “Those in the public sector tend to give much greater emphasis on what others think.” Not always, at policy-making levels in the UK and Australia, I found the best sought to clearly understand the issue and the merits of alternative options, and present them without bias; but more broadly, and particularly at state level in Australia, what you say is true, and the motivation is too often self-serving: getting on by getting on, rather than being the one who points out that the emperor has no clothes. In eleven years in the Queensland public service, I provided the economic development strategy for both ALP and Coalition governments, and my economic analyses were never faulted, but I was widely seen as an outsider, a boat-rocker, rather than one who played the comfortable, self-serving game which led to advancement. I valued integrity more than advancement, but this is not common. The CAGW issue with statist “solutions” definitely favours bureaucratic expansion, and therefore support. It has also provided far more advancement and funds for pro-CAGW academics than for others.

  47. Arno Arrak says:

    That table of yours annoys me. If you want to distinguish skeptics from non-skeptics the one division that stands out is that skeptics want proof and non-skeptics are certain that they already have proof. That certainty is not derived from science but is a pseudo-scientific construct that does not permit its premises to be questioned. Their belief is reinforced by the mass dereliction of scientific organizations from rational analysis. Having seized the controls of scientific organizations these true believers are not satisfied with that but go on and issue numerous position papers that are worthless as science but appeal to politicians. They in turn are persuaded by this to back hugely expensive hare-brained schemes to change the climate. I am a member of AMS and last fall our leaders passed a highly objectionable statement on climate change. I protested, even went as far as Ralph Cicerano, the president, but did not even get my objections noted in BAMS. The just-released AR5 physical science section is an example how they impose their pseudo-science on scientific observations. Their models never predicted the current pause in warming and they still can’t do it even after jiggering. Their answer is to call the absence of warming for the last fifteen years just a slowdown in the rate of warming. That is complete nonsense. Scientific observations tell us that it is absence, not slowdown of warming. Instead of denying real world observations the question to ask is what does it mean? First, this absence of warming exists despite the fact that carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere today is the highest ever in recorded history. You just may know that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that absorbs OLR (outgoing long-wave radiation) the earth emits. This way the solar heat absorbed by the earth is returned to outer space to keep the earth from overheating. The IPCC now tells us that on the way out this OLR must pass through atmospheric carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that absorbs part of it. And this absorbed radiation turns to heat, warms the air, and we observe greenhouse warming of the atmosphere. A fine theory, going back to Arrhenius, except that it doesn’t work. There is no warming simply because OLR, instead of being absorbed, simply passes through that cloud of CO2 in its path and just disappears into outer space. Consider Occam’s razor and see if you don’t agree that this is the simplest and most logical way to explain it. And once you have given some thought to it, tell me honestly if anyone has ever said anything about it to you? My guess is no and this is a sad comment on the ability of so-called “climate” scientists to apply critical thinking to their work. And the current fifteen-year stoppage of warming is not even the only or the longest stoppage in recent history. Satellite temperature records very clearly show an 18 year no-warming period in the eighties and nineties. But if you want to find it in a ground-based temperature curve like GISTEMP you will not see it because they are showing a warming in that time spot. I considered this warming a fake and said so when I published my book “What Warming?” in 2010. Nothing happened for two years but last fall GISTEMP, HadCRUT, and NCDC, all in unison, decided to stop showing this fake warming and aligned their data with satellites. If we now add these liberated 18 years to the current pause of warming we get a 33 year green-house-free period out of the last 34. The extra year comes from the super El Nino of 1998. We can now say with confidence that the absence of greenhouse warming for such an extended period tells us that greenhouse warming simply does not exist. This is exactly what the theory of Ferenc Miskolczi told us in 2007. He was shouted down in the blogosphere but by 2010 he had an experimental proof. Using NOAA weather balloon database that goes back to 1948 he studied absorption of infrared radiation over time. And discovered that absorption had been constant for 61 years while carbon dioxide at the same time went up by 21.6 percent. It follows that the addition of this substantial amount of CO2 to air had no effect whatsoever on the absorption of IR by the atmosphere. And no absorption means no greenhouse effect, case closed. This has consequences. First and foremost, the absence of the greenhouse effect cuts the legs right out from under the claim that anthropogenic greenhouse warming exists. You can now see why they are desperate to deny the existence of the pause. All doomsday warming predictions based on the use of the greenhouse effect are also invalid. And any emission control laws and regulations passed with the help of such predictions were passed under false premises and must be voided. And since IPCC was set up to monitor human influence on climate and there is none they have nothing more to do and should be closed down.

    • I am reasonably confident that CO2 is a greenhouse gas – i.e. it blocks blackbody radiation at the temperature of the earth and allows it at the temperature of the sun’s surface. However, I haven’t seen a convincing calculation of how that effect operates through the atmosphere where there will be repeated absorption and re-emission. Indeed, I am also confident that CO2 will tend to increase radiation in the upper atmosphere (black – might absorb, but black bodies emit more). Then we get to the arguments based on gas Laws, and I remember that I wasn’t over excited by the subject at University, but they seem plausible.

      The key to your post seems to be this statement: “There is no warming simply because OLR, instead of being absorbed, simply passes through that cloud of CO2 in its path and just disappears into outer space.” I may be misunderstanding but it seems to reject greenhouse warming AND doesn’t look like the arguments based on gas laws.

      On the blocking … if I put a weir on a river … as the system moves between stable states, the flow will drop, but over the long term it will not (significantly) change the flow. So with increasing CO2 we may see no change in net IR even where the surface is warming. The bigger problem is that CO2 doesn’t in anyway explain the 20th century warming and the stuff on feedbacks is just noddy science.

  48. Mike, the view from here (so to speak!) is that your chart is a great starting point – notwithstanding the challenges presented by the dilemma of non-judgemental labelling of the two “sides” of this great divide.

    However, considering that the (by now) well and truly demonized CO2 is very much the heart (if not the silent soul!) of the “debate”, the critical pea (so to speak) under so many “gold standard” IPCC ever-moving thimbles, I’m surprised to see that it is not mentioned as a factor in your chart.

    I’m not a scientist, but I’m definitely with Dr. Norman Page on this:

    g) Having heard of Greenhouse Gasses you might note however that CO2 is about 400ppm of the Atmosphere and think, reasonably, that it is very unlikely that such a little tail should wag such a big dog.[emphasis added -hro]


    Not only am I not a scientist, but I still consider myself (after almost four years on the battlefield) very much a newcomer, who stumbled – both literally and figuratively – onto the scene a mere ten days or so BC [Before Climategate].

    Is it not this (IMHO) artificially generated – albeit rarely mentioned these days in any “scientific” context – and well-ensconced (after 20+ years of determined demonization) fear of CO2 that the “experts” choose to dance around that is, in effect, the root cause of the great divide?!

    Whether one removes this non-evidence based divisive and demonized tail-wagger from the “big picture” or not, the significance of what’s left pales in comparison, does it not?

    • A good question about CO2. I suppose the matrix is trying to understand “why do we judge differently” – based on the same facts as CO2. As a none scientist I would be interested on your views of the relative approaches of the two sides to science. Also you might be more aware of the “human” aspects of each side. A while back there was a psychometric test done at Climate etc. which showed remarkable little difference between sceptics and climate scientists. (I think the main was introvert vs. extrovert). But overall the two sides were far more alike (most if remember right were within a 10% grouping of the population).

      So, it is all the more strange that such similar people are so poles apart on climate and so any ideas for differences from a none scientist point of view would be helpful.

  49. MFgeo says:

    I believe that the fundamental reason that sceptics and non-sceptics can come to radically different conclusions from the same information is that they are operating under fundamentally different, and incompatible paradigms. Despite all of the criticism, much of it apparently valid, that has been directed at some aspects of Thomas Kuhn’s “Structure of Scientific Revolutions” over the past 50 years, his description of “normal science” as exploration of a specific set of identified problems, pursuant to a paradigm has held up extremely well. A Kuhnian paradigm not only provides the theoretical framework for the discipline during the intervals between “revolutions”, but also defines the limits of what constitutes acceptable subjects for investigation within the discipline. Except during “revolutions” the principles embodied in the paradigm are not subject to change or criticism by practitioners of the discipline. A point Kuhn illustrates with numerous examples is that, during the period of crisis that precedes each “revolution”, the two sides may engage in debate that is totally inconclusive because they are talking past each other — either by using the same words to mean different things or by adopting premises that the other side is unable to comprehend. The current situation in climate science is just such a crisis.

    The group you categorize as sceptics are either from disciplines outside of climate science, and are therefore interpreting the climate data, model results, etc. under paradigms radically different from those of climate science, or are climate scientists who have recognized the impending crisis that may (hopefully will) lead to a paradigm shift within climate science.

    My own situation may shed some additional light on this distinction. My academic training was in the geosciences, but I have spent my career as a design engineer in the computer industry. As one of a small number of completely computer-literate geoscience graduate students in the early 1970s, I was involved in the early days of this sort of model development. I KNOW the excitement of coding a model and getting it to the point where it produces results good enough to present with a straight face at professional conferences; and I know the optimism we all felt about how much better our model results would be with more computing power, smaller grid cells, and better source data. However, I also knew that we were building arbitrary and un-confirmed assumptions into our model code (which is far more pernicious than the explicit modeling assumptions, because the implicit assumptions are not documented and rarely get reviewed or questioned so long as the model is “working”); that we were using parameterizations outside the domain of their known validity (which is not to say the usage was invalid, but rather than the validity was undetermined); and the fact that low-level implementation issues, such as floating-point roundoff, were likely to degrade the accuracy of model results to be far worse than the quoted error bars.

    The net result what that I understood — but was unable to convince my colleagues — that the models we were building were superb qualitative tools; however, this whole approach to modeling (of a poorly-characterized system that was known to exhibit chaotic behavior) was INCAPABLE of producing quantitatively meaningful results, regardless of improvements in computing power, grid size, and/or source data. Furthermore, I became increasingly concerned that our results, presented as flashy computer animations (at a time when color computer graphics itself was new and exciting) were extremely persuasive, which created a major risk that people would misinterpret, or, worse, misrepresent, those results as being quantitatively meaningful. While not the proximate cause of my career change, my growing unease about the future of model-based “science” was a significant contributing factor.

    It is also worth noting that back in the early and mid 1970s, at least where I was, there was no AGW (or even GW) dogma — temperatures had been declining since the 1940s, and speculative discussion about climate trends ended to be about whether the current interglacial was coming to an end. For the first 20 years after my career change, I thought very little about GW, but in the late 1990s I noticed that lots of people were starting to take AGW as proven. I resumed reading the professional literature, looked as some of the actual data, as was aghast at the degree to which the data failed to support the conclusions. About ten years ago I seriously considered reversing my career change, in hopes of helping to correct the increasingly absurd direction the field was taking. Such thoughts ended as soon as I talked to some former classmates who had stayed in the field — they (and/or I) were no longer the same people. We could scarcely communicate. I regarded the climate system as a subject for study, they regarded it as a solved problem that needed only the last few decimal places to be measured. They would make assertions that to me were physically implausible, statistically unjustified, and/or empirically unsupported; and if I questioned the validity they would direct me to papers that varied between implausible and unconvincing (and, as subsequently shown by climategate, the work of Steve McIntyre, etc., in some cases demonstrably incorrect).

    • MF that is a fantastic contribution. This issue of communication is often cited by non-sceptics in the form “if only they could improve their communication, then everyone would believe them”. I think that to communicate the two sides require the foundation of a shared vocabulary of ideas. If there are few shared ideas, then there is nothing on which to build and communication becomes difficult.

      So, it would be useful if you could elaborate a bit more about the problems you encountered.


      • MFgeo says:

        To the extent I remember the details, I believe the problems I encountered were mostly due to differences regarding what sorts of data we considered conclusive, as well as the list of subjects where we felt that conclusive data were necessary.

        I questioned whether the concept of “global average temperature” was physically meaningful; they saw no problem even while admitting that temperature is an intensive variable, hence non-additive.

        I questioned how they knew that warming was actually occurring, due to issues with the methodology used to calculate surface temperature, as well as the fact that the “unprecedented warming” began in synchronism with the number of surface stations declining by two-thirds; they assured me that the methodology was able to achieve 0.05C accuracy, but were unable to cite any evidence that I found remotely acceptable (physically or statistically) to support this assertion.

        I questioned the attribution of late 20th century warming to anthropogenic CO2 when there had been previous of warming, greater than at present, during the Holocene; they disputed whether the previous warm periods (other than early Holocene climate optimum) were actually warmer and/or global, and when I cited archaeological evidence, rejected that as being “anecdotal” rather than a valid climate proxy. Finally they fell back on the fact that with the increased CO2 forcing in the late 20th century it could not be otherwise — that there was a impending, anthropogenic catastrophe even if previous warming and cooling were totally due to natural variation.

        I questioned why, during the Pleistocene, temperature shifts occurred 500-1000 years before the corresponding changes in CO2 levels. They admitted this was curious, but were certain that the discrepancy would go away with better measurements.

        Since every line of discussion eventually ended back at CO2 forcing, eventually I asked what had elevated this “working hypothesis” (one of several possibilities that got discussed when I was a graduate student) into a “ruling theory” (to use T. C. Chamberlin’s terminology). The answers were all over the place, but in one form or another always came back to physics precluding it from being otherwise. I responded that, in engineering, when nature did not behave according to theory, we might blame our instruments before questioning the theory, but that we never blamed nature!

        • MFgeo says:

          Another point that seems worthwhile to mention is that another characteristic which Thomas Kuhn identifies in “Structure of Scientific Revolutions” is that practitioners NEVER abandon their paradigm due to empirical results that “falsify” it; they only abandon their paradigm in order to adopt a replacement paradigm that they consider better at explaining the particular empirical results that provoked the crisis. From this viewpoint, the behavior of non-sceptical climate science is understandable: Nobody from has yet proposed an alternative paradigm that is sufficiently superior in explanatory power; or the crisis has yet to get sufficiently severe, from the non-sceptical viewpoint, that a replacement paradigm is worth considering.

          A paradigm shift is not necessarily to a new paradigm that is objectively “better” than the old paradigm. What the new paradigm must do is to explain the anomalies that caused the present crisis better in the view of those holding the old paradigm. An example of this distinction is the paradigm shift to plate tectonics (PT) that occurred in geology during the second half of the 1960s. PT explained the very surprising (to then-mainstream geology) features of the ocean basins discovered in the two decades following World War II. For many aspects of geology on the continents, PT provided worse explanations than its predecessor, or no explanations at all; but the focus of attention at that time were ocean floor ages, mid-ocean ridges, volcanic island chain tracks, fracture zones, etc. In just over one decade the situation in geology switched from it being practically impossible to publish papers favoring “continental drift” to being just as difficult to publish papers challenging PT. The later situation became so severe that geologists concerned with the shortcomings of PT had to form their own journal (The New Concepts in Global Tectonics newsletter, in order to publish their results. Maybe there should be a “New Concepts in Climate Theory” journal that provides a non-blog outlet for alternative climate theories to be disseminated.

          • It is unbelievable that people like you are not listened to. At the end of the day any one person can be wrong – so that doesn’t mean that because some people think differently that everyone must change. But to simply dismiss people like you out of hand is unacceptable.

            This idea of paradigm shift may well be true but I really do not like it because it suggests that we cannot do anything to change the paradigm. It is akin to the theory that all our behaviour is determined by initial conditions and laws of nature … therefore we have no free choice about what we do. But can it be predetermined? Somewhere in that is an analogy with the chaos in climate science and whether we can predict the climate.

  50. > sceptics tend to be obsessive about the facts

    Easily said, but in this instance you have no facts. “the 0.5-0.6C figure … that is what was agreed by sceptics as representing our views. It is a statement of our views… it is generally felt by sceptics that the figure quoted is too high”. No facts at all, just a vague set of views.

    By contrast, the IPCC will give you precise statements and clearly referenced discussion (e.g. discusses UHI).

    If the IPCC decided to alter the observed record upwards by 0.2 oC, and when asked to justify that alteration simply said “it is a statement of our views” you would, correctly, rip them to shreds. But they don’t do that. Why do you feel free to modify the temperature record based on no facts?

    > I have had experience of engaging in discussions with non-sceptics and finding that all I am doing is chasing from one paper to another to another in a long string of one author citing another who cites another.

    Scientific papers are harder to read than blog posts. But I find it hard to believe that decent discussions of the UHI effect are so hard to come by; I’ve just pointed you at the AR5 one, and it would be easy to point you at the AR4. Or you can read wiki (; yes, I wrote some of that).

    • William the main issue of relevance to this discussion is whether or not it accurately represents the views of sceptics on the subject.

      You are right to be sceptical whether those views are credible, but a far more important question particularly in relation to this blog is why there are so many claims that “sceptics deny global warming”. That is the assertion that our views is that: “there has been 0C warming”.

      This is not true (at least amongst those who participated in the consultation) and it is all the more strange as the “sceptic view” is much closer to the IPCC than it is to the “denialist” myth.

      I would be interested to hear your views. I can think of a number of possible reason:

      1. Those volunteering to help work on the statement were unrepresentative.
      2. That questioning the extent of warming is interpreted as denying the warming
      3. That those using the term are engaged in a disinformation campaign against sceptics.
      4. The a few vocal people outright deny … and that this is wrongly perceived as representing the views of all sceptics.

  51. John Shade says:

    This table, and this quest are superb initiatives. I sometimes think that the only plausible good that can come out of this astonishing period of panic over CO2 is an improved understanding of how such things can take hold. Thereby reducing the chances/delaying the onset of the next one.

  52. Stacey says:

    Also posted at Climate Etc
    If someone tells you they have conclusive evidence that X will cause Y and you carefully consider their evidence and come to the conclusion that their evidence does not prove X will cause Y; you are not a skeptic you are just being sensible?
    No one has to be skeptical about the alarmists position as the evidence not once but many times shows their position to be wrong.

  53. Pingback: Sceptics vs Academics | Wotts Up With That Blog

  54. beththeserf says:

    In the Humanities departments of Academia, I think meme, you can put the blame
    on her, is stronger than feedback loops fer hypotheses than when you operate in
    the world outside and actions have physical consequences. Theories are easier
    to innoculate in the Academy and evidence is subject to different interpretations.
    People like Erlich are not sacked no matter how often they get it wrong. (


  55. This is Professor Mick Hume who is, or was at the time, a climate hawk (I accept that as a term both sides can say). It is from an article in, naturally, the Guardian and my reading of it is that he and others on the same agree that what he calls “post normal science” know perfectly well that what they are doing is not traditional science but simply finding what their paymasters want said and saying it.

    “Self-evidently dangerous climate change will not emerge from a normal scientific process of truth seeking, although science will gain some insights into the question if it recognises the socially contingent dimensions of a post-normal science. But to proffer such insights, scientists – and politicians – must trade (normal) truth for influence. If scientists want to remain listened to, to bear influence on policy, they must recognise the social limits of their truth seeking”

    If that is what the hawks say they truly practice (I know none who publicly disagreed with Hume) then there seems little point in assuming they have much concern for (normal) truth.

  56. Beth Cooper says:

    I think that MFgeo’s insightful observations should be reposted in yr thread at
    Climate Etc, Scottish Sceptic.

  57. > the main issue of relevance to this discussion is whether or not it accurately represents the views of sceptics

    No, not really, though I can see why you might wish to restrict it to that. Rather, it strikes to the heart of your desire to be seen as looking for “hard facts”. You can’t make that claim if key parts of your “statement” are nothing but statements of opinion. Again, compare to the IPCC.

    This brings me back to your “If you had not noticed sceptics almost never say what they think is happening but instead spend all their time criticising others” which is indeed correct: you have the luxury of opposition, all you’re doing is saying “the IPCC is wrong”. You don’t really have a coherent position of your own to defend. But, you’re not opposing the IPCC with hard facts, just feelings. Its also the answer to your why-is-it-so-hard-to-get-a-statement-out-of-the-“skeptic”-side: because there is no “skeptic” position (other than “the IPCC is wrong”, but that’s not a position).

    The key question of this post is what you started with:

    “why the “two sides” in the climate debate look at pretty much the same information and come to very different conclusions”

    And the temperature record is a pretty good example of that. The IPCC collates the published science and says the temperature record is such-and-such, with these known errors, and the linear trend is whatever. And then your “side” comes along and says “nah, don’t like that, cut 0.2 oC off it any maybe we’ll be happy”. I hope you can see why scientists, and the IPCC process, finds your approach unacceptable.

    • Ted Swart says:

      Why do you say:
      ‘there is no “skeptic” position (other than “the IPCC is wrong”, but that’s not a position)’
      The IPCC supporters contend that the extra CO2 is a significant and preponderant cause of dangerous global warming. And you would no doubt say that this is a “position”.
      We sceptics say that this is false and the evidence for it is underwhelming since it relies on models that are manifestly useless at forecasting the future.
      So why, pray tell, is this not also a “position”

      • Errrm, I say “you have no position other than that the IPCC is wrong”, and you reply that the IPCC position is wrong. In what way aren’t you simply confirming what I said?

        There is no one “skeptic” position because there are a whole range of such, from the utterly wacko (there is no greenhouse effect) to the unreasonable (the temperature hasn’t really risen) to the arguable (the temperature has indeed risen, and we’ve caused it, but future warning will be less than you’d expect) to the not particularly unlikely (anthro CO2 will indeed cause future T rises as the IPCC suggests but the economic effects will be smaller than others think).

        I really only speak of the IPCC WG I stuff, for which your insertion of the word “dangerous” isn’t really appropriate (the AR5 WG I SPM doesn’t mention the word danger(ous)).

        Your assertion(which you present with no evidence, or links to evidence) that the attribution question is dependant on models, and that the measure of those models is their ability to forecast the future, isn’t right.

    • “all you’re doing is saying “the IPCC is wrong”. You don’t really have a coherent position of your own to defend. But, you’re not opposing the IPCC with hard facts”

      The sceptic position that the IPCC’s claim that the Himalayan glaciers will have melted by 2035 appears rather well supported by hard facts.

      Indeed after several years of refusing to look at these facts, merely describing them as “voodoo science” the IPCC have now accepted this is factual.

      Mr Connolly as a member of the arguably misnamed “scienceblogs” where alarmists use obscenity, deliberate lies and censorship in place of scientific debate to promote climate hawkery, perhaps you might acknowledge that your claim above was counter-factual.

      • > The sceptic position that the IPCC’s claim that the Himalayan glaciers will have melted by 2035 appears rather well supported by hard facts.

        Won’t do. This was trivia (yes, really). It wasn’t even in the WG I report. If you really want to keep harping on this (you can, if you like) then it shows the weakness of your position. You really ought to have better things to say.

        > Indeed after several years of refusing to look at these facts, merely describing them as “voodoo science” the IPCC have now accepted this is factual.

        It didn’t take several years. The error was acknowledged quickly. Also, it wasn’t described as “voodoo science” – you’re mixing that up with something else.

        > Mr Connolly

        Dr Connolley, to you.

        > as a member of the arguably misnamed “scienceblogs” where alarmists use obscenity, deliberate lies and censorship in place of scientific debate to promote climate hawkery, perhaps you might acknowledge that your claim above was counter-factual.

        You’re welcome to post at my blog, if you like ( No-one is banned there. I’m banned at WUWT, for pointing out his fantasies ( A good many others are banned from there too. My last couple of comments at ClimateEtc have mysteriously disappeared too.

        • Neil & William – let’s not let this descend further please.

          • FBN has accused me of “obscenity, deliberate lies and censorship”. I’ve done precisely what, that you put us on the same level?

            • No, I’m accusing “scienceblogs” as a whole of doing so, and correctly as you know since, on your section of the site, I have expressed my opinion of the people doing it. I am happy to stipulate that you have never used obscenity against me and censorship significantly less than the average. I will step aside from this thread now.

            • FIRST – PLEASE NEIL (and I assume others), DO NOT ATTACK WILLIAM!!

              Second: William I appreciate you making the effort to come here and as such I am sorry we haven’t been more civil.

              However I can see this going down hill, so I would appreciate it if we kept to the subject which is why sceptics and non-sceptics look at the same evidence and come to different conclusions.


  58. Ted Swart says:

    Come on William you are being evasive. You cannot say the sceptics have no position and simultaneously maintain that their only position is that the IPCC is wrong. As far as I can tell the wrongness of the IPCC position is precisely the common thread for all sceptics.
    You say that the views of sceptics are over the map but the same goes for the AGW believers. Their model forecasts are all over the map and even the initial portion of the AR5 report freely admits that they really do not know what the future holds. Have a look at one of the spaghetti graphs if you don’t believe me.
    As for my contention that the models are useless how do you explain the fact that the models did not forecast the temperature hiatus in advance, And, what about a supposed increase in tornado/hurricane frequencies that has never materialized? And what about the warmists focus on the shrinking ice in the Arctic whilst ignoring the growing ice in the Antarctic (leaving aside the fact that the ice in the arctic is currently 50% greater than it was a year ago).
    It so happens that I set up the first radiocarbon dating laboratory in Africa in the 1960s and we radiocarbon daters knew all about the extra CO2 in the atmosphere, from the burning of fossil fuels, long before most scientists. We called it the Suess effect. Little did we imagine that others, following in our wake, would lay claim to the notion that the extra CO2 causes a substantial rise on the Earth’s temperature.
    I have been a sceptic ever since I first heard about the the AGW meme for two simple reasons:
    1. The forecasts of how much the temperature would rise, because of the extra CO2, were and still are all over the map.
    2. Meteorologists are unable to forecast the weather with any degree of certainty much beyond one week into the future — despite access to top of the line supercomputers. And, any claim that it is possible to forecast the climate many decades into the future seems, intrinsically, far-fetched — particularly since the AGW believers lay claim to being able to do this with sufficient precision to make sensible suggestions as to how we should reduce our CO2 production rate.
    Nothing that has happened since then has in any way persuaded me to stop being a sceptic and much has happened to reinforce my scepticism.

    • I think William is making the point that we say the IPCC are wrong without giving our own suggestions as to what is right.

      This may well be a cultural difference. In academia it is seen as a good thing to propose ideas. In engineering ideas aren’t valued unless they work.

      What WIlliam appears to want is for sceptics to propose something better than the IPCC but sceptics are unwilling to go down the root of suggesting ideas that even thought they are better still aren’t at an acceptable standard for sceptics.

      But perhaps an analogy will help. If e.g. we ordered a meal in a restaurant and it did not taste right … we would be right to say “this isn’t right” … but that doesn’t mean we should then be expected to cook something better.

      But perhaps that analogy only makes sense to sceptics who work with customers?

      • > What WIlliam appears to want is for sceptics to propose something better than the IPCC

        No, not at all. You’re still missing the point. What I’m saying is that the “skeptics” are not a unified group; they have no common position. What you’re calling “skeptics” are in fact groups S1, S2, .., Sn. These groups have little or nothing in common other than “the IPCC is wrong” and labelling themselves as the people who like hard facts (everyone seems to be able to agree about that, about themselves). Si also believes that Sj is wrong (forall i != j, naturally).

        The reason you rarely see Si noting their disagreement with Sj is that no-one really cares. Indeed, typically Si doesn’t even know what Sj’s position is. How could they? No Si actually ever documents a clear and testable position; all you ever see is Sj’s complains about the IPCC/consensus.

        There are plenty of science-type folk already proposing changes to the IPCC (e.g., although that was written after I left science).

        • I found that comment useful. However I’m still not sure what you mean by “S1, S2, … Sn”.

          The main three main groups are:
          1. Engineers and scientists who are well enough informed on the science to make a critical assessment but would not be confident in creating their own models. These people are interested in a range of ideas from solar to feedbacks to problems in the instrumental record. They create the majority of articles on WUWT and other blogs. They are pretty homogeneous in their view that the IPCC confident is vastly overstated.
          1a. a much smaller group (possibly only a handful worldwide) who don’t agree about greenhouse warming. Their argument looks substantial, but I’ve never had the time to look at it properly and never seen a proper critique so I can’t assess it.
          2. Scientists who are critical of some aspects of the IPCC and who make their views known on sceptical blogs.
          3. Non-science followers (who take most of their views from the above)
          4. Republican politicians and right wing journalists
          5. Lord Monckton (who deserves a class of his own given his strident views)

          • > The main three main groups are

            You’re talking in highly subjective terms about the kinds of people who inhabit the various groups. I’m not thinking like that, and I’m not at all sure its useful to think like that. After all, you really can’t make those assessments from the outside – you’d need to actually examine their competencies, and that would have to be done on a person-by-person basis.

            I’m more interested in what they’ve actually said: what position they themselves put forward; and what arguments they use to justify that position. What-they-actually-say is my basis for saying there is no one coherent “skeptic” position.

  59. Derek Alker says:

    Please excuse me, but, it would appear to me that your basic premise is that there are only two sides to this discussion. This is because the two sides have “agreed” the basis of the discussion, ie, there is a greenhouse effect that man by his activities CAN affect. Ok, take a deep breath, sit back, relax, now ask yourself WHAT IF there is no greenhouse effect?

    In point of fact to not question greenhouse effect “theory” (it is actually a failed hypothesis) is unscientific. Yet, that is the basis from which the two sides of the discussion you describe talk about their science from. They are, if there is no greenhouse effect two sides discussing pseudo science, whilst the third side to the discussion is simply ignored. Probably because the two sides described will all look rather silly at the end of the day when it is realised there is no greenhouse effect in the first place.

    I hope more realise the above is a possibility that can not be ignored. Hopefully see more of you soon on the (growing) 3rd side of the discussion.

    • I think the two sides are between those who want open honest discussion using evidence from well resourced researchers able to investigate all aspects without fear or favour as to whether it supports the “consensus”. And those who feel that only those supporting their viewpoint should be heard, funded or listened to.

      It’s basically the same as sex.

      A-sexual organisms lack diversity. They flourish in stable environments with little change. But sex is a means to create biological diversity. It appears to be totally pointless because it appears all organisms are perfectly adapted to their environment … but that is only because every (a-sexual) organism that failed to have the genetic diversity to adapt …was out-competed and died.

      • Derek Alker says:

        Certainly AGW will die out, that is happening now.

        I take it the asexual reproduction of organisms simile is that a paradigm change is needed? If so, we agree.

        I agree sceptics are generally “nicer” but both sides do just dismiss and ignore any questioning of GH “theory” and that IS unscientific. A point neither of the sides you describe like being pointed out, but the truth is the truth, and out it will.

        It is also worth noting that at least some of the really clever people on both sides you describe must know it is all false. The “theory” is so full of unphysical holes, the data has been so deliberately corrupted, the arguments are so contorted and misleadingly constructed, they can not have failed to notice and that changes the intention of their replies and actions quite considerably. Sorry, but that is the case, to the best of my understanding and knowledge.

        • The paradigm shift is that we need to nurture more diversity in climate. Government can’t pick winners and neither can the IPCC. Instead they can ensure a range of potential ideas have a chance to be investigated and discussed. That not only ensures ideas that have not been considered get a chance to get past the “a blogger said this is a post” phase to a stage where a fully documented idea is open for discussion – but it also keeps the “front runners” on their toes.

          If climate science were an evolutionary environment it could be described as a mono-culture of a single dinosaur species with almost no genetic diversity which could be about to be wiped out of history by the “rats” running between their legs.

          The best defence of a species to competition – is diversity. Sex was the mechanism that provided that diversity in early lifeforms – a lesson that seems to have been forgotten by those repressing alternative views in climate.

          • Derek says:

            Obviously I agree we need much more diversity in climate science. I also agree that niether Government, the IPCC, or the UN can or should be allowed to limit what is discussed as they patently do at present. That is why I support PSI. Peer review on open media.

            Yes, I agree that present “climate science” will be only remembered as embarressing at best in the very near future. 20 to 30 years wasted on a failed hypothesis, all the while whilst ignoring basic thermodynamics.

            The species you refer to has been very manipulative at reducing diversity, especially that which questions the basic tenents. That is the line of defence that has been employed. Limiting what can be or is allowed to be discussed, and controlling what is published in journals. Hence anyone of a view outside of that which is acceptable HAS to use the blogosphere, the mainstream is simply not accessible. It is not a lesson forgotten, or not remembered, it is an option that is not allowed.

  60. Ted Swart> the sceptics have no position and simultaneously maintain that their only position is that the IPCC is wrong

    This discussion would proceed more smoothly if you’d read the words I’d written. I said “you have no position other than that the IPCC is wrong”. So, I didn’t say you had no position. I said you had no position other than “the IPCC is wrong”. The convenience of the position for the “skeptics” is that you can keep any number of people under such a wide roof, and they don’t need to agree anything amongst themselves.

    > my contention that the models are useless how do you explain…

    No, your contention was that the attribution of past change to human-caused CO2 was unreliable, because of what you see as the models inability to predict the future. I said that wasn’t right. That was a bit too subtle for you. I’ll need to be a bit more explicit. There is a whole pile of different stuff under “attribution”, all of which points in the same direction. Only some of that relies on the models, and very little of that bit relies on their ability to forecast the future.

    > 2. Meteorologists are unable to forecast the weather…

    Oh come on, not that one again. That’s a trivially wrong argument. You must know that, so why bring it up? Counter-analogy: we can’t forecast waves a day in advance; we can forecast the tide years in advance.

    > leaving aside the fact that the ice in the arctic is currently 50% greater than it was a year ago

    This is another trivially wrong argument. I can hardly bear to explain to you why its so badly wrong. But if you disagree, if you think its actually a topic worth discussing, then I can explain in tedious detail why you’re wrong.

    You’re scatter-shotting stuff. You need to concentrate on one or two arguments you actually care about. Otherwise the discussion becomes impossibly fragmented.

    Derek Alker> WHAT IF there is no greenhouse effect?

    Part of the discipline of science is learning what questions are worth asking. To some extent, this can be done by being familiar with the pre-existing literature; and indeed, with basic maths and physics. You will find an idealised description of it at If you’re able to understand the maths, then you’ll realise that it is correct. If you’re not able to understand the maths, then you need to find something else to talk about.

    > 3rd side of the discussion

    You’ve misunderstood that too. The “sides” aren’t scientists / “skeptics” / don’t-believe-in-the-GHE-ists. The “sides” are scientists / (enormous array of different “skeptics” very few of whom agree amongst each other).

    You’re also wrong to see the science position as a unified bastion; it only seems that way to you because you’re so far away from. Nonetheless, most on the science side would accept the IPCC as a reasonable summary in its entirety. Again, I’m talking about WG I.

    • Derek says:

      Excerpt from link.
      “The greenhouse effect can be illustrated with an idealized planet. This is a common “textbook model”:[2] the planet will have a constant surface temperature Ts and an atmosphere with constant temperature Ta. For diagrammatic clarity, a gap can be depicted between the atmosphere and the surface. Alternatively, Ts could be interpreted as a temperature representative of the surface and the lower atmosphere, and Ta could be interpreted as the temperature of the upper atmosphere. In order to justify that Ta and Ts remain constant over the planet, strong ocean and atmospheric currents can be imagined to provide plentiful lateral mixing. Furthermore, any daily or seasonal cycles in temperature are assumed to be insignificant.”
      Day and night at earth’s surface disprove P/4.
      There is no evidence whatsoever for an atmospheric back radiation warming effect at earth’s surface.
      Who does not understand the “theory” is a failed hypothesis???

      • Derek says:

        Also, who does not understand earth can not be represented by a two parrallel plane model type??? Stars can, but earth, no, it is not the same all over.

        • Derek says:

          “You’ve misunderstood that too. The “sides” aren’t scientists / “skeptics” / don’t-believe-in-the-GHE-ists. The “sides” are scientists / (enormous array of different “skeptics” very few of whom agree amongst each other).”
          Misdirection, plain and simple. The article above describes two sides that both accept there is a GH effect, so your comment is incorrect and a misdirection.

  61. To everyone who has contributed to this both on Climate Etc and my Blog Scottish Sceptic, I would like to thank EVERYONE for their contributions.

    Unfortunately, given the huge volume of comments I cannot hope to respond to everyone personally. To give an example of the quality of responses, I have been selecting passages that seemed notable and put them into a list. I am only a fraction of the way through and on my fourth page of notes.

    Many support my working hypothesis that there is something in the culture, training or our work experience that causes us to interpret the evidence differently but that hypothesis has also been challenged by many comments which also seem to have merit and need proper consideration.

    So, it will take time to process the comments.

    My conclusions so far are:

    1. Although the table was far from perfect (particularly on the description on the non-sceptic side), it does seem to encapsulate some real differences supported by many respondents.
    2. There are several other avenues of investigation which need to be considered which do not fit neatly into the table.
    3. This soft information needs to be backed up with hard stats. Therefore after I have had time to consider the responses I intend to find a way to obtain hard stats, probably by an on-line survey. I appreciate this will be difficult so I need to seek advice.
    4. I was hoping to update the table as I went along but I have been overwhelmed by the number of response so this has not been possible. Therefore I have read all the responses I shall update the table and put a copy on my blog and here if Judith permits.

  62. Pingback: Thanks for the responses | ScottishSceptic

  63. Jon Leach says:

    Great post and a fascinating inquiry. A few other areas that occurred to me while reading this – I am also trying to understand the phenonemon of the debate/dispute as well as the phenonemon of the climate that the debate sits on top of. I hope you persist with this (possibly from a more neutral POV ? 😉

    1. Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Yes, great book. Did it at university. But there is a bit of a tendency for both sides to position them as the “ultimately proved right” Galileo of the piece. But the “talking at cross purposes” (from one of your contributors) ‘cos of different paradigms is a good insight to what’s going on here (or even watts up with this). BTW remember guys, Galileo was wrong after all as Newton proved. No, it was Einstein who showed Isaac up for being an idiot. But then there is all that Dark Matter, sheesh….

    2. Haidt’s “The Righteous Mind”. Now give the guy a break as he self-labels as a liberal (i think). But his overall insight is that “we don’t think as much as we think we think”. Rather we have some core instincts that we then post-rationalise (or write on blogs). That’s why we think we think. We don’t. His theory is that the right-leaning mind is fundamentally animated by a core instinct of “purity” whereas the left-leaning mind is animated by a core instinc of “fairnness”. Both of these are evolutionarily adaptive (being obsessed with purity stopped our primitive forebears from catching nasty bugs; being obsessed with fairness enabled them to work together as high performing groups). Many have observed (as I think you do in your chart) that the political leanings of an indivdual correlates with their beliefs on this topic. Underpinning these, perhaps, are the instincts. Its very uncomfortable to think you are soiling your own (planetary) nest. Its very uncomfortable to think you are damaging your (plantary) tribemates. So best to find a set of thoughts that support the OPPOSITE view…. and argue with those who disagree. This may be instinctie. But as we are sentien beings….. we could try to rise above this and achieve purity AND fairness (possibly even working as a group?). Your project might help on this…

    3. Breuning’s “Beyond Cynical : Transcend your Mammalian Negativity”. A rather obscure book but a fascinating theory that while “pessimism” feels bad “cynicism” feels good! Now there is a vast amount of cynicism found in this field (and on both sides, as you put it). Breuning’s explanation is that the unhappy hormone of cortisol that is triggered by rivals “having a go” (aka “having a blog”) can be relieved by being cynical. Indeed being cynical, makes you happy because it releases happy hormones! Hence, she claims, the feeling of being back on familiar ground as you say “yet, again this has happenned…” releases dopamine; the feeling of cuddling up with your gang as you go “look guys what they have said this time” releases oxytocin; and most powerfully of all expressing your superiority over “those idiots” boosts your serotonin levels. Trying to trigger these hormones is what really motivates us. Now this cyncisims ll great fun, but not human kind at its best… {and your attempt to include journalists from left or right in a broader classification is a good instinct. These guys are paid to make their readers feel good by offering a pre-packaged cynical response to any “news”. They are literally professional cynics, by this framing. Sometimes you can feel there absolote joy they get from spleening their cynicism. Whether this dispensing of short term pleasure to the hopelessly addicted is any more helpful to society than the behaviour of drug dealers, i will leave to future historians}.

    4. Grumpy Old Men. Could we pass a law that says that all posters need to give not only their degree and profession etc. but also their age and sex (and possibly sexual orientation – Nate Silver’s homosexuality is a data point for some, i believe). I would love to know how the players in this debate break down between older men, younger men, older women, younger women. I have a sense – and, as i say, i would love to see the data – that a lot of this is about men of a certain age, perhaps retired, perhaps not as powerful as they used to be, perhaps not as, ahem, potent as they used to be…. are raging against “these young fools” in charge. This might be a better explanation of their beliefs than anything else. Perhaps something to add to your chart. Obvs i’m not saying “all” – indeed it was a post from a woman, Judith Curry that took me to this page – and plenty of angry young men are no doubt putting us all right on both sides. But it would be nice to know. Its a bit like studying the demographics of UKIP or Occupy (note the studied neutrality of my examples, oh yes) – who are these people and are there deeper explanations of their beliefs?

    Anyhow, enough for now, and good luck with your project


    PS since you ask : Male. 50. Straight. Guardian most often but the Telegraph and Mail for balance. Naive faith in Wikipedia (check out what else Chrisopher Booker has “denied”, guys! LOL). Voted Labour last 4 times. Natural Sciences, Cambridge. Advertising, PR and playing piano in brothels. Husband of an expensive wife, father of a teenage brood, and I will have my revenge in this world or the next. (NB not all of this is true, but i feel i must retain some mystery)

    • Jon thanks.

      Those are interesting points and useful to hear, but political motivation doesn’t come across in the comments so it is the least attractive explanation. As I highlighted earlier, non of the key words like abortion, capital punishment or feminism feature at all strongly on WUWT. There is in fact more mention of cream, wool and supermarket.

      There is very little evidence that politics either attracts or interests those who post on climate blogs.

      It is as if you have listened to a blog by train spotters and concluded that their obsession with public transport means they are socialists.

      Indeed, as one commenter said … his perception was that as soon as academic decided they didn’t want to play an active role in the day-to-day politics of their departments … they were far more likely to become sceptics.

      So, instead of politics being a cause of being a sceptic, there is evidence that a lack of interest in active politics tends to lead people to be sceptics.

      And this I think is why people on the other side are obsessed with the politics of sceptics.

      • Jon Leach says:

        Thanks for your reply and i did like your textual analysis of WUWT.

        What you could also do is a similar test on a site like Sceptical Science (the yin to the yang in this field, i believe). This might find the same pattern…. It would at least give you a fuller picture.

        To be honest, my hypothesis is that a political slant IS found in both sides (i.e. if true, neither should be allowed to claim “objective neutrality” and accuse the other of having political motivations. This is not helpful for “discourse”).

        So another test would be to explore the general language used.

        Hence for both sites i would check frequency of a whole list of political phrases like “leftie, liberal, interventionist, centrist, socialist, pinko, world government lover, etc. etc.” and also “capitalist, libertarian, conservative, gun loving loon,etc etc.” I’d need to create a file of the normal words used in the right/left divide. I guess the thought is that olitics is not necessarily “the issues” (which you checked up on) but the general orientation tha would be revealed by the language.

        But as it happens, the thing i REALLY want to measure is the quantity of cynicism and contempt on both sides. Your writing seems to have very little of this BTW but the on WUWT the language used on a few recent posts about the IPCC seems to be positively gleeful in its contempt for the report, the response to it etc. etc. Given what the IPCC said at face value is bad news (the planet is being damaged) and, even if you scoff at that, by the sceptics view, the IPCC is a big powerful insitution that will persuadegovernments to do bad things. I mean it was bad news, any way you look at it, for the sceptics. Or am I missing something?

        So why are the sceptics so bumptiously happy? What is the psychology of this? Or, and this is Breunings point, what is the neurochemistry of this? They seem to be surfing a massive, serotonin fueled high in the face of this bad news (look at how chipper James Delingpole is about the whole thing. By contrast, Judith Curry, a woman, has a much more sober, less power-crazed response. Is this about a certain sort of man, i continue to wonder?).

        (Just for balance, I have equally seen great contempt/cynicism shown about the sceptics response to the IPCC. But i want to take observer bias out of this and measure the thing objectively).

        So what i would love to do – as some sort of pop-scientist – is measure the degree of cnicism/contempt on both sides. Is this equal or is one side more cynical? If more on one side, what is going on here…

        Sorry, don’t mean to bang on. I’m just speculating about all this as i find it fascinating…

        Anyhow, good luck with your work


        • Jon, sorry I didn’t reply earlier (PC problems – now on borrowed PC)

          The political hypothesis has been suggested a few time, however having been in these conversations on sceptic boards, I’ve seen plenty of dislike for democrats, but nothing to suggest people are sceptics BECAUSE they are republican.

          To give an example. In the UK I know two politicians who have been regularly mentioned. One is Peter Lilley … who I guess is conservative. The other is Lord Donaghue who, being in the Lords could be any party or none.

          And this is typical of most sceptics, because one of the distinctive features of sceptics is that they are interested in the facts, and what someone says, nor who they are – they do not argue “from authority” and so who you are is relatively unimportant compared to what you say.

          I agree a broader survey would be more informative, Thanks for the list of words.

  64. Jeff Norman says:


    I am enjoying your table and the discussions in the comments. Thank you.

    As a skeptic not only do I like seeing and pondering the data, but I truly enjoy a good story with a feasible plot line, even if it is science fiction. For example I can understand that increased CO2 in the atmosphere absorbs heat energy warming up the troposphere reducing the heat flux from the surface and thereby heating up the surface. It is a description of a process that I can buy into.
    But when the troposphere doesn’t warm this story breaks down for me. Having non-skeptics claim that no the troposphere has warmed up but I do not have the sense to see it or that it doesn’t matter anyway just puzzles me.

    I think that Steve McIntyre has stated his desire for an engineering style process description. I feel this is important because if you cannot describe the process effectively then all you are doing is describing an observation and attributing properties to it that may not be justifiable.

    For example, a non-skeptic says that the deep ocean heat content has gone up and this is the missing heat. A skeptic asks how did you even measure that and how did the heat get down there so quickly. The non-skeptic replies with downwelling. From my point of view it’s as if the process descriptions provided for many of the warmist effects are maliciously vague providing all kinds of wiggle room for when things start to break down.

    I might venture that another difference between skeptics and non-skeptics is that a skeptic will sit on a plane looking out the window marvelling at how vast the world is, while a non-skeptic will look down the aisle and marvel at how small and crowded the plane is.

    • > A skeptic asks how did you even measure that and how did the heat get down there so quickly

      No. That’s what a “skeptic” does. A skeptic actually goes out and reads the scientific literature where this is all described in excruciating and boring detail. Only once you’ve done that can you ask intelligent questions. Its hard work, though, which is why its so much easier just to ask someone else to spoon-feed you.

      • catweazle666 says:

        “A skeptic actually goes out and reads the scientific literature where this is all described in excruciating and boring detail.”

        [Citation required]

        Actually, i suspect you are making stuff up, as there is not to my knowledge currently no coherent, credible hypothesis – never mind theory – as to precisely how and why serious quantities of thermal energy suddenly decided to change from warming the atmosphere to warming the deep oceans – entirely ignoring the principle of convection, i might add, and further, without producing a characteristic increase in sea level rise commencing at the time it suddenly decided to alter its behaviour.

        Not to mention that the relative thermal capacities of air and water tend to indicate that any such increase in temperature would be lost in the noise, of course.

        • > there is not to my knowledge currently no…

          Argument from personal ignorance is worth nothing, unless you happen to be someone deeply familiar with the literature. You aren’t (yeah, yeah, you’re a total anon so how can I know? Well, I’m just taking a wild guess, feel free to prove me wrong by suddenly displaying said deep knowledge, but I won’t hold my breath).

          Click to access WGIAR5_WGI-12Doc2b_FinalDraft_Chapter03.pdf

          is the obvious place to start.

          • catweazle666 says:

            A shame you don’t link to the version with the graphs (I wonder why…).

            You (and other visitors to the blog) might otherwise have found Fig. 3.A.2 instructive.

            In any case, that chapter does not describe the subject at issue in excruciating and boring detail, leaving more questions asked than answered, and possessing more than its fair share of conjecture, as I’m sure you’re aware.

            The hypothesis that Trenberth’s “Missing Heat” suddenly dived into the deep oceans is clutching at straws, as you are well aware.

      • Jeff Norman says:

        This skeptic has found that the scientific literature is generally very expensive to access for someone not directly engaged in research. This skeptic has also experienced the frustration of eventually accessing a paper to find that the claims made in the paper are not supported by the secrets hidden in the paper. MBH97 comes to mind. One is left with guessing how they actually measured that.

        Thank you for the link. I was greatly amused reading how they are drawing conclusions based upon a comparison of the ARGO data to the Challenger Expedition.

        • > MBH97 comes to mind.

          MBH98 is trivially publically accessible (, so that can’t be the one you mean. I don’t know what you mean by ’97. And like it or not, the results of the paper do indeed follow directly from the described methodology and datasets.


          > One is left with guessing how they actually measured that.

          I’m sorry, I can’t parse that. What did you mean?

          • Jeff Norman says:

            That’s the one, MBH98. Point to William.

            Sure MBH98 is free now. But it wasn’t when it first came out. When did it become valueless?

            How did they manage to measure temperatures before thermometers were invented and in a way that was more accurate than using thermometers and in a way that improved the further back in time you measured temperatures? Not really described in the paper as freely seen now.

            • > How did they manage to measure temperatures before thermometers were invented

              They didn’t. The temperatures were measured *after* thermometers were invented, by using proxies. MBH98 provides a list of sources; you can look at those which if followed further would provide a disucssion of how the proxies are related to temperature. Or you can do what everyone who can’t be bothered to read the primary literature does, which is to read wiki; in this case

              > and in a way that was more accurate than using thermometers

              It isn’t; the proxies are less accurate than direct thermometer measurement.

              • My own experience measuring temperatures in rooms, ovens and on process equipment told me that even in a very easily controlled environment it was incredibly difficult to get reliable and consistent measurements and that the whole “average” was very sensitive to the exact position of sensors. For very small ovens used in laboratories we have a display to the nearest 0.01C but there was no way it would be accurate to better than 0.1C.

                At one point I looked at producing known temperature standards for calibration of thermometers. The idea was to use a phase change of a substance to create a feedback loop for an oven and keep it to a very tight temperature.

                That is when I discovered that even a decade ago, a lot of the temperature scale is undefined. It was literally “temperature x is set by this phase change of this material, temperature y by this other … the temperature is that given by a platinum resistance thermometer curve between the two”. In other words, the temperature was just an arbitrary value extrapolating a resistance curve.

                So, I know the problems of taking temperatures. Even with the best equipment in very tightly controlled conditions with regular calibration it is extremely difficult.

                And then I came to the world of make believe with is global warming and I found people like William telling me that I didn’t know what I was talking about and they were 99.99% confident they could measure temperatures globally to 0.0001C by looking at tree rings. OK, I exaggerate, but I suspect those figures are as ridiculous to you as the global warming claims are to me.

                • > And then I came to the world of make believe with is global warming and I found people like William telling me that I didn’t know what I was talking about and they were 99.99% confident they could measure temperatures globally to 0.0001C by looking at tree rings. OK, I exaggerate…

                  Yes, you exaggerate; or more accurately “make things up”. Neither I nor the IPCC have said anything resembling what you say. How does putting obvious falsehoods in other peoples mouths advance the conversation?

            • Jeff Norman says:

              Really?! They used proxies? You must forgive me for suspecting you think I am a moron.

              And yet the paper you linked shows Figure 5 which says they used proxies that gave them high confidence (95%) that their 1400 results were accurate within ±0.2°C (or there abouts) and that this confidence interval was the same up to 1600, despite the drop in available data in 1450 when RPC no.2 petered out. Surely this means their data became more accurate and hemispherically representative the further you go back in time. But we can never know because the paper doesn’t say. Again, when did this paper become valueless?

              You are such a [snip – please do not name call].

              But we all owe William a vote of thanks for coming here to demonstrate exactly how skeptics and non-skeptics talk past each other.

              • Derek Alker says:

                Apologies I tried posting this earlier, but it would not for some reason?

                Mann et al and the “hockey stick” plot. – Tree rings are a composite record of many, many factors, that all vary, both globally and locally. Water availability, nutrients, sunshine, etc, etc, etc. To attribute any variation, in a particularly knarly tree species (bristle cone pine in this case), to only one factor varying IS NOT SCIENCE. To then hide the statistics, weightings used, data sets used and those rejected IS NOT SCIENCE.
                The “hockey stick” is valueless because it IS NOT SCIENCE.

                Well, it is not science as I understand it should be.

              • > You are such a [snip]

                To our host: if that’s the kind of language you tolerate from your regulars, please just say nothing, and we’ll know that civility isn’t important here.

              • Jeff Norman says:

                And I take offense at being referred to as somebody’s “regular”.

      • I see an interesting discussion developing so I’ve created this article as I was beginning to have problems following the discussion.

  65. William Connolley: “its because you’ve taken the commonly accepted published record and arbitrarily lopped 0.2 oC off it. Obviously, I’m not going to simply agree to that – you’d need to present a closely-reasoned and well referenced justification. But as far as I can tell, you don’t have one. So not only do we not agree, but we can’t meaningfully discuss you disagreement, because you won’t justify it.

    William, this is a statement of the figure which most sceptics will accept as reasonable. It is a statement of our views and as such its truth or falsehood is whether it accurately states our views. The original discussion is here:

    This followed a discussion which I think came after this article:

    All it actually says is that there are far more reasons why the figure should be lower than the IPCC figure than higher but the scale of that error does not massively change the fact it warmed.

    If you want a more accurate figure … I will be happy to supply it, but I would need some funding.

    • > If you want a more accurate figure … I will be happy to supply it

      You’re missing the point, and I’m not sure how I can make this clearer. You’re claiming to be the people-of-hard-facts, and you assert “Current estimates of about 0.8 C temperature rise in the past 150 years are very likely too high. There is compelling evidence of malpractice, urban heating and poor instruments & siting. A figure of 0.5-0.6C warming appears more likely.”

      You need to be able to provide that “compelling evidence of malpractice” and so on, when asked for it. Or withdraw the statement.

      You can’t claim to be people-of-hard-facts and then, when asked to back up those facts, say “oh no, those bits weren’t facts, they were just a ‘statement of our views'”.

      As to the change from 0.8 to 0.5-0.6: I followed your first link, in which Philip Lee says only that he thinks 0.8 is too precise; he doesn’t suggest that its biased, only that it should have greater error bars (note that one of his complaints, “There are no error limits associated with the 0.8 deg. C rise estimated” is a complaint against your formulation of the rise; the IPCC, of course, gives error bars). PL doesn’t give much detail, but even if he was 100% correct there would be no justificaiton for your response, which was ‘I would prefer to say: “our best guess is that the temperatures rose around 0.5-0.6C”, but that would be an expression of an opinion not a fact.’ So at that point you know your 0.5-0.6 isn’t fact and has no justification. Nothing I can see in the rest of that thread changes that.

      As to the WUWT post, well, its not very convincing (do you think the post is convincing? I must admit not to have read it terribly carefully; these things generally aren’t worth it. But if you tell me that you have read it carefully, and are prepared to defend it, then I’d be prepared to read and attack it, if that reading justified same). But as near as I can tell its arguing for a value of 0.4 oC. Which is another number, but its not compatible with your 0.5-0.6, so I don’t see how it supports your number.

      I don’t see any evidence there (or here) of a critical engagement with the existing literature.

      • As a statement of the sceptic view, it really doesn’t matter what you think of it. It has been posted on quite a few blogs without serious argument from sceptics.

        The people who contributed toward it did so in their own time based on the evidence they gathered. As far as I know none of them had any financial interest in the result. Indeed, you are very lucky to have knowledgeable people willing to give up their time and work with each other to produce that figure.

        Yes, the process could be better, but to do that would require people to donate far more of their time and to facilitate that to happen would require us sceptics to get funding.

        To put that in perspective, I am writing this on a borrowed PC because my other laptop which I had long enough to wear out two keyboards now cannot cope and the screen has gone on the blink. Obviously I’m not suggesting we are as bad as the 50% of Scots who are now in fuel poverty and very likely to add to the 23,000 extra deaths each year because of these unnecessary green taxes – obviously I could be worse off, but as neither you nor anyone else is paying me, I don’t have to justify this figure to you.

        However, if you want a better figure and justification for the figure from sceptics and you are willing to put in the resources to make that happen, then let’s talk.

        I would need traveling expenses, expenses for an office, probably a new car (ours is leaking oil and like the PC may suddenly stop working) and I would need an income so that my wife could cut down her hours. And yes, if I got that, yes I am confident I would come up with a better justification for the figure and a more accurate assessment of the actual figure.

  66. OK, after a good deal of looking I have found the discussion on global warming which informed sceptics who contributed to that figure. The article is Global warming is a pussy cat.

    The relevant sections are these:

    As the above graphic indicates, WUWT Commenters who provided their own estimates generally agreed with my allocation, with the interesting exception of AGW, where the average is 0.18ºC, nearly double my original allocation of 0.1ºC. Natural Cycles averaged out at 0.33ºC, a bit lower than my original 0.4ºC. Data Bias averaged out at 0.28ºC, a bit lower than my original 0.3ºC. While this is not a scientific poll, it certainly shows a wide variety of Climate Science opinion is alive and well here at WUWT.

    There seems to be general agreement here at WUWT that the official climate Team has exaggerated the extent and danger of Global Warming by adjusting past temperature data in a manner biased (perhaps by about 0.3ºC) towards supporting their dire projections for the future. We believe the actual net temperature increase (perhaps about 0.5ºC) since 1880 is nearly all due to natural processes, including cycles of the Sun, ocean oscillations, and other causes not under human control. But, we are reasonable skeptics who do not deny that human actions are responsible for some, relatively small amount (perhaps about 0.1ºC) of the rise in temperatures.

    Other links I found that might be useful to understand our views are:

    • When you last pointed me at a WUWT post, I said “As to the WUWT post, well, its not very convincing (do you think the post is convincing? I must admit not to have read it terribly carefully; these things generally aren’t worth it. But if you tell me that you have read it carefully, and are prepared to defend it, then I’d be prepared to read and attack it, if that reading justified same)”.

      I notice that you haven’t replied “Yes! I do defend it”. So I take it that you don’t. I say the same about all your others (indeed, I say it about any WUWT post).

      > might be useful to understand our view

      You’re missing the point; I’m not really interested in understanding your views; I’m interested in seeing a strong justification for you 0.5-0.6 oC figure. And its no good saying “give me money and I’ll find you a better justification” or a better figure. You’re putting that figure out *now* as an expression of your views.

      You say “What quality means: Getting it right first time”. Is your figure a “quality” figure? Is it “right first time”?

      > It has been posted on quite a few blogs without serious argument from sceptics

      That’s fine, if all you want to do is talk to other “sceptics”. But it won’t work if you want to go outside your walled garden. Remember, your key question is ‘why the “two sides” in the climate debate look at pretty much the same information and come to very different conclusions’.

      Explicitly: I don’t need to write down my justification for whatever temperature record I accept, because I’m happy going with the std.accepted_value. If I need to, I can point to any number of papers that show you carefully how it is constructed. But you have your own figure, and that different figure, because its yours, needs careful justification. The bare minimum would be a carefully written blog post stating exactly how you derived your 0.5-0.6 (the current state, having asked you, appears to be a succession of scattered comments). If your 0.5-0.6 figure is derived purely from “gut feel”, or from some kind of “voting” process, or some kind of “averaging” blog comments, then you should say that clearly.

      • “You’re missing the point; I’m not really interested in understanding your views; I’m interested in seeing a strong justification for you 0.5-0.6 oC figure. ”

        The justification for that figure is that it is the figure we agreed most represented our views.

        The main justification for value is that we have seen plenty of reasons to believe the figure is lower and few if any to suggest it is higher. In other words the IPCC figure is not credible.

        However, like a jury, who finds the case against a criminal is not proven, you are trying to suggest that it is now up to us to prove who done it. We have more than enough evidence to know the figure is wrong … but unless or until we have the resources to assess the information thoroughly and impartially, in a way that it has not been done so far, I would be reluctant to say more than “this is our view”.

        However, there is no reason why we couldn’t go through this exercise and produce a more credible figure with full justification. BUT IT WILL COST.

        If you have credible finance I will put together a project proposal.

        Are you willing to put up the finance?

        • > The justification for that figure is that it is the figure we agreed most represented our views.

          I know. You’ve said that several times now. I understood you the first time. What you don’t seem to understand in return is that no-one is really interested in your “views”; people are interested in what you can justify. The IPCC provides a rigourous and fully referenced justification for its version.

          > Are you willing to put up the finance?

          No, of course not. Apart from anything else, I have no evidence that you’re capable of doing the work.

          > We have more than enough evidence to know the figure is wrong

          Then, as I said, you need to provide a credible summary of that evidence. References to scattered blog comments most of which reference other comments and none of which provide any clear analysis really don’t cut the mustard.

          • William. Can I put it this way. Our view is the IPCC have done a shoddy job on the cheap using crap (biased) labour.

            You are now asking us to repeat the shoddy job done on the cheap using our better labour.

            What I’m saying is that we have no interest in doing another crap job like the IPCC.

            But if you want a good job then we will do it but we will require enough money & resources to do it properly. And if you don’t understand that concept, it goes a long way to explaining why the job was so badly done in the first place.

            • Quiet Waters says:

              I’m intrigued as to how the exchange here with Connolley compares (or doesn’t) to some of the statements in the table above. Namely:

              Main focus: Prediction & hard facts.
              Basis for validation /falsification of hypotheses: Empirical data derived from real-time physical observations or reproducible experimentation.

              Despite several promptings there is still no “Empirical data”, “hard facts” or “reproducible experimentation” forthcoming for the claim. Instead there is a demand for money to do the research. Surely if all you were interested in was “hard facts” and “Empirical data” then that work would have already been done in order to justify the claim of “it is the figure we agreed most represented our views” rather than the wooly (and very definitely not hard or empirical) “The main justification for value is that we have seen plenty of reasons to believe the figure is lower and few if any to suggest it is higher. In other words the IPCC figure is not credible.”

              • What we are saying is that the climate researchers have failed to do their job properly.
                We have more than enough evidence to say this.
                What we are asking is that the climate researchers do a proper job.
                The response from the climate researchers & other people in government & NGOs who have no idea at all, has been to reject the evidence that the figures are biased and instead to attack us for daring to highlight the evidence that the figures are biased.

                All this 0.5-0.6C represents is our estimate of how wrong the climate researchers are. It is a statement of our judgement about their failings.

                But unless or until someone does a proper job we will not know what the real figure should be.

                And as I keep saying, if you want us to come up with the figure, then give us the money and we will do the job. But if you want to keep doing the job, DO IT PROPERLY.


                So, this is why I’m trying to find out what the differences are. Perhaps the real answer is that the job we sceptics think should be done isn’t one that should be rightly asked of academics. And likewise, perhaps academics have to be honest and say it isn’t a job for which they have any experience.

                In other words, perhaps we all have to be a bit more tolerant and look for solutions as to how to do a proper job rather than us complaining that you are not doing it right and you getting all shirty for us saying so.

    • I am very aware who this is.

      • Jeff Norman says:

        Hence the caveats about using Wikipedia.

        • I stopped worrying about wikipedia when I started an archaeology course and the first thing we were told is “don’t trust wikipedia”. And as I did the course, I learnt how even a quick search on any subject would bring up a range of arguments and that the only articles I trusted in Wikipedia were those that summarised the evidence available elsewhere.

          • > the only articles I trusted in Wikipedia were those that summarised the evidence available elsewhere

            Very wise. Like, for example,

            “I don’t trust wikipedia on GW” is a mantra the “skeptics” chant, but its not based on any solid complaints; its based largely on fear and a dislike of the material.

            For example, the temperature record as presented on wikipedia is sourced to the scientific literature. Were you to attempt to add “oh, but *I* think its should be 0.2 oC lower, because that’s what I and my friends thing” it would be removed – correctly.

            Note how, in this regard, wikipedia is doing better than you are: your 0.2 oC is *not* properly sourced, let alone to the scientific literature.

            • If the only people allowed to edit an article on the catholic church are Catholics, it could be entirely factual but totally misrepresent the church by “forgetting” to mention anything like the child abuse stories.

              Likewise, the reason the UK parliament works, is because we pay a group of people to critique the “official” government position. Paradoxically it makes the government policies better if there is strong opposition.

              I think it was some Chinese general who said something like “the value of a general is measured by the strength of their opposition”.

              Everyone like me who would have vastly improved those articles you wrote were told to go away. We did … and as a result much of your work has been wasted because the articles are mentioned time and time again by sceptics as the reason they became sceptics. So I’m not sure they helped make the case for global warming as they don’t seem to persuade anyone except the editors that wrote them.

              • > We did …

                Did you? Which article, when, under what name? I’ve noticed elsewhere than when I ask this question of “skeptics” they tend to back off, and say “err, when I say ‘we’, I didn’t mean to include myself”.

                So, please be clear: are you speaking of your own experience or are you channeling someone else? What information did you attempt to add or subtract?

                Indeed, have you even read the GW article? If you had, you’d notice the balance.

                • There are some subjects that are best left alone and if I say anything more about Wikipedia I will have to start attacking you personally. Therefore I will politely decline your invitation.

                • No, that’s a cop-out. If you tried to make a change, you could tell us what it was.

                  You could certainly answer “please be clear: are you speaking of your own experience or are you channeling someone else? What information did you attempt to add or subtract?” Answering that cannot possibly be an attack.

    • William Connolley:No, that’s a cop-out. If you tried to make a change, you could tell us what it was.

      I’ve spend enough time engaging with you to know that if we start talking about Wikipedia it will just end in acrimony.

      • That’s another cop-out. You made a baseless assertion and when asked to justify it, you refuse to put up.

        I think you’ve never tried to improve any of the GW type pages. Anthony Watts was reduced to inventing fantasies to justify his hatred of wiki.

        • William, you have put so much time and effort into Wikipedia, that no matter how I tried, any comment I make will be taken as an attack on you. It is therefore not possible for us to talk about Wikipedia without you taking the conversation personally. I made a mistake bringing it up.

          • JBL says:

            Can you explain how it could be possible that answering the question “What Wikipedia page did you try to edit, and what information did you attempt to add or subtract?” could possibly be an attack on anyone? Or withdraw your claim to have any experience editing Wikipedia?

            (Incidentally, editing Wikipedia is not very hard. But the culture of Wikipedia is very strange, and it takes a long time to get used to its ins and outs. People who haven’t spent time editing Wikipedia probably shouldn’t act as if they know what it’s like.)

        • Derek Alker says:


          Brandon Stone
          Wait what….now the wiki is showing the medivel warm period was cooler than today?

          “Medieval Warm Period was cooler than recent global temperatures.[8]”

          Eric M. Bram Wiki wars. Check this article, which demonstrates that the Medieval Warm Period was a global phenomenon, and that the peak warmth of the Medieval Warm Period was least as great as, and possibly even a bit greater than, the peak warmth of the Current Warm Period.

          14 hours ago · Edited · Like
          John Edward Voelker That Wiki article was last updated 1 hour ago.
          Most of the references are the IPCC.
          History is being rewritten as we speak.
          Skeptical Science is rewriting Wikipedia also.
          12 hours ago via mobile · Like · 1
          Mike Lorrey william connolley is back at it, is whats going on
          12 hours ago · Like
          Eric M. Bram Wiki now says that some sources say it was cooler, some that it was warmer.
          12 hours ago · Like
          Jeramy Hinfelaar and there is the problem with wiki. Any idiot that finds a reference can change it.
          12 hours ago · Like

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  69. Old woman of the north says:

    I think it boils down to whether people are ‘romantics’ who want the world to an ideal place – as it ‘ought to be’ or ‘realists’ who accept things as they are and try to find practical solutions to problems.

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  73. Yet, the lyrics of the song have a theme that can work for the cause.

    Or was it instead a happy dark night where you sat near a bonfire with your friends eating marshmallows.
    Find out about the top free plugins for Windows Media Player and learn how to use them.

  74. Pingback: Key Articles | ScottishSceptic

  75. catweazle666 says:

    What quality means Getting it right first time

    My particular sphere was as a development engineer, ie the bloke who got involved when they DIDN’T get it right first time!

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