Tuesday 10 March 2009


I've lifted this from a link on Frank Wilson's invaluable blog - couldn't resist it. Thanks, Frank!


  1. Please, someone forward this to Al Gore and his widely scattered though uniformly closed-minded disciples. Former VP Gore's pseudo-science bandwagon has been moving ahead under a full head of steam and shows no signs of slowing down, even in the face of being frozen in its tracks. (I apologize that so many tortured metaphors are competing for attention in my last sentence.) At any rate, if you prefer anecdotal evidence to counter Al Gore and his ilk, witness the recent snow-blasted rally in Washington DC, and you witness a compelling piece of performance theater of the absurd.

  2. Go to the black board and write, one hundred times, the following sentence: Weather is not climate. And all of you out there with degrees in literature: Bust your asses for a decade to get a post-high school education in some science before so blithely opining on something other than books.

  3. what's the difference between weather and climate?

  4. May I remind Anonymous that the point of the article is this: "Individual weather episodes, it always bears repeating, are not the same as broad climate trends.

    But considering how much attention would have been lavished on a comparable run of hot weather or on a warming trend that was plainly accelerating, shouldn't the recent cold phenomena and the absence of any global warming during the past 10 years be getting a little more notice? Isn't it possible that the most apocalyptic voices of global-warming alarmism might not be the only ones worth listening to?"

  5. Wow! Question: Who knew that a person had to be a specialist in a field in order to read and analyze information in that field? Answer: Anonymous knew! Another way of looking at the issue, though, might be this: Intelligent people can make intelligent inquiry into all sorts of topics and speak reasonably and even assert viewpoints on those topics. Subject-matter elitists who would silence opposing viewpoints ought to examine their eagerness to dominate the conversation and silence the opposition.

  6. R T Davis - your name calls to mind the great John R.T. Davies, but you're probably fed up of hearing that.

    Al Gore's name calls to mind Hermann Goering, though the Kraut was more intelligent, brave and wicked.

  7. R.T.

    I respect those who "make intelligent inquiry" and "speak reasonably". Where exactly were those qualities displayed in your initial comment? I saw nothing but a minor-league attempt at a Rush Limbaugh screed. Apparently, those who agree with you are intelligent and reasonable, while those who disagree are "uniformly close-minded" adherents of "pseudo-science". Isn't it at least possible that they too are intelligent and reasonable?

    A bigger problem for me is the arrogant dismissal of the scientific enterprise that seems to be inherent in the comments of many climate change skeptics. (Your "pseudo-science bandwagon" comment is a perfect example.) A recent poll of 3146 members of the American Geological Institute revealed that 90% believe the data demonstrate that mean global temperature has risen significantly above pre-1800 levels, and 82% believe the data support the conclusion that human activity has played a significant role in this rise. Among those polled who are actually professional climatologists, the latter number rose to 97%.

    What do we make of these poll results? I look at them through the eyes of one who has been a practicing scientist for 35 years. I am not a climatologist and make no claims to expertise in what you refer to as the "subject matter" of climate change. But my career has given me a deep understanding and respect for the process of science: formulation of a hypothesis, experimental design, data collection and analysis, hypothesis testing, the iterative development and testing of models, peer review, all of it. It's a robust process -- one that you place your full trust in every time you step onto an airplane.

    I understand and respect scientists as well. Skeptics paint a picture of scientists engaging in mindless herd behavior as they reach a growing consensus about the extent and cause of climate change. This picture is simply laughable. Most scientists are born contrarians, and the rest are forced into the role by professional exigencies. The Holy Grail for a scientist is publication of his work in a major, peer-reviewed journal. This is the ticket to professional success: tenure, grant money, respect from colleagues. And the best journals, those that make careers, do not accept "me too" science. An acceptable paper must formulate and test a novel hypothesis, or refute a standing hypothesis -- no room for herd science. All of the incentives push one towards iconoclasm, not conformity.

    Also, the professional rivalries among scientists act as a potent countervailing force against the easy achievement of consensus. Anyone who has been through the brutal process of anonymous peer review knows what I'm talking about. I've seldom published a paper without doing several additional months of research and extensive re-writing after withering peer review. Science is not a back-slapping, log-rolling, hail-fellow enterprise.

    My point is this: I don't know the intricacies of climatology, but I do know the scientific process and the professional behavior of scientists. And when 80-95% of a large group of scientific experts have reached consensus, my response is to greet their judgment with respect, humility, and seriousness. And if I'm skeptical about that judgment, then I have an ethical obligation to dive into the basic research, as published in the journals, work hard to understand it, and ultimately propose an alternative hypothesis. For me, picking up scraps of information from the popular press and using it, magpie-like, to formulate an "opinion" that I then dump into the blogscape is a form of intellectual dishonesty.

    How do you respond to the AGI poll, T.J.?

  8. "American Geological Institute revealed that 90% believe the data demonstrate that mean global temperature has risen significantly above pre-1800 levels, and 82% believe the data support the conclusion that human activity has played a significant role in this rise. Among those polled who are actually professional climatologists, the latter number rose to 97%."

    Fool that I am for asking anon but what do the figures show when compared with pre 1800 BC or pre 5000 BC or pre 15000 BC or 25000 BC levels ?, you know, the sort of data that real decision making can be based upon, rather than short term grant seeking stuff at present wafting around the media.
    There is simply not enough meaningfull data available to enable sensible pragmatic counter measures to put in place by the political classes who, so far, have used the subject as a career move.
    Enough already, you boffins, do more digging.

  9. Anon, you are missing the whole point. Indeed, you are illustrating it. There is no way Jacoby or skeptics who argue similarly can be called deniers of anything. What they are suggesting is that science has no inherent right to demand the public and governments accept or believe in its orthodoxies when there is nothing in our everyday experience to support them and even much to counter them. Hardly anybody has the capacity to critically analyse climatology models and so ordinary folks quite reasonably rely on what their lyin' eyes tell them. My lyin' eyes tell me dramatic climate change seems to be affecting the Arctic and some exotic tourist destinations favoured by the beautiful people of the West, but so far not much else.

    Your ode to scientific honesty and integrity takes no account of funding competition, the herd instinct and the influence of employers with vested interests. Scientific establishments can be very politicized and just as prone to jump on bandwagons with embarassing false starts as non-scientists. How are those resource depletions and famines caused by overpopulation working out?

    When you insist that everybody accept "scientific consensus" only you (pl.) can access and understand as eternal truth and re-arrange their lives radically as a result, you are demanding a blind following that would make a 17th century Jesuit blush. But the truth is that folks have always and should assess scientific orthodoxy against what their experiences and senses tell them. A good example is germ theory, which scientists love to trot out as one of its great triumphs over superstition, tradition and ignorance. But they forget that the public didn't accept germ theory because scientists kept screaming at them about how they all agreed as one and checked one another's sums. They came to accept it because they saw their antibiotics and vaccinations worked.

    We're now over thirty years into this gig and, as a Canadian, I can assure you my skepticism has an empirical foundation. Despite the fact you are starting to show your age, I have noticed that scientific doomsday predictors remain very attached to the same 20-30 year timelines for the start of Armageddon they always have. Forgive me, but I wonder what a study showing the correlation between all these predictions and the dates the predictors expect to retire on full pension would reveal.

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  11. My initial offering in this threaded discussion was apparently combustible fuel for Anonymous' harsh comments. My approach to environmentally apocalyptic matters (global warming included) is something approaching pyrrhonism (generally) or scientific skepticism in that I am reluctant to concede truthfulness of an assertion simply because it is asserted. Empiricism and scientific inquiry in the global warming debate is not strengthened by the fierceness of Anonymous' denunciation of my humble (tongue-in-cheek) comments. Neither is the debate furthered by VP Gore's celebrity status; his Noble Prize, awarded under questionable circumstances for questionable reasons, does nothing meaningful in terms of reinforcing the truthfulness of claims by the global warming proponents who steadfastly rally around their titular savior. Moreover, ad hominem comments leveled against me by Anonymous will not do much to move me away from my healthy skepticism toward an unproven doom-and-gloom assertions about climate. However, I am acutely aware of the irony involved in being challenged by someone named Anonymous. And finally, I suppose I have misunderstood the world of blogging, which I thought was a forum for the free and open (and respectful) exchange of ideas. Have I misinterpreted the intent of blogging?

  12. R.T.

    Are you "acutely aware" that you are posting comments on a blog maintained by someone using the pseudonym Nige? Would I have soothed your feelings by calling myself Waldo?

  13. What blows me away is how upset chaps like Anonymous get by the slightest whiff of scepticism. I mean, every EU government,the US and the UN are all singing from the same hymn sheet, as is much of the media, but the slightest whiff of disagreement from a blog commentator and they break out in frothing at the mouth denunciations. Why so insecure, when the warmist camp controls the debate and dominates all channels of power?

  14. I'm not insisting that anyone accept scientific consensus, not calling anyone a "denier", and not frothing at the mouth. Please learn to read more carefully. I was simply explaining why I, as an individual, take seriously the cumulative judgment of a large group of experts who have vetted a huge amount of data, and challenging those who don't to come up with an alternative explanation. I note that none of the commenters have addressed my challenge.

    Comparisons with past flare-ups over population growth and resource depletion are meaningless. In those cases, the alarms were raised by an individual (Paul Ehrlich) and a small group (Club of Rome), and not supported by much empirical data or peer-reviewed research.

    The real irony here is that I benefit directly from your skepticism. The standard skeptic argument is this: the global climate system is hugely complex, and we really know very little about how it works; we need to collect more data over a longer period of time; emission controls are costly, premature, and may very well lead to one-world-government; if global warming turns out to be true in thirty years, emerging technologies x, y, and z will be available to solve the problem. While I'm not a climatologist, I am an expert in technology z, one of those expected to come to the rescue if the need arises. Since research-to-product lag time in my field is 15-20 years, the money is already flowing in my direction. Without your skepticism, the river would slow to a trickle.

    So, keep it up, my Merry Band of Skeptics! I've got kids to put through college.

  15. Ah, so you make money off it! Now I understand. Actually that's more honourable than the die hard evangelists.


  16. S.P. . . . Well said! The lines of the debate are much clearer now.

  17. Yep! You've sussed out my Grand Plan: Occasionally poke a stick in the eyes of the skeptics, causing them to squawk loudly about waiting for more data. This provides cover for their weak-kneed political representatives, who can propose spending modest money on "emerging technologies" as an alternative to making the hard decisions about carbon caps. Meanwhile, I wait for the daily appearance of the armoured car carrying my gold ingots. Brilliant, no?