The Real Difference between Skeptics and Deniers

Anthony Watts has a post which mocks scientists who are trying to explain “the pause.” It oozes ridicule because so many possible explanations have been explored, which he dismisses as “hand-waving.”

His list is reasonably long:


Too much aerosols from volcanoes, ENSO patterns, missing heat that went to the deep ocean, ocean cooling, low solar activity, inappropriately dealt with weather stations in the Arctic, and stadium waves, to name a few. So much for consensus.

Setting aside whether the list is even right — what Willard Tony doesn’t realize is that he has put the spotlight on the real difference between skeptics and deniers:

When scientists who are genuinely skeptical see something they don’t understand, they try to understand it. When deniers see something scientists don’t understand, they use it as an excuse to claim that “natural variation has been in control, not CO2.”


As most of you are probably already aware, I’m not convinced there even is a “pause” (read this, and this, and this, and this, and this). You might say I’m genuinely skeptical. Of course it’s possible — but I’m quite confident that there is not sufficient evidence to establish its existence.

Yet in spite of the fact that the so-called “pause” fails statistical significance, that it is easily explicable as already-known natural variation in addition to (but not instead of) global warming, scientists are so curious about what’s happening to climate, so determined to get at the truth, and so damn skeptical, that they have explored many potential causes of the short-term fluctuations in recent temperature. Not everybody agrees with me that the “pause” isn’t real, not everybody accepts that it’s just already-well-known natural variation on top of the global warming trend, so the scientific community is exploring a wide range of explanations for something that we don’t agree on and a lot of people are genuinely skeptical about.

That’s what scientists do. When we don’t agree on what’s happening, we try to understand it. If a lot of different possibilities are investigated, well that’s the way it always happens. Eventually, we’ll sort through which arguments are most persuasive and reach at least some measure of agreement. That’s how science works. And it works, bitches.

But not Anthony Watts! He already made up his mind that CO2 is unimportant or irrelevant, so if he finds anything on which the scientific community can’t reach agreement, anything we’re still exploring and don’t yet fully understand, he can recite only one conclusion: that CO2 is unimportant or irrelevant. Do note that he doesn’t reach that conclusion — he already concluded it beforehand. His total skepticism about that is less than zero.

And that, dear readers, is the real difference between skeptics and deniers.

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184 responses to “The Real Difference between Skeptics and Deniers

  1. Well and clearly stated.

  2. Would a skeptical scientist also question whether the models are accurately representing climate physics and the sensitivity of climate to CO2?

    [Response: That’s exactly what they are doing. Right now.]

    • What do you think modelers are working on all day long? Admiring the perfection of their carved-in-stone models?

  3. Personally, I’m on the “let’s establish the hiatus before we try to explain it” side. As a psychologist, I can say there is much psychological evidence that people seem primed to react to patterns that are not there. This is fine if you are avoiding clumps that might be lions out on the veldt and the cost/benefit to avoiding that clump in favor of another path is extremely low.

    But the required “explanation” here just might be on the same order of complexity/chaos/noise as “why did I just flip 4 heads in a row???” which is answerable in principle with enough analysis but maybe is not really the essential way to look at the problem.

    Probably the real answer at the moment is in the middle: There is reliable information to partial out, but I’m not sure how essential it is at the level of such short time periods.

    [Response: I welcome the exploration of these possibilities. Even if they don’t turn out to be correct, we learn more.]

  4. I’m getting sick of this “pause” discussion. It buys into denier rhetoric, because, as you’ve demonstrated repeatedly, there isn’t really a pause in warming. And as demonstrated by Watts’ post, scientists are busy trying to explain the measurement variability and trends, and deniers get to latch onto non-points.

    • As a former communications pro, I agree. Measurements have shown that ocean heat is building, and it seems as though it would have been simple enough to use this research as one of the possible ways in which that is happening–without reference to the “pause.”

      • Looks like we’re probably headed for a late-2014 El Nino, so expect the “pause” meme to die a quiet death in 2015.

      • With a late 2014 Nino, 2015 could be very, very interesting, and could be a year of severe ”skeptic’ backpeddling.
        All I have seen from ”skeptics” since around 2008 are predictions of cooling, not a single forecast of warming due to some named natural cause.
        Now, in the likely case of a new global average record in 2015 (unless we get a triple dip La Nina), will the ”skeptics” finally admit to AGW driven warming, since they until now have proposed no natural mechanism that would overcome the quite sun and ”negative PDO” that we have heard so much about? One would expect so, but I’m not holding my breath, knowing the slippery nature of the breed.
        A ”skeptic” prediction for average global surface temps during the next El Nino year would be good to see.
        Let us see it now, as making a hindcast with all sorts of excuses when the next Nino hits does not count.

      • @Esop
        No, the deniers will not admit to anything. One has already told me he expects climate scientists to fake data next year so they will “make it look like it’s warming again.”

        There is literally no climatic event that would make deniers stop denying that humans are altering the climate. The entire Greenland ice sheet could slide into the sea this year and they would put it down to natural cycles—if indeed they would admit it had happened at all.

      • I’ll be very interested to see what the next El Nino does to global temperatures. If there’s a spike in surface temperatures I’ll be interested to see the effect that it has on the denialosphere; There are so many other climate change denial memes to choose from, I assume the “pause” will be replaced seamlessly as if it had never been mentioned.

      • @ Rob Nicholls

        Exactly. This is why engagement with them is pointless. Connolley has been making good faith efforts with Scottish Sceptic lately, with predictably fruitless results. It’s a waste of time to even acknowledge them, let alone attempt to deal honestly with their loony ideas.

      • @Rob Nicholls Remember, every new record (sea ice melt, high temps, etc.) marks the beginning of a recovery, in the denial lexicon.

      • It’s not a given there will be an El Nino in 2014. Wolter is late updating his MEI page. He has been leaning a little toward El Nino later in 2014. It will be interesting to see what his update says. I agree with J-NG that it is possible current conditions could allow a warmest year with ENSO neutral conditions throughout a year. I think that would impress skeptics more than an El Nino year. They view wishing for an El Nino as a weakness in AGW theory.

        The net effect of these anomalous winds is a cooling in the 2012 global average surface air temperature of 0.1–0.2 °C, which can account for much of the hiatus in surface warming observed since 2001. … – Matthew England et al, Nature

        I’ve said the above multiple times at Climate Etc. The 2012 La Nina did the above, and possibly more. It will take more of them of similar strength to hold the surface air temperature level until 2030. That’s their bet – Tsonis, Curry, Wyatt, etc.

        I’ve also pointed out on Climate Etc. many times that the extended period before 1998 was similar to the current period.

        I’m not a denier. Far from it. The chaos theory group appear to base their notion that the “pause” will last until 2030, or longer, on one thing: that mid-20th century cooling lasted around 3 decades. I think that part of their work is ridiculously weak.

    • I can understand your frustration with the trumpeting from the denier camp, but Tamino hasn’t actually demonstrated that there isn’t a pause, he’s demonstrated that the temperature measurements don’t have sufficient statistical weight to say that there is one. That’s not really the same thing.
      Personally I expect it will turn out that the observed temperatures are a case of natural variability on top of a continuing warming trend. That said I absolutely think it’s worth examining the effect of all these variables. It provides the opportunity to better understand their contribution to “natural variability” in all cases, not just the current “pause vs no pause” case, and thereby potentially leads to improved models and projections.
      It’s important to be honest about uncertainties, after all everything we know has some degree of uncertainty attached the best we can ever say is that this is very small.

      [Response: Very well said.]

      • Yes, that’s true. I want the discussion of what is actually happening, not the hijacking that we are seeing. Which is why we shouldn’t let the deniers set the rhetoric and positioning. The essentially red herring the discussion and instead of talking about the long term trend and the overlaying natural variability, we end up trying to “prove” no “pause” in warming.

      • Tamino hasn’t actually demonstrated that there isn’t a pause

        Of course, it will likely not be possible for many years to demonstrate that there isn’t a pause with just 10, 11, 12, or even 13 years of data. For example, even the 13 years from the beginning of 1986 to the end of 1998 (the obvious cherry pick) did not have statistically significant warming in GISTEMP.

    • Tsonis and Swanson identified a mechanism they felt would cause a cessation of warming for decades. Swanson posted an article on RealClimate: warming interrupted. Their proposed mechanism has to do with ocean dynamics: mostly Pacific dynamics.

      They suggest that aerosols may have had little to do with mid-century cooling.

      The proposed explanations from the “team” for the pause have to do mostly with Pacific dynamics: PDO, anomalous winds, etc. There is an aerosol explanation, but it appears to have gained no traction as a complete explanation.

      Tsonis now says the pause may last until 2030, or longer, and he speculates that the surface air temperature may actually go down. I think he’s likely to be wrong, but none of you are talking about it.

      It’s almost like many are in “denial” of it. Bring it up on RC, the commenters go straight to aerosols.

      [Response: It didn’t get traction with me because the idea that aerosols had little to do with mid-century non-warming is just too implausible, and I think their “mechanism” is mathturbation, and not very good mathturbation at that.

      As for your rather slimy accusation of “denial,” you just don’t get it. When an idea fails to gain traction because the evidence against outweighs the evidence for, that’s not denial. When actual *evidence* favoring their hypothesis arises (which “Tsonis now says” isn’t), you bet your ass it’ll get plenty of attention.]

      • Tamino – I was referring to a general soeculation that Asian aerosols were depressing AGW after ~2000. It has not gained traction.

        Tsonis and Swanson say aerosols do not appear to have much to do with mid-century cooling. The paper above, and the MET, seem to think aerosols have not had a lot to do with the current hiatus.

        Instead, explanations have moved to ocean dynamics. Which means in part that Tsonis and Swanson are gaining traction, both on aerosols and on ocean dynamics.

        [Response: Bullshit. If “explanations have moved to ocean dynamics” that doesn’t mean it has anything at all to do with their particular theory. As for connecting their skepticism about mid-century aerosol effect to skepticism about post-2000 Asian aerosols and claiming that therefore they’re “gaining traction,” that’s just a non sequitur.]

      • “The proposed explanations from the “team” ”

        Any post that refers to the global community of climate scientists as “the team” ought to be, IMO, a candidate for immediate deletion.

        The arguments that follow the words “the team” are so predictable and stereotyped that there’s really no value in publishing them.

    • I’m getting sick of this “pause” discussion. It buys into denier rhetoric,

      IMHO if we were to simply say “there is no “pause” because if you choose a year before or after this dishonestly-chosen starting point, the argument falls away”.

      Or similar.

      Best,

      D

      • If it weren’t for being seen as screaming I’d repeat Dano’s comment in all caps: There is no pause in global warming !

        And any review of the full spectrum data supports that claim. Yet, serious scientists keep dancing to the tune that Denialist’s have written.
        ~ ~ ~

        When will they be willing to acknowledge that measurements and data aren’t everything and that their inability to perfectly describe geophysical process and realities – does not negate the basic physics of increased GHGs in our atmosphere.
        ~ ~ ~

        What good is spending all our time and energy defining the crisis to exquisite certainty and forgetting to act to avert the crisis?

      • climatehawk1 (@climatehawk1)

        Absolutely agree. A lot of this is driven by media ignorance, but serious scientists are doing a disservice when they say their work “explains the pause.”

      • climatehawk1 (@climatehawk1).
        What should serious scientists then say? “My work does not explain the pause”? If they did that they would not be serious scientists.
        I think you are assuming that a “work” of science will always turn out to be based soundly. It is only when many such “works” grow together that their combined and diverse findings become well founded. In the case of the phenomenon known here as the “pause” there are many explanations but not all of them will survive the arrival of later “works” and the growing evidence.
        Of course, I should add that the “pause” when considered solely in terms of the global average surface temperature record (SAT) can be conclusively ‘explained’ by ENSO. That is, given that the wiggles in SAT can be shown very conclusively to be ENSO, volcanoes & the sun and the “pause” in SAT is but a big wiggle, it is not very difficult to assert that to date the “pause” in SAT is solely ENSO.

      • climatehawk1 (@climatehawk1)

        Thanks, Al. My concern stems from the fact that the “pause” has not been demonstrated to be statistically significant. That being the case, and given the fact that it is a major denier talking point, I think scientists should use care in referring to it as if it’s (to use a very overused phrase) settled science. Stepping back, what I see over the past few years are a bunch of articles arguing either that there is no pause, or it’s not statistically significant, followed after a short delay by a new spate of articles saying OK, it exists and here’s the explanation. Everything with the best of intentions, but failing to recognize the impact of confused and contradictory messages on the public perception of climate science and those of us concerned about global warming.

  5. I’m not willing to give Watts a page hit. Did he actually use the word “pause” without quotes-of-irony? It would be odd for Watts to commit to the implied resumption of the trend.

    Technically, of course, the global mean surface temp record is a series of “pauses” and “accelerations” when looked at using short periods. The SKS elevator makes this abundantly obvious. There are no pauses in global energy storage as long as GHGs are on the increase.

    It must be interesting to be Watts, though, right? I mean, he gets paid to insult his audience every day, and they love him for it.

  6. Doesn’t the myriad hypotheses being explored belie denier’s claims that there is vast collusion within the climate science community to toe the line ?
    Just sayin’

    • Shhhhh !

      That sort of rationalism won’t do at all.

      Jezz, if “science skeptics” thought that way, they might have been learning something these past thirty years rather than just painting up their Merry-Go-Round. Imagine, we’d actually be attempting to seriously address the future barreling down on us.

      Ah, but that may have impacted the bottom-line of certain special interests – can’t have that now can we.

  7. This is no difference from the common creationist argument that science can’t be trusted because it’s always changing; the bible can be trusted because it never changes.*

    (* Except for all those changes from book to book and translation to translation.)

    • In the wake of the flooding in the UK (pun intended), I tweeted this today… “For scientists… constantly adjusting an opinion as evidence accumulates should be defended and extolled as a virtue.”

      It’s sad that for many people being ‘resolute’, ‘stubborn’ or ‘tenacious’—in other words, ‘intransigent’ or ‘bloody-minded’—are seen as admirable personal qualities, especially in politicians. That’s certainly what Watts seems to think and it explains why you can never win an argument with someone in denial. They see changing one’s mind as a weakness.

      • Depends what you define as ‘win.’ They’ll never admit defeat, it’s true, but often it is surprisingly easy to walk ‘em up a tree of implausible nonsense so tall that everyone can pretty much see what they are up to. And the best of all is that they refuse to climb down.

      • Right Kevin, they just slink off – to go and find someone else to try and sell the same old story line to. Not sure that’s much of a victory.

    • A never-changing document that defines pi=3 is kind of a problem.

      • An example of which:

        http://www.icr.org/article/524/2/

        (Also an example of what I was describing in the comment just above, IMO.)

      • Kevin
        I’ve seen fundies make that argument before. I’d always just assumed they were stupid. I should have known they weren’t creative enough to be stupid.

      • Except that it doesn’t. The scribe describing Solomon’s molten pool was trying to praise his king, not talk about mathematics. The Hebrews had lived among the Egyptians and the Babylonians, who had estimates of pi ranging from 3.12 to 3.16. A Hebrew architect would have known that, a Hebrew scribe attached to the royal court most likely would not. Please don’t buy into the assumption, shared by fundamentalist Christians and fundamentalist Atheists alike, that unless every Bible phrase is true in the plainest possible literal sense, the whole thing is a lie.

      • Barton,
        My problem is not so much with believers as with literalism–which I believe is considered a heresy by Judaism.

  8. On top of that, a real skeptic would have asked whether he thinks (or just wants to suggest) that the explanations from his list were mutually exclusive.

    Where would be the problem, if it turned out that they altogether, albeit to various degrees, would explain the ‘pause’?

    Any true skeptic would have checked their own statements, right?! OK – one can dream…

  9. horatio Algeranon

    “We dance round in a ring and suppause but ENSO sits in the middle and see-saws” — Robert Frost (with a climate twist)

  10. Watts’ favorite line: “Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire” (http://getenergysmartnow.com/2012/07/16/liar-liar-pants-on-fire-differentiating-skeptic-from-denier/ ) no matter truth and/or truthful engagement.

  11. Yes, it’s really disconcerting when scientists talk about trying to explain something that does not exist. I always ask, how could warming have stopped in 1998, when 9 of the 10 warmest years have occurred after 2001? Really, all of the arguments that start with “since 1998″ are the worst cherry picking. Of course, getting the public, journalists and even some scientists to understand that is a problem.

    • My take on the “Pause”. All it shows is that an “average” year now is as warm as a very, very warm year a decade and a half ago.

      • Well put.

      • What if there is a pause? There have been many “pauses” and you can get one for any period length you wish up to about 20 years, picking start/end “suitably”.

        But even if there were a genuinely statistic pause. So what?

        Since the period for any pause NECESSARILY includes the IPCC best estimate in the statistically explicable trend, YOU CANNOT claim the IPCC is wrong with any such pause.

        Begging the question: deniers wish to claim the IPCC is wrong because they can’t explain the pause.

        They can. The error in the trend includes zero but ALSO includes the IPCC trend.

        Therefore there is nothing needed to be explained by the IPCC.

      • Here’s a pretty read:

        By John Cook | 20 February 2014
        ‘It’s been hot before’: faulty logic skews the climate debate

        https://theconversation.com/its-been-hot-before-faulty-logic-skews-the-climate-debate-23349

  12. that is also the difference between science and religion. in science there is always doubt, in religion only faith and certainty.

    [Response: Reminds me of the recent debate about evolution between Ken Ham (creation museum) and Bill Nye (science guy). At one point they were asked, “What would it take to change your mind?” Ken Ham said that nothing possibly could. Bill Nye said “evidence.”]

    • Perhaps you don’t actually know any religious believers, Roly. We all live with doubt and uncertainty; that’s a human condition, not reserved for atheists. We do see faith as a virtue, but we don’t define it the way you do (stubborn attachment to obvious idiocy), any more than scientists define “theory” the way the public does.

    • The responses of Nye and Ham to the question of what would it take to change their minds is, to me, a very clear example of the difference between how scientists approach a topic versus those with unshakable belief. For the non-scientist there is, perhaps, some solace in their strongly held belief (be it creationism or climate change denial), but unshakable belief for a working scientist is the kiss of death.

    • Yes Virginia, there really is a difference between science and religion.

  13. Horatio Algeranon

    “Just Because”
    — by Horatio Algeranon

    The Pause is quite significant
    (Though not statistically so)
    The recent trend is different
    It’s obvious, doncha know?

  14. After over 30 years of investigation and thousands of peer reviewed papers, is it really possible that all the science could be wrong? Is it not at least possible that some of it is correct? Skeptics would allow that is a possibility whilst deniers would never admit it.

    The difference between Skeptics and Deniers is that, to a Denier any scientific investigation that concludes that Climate Change is happening is immediately branded as flawed or part of a conspiracy, whilst any investigation that concludes the science is wrong is lauded as ground breaking, regardless of its tenuous nature. [Response: I think the word you’re looking for is “bombshell.”] Skeptics analyse the evidence dispassionately and then come to a decision, whilst deniers know what their decision is, then go to find the evidence to support it.

    • Bombshell discoveries tend to blow up in your face if you peer too closely. I think that’s why wattsupia tends to uncritically fawn over them.

    • I would add a significant caveat here. Many of us who are active on this issue on the internet are not climate researchers and therefore are not fully equipped to analyze the available evidence. I’ve read several thousand research papers myself, but I’d not consider myself qualified to be genuinely skeptical of claims in any given paper. That very much puts many of us in the dangerous territory of responding exactly as deniers do: Just out to confirm our biases.

      I try, personally, to watch for genuine skepticism rather than claim it as a trait. I expect to see genuine skepticism in science. I have no qualms about calling people who deny the greater body of scientific research what they are, regardless of their indignation at the terminology.

      • “That very much puts many of us in the dangerous territory of responding exactly as deniers do: Just out to confirm our biases.” I like this comment. I think it’s important to remember that confirmation bias is something that’s quite easy to fall into.

        For a lowly amateur such as myself, it is difficult to work out which ‘side’ in this debate is telling the truth (particularly to start with), but over time it’s become very clear to me that one side is giving a very plausible account and the other isn’t. There is a limit to how much of the technical detail of the science I can understand and how much of the vast array of published science I can explore, and so all I’ve been really able to do over the last few years is look into some aspects of the evidence behind the IPCC’s overall position. I’ve spent a lot of time searching the internet trying to find a single “climate skeptic” argument that seems to have any merit to it but alas it appears that there aren’t any such arguments. Not that I’m qualified (or have the time) to judge every “skeptic” argument (far from it), but I’ve never found a single “skeptic” argument that hasn’t been thoroughly debunked in a way that I found convincing and consistent with what I know of the evidence.

        I’m very much reliant on websites such as Tamino’s, as well as Realclimate and Skeptical Science to help with this; these websites gained my trust slowly as over months and years the consistent integrity on display on these sites became obvious.

        [Response: I think you have good taste in websites. One of my favorites is “Rabett Run,” because it’s well written (I like Eli’s sense of humor).]

      • Rob Nicholls, my experience is quite close to yours, and I agree with your conclusion. I’d perhaps take it a bit further, and say that the debate tactics of denialati as a group are a persuasive argument that they are not correct: there really is only one reason for long-term refusal to engage seriously with the evidence, and that is that you know* it isn’t leading where you want to go.

        *”know”–N.B.–The ‘knowledge’ need not be conscious nor explicit, though in some cases it surely is.

  15. I’d go with snarkrates, and leave out mention of trend or pause.

    1998 saw the strongest El Nino on record. There was a great deal of warming and temperatures haven’t gone back down.

    • 1998 saw the strongest El Nino on record. There was a great deal of warming

      Yes but then you get denialists that claim that El Ninos are not associated with an increase in global temperature.

      You just can’t win against that sort of mentality.

      • Or, since denialism is a big and incoherent tent, there’s the denialist I encountered in comments at The Economist who claimed that knowing El Ninos are associated with an increase in global temperature was a unique insight of his that mainstream climate scientists were too stupid to have cottoned on to. When pointed to a document by Jim Hansen proving otherwise, he shifted to claiming he had the insight first. When pointed to something else Hansen wrote before the date he claimed to have had his eureka moment, he apparently discovered pressing commitments elsewhere that precluded his continuing participation in the discussion.

  16. Apologies if this has already been pointed out but I only noticed the article today.

    One of Tamino’s old favourites, auto engineer and sea level “expert” Albert Boretti (or is it Albert Parker) has been thrown under a bus by one of his co-authors, climate science denier and Australian Financial Review senior journalist Mark Lawson.

    http://tamino.wordpress.com/2012/09/28/sea-level-rise-along-the-atlantic-coast-of-north-america-north-of-cape-hatteras/

    This article is hilarious. Lawson has discovered reverse gears he never knew he had.

    http://www.crikey.com.au/2013/12/03/dangerous-rubbish-afr-letters-ed-lashed-for-contrarian-climate-paper/

    “A leading oceanographer has rubbished a climate change paper co-authored by a leading Financial Review journalist, saying the paper “makes things up”.

    “Mark Lawson, a veteran AFR journalist and self-described climate sceptic, distanced himself from the journal article today, saying he had contributed only a few lines and might not have even read the final article.”

    “I don’t think I actually saw the paper, to be honest,” Lawson said. “I think I contributed a paragraph … I was a bit surprised to see me listed as a joint author — my contribution was quite minimal. I’m a journalist, not a scientist.”

    “Lawson also says he was surprised to learn the article’s lead author was Albert Parker when he had been corresponding primarily with Alberto Boretti. “Is he the same guy? That’s what I was puzzling over … That’s why Parker was sending me emails — I had no idea who he was.”

    That is not what Lawson was saying at The Conversation when it was first pointed out that the paper was garbage.

    https://theconversation.com/peer-review-isnt-perfect-and-the-media-doesnt-always-help-11318

    And he claims “I don’t think I actually saw the paper, to be honest” but here he is singing the praises of the paper and Boretti/Parker in the AFR.

    http://www.afr.com/p/opinion/sea_height_increases_underwhelming_jO57EMSvZUa4MwKE5NLEQJ

  17. Interestingly enough, even scientists can fall prey to biased thinking. It took a long time for the medical profession to accept that stomach ulcers could be cured by killing helicobacter pylori. But there is a certain virtue to that sort of skepticism – the medical profession saves itself from an awful lot of unnecessary change by not jumping on every potentially new discovery.

    Maybe addressing the “pause” is jumping at shadows?

    • Around 60 percent of stomach ulcers are caused by H. pylori, about 30 per cent (and increasing) are caused by prescribed/self-administrated antiinflammatory drugs and the remainder by cancer. The sticking point was a disbelief that bacteria could live in such an acidic environment.

    • Well, its unfortunate that scientists have to spend time convincing people that there really is no “pause”, and if there is its really just natural variation of atmospheric temperatures on top of the underlying warming signal. Some models do produce decadal flatliners for atmosphere, so that’s not really news. We just happened to have a coincidence of 3 cooling elements, a train of La Ninã’s, lowest solar output for a long time and economic boom in China with a doubling of their use of coal in the past a decade (minor effect according to Tamino I recognize). So while Watts and others might think scientists are grasping at straws, it really is all of those in action at the same time. It’s a classical trait of the “skeptics” that there for some reason only have to be only one reason for something to happen, that if there are more than one reason then its too complicated for us to understand and we have to disregard it. The irony is that the physical properties of CO2 is really simple and can perfectly be used as the “one component” to understand the big picture. The CO2 level of a planet would certainly pop up as a vital stat on a planet if the U.S.S. Enterprise should pay a visit. The effect of CO2 is naturally the one component that the “skeptics” don’t want to believe in.

      But the question is really if warming will continue at the rate it has been for the past 4 decades or not. Naturally the skeptics say no, both because stalling is good for business (no CO2 tax) and because they might believe that there is some other process in action in the belief that what goes up must come down (again a belief that CO2 has nothing to do with the current warming).

      As scientists show though, the underlying physical process is still there no matter what natural variation there is – CO2 causes warming – even Lindzen admits to that. So the question is really at what rate will it continue? I think scientific studies perfectly show this through the paleoclimate records, that our current global average temperature and indeed sea level does not correspond to 400ppm if we turn back time. And we know that due to the oceans slow battery-like storage of heat that it takes time for the system to react (after all we are dealing with a full planet here) and catch up with temperatures and resulting sea level from thermal expansion and land ice melt. But we will get there in the end, which is already a problem – and the urgency of the problem should really be the focus now. Do we try to solve this now or do we leave this one to our kids?

      • Horatio Algeranon

        “ET Phone Home”
        — by Horatio Algeranon

        Warming hasn’t stalled
        But pseudoskeptics have
        Reality has called
        But pseudoskeptics laugh

  18. Carl Sagan and Martin Gardner were famously skeptics. So was Steve Schneider, who had a dandy short essay @ SKeptical Inqruirer a few years back. The right term for most self-proclaimed sceptics of climate science is pseudoskeptic, a term with a long history and these days, ridden by strong species of Morton’s Demon,

    Of course, dismissives (or the other d-word) include them, but also the unskeptical with no pretense of skepticism.

  19. I think it was the Australian Geologist Bob Carter (may he rest in pieces), who invented “The Pause”. I have often wondered why he apparently only receives $20,000 per year from Heartland (not counting all the business flights, hotels and consultancy fees of course), while Lindzen gets $100,000. He can exhibit such a grandfatherly benevolence whilst lying through his teeth, that he is instantly believable. Many of my friends have been taken in by him, but yes; the IPCC, by even addressing it have de facto legitimised it. Big mistake.

  20. Here’s a game people can play the next time they’re speaking with a pausist…

    For any vaguely arbitrary value of x ranging up to several score*:

    1) How many 10-year “pauses” are there in the global temperature record?

    2) How many 11-year “pauses” are there in the global temperature record?

    3) How many 12-year “pauses” are there in the global temperature record?

    x) How many (x+9)-year “pauses” are there in the global temperature record?

    x+1) Where does the current “pause” fit in this spectrum? (bonus points if they mention Poisson or similar distributions)

    x+2) What have global temperatures done across the complete time span of the record?

    x+3) What does all this mean?

    Using his iPad, I played this game last weekend with an old university friend who surprised me with his denialism. The conversation eventually stuttered to a halt as his own pauses grew longer and longer.

    He’s not talking to me at all at the moment…

    [* One could go down to x = -3 or -4 but that just becomes silly. It might be instructive, though, if one is confronted with a particularly dense pausist…]

  21. Horatio Algeranon

    “Ethereal Pause”
    — by Horatio Algeranon

    The Ether wasn’t needed
    In fact, it didn’t exist
    The Pause is often greeted
    But may, in fact, be mist

  22. As a grad student, a friend traveled from Alaska to Siberia and back by dog sled to meet his host’s mother.The trip took about 10 weeks each way.

    I will believe that the “pause” is real when the sea ice is once again competent to support such dog sled trips back and forth between Alaska and Siberia.

  23. The “Pause” is another example that internal consistency and logic is not part of the “Skeptic” modus operandi.
    Like the climate sensitivity: on one hand, the climate system according to them is self-regulatory and very insensitive to external forcings, on the other hand, very small forcings caused the MWP 1’000 years ago.
    I am still waiting for the first of the “It’s the Sun” fraction jumping at “The Pause” because it is meaningless to select a 1.5 x sunspot cycle interval: This would ensure that every 5-6 years you would expect alternatingly a very shallow and a very streep trend, depending on whether you start with a solar maximum and end with a minimum or vice versa: If 1998-2013 showed an insignificant trend, so did 1987-2001, 1979-1994, or 1966-1980. On the other hand, 1971-1988, 1982-1998, 1993-2008 showed a large positive trend, and probably 2003-2018 will do so, too.

    • If 1998-2013 showed an insignificant trend, so did 1987-2001, 1979-1994, or 1966-1980.

      Here are the number of years required for statistically significant warming in GISTEMP versus starting year:

      Starting year Years for statistical significance
      1974 14
      1975 14
      1976 14
      1977 19
      1978 18
      1979 19
      1980 18
      1981 17
      1982 16
      1983 16
      1984 14
      1985 14
      1986 16
      1987 16
      1988 15
      1989 14
      1990 13
      1991 12
      1992 10
      1993 10
      1994 10
      1995 13
      1996 12
      1997 >17

      For starting years 1974 to 1996 inclusive, the average number of years for statistical significance is 14.5 with a standard deviation of 2.7. The Pinatubo eruption was in 1991 by the way. Statistical significance from http://www.skepticalscience.com/trend.php .

      • What I was trying to demonstrate was how easy it is to cherry-pick 15-year trends to “fit” your preferred hypthesis. Probably, “The Pause” is nothing more than a statistical artifact, enhanced by the unusually strong El Nino anomaly of 1997-1998.
        The next El Nino will be interesting to watch. Nobody knows when the first large El Nino of the 21st century will hit, it can be 2014, 2015, 2021, or 2030. Bets are that it will pulverize all previous temperature records, and may have consequences we so far do not dare to imagine. This is quite likely, though not certain: 1992 was a strong El Nino year, but Mt. Pinatubo had other ideas.
        If it smashes a new world record, it will separate the skeptics and critics, who will begin to have doubts and ask inconvenient questions like: could it be that we were wrong? from the “skeptics” aka die-hard deniers who will continue business-as usual: Record snowfalls in Y.! Here in Z., we had the coldest tuesday in more than 20 years! Antarctic Sea ice extent on new maximum! Misleading: IPCC suppresses comma in its latest report! Commagate: IPCC scientist denies all allegations! Global cooling since 20xx!

      • Probably, “The Pause” is nothing more than a statistical artifact, enhanced by the unusually strong El Nino anomaly of 1997-1998.

        Indeed. I’s interesting that in my table above, a statistical significance period of 14 years or less only occurs when either El Nino or Pinatubo influences the temperature at the end/beginning of the period. Conversely, the period for statistical significance gets blown out to 19 years when Pinatubo is near the end of it. So a temporary warming/cooling from El Nino/volcanic eruption plays around with the period required for statistical significance. You could say that a period with a volcanic eruption near the end may be affected in a similar way to a period with an El Nino near the beginning.

      • Chris, I’m curious about how you derived the values. They’re a little lower than my admittedly BotE calculations, but even so I’d expect a slightly closer consilience.

      • how you derived the values

        I’ll give you one example and see if you can reconcile that one. For 1974 starting year, the 14 year trend was 0.197±0.175 deg C/decade which is statistically significant.

  24. I think it is common in science that when a phenomenon is poorly understood there are many different explanations for it. Often, one then turns out to be correct. And there is a method for finding out which one. Science is full of smart and imaginative people, and the problem is not that they have no idea, but that they have so many……

  25. If you want to watch a man in climate denial struggling with fake scepticism driven by his beliefs, watch Peter Lilley questioning Sir Peter Williams, Royal Society, and Dr Emily Shuckburgh, Royal Meteorological Society, in the House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee today. Subject: IPCC 5th Assessment Review… http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Main/Player.aspx?meetingId=14877

    It all rises to a head at around 9:59:00 but it’s best to watch it from the start if you want the full effect. Dr Emily Shuckburgh does an excellent job of staying calm in the face of Lilley’s pig-ignorance. Dunning-Kruger in action.

    • Andy Lee Robinson

      I just cringed and found myself wanting to shout 2.3% atmosphere, 2.1% continents, 2.1% ice and 93.4% ocean at the screen…
      Emily knows her stuff, but she just couldn’t explain it in terms that Lilley could relate to. He was clearly very frustrated by the answers to the deniers’ oft trumpeted hiatus meme that he thought might score a point.

      Here lies a fundamental problem in how to communicate science to scientifically illiterate politicians. It’s rather like trying to explain soccer’s offside rule to my dog.

      Is there anyone that could formulate an answer to Lilley’s question in terms he could understand, deliver it to him and make sure he “gets” it?

      • Even if someone could achieve 1 + 2, Andy, they’d fall at the 3rd hurdle. Along with Nigel Lawson, Lilley is one of the group most influential in UK climate denial. And that link is proof of his complete lack of understanding of the science. You can see that he has all the hallmarks of a religious fanatic when it comes to this subject.

      • You are assuming that he has any intention of “getting it” whatsoever. I would call this a very questionable assumption.

      • “Here lies a fundamental problem in how to communicate science to scientifically illiterate politicians.”

        Peter Lilley claims to have studied physics at Cambridge before switching to economics. He cannot legitimately claim (as he whines in the video) to being a humble policy maker who needs to have the science explained simply. He understood exactly what Williams and Schuckburg said, and (I presume) was only annoyed by the fact she refused to give him the soundbite he was so obviously fishing for.

        Given the choice between advancing the House’s collective understanding of the issues or playing to the gallery, Lilley chose the theatrical option, displaying beyond any doubt the utter lack of substance of this pompous fool.

      • A border collie could probably get it. Then a border collie would probably understand climate better than Peter Lilley, as dog doesn’t start with the misconceptions that it is right or that it is smarter than the combined expertise of the globe’s scientists.

      • You can see that he has all the hallmarks of a religious fanatic when it comes to this subject.

        Lilley also has all the hallmarks of a vice-chair of Tethys Petroleum.

        Rather a conflict of interest there – I can’t fathom how he could be put on a committee looking at climate change when he is so patently biased.

    • John, sadly I am not able to view the video. Are there any alternative sources?

  26. The way I look at this problem is thus – given the persistance of 30 percent of the ice sheet reservoir after deglaciation, and given the deep cold fluid oceans and a dynamic atmosphere, there are mechanisms available whereby the appearance of a ‘pause’ in the increasing total heat content with increasing atmospheric greenhouse gas concentration could occur,

    That’s quite a mouthful, I know. I expect more of this kind of thing until the thermal buffers are completely exhausted, and then all hell breaks loose. I suspect all hell will break loose well before the thermal buffers are depleted.

  27. See video of Stan Glantz over at Climate Crock. Stan has been fighting against (smoking) pseudoskeptic tactics for decades, and as he notes, while the tobacco industry refined them strongly, go further back and there was the lead industry and others. The tactics appeal to any industry that privatizes the profits and socializes the {risk, damage or financial losses.}

    • privatizes the profits and socializes the {risk, damage or financial losses.}

      is one form of tragedy of the commons.

  28. John Brookes | February 11, 2014 at 3:45 am | Reply
    Interestingly enough, even scientists can fall prey to biased thinking. It took a long time for the medical profession to accept that stomach ulcers could be cured by killing helicobacter pylori. But there is a certain virtue to that sort of skepticism – the medical profession saves itself from an awful lot of unnecessary change by not jumping on every potentially new discovery.

    Actually it was accepted by medical science rather quickly, the WHO recommended eradication of H Pylori within 5 years of the first publication by Warren and Marshall. Once the patents on anti-acid drugs ran out about 5 years later resistance in the medical profession evaporated! Go figure!

    • Most of that resistance came from superannuated ulcer spcialists who were given an inordiante amount of space by a medical press utterly reliant on drug company advertising. As you say, when the patent on Zantac/ranitidine lapsed so did the opposition.

      All very familiar, isn’t it? Ironic that pseudosceptics bring this up when playing the Gallileo card.

    • Pete, I thoroughly enjoyed that piece and I don’t think that it’s off topic…

      After all, let’s call pausism for what it is – p-hacking.

      In my mind Judith Curry and many others will forever more be nothing other than p-hackers, and in explaining the term to denialists they might be faced with a truth that they could otherwise ignore – the power of giving something a name. It’s like the meme in a tale where knowing someone’s (or something’s) true name gives one power over that entity.

      Yeah, p-hackers… sums it up in a nut-shell.

    • Pete,
      The piece is pretty good, and it is a whole lot less sensational than what Ioannidis has been trumpeting the past few years. The thing is that anyone who takes a single journal article based on a single study as Gospel is misusing science. [Response: Amen!] Even peer review only certifies that one’s peers think the result might be sufficiently interesting and has a sufficient probability of being correct to be worth considering. Ultimately, the gold standard is a piece of knowledge or technique that is so indispensable that it gets used by the entire community without citation–when was the last time you saw Arrhenius’s 1896 paper predicting climate change cited for anything other than historical interest?
      That said, unfortunately there are a lot of scientists out there who are statistically illiterate. Motl’s diatribes on statistical significance are prime examples. Grad schools really need to do a better job.

      The fundamental problem that Fisher and Pearson (pere et fils) and Neyman were all dealing with was the fact that “probabilities” of a hypothesis being right are inherently comparative. That is why you typically use likelihood ratios (or log likelihood differences) in tests of statistical significance and establishing confidence intervals. If we have two theories, we can always say which one matches a result better. However, what if we have 2 theories and multiple results, with one theory better for one result and the next one better for the other. Clearly, neither theory is “correct,” but which one is better? How do we weight the results?

      In the case of climate or evolution, there really is only one theory. It does pretty well, but there are issues that need refining. How would you “falsify” that theory? There really are some very deep questions we don’t know the answer to. Ultimately, though, the test of a theory was that stated by George Box–is it useful.

      This is precisely why Judy and Roy are such clowns.

  29. With apologies to Horatio Algernon:

    The Marx Brothers had their “Sanity Clause”
    To fool the masses. Instead,
    The denier brothers an “insanity pause”
    But its only in their head.

  30. If there’s one thing the climate science obstructionists do well is get lots of people saying the same simple messages over and over. No qualifications or explanations required. No accuracy or truth, just the appearance of truthiness.

    Besides pointing to global heat content, my preferred counter argument to “the pause” –
    For it to be NOT warming the temperature needs to go up and down, up and down (in equal measure over a period long enough to be significant, say 30 yrs). Going up and levelling off, up and levelling off is indicative of underlying warming. Going up and going up some more without any down or even levelling off – the supposed threshold for the obstructionists to concede warming is continuous and continuing, means we are in deep, deep trouble.

    Of course the choice of periods of “up” and periods of “pause” and periods of “cooling” are arbitrary, but, with scientific enquiry and accumulating understanding, the variations can be tied and attributed to physical phenomena.

    • HA–

      We DO see people claiming “trends” of 2 years every time arctic ice “significantly rebounds”.

      • Yes; I’ve seen it claimed over a period of one month, and I very much doubt that’s the record shortest.

      • Horatio Algeranon

        Musically speaking, wouldn’t a warming “pause” of just a month be like a hemidemisemiquaver rest?

        And 2 years like a crotchet + quaver rest?

        And 15 years like a curry rest/ (also known as hiatus rest or stagnation rest)

        And a statistically significant warming pause like those mega-measure rests that are long enough to make you (or at least me) lose count and come in at the wrong time? (I played third clarinet in high school and did that quite frequently, which is probably why I never made second chair, now that I come to think of it)

      • Horatio, I like your analogy. I was a 2nd violinist at school and was always miscounting rests and coming in at the wrong time. Although in my case, even when I did come in at the right time my fingers usually stubbornly refused to play the right notes anyway.

      • Maybe. Or maybe they are all chin rests?

      • Horatio Algeranon

        or give-it-a-rests

  31. As of now, we’re actually right on the near half-century long trend line.

    This amounts to a “pause” how, exactly? The closeness of recent data to the long-established linear trend means those looking to claim some sort of pause need to argue the significance of absence of non-linearity.

    The monthly mean estimate residuals to the post-1970 linear trend over “this century” in fact skew a little above the trend line:

    http://gergs.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/21st-century-residuals.png

    • Gerg – I think if somebody wants to see an essentially flat trend for the 21st century in your graph, they are going to see it.

      • I suppose it’s the persistent above trend temps over 2001-2007 that create this illusion (rather than 1998 per se). It is an illusion, because 21st century temps have been predominantly above trend, not below — see the residuals plot.

      • JGarland – that is the whole point of Tsonis and Swanson. They say this has happened several times in the 20th Century, either a phase of enhanced warming or a phase of cooling. They say these phases typically last for decades. The most obvious one is 1940 to 1975 – 35 years. They published papers on this. Swanson published an article on RealClimate in 2009 – he’s one of Raypierre’s graduate students – in which he suggested temperature would remain flat until 2020. Tsonis now says until 2030.

        You can read Raypierre’s responses in the comments section. There is no hint he thinks Tsonis and Swanson are obviously wrong (or right). He takes them seriously. That’s why the article was published.

        [Response: On a general note, my thanks to everybody for all their thoughtful comments. Kyle himself is out of town at the moment but we decided it was time to go ahead and post this anyway while the paper was still fairly fresh off the presses. I will do my best to provide some feedback to the comments in Kyle’s absence. (I am pleased to say, by the way, that Kyle was my first grad student at U. of Chicago). As for this comment itself, yes indeed it is hard to do decadal variability with a relatively short record, but given that there is a need to try to sort these things out without waiting until CO2 has already doubled,one must simply do the best one can with the available data and hope the picture becomes clearer as time progresses. –raypierre] –

        [Response: Wayne, please note that this is Kyle’s article not mine, though I did encourage him to write it for us. I think the interesting question raised (though not definitively answered) by this line of work is the extent to which some of the pause in warming mid-century might have been more due to decadal ocean variability rather than aerosols than is commonly thought. If that is the case, then a pause or temporary reduction in warming rate could recur even if aerosols are unchanged. Learning how to detect and interpret such things is important, lest a temporary pause be confused with evidence for low climate sensitivity. –raypierre] –

        Note the number of observation-based CS papers the “pause” has generated.

        [Response: In the end, these episodes should be primarily thought of as fluctuations in the atmosphere/ocean heat exchange. Think of what would happen if you could pump cold deep water up to the surface, increasing the air/sea temperature gradient and warming the water; that would give you an anomalously large ocean heat uptake. Some of that would result also in a change in the radiation to space, and in particular a change in the net top of atmosphere radiative imbalance. Cloud feedbacks and water vapor feedbacks would affect the translation into TOA imbalance. In any event, such imbalances are at present exceedingly hard to monitor by satellite. –raypierre] –

      • JCH:

        either a phase of enhanced warming or a phase of cooling. They say these phases typically last for decades. The most obvious one is 1940 to 1975 – 35 years.

        The trend and confidence interval for 1940 to 1975 was -0.003±0.042 deg C/decade (GISTEMP at http://www.skepticalscience.com/trend.php ). i.e. neither cooling nor warming.

        Forgive me for taking everything you claim with a grain of salt.

      • When starting in 1998 (GISS aggregated annually) leads to no significant trend, starting in 1999 does lead to a significant trend, and starting in 2000 does not, I tend to think trying to “explain” this a massive waste of time at present in terms of explaining climate trends.

        I know many physics types disagree and want to explain every tiny wiggle. More (computer!) power to them. But to my mind that is WEATHER research, not climate research. Yes, a gigantic volcanic explosion can affect worldwide WEATHER. What it does not affect is long term climate.

        For the purposes of research on the overall, long term climate trends, I would treat such things as the noise that it is in that context.

      • When starting in 1998 (GISS aggregated annually) leads to no significant trend, starting in 1999 does lead to a significant trend

        According to http://www.skepticalscience.com/trend.php , the trend from 1999 is NOT statistically significant.

      • > Y D fit summary(fit)

        Call:
        lm(formula = Y ~ D)

        Residuals:
        Min 1Q Median 3Q Max
        -0.101214 -0.050054 0.003607 0.058339 0.101464

        Coefficients:
        Estimate Std. Error t value Pr(>|t|)
        (Intercept) -18.427357 8.382469 -2.198 0.0466 *
        D 0.009464 0.004179 2.265 0.0413 *

        Signif. codes: 0 ‘***’ 0.001 ‘**’ 0.01 ‘*’ 0.05 ‘.’ 0.1 ‘ ’ 1

        Residual standard error: 0.06992 on 13 degrees of freedom
        Multiple R-squared: 0.2829, Adjusted R-squared: 0.2278
        F-statistic: 5.13 on 1 and 13 DF, p-value: 0.04126

      • Horatio Algeranon

        The trend taken over a 30 year period mid-century was actually significantly different (statistically speaking) from the trends over both the period of equal length that preceded and the period that followed while the trend over the last 15 years is notsignificantly different from the 30 year trend that preceded it (but the latter was significantly different from zero/flat, being about 0.17 +- 0.06 C/decade (2sigma)

        So, if one is not basing the claim of a “pause” over the last 15 years on statistical comparison of trends, what is one basing it on?

        If statistical comparison of trends is not required as the basis, what prevents someone from claiming a pause with just 10, 5 or even 2 years of data?

        If several scientists merely hypothesize that there has been a “pause” over the last 15 years (without testing it statistically or even defining it), does that alone legitimize the claim of a “pause”?

    • Gerg, I think you have to be careful about assuming a constant linear trend post-1970…if 21st century residuals are consistently above the overall linear trend line it suggests that the model is not a great fit to the data. If you fit a changepoint / broken-stick model to GISTEMP (annual) data there is some evidence of a reduced rate of (surface) warming in the 21st century – certainly not a complete pause, but a lower rate of warming, which of course would be entirely consistent with natural variability on top of underlying CO2 warming. My point is, you can’t be sure an apparent flattening is an illusion just because you can fit a linear trend over the full time series (which I assume you’ve done- apols if not).

      • I think pretty much everyone knows and agrees there are large scale (compared to CO2) influences that come into play over the decadal to multidecadal term. Well anyone who has studied the temp record for more than 3 seconds). However, aggregated annually since 1970 there is no significant autocorrelation (GISS), so the residual problem may not be as you are assuming. ALL assumptions need to be made carefully, but the assumption of a fundamental change occurring to flatten warming in some fundamental way unobserved in the record previously in 1998 is, to me, a much larger assumption than linearity.

      • Horatio Algeranon

        “you can’t be sure”

        Well, many of the people who claim a “pause” and posit explanations/causes for it seem sure enough– that the “pause” is real.

        The scientific approach would involve first formulating a null hypothesis about the supposed “pause” (which requires precisely defining the term — eg, as a significant change in trend in global temp over the last 15 years vs the previous 25) and then testing it statistically at some level (95% being standard)

        If they actually did this, they would find (as Tamino has pointed out numerous times) that claiming a “pause” (stop or even slowdown) in global warming over the last 15 years is not warranted statistically.

        Instead of doing this, however, many people simply assume a “pause” because they can just “see it” by eye-balling the global temperature graph — ie, without doing any statistical testing or even defining the term “pause”. And then they go hunting for “explanations” for it.

        The latter is not a scientific approach, not even if scientists are the ones taking it.

      • JGarland,
        It still seems to me that you don’t want to acknowledge that you are simply making a somewhat arbitrary *choice* of what is signal and what is noise. Nothing wrong with that, but pesky ‘physics types’ can’t ignore physical processes like increasing OHC. (I am speaking hypothetically; I take no position on the validity of that particular recent data.) The point being, we didn’t develop the ARGO system because someone said “Look, a pause, let’s scurry around trying to find an explanation.”
        I’m pretty sure that there is no pause in energy gain in the system overall, and for now I’ll accept that even for surface temp. But what would you say if there were a clear indication of OHC increasing, and the surface temperature numbers continued in your statistically acceptable trend? Wouldn’t you be the one needing to multiply entities then?

      • “Arbitrary”? No. I think most anyone would say that climate is a long term phenomenon while weather is a short term one.

      • JGarland,

        You should get outside out more.
        The global mean surface temperature is neither weather nor climate.

      • I would call the global mean temperature on a particular day much more of a weather thing than a climate thing. Same with any short period. Climatology always is defined using the phrase “over a period of time”.

        You can call it what you want.

      • JGarland,

        Denialists have been telling me for some years now that I should ignore the thoughtful, experimentally verified, theoretical constructions and calculations of physics types like Pierrehumbert, because a few data points are apparently behaving in a certain way. Now you are telling me to do the same thing.

        For my part, I will indeed eschew terms like “weather thingie” and stick with what I can experience and measure.

    • Indeed, the pause is an artifact of climate variability, hence its all in the “noise” while the warming signal is really quite clear. I did the same exercise as Tamino did on a post here the other day about the fact that in spite of past decade showing a flat projection, the majority of temperatures are above the 1979-1997 trendline. Recently some mentioned 2001-2013 showing a decrease which yet another meaningless cherrypick. Even by including more points up to 2000 for the trendline the majority of points are still above the trendline for this supposed “hiatus”:

      The recent La Ninã’s are just as much a temporary artifact as the El Ninõ in 1998 is in the long run. Actually if you pretend that the 1998 was in fact a neutral year, the majority of points under the trendline would be almost on it or just a tad below and the whole past decade would have shown substantial warming with several points way above the trendline.

    • WordPress appears not to like R assignment operaters…

      Y (assigned to) c(.40,.40,.52,.61,.60,.52,.65,.59,.62,.49,.59,.66,.55,.57,.60)
      D (assigned to) 1999:2013
      fit (assigned to) lm(Y~D)
      summary(fit)

      Call:
      lm(formula = Y ~ D)

      Residuals:
      Min 1Q Median 3Q Max
      -0.101214 -0.050054 0.003607 0.058339 0.101464

      Coefficients:
      Estimate Std. Error t value Pr(>|t|)
      (Intercept) -18.427357 8.382469 -2.198 0.0466 *
      D 0.009464 0.004179 2.265 0.0413 *

      Signif. codes: 0 ‘***’ 0.001 ‘**’ 0.01 ‘*’ 0.05 ‘.’ 0.1 ‘ ’ 1

      Residual standard error: 0.06992 on 13 degrees of freedom
      Multiple R-squared: 0.2829, Adjusted R-squared: 0.2278
      F-statistic: 5.13 on 1 and 13 DF, p-value: 0.04126

      [Response: In R you can use “=” as an assignment operator. In fact I much prefer it, I think the usual choice is just silly.]]

      • The usual choice looks just fine–even artificially intelligent–to someone with a Prolog background like me!

  32. Listen people.

    The plurals are Los Niños and Las Niñas.

    Don’t make me tell you this again.

    [Response: This is the sort of thing, up with which I shall not put.]

  33. By the way, the difference between skeptics and deniers is like the difference between short people and married people—the categories are orthogonal.

    You can be a skeptic and deny, or a skeptic and believe, or gullible and deny, or gullible and believe.

    Skepticism is a process; denial (like acceptance) is a position.

    • You can be a skeptic and deny

      Denial implies not being skeptical of things that support your denial. Therefore denial is not skeptical.

  34. Brad, I disagree. One cannot be a skeptic and be in denial. At best, that makes one selectively credulous.

    • Who said anything about being in denial? Please beware the fallacy of equivocation. Denial doesn’t entail being in denial (though of course the two states may coincide) any more than belief implies you are in believal.

      By the way, deniers of what?

      Is it “…of the CO2-drives-climate theory” that’s implicitly understood here? Or is it “…of global warming?” I apologise if I’ve simply forgotten where this is answered in the article itself—but since the article includes neither the word “hypothesis” nor “theory,” Command-F isn’t of much help in refreshing my memory.

      • Brad,
        I would say that if you deny the scientific opinions of over 90% of experts in a field + the National Academy of Sciences + every professional association of scientists that has taken a position on the subject, then you are probably in denial.

        A skeptic looks at the evidence and forms an opinion. That presumes said skeptic has the ability to skillfully interpret the evidence. If you do not have that ability, you cannot be a skeptic.

      • Well, that’s part of the problem, Brad. Deniers tend to pick one part of the mainstream science to deny: some deny that there is such a thing as the ‘greenhouse effect’ (the so-called ‘slayers’ fall into this category); some deny that we are even increasing atmospheric CO2 (though not many); some just deny that the consequences will be bad enough to worry about (like Drs. Lindzen, Christy and Spencer.) And there are also ‘epistemological deniers’ like Dr. Curry, who deny that we know enough on the topic to decide what to do.

        There is also a sizable number less self-consistent folk who opt for an ‘all of the above strategy’–always entertaining, since it inevitably ends up being highly incoherent, and they never let themselves notice…

        The bottom line is ‘ABC’–that is, “Anything But Carbon.”

      • Snarkates,

        I can’t find fault with this:

        “A skeptic looks at the evidence and forms an opinion.”

        However, this underscores a certain ambiguity in your advice. A moment ago you wanted us to look at the opinion and form an opinion.

        You went so far as to suggest that if someone failed to conform themselves to the opinion in question, then they were clearly in a psychologically unhealthy condition (“denial”).

        I’m referring, of course, to the opinion of 90% of experts in a field + the National Academy of Sciences + every professional association of scientists that has taken a position on the subject.

        So which is it: should we look at an evidence, or must we look at what other people think—which, according to the axioms of scientific reasoning, is not a form of evidence.

        (I’m taking it as a tacit premise that we all understand Rule Zero of Science Club, which is that opinion is not evidence.)

        A separate, but equally interesting, question is whether you regard the less-than-ten-percent of dissident experts as being similarly unwell in psychological/mental-health terms, since—after all—they know 90%+ of the experts think a certain way, yet they perseverate in thinking otherwise.

      • Command-F isn’t of much help in refreshing my memory.

        I don’t think anything could be accused of that.

      • Who said anything about being in denial?

        OK. So denialists (meaning those in denial) are not skeptics. That’s what I intend when I say “denialists”.

      • Denial doesn’t entail being in denial any more than belief implies you are in believal (sic).

        What else can belief imply besides being in belief? By the way, what is the name for someone who is in denial if it’s not denialist and the name for someone who is in belief if it’s not believer?

  35. INdeed, if skepticism is a process, when does it end? In science, it ended long ago as to the broad brush strokes of climate change, our responsibility for causing it and the damage it will do.

    You can’t still be skeptical about action at a distance, a perfectly sound position to hold 400 years ago, nowadays. So it is that a true sceptic won’t be a denialist by definition of the words.

    • “INdeed, if skepticism is a process, when does it end? In science, it ended long ago as to the broad brush strokes of climate change, our responsibility for causing it and the damage it will do.”

      Really? What are we still paying climate scientists to do, then?

      If they’ve established to any reasonable person’s satisfaction what causes climate change and—equally importantly—that it will be sufficiently damaging to justify mitigating action in the present, then their great benefaction to mankind is surely accomplished. Job well done. So long.

      “You can’t still be skeptical about action at a distance”

      You can’t be skeptical about any proposition, because skepticism is a process, not a position. Skepticism is not “about” anything, it’s just skepticism. Have you, by any chance, changed the meaning of “skeptical” to “doubtful” without even realizing it? Because that would be self-confounding.

      [Response: Splitting hairs is a process. Usually, an unproductive one.]

      • If they’ve established to any reasonable person’s satisfaction what causes climate change and—equally importantly—that it will be sufficiently damaging

        Slight but important change: that its risk-weighted damage is sufficiently high.

      • It really is pretty hard to look at sea level rise and not see multiple trillions of dollars of losses to society. Of course you _can_ close your eyes. Won’t stop the sea, though.

  36. Who’s “splitting hairs,” moderator/Tamino? Surely it’s not too much to ask for us to consistently observe the distinction between skepticism and doubt. Note that if we allow said distinction to collapse then the entire premise of your/Tamino’s post is stillborn. After all, disbelievers are “skeptical” by definition… if we neglect the definition of “skeptical.”

    :-)

    [Response: Everybody here is perfectly well aware of what we’re talking about. The only possible confusion I see is because you seem more interested in semantics than in communication. The statement “if we allow said distinction to collapse then the entire premise of your/Tamino’s post is stillborn” is idiotic.]

    • The actual issue under consideration was the words ‘sceptic’ and ‘denialist’, not ‘scepticism’ and ‘doubt’.
      This is an important consideration, the word denialist does not mean ‘doubter’, it means something far stronger than that, one who flat out refuses to see something in front of them.
      Which, since the topic is Watts et al, is entirely relevant. A sceptic is a doubter, a denialist doesn’t doubt, but is absolutely certain in their wrongness.

      • A denialist has raised the process of denial to an art form.

      • “…denial… an art form…”

        Flirting with Godwin’s–but I have to say, if so, we have now discovered the true significance of the term “degenerate art.”

      • Horatio Algeranon

        Jackson Pollock is to painting as climate change denier* is to climate science.

        Except Pollock was more coherent and actually had a point (at least that’s what the art experts say)

        *named after Pierre de Nier (who predated the Holocaust by 300 years), author of de Nier’s Last Theorem:

        I have discovered a marvelous proof
        Global Warming’s bunk, a mammoth goof
        But alas, this blog is just too small
        To hold the proof, so… that is all

    • Brad Keyes, I could be skeptical enough to doubt your existence. But if I was, I wouldn’t be typing this. You have to be a little bit unskeptical, just to participate in the world.

  37. Brad Keyes,
    One never stops being skeptical. One does at some point, however, have to act, even in the face of uncertainty. There comes a point where we know enough that it would be irresponsible not to act, even if we cannot dot the last I or cross the last in our book of knowledge on the subject.

    The problem is that skepticism is really only possible if we understand the subject matter sufficiently to interpret the evidence intelligently. It is pointless to ask a 4 year old to take a position on whether string theory is a valid Theory of Everything (TOE). If you are not an expert, then you are in a position where you will have to select experts that you trust to explain what evidence you can understand and to advise you on how to act. That is why we pay experts.

    The level of unanimity–not just consensus–we find on anthropogenic warming is unprecedented. I do not know of any other scientific issue where 34 National Academies of Science and nearly 100 professional societies of scientists has taken a position. And the position that they have taken is that we do not know everything about Earth’s climate, but we have reached the point where we know enough that not to act is irresponsible.

    • Evolutionary biology? Also under attack by legions of denialists convinced they are correct, who have spent large sums of money setting up their own alternative universe with its own books and a journal or two. As far as I am aware, lots of Academies of science and professional societies have issued statements in support of it; the denialists frequently lose in court too when they try to impose their anti-scientifice ideas on the general populace.

  38. Brad,

    In some part this comes down to who is legitimate. I don’t have sufficient training in the necessary physics and math to be a legitimate skeptic about the Higgs boson work. I’m never going to have that level of understanding either. So I don’t opine about it. I’m entertained by it, but that’s as far as my engagement with the matter can go.

    Too much of what we see called skepticism about climate science is expressed by people who are as unqualified to discuss the matter as I am to discuss the Higgs Boson.

    Having paid handsomely for some post-post graduate on molecular biology that didn’t exist when I was in graduate school in Chemistry, I can read the papers on the HIV/AIDS connection and feel confident in saying that Peter Duesberg went off his rocker in challenging HIV as the cause for AIDS. I know enough about the methods, the cross-checks, etc., to see that the work is well done and trace the consistency across dozens of publications. The anti-HIV “skeptics” couldn’t do that.

    Speaking from my personal authority, having a doctorate in chemistry, having done modeling etc., I can go through a list of propositions that conventional AGW theory passes falsifiability tests for starting with my personal performance of IR spectroscopy, to personally measuring CO2, doing isotope measurements, measuring a black body temperature and spectrum in physics lab, and so forth. I cannot replicate and confirm each and every step, but there are no steps that I can personally confirm that do not fit with my training and professional experience. The overwhelming majority of people claiming to be skeptics about AGW are nowhere close to this level of understanding, much less the understanding of a Hansen, Pierrehumbert, etc. To be blunt, without even a qualitative background they have no standing to be skeptics. They have an incorrect belief, and it is a faith-based thing, that they are entitled to an opinion and to express it. Legally yes, morally and ethically no. Where you fall in this mattter I don’t know, but the way you’re fussing about language suggests to me that you have a sense of entitlement that is misplaced.

    Now, that’s just the qualitative side. The quantitative side of this isn’t expressed in terms of the language of “skepticism”or “doubt”, but “uncertainty”, and I do not mean Professor Curry’s uncertainty monster either.

    Now, the only place I’ve ever seen your rhetoric about knowing enough so we can shut up shop and just concentrate on implementing solutions is from hard core denialists who think they are scoring some kind rhetorical points by making all levels of uncertainty the same. That only fools people (including themselves) who don’t have the background to form opinions in the first place.

    We can know as a qualitative and paleoclimate supported proposition that continued warming will eventually melt large sections of Greenland and Antarctic Ice sheets. We don’t know enough about ice sheet dynamics to assert that a catastrophic breakup can’t occur, or that accelated sea level rise beyond current models is out of the question. Every few weeks brings a new paper showing increased cause for concern that things could be worse than what we’ve thought. I’m seeing little to nothing that says the opposite. No shutting up shop here. If 1/2 of West Antartica were to slip into the ocean over 10 years that would be a pretty impressive event… and if we had 5 years warning that it was going to happen, that woud be 5 years more to cope with what we can’t stop. And none of this this is about “skepticism”. It’s about having identified gaps in knowledge, and the creative and imaginative parts of the engine of science being engaged.

    I could list other points about climate models- for example we could be able to forecast perfectly the temperature for the next 100 years, and the models still not be able to cope with comparing the effectiveness and/or unanticipated consequences of attempts at geoengineering. No shutting up shop here, and again nothing about being skeptical about the dominant knowledge and findings of the global science community about AGW.

    Which brings me to my next point: while I’ve done enough modeling to know that models can do great things (sure did for my bank account and my employer’s bottom line)… I don’t know enough of fluid mechanics or an number of other components of GCMs to go in and figure out whether there’s a bug in the code, or more importantly a flaw in the reasoning that is translated into the equations, the way I could with my models and simulations. But in this case I think I have a surrogate for that kind of investigation that is generally useful, which is the consilience of the model results over the long term. (I know enough to know that the argument about long term vs short term scenarios given by modelers is correct however). What is important here is that there is not a single example of a model that can correctly hindcast and yet offers a pain free future. None. The absence of such a model cannot be for lack of trying as Shell and other Oil companiess have been funding climate modeling for decades at MIT and other institutions. Is there uncertainty about the rate of warming? Sure. But does the area of uncertainty cover any territory that justifies inaction? No.

    But unless you’re competent to assess a GCM, you have no standing to have an opinion about the varying rates of warming calculated by different models. You must either use my surrogate for that competence, devise your own or stand mute. This isn’t something you can finesse with rhetoric.

    So to add another difference between a true “skeptic” and a denialist, the true skeptic knows the limits of their own knowledge and competence. The dismissives and denialists think they can somehow find a way around their own incompetence in science and math and come up with a valid answer. They’re wrong, but that doesn’t stop them from expressing this false entitlement at every opportunity.

    • Well said, Dave123.

    • That was an impressive and well-argued comment, Dave123. Thanks.

    • This is impressive and valuable.

      But I continue to maintain that with adequate curiosity, an open mind, and limited education one can, like an old lady kicking the tires, evaluate the overall atmospherics and make a choice for honesty without being able to follow the technical side.

      I’m not myself a good example as my experience with science and scientists is so vast that I know to respect them, how they think, how they work, and all that, even though my own technical ability is limited (and I have more science education than most but way less than most of you).

      I think a reasonable person can just look around and get the picture. Dishonesty has a stink to it.

      • Just so, Susan, and I would add that the less-educated scientifically among us receive clues from the deniers that make our judgements on the broad issues easier. I refer to their habit of repeating easily refuted lies and myths and resorting to conspiracy theories. These tactics long ago reduced their credibility to zero with me, just as happened with other sorts of science and history deniers who resemble them so closely.

        Understanding the more arcane literature is hard, but recognizing that the soi-disant “skeptics” are frauds is easy.

      • Susan and Dan,

        You’ve brought up a couple of points that should be included in any weapons grade version of my insomniac half-polished rant, so my thanks for your help.

        First, Susan. When I didn’t finish what I almost started with the molecular biology example, I goofed, because I strongly believe that nearly any one can study up and learn, and I in no way want to discourage people from doing this. One of the remarks Dan Kemp would make to undergraduate classes in Organic Chemistry at MIT was that this was school, but in real life you have as much time as you need to master a subject. In my case that still doesn’t mean I’ll learn the Tensor math needed for advanced physics or Chinese….but in general with motivation and sufficient time you can learn nearly anything. That’s why the sites of the Good Guys, Taminio, SKS, RealClimate, HotWhopper, etc are so important for those of us who continue to study.

        Dan, I’m going to agree with you that deniers leave clues how they present their case, but add that I am wary of making judegments on surrogates. I’m seeing a number of people citing Kahneman “Thinking Fast and Slow”and I”m a great fan of the book. Whenever possible I would prefer to avoid system 1 thinking. In the case of climate modeling at the advanced level I mentioned in my original note, it would be far better for me to have a much higher level of understanding than to be making a surrogate judgement either on how the models stack up or the odd notions deniers have about. I sympathize with your position, but I try to avoid it.

        Well wishes to you both

      • climatehawk1 (@climatehawk1)

        And don’t forget the awesome Arctic Sea Ice blog, which is awesome (or did I already mention that?).

        [Response: Well … it is awesome.]

  39. Brad seems to forget that many of the “less than ten percent of dissident experts” (more like less than 3% actually), are paid consultants for the fossil fuel industry. If you are aware of this fact yet still insist on taking their advice, then you most certainly are in denial. (If you are not, then you haven’t done enough due diligence to consider yourself properly sceptical).

    Most of us lay people are not in a position (and do not have the training) to conduct the experiments and carry out the measurements to quantify global warming, hence we have to rely upon the experts in order to form an opinion. But it’s not only their opinion which informs us; its the evidence in the form of thousands upon thousands of peer reviewed papers (which the experts themselves relied upon to form their opinions), which we need to take account of. That is what being properly sceptical is. Those in denial basically take their position based on “gut feel”, (generally driven by political persuasion), and then look for evidence to support it.

    It is a fact that climate change denial (and also disbelief in evolution), is strongly associated with conservative political affiliation. Perhaps this has to do with their tendency to see things in black and white, and to demand simple solutions to complex problems. This could explain their inability to see the signal buried amongst the noise of natural variability, and their constant fascination with short term trends. Brad’s constant equivocation, semantics and hair splitting could represent his instinctive rebellion against the facts, which are in plain view to anyone with a truly sceptical bent.

    • Debunker: I have studied the funding flows in some detail, and cataloged various perceived reasons for climate anti-science and it turns out that the number of dismissive spokespeople being paid directly by fossil fuel companies is fairly small.
      More get paid indirectly via think tanks, who may get some money from fossil companies, but get lots from familiy foundations (including Kochs, but that’s both political and fossil),
      The funding chains are really dark mazes. See Fakery 2 for analysis and CCC before that for a broader view of more people.

      Some, with zero competence in climate science, write books that get sold and supported only because they are dismissive.

      I think some take the position from politics, and others take positions because they may be old men that no one in the field listens to any more.

      • Yes John,

        There is a powerful video on Youtube of Senator Sheldon Whitehouse giving a speech to congress on just this topic.

        This anonymous funding of foundations, which then fund the “think tanks” is a travesty. It enables individuals and corporations (Like Exxon) to claim the high ground, saying that they accept climate change and have stopped funding climate denial whilst the opposite is true. It also enables individuals like Bob Carter to claim falsely (as I think he still does on his website), that they are not funded by the fossil fuel lobby.

        Speaking of denial, whatever happened to Brad? It’s amazing how these individuals unaccountably dry up when hit with a concerted dose of logic and fact, qualities that they themselves are in short supply of.

        [Response: I dried him up. When he decided he wanted to argue the difference between a “denier” and a “denialist,” I decided he wasn’t going to waste any more of our time.]

      • Horatio Algeranon

        A “denialist” is a list of deniers (or the things they deny)

        Hope that helps Brad.

  40. Amazing (looking back at it) how this subthread has, er, ‘evolved’ from a light-hearted quip.

    But I think I’d have to disagree with the idea that ‘skepticism is a process.’ I think it’s most centrally an attitude: an attitude of commitment to the process of rational investigation. If so, it’s not orthogonal to denial at all, since denial is an attitude of commitment to a particular position, regardless of what the evidence may say.

    If my model of the conceptual terrain is taken as correct, then it would seem to follow that the geometrical metaphor of 90-degree angles–implied by the primary meaning of the term ‘orthogonal’–should be altered to that of a 180-degree angle. (Which, in turn, is congruent with what a lot of folks said along the way, and, I suspect, the conceptual model underlying the topic and title of this whole post.)

    • Horatio Algeranon

      I think what you are saying is that denial is ignorthoganal to skepticism.

      • Horatio Algeranon

        “Ignorthogonality”
        — by Horatio Algeranon

        Denial is ignorthoganal
        To skepticism’s axis
        Style: enigmorblogonal
        It takes a lot of practice

        Flaunting it’s hyanus
        At every single turn
        Mocked by the hyenas
        But never seems to learn

    • “Ignorthogonal?”

      That’s easy for you to say!

      ;-)

  41. Dave123 at February 15, 2014 at 4:26 am
    That’s a keeper. If the guy read it, he’ll be quiet for a while because you’ve given him a lot to think over.

  42. I’ve been mulling over this topic/post/tread without contributing … until now. Perhaps I’ve been mulling too long – what a lot of words.

    I suppose my view isn’t too far from where Tamino says “That’s how science works. And it works, bitches.” Science ‘works’. But due to the nature of science, it can be easily made to look like it doesn’t work by collectivising some particular flavour of denial. I would argue that denial is not restricted to AGW deniers. In all its forms, I see it permeating all science. Because I consider denial and skepticism are inseparable.

    I will kick off with what scepticim & denial evidently have in common.
    Firstly, scepticis & deniers are both unwilling to accept the ‘answer’ – the conventional wisdom of the moment.
    Secondly, they both believe that those who have derived the ‘answer’ are wrong. (And that makes it kinda personal.) That is, they may not always be proposing that the ‘answer’ is wrong but they will always be saying the ‘answer’ is not complete – it is wrong to adjudge the ‘answer’ as being correct.
    And I’m not sure you can drawn any clear line between sceptic & denier. Say a sceptic is trying to further the science while a denier isn’t – refuting denial (or trying to) is a useful and legitimate scientific process. Say a sceptic can explain the reason for doubting the ‘answer’ – so often that doesn’t hold true. Say their respective understanding of the ‘answer’ will demonstrate who is sceptic & who is denier – it won’t. Say a denier is obsessed with overthrowing the ‘answer’ – so are many sceptics. Say a denier (for no good reason) upholds evidence that is known to be wrong – but many useful what-if analyses require such a stance. However I think with the bracketed clause in this last attempt, you are then not too far away from differentiating sceptic from denier.
    (Of course, what determines things to be ‘wrong’ needs then also to be considered and that would include whether the upheld evidence kicks over too many other precious truths, or perhaps prevents them being kicked over.)

    Anybody who has stepped into any corner of academic research will recognise a world of dispute and pet ideas. A rich variety of views and of denial is ever rife.
    So as sure as eggs is eggs, there is denial within climatology. It has so many many manifestations. Multi-metre SLR by 2100. Arctic methane time-bomb by 2020. The mid-West spontaneously igniting by this time next month and taking Amazonia with it. (Note these are but examples and are off topic here.) And the most outlandish pet ideas never make it into the literature, don’t make it even onto paper.
    So given this, it would be possible to cultivate what I could call these anti-AGW-deniers. Their pet theories are collectively inconsistent to hell-and-back but they might be encouraged by what they hold in common and so refrain from beating each other up in public.
    And hear this!! They are real scientists. The public should certainly be made aware of their message. Look!! The conventional wisdom a la IPCC is so badly wrong. – [WARNING – Error alert!!!]

    The error with such a view is that this selective assembly of scientists does not present science. Far from it. What do you expect when you put all the lunatic cranky professors into a single room? Steady now. If you tried that, you would get them beating each other up. No. This is a roomful of lunatic cranky professors. The output is in no way scientific.
    And anyway, why should we be surprised that professors can actually be cranky lunatics? Is it not a well-known stereotype? Have we not all seen ‘Back To The Future’?

    But what if Old King Cole calls for his denialists 3%? If all like-minded deniers are encouraged to beat up on the IPCC, in public, in front of committees of enquiry, on the telly, and if they refrain from beating each other up….

    They also appear to refrain from publishing those views that they trot out on telly etc.

    And what of scientific correctness when a denialist scientist beats up, not just a fellow scientist or two, but his entire science? Now it is eminently possible to be minded to disbelieve that AGW will be a threat to future human well-being. However to maintain such a belief whilst working as a climatologist must take a very high level of denial (compared with 5m SLR ro methane time-bombs). To start with, this is well-trampled turf. The likes of Lindzen has been at this for decades and no supporting evidence has yet been found for a view of a non-threatening level of ECS. (It is strange that Lindzen always finds ECS to be so low. Perhaps the 1, 2, 3 & 4 keys are broken on his computer so he cannot type out an ECS higher than 0.9.) And secondly the implications for such a finding within the rest of climatology spread very wide. It is no longer a matter of ignoring one or two inconvenient bits of research, or putting to one side a large pile of contradictory literature that supports the conventional wisdom. You have to trash the whole science of climatology to be where Lindzen is. And perhaps more. You have to trash the whole of science to shuffle data, treat unsupported assertion as scientific fact, to present fiction as evidence. That is certainly what you see in Lindzen’s message.
    Now there is nothing wrong per se with a study that finds ECS=0.7. What is wrong is then asserting that therefore ECS=0.7 when the literature plainly shows that such a value means no ice ages, no PETM, etc.
    So is Lindzen deluded? Is he in unremitting denial? I think that misses a big contributor to his position – he could well be simply bloody-minded. The scientific process does get personal, does it not? And as well, hey, look at all his new friends, all the attention and maybe some additional funding too.

    And climatology itself, even though it sees the obscenity of individuals coming under attack for honest work (eg Mann or Jones), even though they see their scientific work being bad-mouthed by supposed fellow scientists, for some reason it doesn’t step up a gear and nail the non-science and misrepresentation being spread by the likes of Lindzen or Curry. I think it should step up a gear. The position of a climate denier should be made scientifically untenable. And also wider afield too. It is evident from enquiries that the deniers on committees etc are very much better versed at putting difficult questions to unblemished scientists than the non-deniers are at putting difficult questions to the likes of Lindzen.

    Climate deniers will find a ready supply of people minded to believe their peculiar version of truth. As I explained above, science is full enough of deniers of various hue for a small supply of scientists to become positioned in the non-scientific climate denial camp.
    So a rallying call – is it beyond the wit of man to show exactly how non-scientific these fallen scientists become by joining such a camp?

  43. Wrong. Scientists can be wrong defending pet theories. Often are. Lindtzen types are scientists defending pet theories.

    Deniers are a different. First, they generally don’t collect their own data. Second, they generally do not publish in peer reviewed journals. Third they are constantly seeking cherrypicks for the simple reason that the mass of data is clear. Fourth, they subscribe to conspiracy theories. The list goes on but they can be differentiated.

  44. Horatio Algeranon

    “Deniers and Sceptics”
    — by Horatio Algeranon

    Deniers and sceptics
    Sceptics and deniers
    One touts antiseptics
    The other funeral pyres

  45. I’m by no means an expert in climate science, but from what I do know, it would hard to convince me that AGW isn’t happening. Because I’m a skeptic.

    I know that CO2 is a “greenhouse” gas (and yes, I know that’s not a very accurate term), and I’ve seen the data showing that the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is steadily increasing. Knowing those two things, I know that the Earth has be warming up. That makes it up to the naysayers to explain to me why that wouldn’t happen. Because I’m a skeptic.

    I know that fossil fuels are made up of carbon that was extracted from the atmosphere by plants and buried underground over millions of years. I know that digging it up and burning it releases all that carbon back into the atmosphere. From easily available and reliable data, and some simple arithmetic, I figure that almost 300 petagrams of fossil carbon has been dug up and burned over the last 300 years. Hmm, vast quantities of fossil carbon dug up and burned, steadily increasing amounts of carbon in the atmosphere: anyone who tells me humans aren’t responsible for that extra atmospheric carbon is going to need a better argument than any I’ve seen so far. Because I’m a skeptic.

    I’ve seen the temperature measurements showing that the average temperature of the Earth’s land+atmosphere+oceans has been slowly and noisily but otherwise steadily increasing for at least the last 100 years. I’ve seen the data from multiple paleoclimate reconstructions, showing that it’s warmer now than it has been for thousands of years. I’ve seen no convincing evidence that climate scientists are all engaged in a conspiracy to make data up. Having had the privilege of knowing many scientists well, I trust their integrity and the scientific process. Anyone who tells me the temperature data is false or misleading has a heavy burden of proof. Because I’m a skeptic.

    The causal relationships among fossil fuel burning, increasing atmospheric CO2 and rising temperatures are clear to me. Since I know that the additional CO2 will stay in the atmosphere for hundreds of years, and there’s little sign that fossil fuel use will decline over the next few decades, it seems ineluctable that it’s only going to get hotter. How hot, how fast, are quibbles; anyone who tells me AGW won’t mean big changes to the global environment, and big changes to a lot of people’s lives, is going to hve to work awfully hard to convince me. Because I’m a skeptic.

    The people who keep saying warming isn’t happening, or isn’t because of us, or won’t be a big deal, can call themselves “skeptics”, but they aren’t.

  46. This whole thread is reminding me of my late former father-in-law, a research meteorologist with the then-Atmospheric & Environmental Service (Canada.) He was a grand guy in many ways. And he was a true skeptic.

    Upon hearing an idea, his consistent attitude was ‘can that really be right?’ The testing would start right away: “That would imply…” perhaps, or maybe “But how could…” Could be anything from lawnmower design to the then-impending transition to fully-implemented numerical forecasting. Maybe the testing would lead to some BOTE calculation, if the topic was sufficiently interesting to warrant it.

    Occasionally, it would be applied to something casual and social, and then he could be a pain in the ass, because social chitchat really doesn’t work that way. But in general, his sense of humor and proportion tended to keep such events in check.

    The end point of the testing process was always provisional. Some conclusions (positive or negative) were pretty firm, but there was always the possibility, as a matter of principle, that further information (data or theoretical analysis) might come along which would mandate further testing.

    As I said–a true skeptic.

  47. Strange things happen when you go for a run, especially when nostalgia is lurking in the background. Like this:

    Denial’s rhetorical pride
    Flows on, like the ocean’s high tide,
    Or a great river’s bed:
    One inch deep at the head
    At the mouth, nearly half a mile wide.

    No, I haven’t really been emulating Horatio: that’s a slight adaptation of a limerick found in this 1975 collection:

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/Canadian-Limerick-Book-Keith-MacMillan-and-Hugh-Oliver-1975-Book-Illustrated-/344047174559?hash=item501acf439f

    (I think the original version was by Hugh Oliver, not Keith MacMillan; and it definitely referred to former Canadian Prime Minister John Diefenbaker.)

    At any rate, it’s perfect for the next Gish gallop coming down the pike.

  48. Lovely comments, rhyme and rhythmisms. Thanks.

    But please stop with calling fake (phony/pseudo) skeptics skeptics. They’re not skeptical at all.

    Winston Churchill: “The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it but in the end, there it is.”

    (h/t Ingenious Pursuits)