The Lowest Road

I call climate deniers “denier.” This angers some of them; they claim that I’m trying to liken them to Holocaust deniers in order to smear them by association with Nazis. That’s bullshit. I call them “denier” because they deny reality; saying that it’s about holocaust denial is just their attempt to get sympathy for themselves and smear us.

I quite agree that calling them “Holocaust deniers,” or associating them with Nazis, is out of line. They’re deniers, not holocaust deniers, and climate denial has nothing to do with Nazism.

So … where would you find something so despicable as an attempt to associate their opposition with the Nazis — an explicit connection, one that mentions Nazis by name? A post at the WUWT blog, that’s where.

165 responses to “The Lowest Road

    • What on Earth would “Green Fascism” actually mean? I know the Doc did not come up with the term, but, still …

      A little digging reveals a description of the term ecofascism, which has several confounded meanings. Ironically, I had a Physics prof in college, right at the time I first became active as an environmentalist (1971-1972) who expressed his concern about the similarity of environmental values and the Germanic (not exclusively Nazi) Blut und Boden idea. Of course, just because the Nazis co-opted the term for their use ….

      The same digging led to a description of the term deep ecology, which, I’m sorry to say, reads like a condemnation of some religious traditions, including aspects of Judaism and the 7th Principle of Unitarian Universalism, not to mention the First Precept of Buddhism.

      How exactly the repackaging of extant ethical and religious concepts in secular and political terms makes them a Great Evil puzzles me. That’s probably because the inference is bupkis.

      • I sometimes think that that sort of thing is largely another psychological defense, “projection”.

        For instance, consider the term ‘feminazi’, which seems to have a certain currency among Limbaughites and such. How can its connotations be justified logically when much of core feminist thought is precisely a rejection of those aspects of patriarchy most closely aligned with fascist modes of ‘thought’? When there is precisely zero history of feminists attempting to use force to impose their ideas, aims, or projects on anyone?

        Mutatis mutandis, so-called ‘green fascism,’ as I attempted to show. It ain’t the Greenies holding up nooses, threatening to rape children, or calling for the imposition of Medieval horrors on folks based on the scientific opinions they hold. But hey! “It’s only a joke! Lighten up!”

        Sure. A brutal and degrading one.

  1. I never hesitate to say and post that on the issue of honesty about overwhelming evidence there is little moral space between Holocaust deniers and Creationists. Honesty is a requirement before anyone can claim to be a moral person.

    [Response: Let’s not sink to the same low as the WUWT post. Those are human beings you’re talking about. When we de-humanize people, atrocity follows.

    As for honesty, unless you’re Buddha or Jesus or Gandhi, we all come up short — especially with ourselves.

    Outrage at the WUWT post is valid, even necessary. Emulating it is the worst response.]

  2. Given the scale of the catastrophe and the human toll that they are exacting on future generations, we can certainly regard them as genocidal criminals. Most however, are not informed enough to be regarded as deniers. They are dittoheads following demagogues. The people giving the orders, the people who hired the “Merchants of Doubt” and exploited the neoliberal movement to get rid of the fairness doctrine and replace it with nothing. Those people are far worse IMO. They are operating on the theory that “Greed is Good” and they can kill a lot more people and destroy more of our civilization than any other ideology, including the Nazis.

    [Response: Let’s not sink to the same level as WUWT. They are human beings. Call them stupid, destructive, etc., but let’s not associate or compare them with Nazis.]

  3. Ha-ha – Darwall doesn’t just remind people of an investment banker, he *was* an investment banker. He’s in no position to start a game of character assassination. In his interview with his publisher, he mentions “the Frankfurt School” 3 times. This is, to be blunt, a symptom of paranoid delusion. It’s a popular far right conspiracy theory.It gives him the credibility of Alex Jones.

  4. In addition, I think that they could fairly be labeled Climate action delayers and derailers. They probably wouldn’t even deny that.

  5. Putting aside the sliminess of attempting to link climate science to Nazism, the attempt itself is ludicrously lame. Behold: Hitler allegedly said he wanted people to change their lifestyles, and so too do climate activists! It’s almost too stupid for words.

  6. It’s a worthy exercise to find the correct word. Denial is a psychological term, although most anyone will agree that the least effective way of dealing with a problem is to deny it.

    Deluded might fit. Since many are persuaded to express an opinion that others may promote. Persuasion denial seems to originate from those with the mantra: “Future be damned, I’m making tons of money, so get out of my way” Another way to clear the path to short term gain is to disavow – that’s another “D” word – disavowal is a psychological and religious term.

    I like Dave Robert’s attitude: persuasion won’t work, no more talk, just realize that climate change is the winning issue that will never go away. We should not beg for agreement. There are more important tasks. He starts to rant nicely about it 24:45 mins in

  7. “Denier” had a perfectly good meaning before the Holocaust. The same meaning applies after it, too.

  8. It is poinant that while the re-blogging of the Kerry Jackson blog on the planet Wattsupia is far enough off-jurisdiction to say what it likes, Willard both pulls the teeth of the original title and also cuts the end off this toxic Wattsupian OP which sets out to portray “Warmists are Nazis!!” As the end of the OP is denied the Wattsupian reader, the word “denier” doesn’t actually appear even once on the Wattsupian version.
    And the un-cut Kerry Jackson version (titled “The Nazi Roots Of The Global Warming Scare”) is under-reporting an interview with a joker in serious denial. The thrust of the thesis set out by the original ‘author’ (denier Woopert Darwall) was off the scale in terms of purile nonsense.
    “Is climate change a faud?” the denier is asked. Apparently it isn’t.
    However, “first of all, it was politicized right from the word “go,”” and “secondly … the science is being presented in a systematically biased way. There is not criticism of the uncertainties, of the assumptions, of leaps of faith involved. So one’s getting a very one-sided view of the science, and that is bad science. The lack of openness to criticism, the fact that people who question the things, the forecasts and so forth, are delegitimized and told that they’re climate deniers is fundamentally anti-scientific.”
    Me, I blame the shape-shifting lizards for all this. And I would accuse Woopart Darwall of being one of the lizards (a polite way of saying the man is dellusional) but I hear that if I accuse him of that he would probably have to kill me (apparently), so I won’t.

  9. Stopped clock. Just because the Nazis supported something does not necessarily mean they were wrong on that issue. they may have been right for the wrong reasons.
    They were right on smoking after all. To the best of my knowledge they had better environmental policies than most contemporary states.

    [Response: Do you really not get it? That bringing Nazis into the discussion — whether it be climate change, environmental issues, or smoking — poisons discussion? The ONLY thing to mention about Nazis is how toxic mentioning them is, and how cowardly and despicable is using them to poison the discussion.

    If people want to point out the many times climate deniers have used the “Nazi card” to destroy rational discussion, fine. If you want to talk about environmental policy or the hazards of smoking, shut the fuck up about Nazis.]

    • I don’t think it is meaningful to isolate the view of the Nazis on a single issue in oder to compare it. Their views on the enviroment were deeply rooted into their racist and mistaken biologic conception of humans.
      They saw the german enviroment (including parts of europe, which had been historically german according to their view) as connected to the german people: It is called their “Blood and Soil”- ideology.
      They were not right in any sense on this issue. It is so toxic to bring them into any discussion, as it is not possible to detach their position from their ideology.
      (I hope tamino is OK with this comment as it perpetuates the Nazi-issue in some sense.)

      [Response: Yesterday, the whole thing was bringing me down. A good night’s sleep works wonders.]

  10. Well, there’s Monckton:

    And the dictionary:” refusal to admit the truth or reality of something (such as a statement or charge)”

    I’m with Tamino about not telling people they’re worse than they are or broadening the field of accusations. It’s a permanent enemy-maker, and it hardens resistance. Kill ’em with kindness!

  11. I think sometimes the best response to the”Nazi card” is to say “So what” and drive home its irrelevance. Usually not, but sometimes.

  12. I read some of the comments to the WUWT post likening climate action advocates to Nazis. Many were disgusting. I’m not going to let discussion here go down the same path.

    I don’t want to hear talk about how the Nazis did “this” right or “that” wrong. I will not tolerate likening creationists to Nazis. I will not accuse climate deniers of being holocaust deniers, I will not liken them to Nazis, and I won’t put up with comments here doing so either. The whole point is to put a stop to that, and to shame those who do.

    If you must comment on Nazis for any reason other than to shame those who inflame hatred and fear by likening people to Nazis, there’s a giant internet cesspool out there to do it. Not here.

    • Denier is inextricably wedded to Holocaust Denier in the public mind. By continuing to use it you bring Nazis into the discussions, even if you think that’s totally unfair. If we could just move to more neutral terms, like warmist and coolist, we could skip the outrage and get on with teaching people.

      Of course, you won’t agree. But if people start off by arguing over terms they rarely get beyond that.

      • Disagree totally: When you let one take over the linguistic and descriptive terms of a political fight–which is what the specific actions we’ll take in dealing with climate change ultimately comes down to–the other side wins. We have seen this repeatedly in US politics and elsewhere. This is what deniers are doing. This is also Political Campaigning 101.

    • Tamino, that horse has bolted. In many right wing sites, you will find both holocaust and climate change denial. Both are part of a general denial of scientific and historical evidence. There is a new breed of holocaust denier who says stuff like “Of course Jews had a hard time but we need more scientific studies of what happened”. Its the same as the “scientists disagree” denial of climate change. Look at the GOP – first it let in the creationists, then the climate change deniers, then the racists, next are the holocaust deniers. We need to fight an assault on truth and evidence
      wherever it is found.

  13. Michael Hauber

    I thinks its bad that bringing Nazis into the discussion is considered so toxic. The Nazis were human as well. One of them was my grandfather. I’m sure many of them had good intentions (or at least lacked intentions nastier than keeping out of trouble) and would have seemed to be very nice people if you sat down over dinner discussion (as long as the wrong topics weren’t discussed).

    I think one of the problems with the evil side of human nature is that we paint nazis, racists, paedophiles etc as being totally and 100% evil. Then you meet one in real life, find out that in some ways they are nice people. Cognitive dissonance can then lead to denial. He can’t really be a racist or paedophile because he’s a nice person.

    I saw this in action with a convicted paedophile who attended a church I was going to. The pastor was friends with this person from before his crime, and was in partial denial, partly blaming the victim, making various excuses, saying that the guy was a good person and was sure it wouldn’t happen again. As a result protective measures that are legally required in such a case were being flouted and the risk of a repeat offence was raised. Key members of the church took this seriously and the pastor was removed.

    • Yes. We like to believe that there is some kind of hard and fast line between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ people, but that is a gross oversimplification. ‘Good people’ have all done something bad, sometime, somewhere, and ‘bad people’ very often do things that sure look ‘good.’ It doesn’t mean that good and evil don’t exist; it’s more a consequence of the fact that life is extremely complicated, and people not least. When you have competing values which can’t be readily assessed on a common scale, things get very difficult. But that’s basically another day at the office in the field of ethics.

  14. Equating science denialism with Holocaust denialism is an absurd, Monty-Pythonesque strawman. If you feel the need to resort to something so ridiculous, you’re officially out of good arguments.

    How about Flat-Earthers? No reason to take offense at that moniker. Watts can argue about how many mutant-Ninja-Turtles are supporting the planet.

  15. I have a somewhat different perspective. Of course AGW is real. And of course deniers (or self-deluders—good term) are, well, in denial of reality.

    However, I suggest that many if not most people who agree AGW is real do not understand the sui generis nature of the problem. What is not discussed much on climate blogs by either deniers or “warmests” (what an ugly term) is the connection between AGW and the fact that we as a species are in overshoot in terms of our consumption of energy and resources. AGW is the mirror of peak carbon-based energy and everything that goes with it.

    Fossil fuels have allowed us to expand all three parts on the right side of the old I = P * A * T equation way beyond the capacity of the energy flux from the sun to sustain over time. Why isn’t this problem discussed more? A few, like the Post Carbon Institute and other systems ecologists do (remember Meadows, Meadows, Randers, and Behrens 1972?), but it’s not widespread in either the intellectual or popular discourse. I struggle to get the issue of limits even talked about in my environmental community, and I have considerable voice where I live (Washington State). It’s frustrating.

    I see deniers, like reactionaries of other types, frequently attack the AGW and scientific crowd as wanting to make us all live in caves. The WUWT post and Darwall book it cites are full of that fear. In a metaphorical sense, they are correct; in order to stop AGW from literally destroying our civilization, we have to destroy our civilization. Why don’t we address their concern head on? To the extent we fail to do so, we are in denial as much as the deniers.

  16. Charles Krauthammer made a warming denier/Holocaust denier connection in the Washington Post about four years ago. See

  17. Sheldon Walker

    I call myself a skeptic. I have been following the global warming story since before climategate, in 2009. I have been called a denier more times than I can remember. You might be surprised to learn that I believe all of the basic climate science. I believe in AGW, and that the average global temperature has increased by about 1 degree Celsius in the last 100 years. You can see that I am a particularly bad denier.

    First, I am going to make a positive comment about warmists. In nearly all of my interactions with warmists, I have been impressed by the lack of racism, sexism, and homophobia. It is just something that I have noticed. I don’t know if it is a common core belief of warmists, or if I have just been lucky to interact with nice warmists.

    After the comment that I have just made, my next one is going to seem strange. I think that the way that warmists call skeptics deniers, is one of the most racist-like behaviours that I have seen. Note that I didn’t say that it was racist, I said that it was racist-like.

    The word “denier” is designed to be insulting, offensive, and dehumanising. It is the sort of word that bullies love. It is easy to pretend that it is not an offensive word, and after all, it was only being used in a good-natured way, just a bit of fun. But is that how your victims see it? Do you care?

    If I believed that there was a serious problem facing humanity and the earth, and I wanted people to help solve the problem, then I would be polite to everyone. Especially the ones who didn’t agree with me. If you insult someone, then you probably can’t go back to them, to ask for help again. If you were polite to them, then there is no problem going back to ask for help again.

    If you insult someone, then it is natural for them to want to get back at you. It is hard to get back at someone over the internet. It is easier to get back at them by trying to stop them getting what they want. So if they want to stop global warming, the insulted person will try to ruin the attempts to stop global warming. There are many options, refuse to cooperate, be deliberately wasteful, try to talk other people out of helping, spread malicious rumours, vote for a politician who doesn’t believe in global warming. The possibilities are endless.

    You may claim that a person was acting irrationally, if they did that. You would probably be right. Because that is how the human mind works. An insult provokes negative emotion. The negative emotion makes the insulted person want revenge, etc, etc.

    As far as I can tell, warmists are trying to make the world a better place. Is calling skeptics deniers, doing that. If so, keep up the good work.

    [Response: Thank you for a thoughtful comment. I’m not sure I agree with all of it, but I am sure it is worth thinking about.]

    • Sheldon,
      Believe it or not, I usually start out civil in my discussions with just about everyone. I even turn the other cheek when slapped. But, I’ve only got 2 cheeks–four if I decide to moon my adversary. And once they’ve all been slapped , what am I supposed to do.

      The thing is that I value the truth, and when someone willfully denies the truth, that is an affront to me as a scientist. When someone unjustly accuses my fellow scientists of dishonesty (especially while using a high-tech computer to do so), I consider that an affront. When scientists receive death threats for doing their job, that is an affront to me as a scientist.

      So, I am curious, Sheldon. What should we call people who repeatedly deny established facts? You find denier or denialist offensive. What do you suggest? Skeptic is not appropriate, because skeptics attempt to understand the facts they question and change their minds when they’ve verified those facts. What is the appropriate term for someone who doesn’t have the courage to accept the truth, is unwilling to try to understand the truth and is willing to threaten the scientists who are trying to find the truth?

    • Sheldon Walker,
      You are branded a denier because you deny the consequences of AGW. That you do not deny AGW exists or that the world is warmer does not change that situation. The position you set out is not different to arch-denier and aging-climatologist Richard Lindzen who also doesn’t deny the level of recent warming or the forcing imposed on the climate causing AGW.
      Where Lindzen differs from proper climate scientists is in two fundamental ways.
      Firstly he refuses to accept even the possibility of Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity being within the range 1.5ºC-4.5ºC to the point of denying any science that comes to such a value. Lindzen sets it at something like 0.5ºC to 1.5ºC and thus 21st century AGW is not a problem.
      And more obviously requiring a serious dollop of denial, Lindzen fails to grasp that an increase in global temperatures double that we have seen over the last century is going to have massive climatical consequences. He even appears to consider global increases of 6ºC (or is it 12ºC?) as being the threashold of interest. For someone who is supposed to be a climatologist, his views in that respect are simply intolerable.
      And Sheldon Walker, if you wish to set yourself up as someone other than a run-of-the-mill AGW denier, you have to go the full mile and set out where you stand on value of ECS and limits that should be set on global warming. There is a warmer world and AGW and a denier’s version of warmer world & AGW. The two are quite distinct.

      [Response: Those are all valid questions, but they’re not related to the topic of this post.

      Rather than try to pin down Sheldon Walker about ECS or the danger of consequences *on this discussion* (it’s surely fair to do so on others), can we focus on the issue he raised which is relevant to this post? Is calling him a “denier” productive discourse? Is it really true that most people automatically associate “denier” with “holocaust denier”?

      It’s perfectly valid to ask him “what should we call those who deny reality and deny science, if not deniers?” But we should also ask ourselves the same question.]

    • Hmm…since we’re talking about thinks worth thinking about…

      I consider the term “skeptics” incongruent with the behavior of the vast majority of those calling themselves “skeptics”. For quite a few the term “denier” is, in my opinion, the absolute appropriate description of their behavior. Sometimes accurate labels are easily perceived as insults, but that doesn’t mean we should switch over to the term preferred by those who are insulted by the denier-label. Here’s why: those who call themselves “skeptics” are often not skeptic at all. They are *only* skeptical about anything that goes against their already established views. When something confirms their views, it simply doesn’t matter whether there is any validity in the argumentation used to reach the conclusion.

      As an example of the above, a think thank calling itself “European Foundation” managed to list “100 reasons why climate change is natural” some years ago:
      No “skeptic” (certainly not those from that European Foundation) complained about the many extremely obvious non sequiturs in the list. Just as one example of a non sequitur: “Despite the 1997 Kyoto Protocol’s status as the flagship of the fight against climate change it has been a failure.”
      No need for any scientific insight to see that this does not tell us anything about the factors causing climate change, and hence that the conclusion “climate change is natural” does not follow.
      I am also sure no “skeptic” who would be willing to defend this conclusion based on many of the supposed “reasons”. And yet, they’ll happily leave it on the list, likely because the conclusion is ‘right’; the validity of the argument actually doesn’t really matter to these people.

    • “In nearly all of my interactions with warmists, I have been impressed by the lack of racism, sexism, and homophobia.”

      I think it’s because “The facts have a well-known liberal bias.” (discussed by Kruegman at )

    • Sheldon, I can assure you that when I use the term “denier,” I am not joking. I am also not attempting to make light of anything or anyone. Nor am I attempting to bully or to insult. As you say, if you wish to persuade, you generally do well not to insult first.

      What I am trying to do is to accurately describe the phenomenon of people refusing to accept evidence in order to serve an emotional agenda. “Denial” in that sense is a psychological defense mechanism; and if I’m not mistaken, Freud was writing about it (in essence if not in name), not only before the Holocaust happened, but before the Nazi party ever existed.

      And I feel strongly that the term fits. Over and over again, I have been in debate with folks who:

      1) Shift the goal posts;
      2) Cherry-pick evidence;
      3) Use logic in regard to climate change that they would never use in respect to more ‘neutral’ matters;
      4) Fall into obvious logical contradictions (again, preferentially in ‘weighted’ matters);
      5) Return to lines of thought or evidence that have been thoroughly dealt with.

      And many do these things WRT climate change when they wouldn’t fall into such tactics if dealing with another topic–or so I believe, at least.

      For example, one very nice denialist with whom I am in regular dialog (and have been since 2015) just recently proposed that because we can’t successfully predict earthquakes and volcanoes, therefore we can’t possibly model climate either. (Thereby establishing the General Theory of the Impossibility of Modeling.) It’s not that he isn’t smart enough to be able to see that that is a bogus line of argument; it’s that the topic of climate change casts its bewitching spell, which apparently temporarily inhibits the full functioning of the cerebral cortex.

      My mother, a shrewd and sensible woman who solved all manner of theoretical and practical problems in her life, was like that on the subject of her smoking. Quite possibly, that’s what killed her in the end, though we don’t really know.

      But I stray from the topic. Due to the considerations above, I rarely use the term “denialist” in first-person contexts; rather, I save it for the third person.

    • Michael Hauber

      ‘First, I am going to make a positive comment about warmists. In nearly all of my interactions with warmists, I have been impressed by the lack of racism, sexism, and homophobia.’

      I find this somewhat disturbing in a way that is difficult to adequately explain. The left side of politics should not have a monopoly on morality. Even one limited to specific areas such as toleration of diversity. Or maybe its that the right shouldn’t have these blindspots. Left vs Right seems in some parts of the political world to be becoming quite toxic.

      • Philippe Chantreau

        I agree with Michael and that was the first thing I thought about when reading Sheldon Walker’s comment. It suggests that the level of racism, sexism and homophobia is less than impressive among deniers. Should we now argue of that, because it was conveniently reported by one who has gained a prominent position on the chief denier site? The reality based side does not engage in this kind of crap but that would be interesting: Imagine the headline “Skeptic confirms high level of racism, sexism and homophobia among the climate skeptic comunity.” That’s almost funny, and certainly the kind of method that so-called skeptics would not balk at, as they have proven on so many occasions.
        I agree with Tamino that denier is the proper word. I have been following this pseudo-debate for more years than Sheldon Walker; I was a moderator on Skeptical Science at the early stages of the site. The insulting character of the word denier as it pertains to climate science was created, and inflated, by deniers themselves so that they could whine about being demonized. I saw it happen. It is complete bullshit.

  18. Decades ago the fossil fuel companies decided to organise and fund a phoney movement to hinder attempts to prevent climate catastrophe. We do not need comparisons with anyone from Gandhi to Attila the Hun to determine if that is bad or not.

  19. I haven’t visited Wattstopia for some time, but I was pleased to see that it was much as I left it. Commenters arguing that the “warmist” goal is for everyone to return to subsistence farming. That somehow we warmists would be ensuring the future poverty of billions (ignoring that they also argue that climate alarmism is just a way of taking money from rich nations and giving it to poor nations).

    But one shouldn’t forget that there is an element of truth to what they say. There do exist loony left activists who do embrace a return to some non-existent golden age. These people will unhesitatingly believe an unsubstantiated report that says sea levels will rise 2m in the next 10 years. Just as the loonies at the other end of the spectrum who readily believe in Clinton hit squads.

    One thing I quite like about the political “left” is that mostly they are prepared to call out people on their “own side” when they come out with gibberish. But I suppose the deniers would argue that they do to – witness their big fight with the “slaying the sky dragon” crowd over the greenhouse effect and the second law of thermodynamics.

    I guess we just have to try very hard to be fair, honest, and make every effort to understand the thinking of those who don’t want action on climate change.

    • One of the better things Bill Clinton did was to largely remove the fingers of the loony left from the strings of power. If only there were an equivalent figure in the republican sphere who could manage this. What has ended up being removed among them is the former Main Street rather more sensible republicans.

  20. Good lecture here on denial being an explanation of how humans cane this far…and how in this instance, it may be or undoing

    With an article here

  21. Godwin’s law (or Godwin’s rule of Hitler analogies): is an Internet adage that asserts that “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Hitler approaches 1”

    There is a reason why invocation of Nazis on the Intertubes is informally viewed as a capitulation. It is the ultimate flounce, an admission that one has abandoned any semblance of logical argument. Lewis Black one time remarked on the ubiquity of Nazi comparisons in the rhetoric of Glenn Beck and said Beck had “Nazi Tourettes”.

    As to what we can call them, denialist or denier is certainly appropriate, since they are in denial of basic facts about the physical world. It is they who make the association with Holocaust denial, now us.

    Or if they don’t like the term “denialist/denier,” we could inquire more deeply as to the origin of their inability to accept facts. I contend that ultimately, this it because fear blinds them to the facts. I do not know how else you can explain the violence of their reaction to scientists trying to understand our planet.

    They are being told that the mere act of living their daily lives in our society could be rendering our world virtually uninhabitable for their grandchildren! That is a scary prospect, and humans don’t think clearly when they are fearful. For some, the fear is strong enough to cause them to deny reality even when the evidence is presented to them. The term for such people is “cowards”.

    But there is a lesson for the rest of us as well. For us, the prospect of having 35-40% of the population who are willing to deny reality and prevent us from trying to keep the world habitable for our grandchildren is also scary. Having to contend with the hatred and even death threats from the cowards is scary. We have to prevent that fear from blinding us to the humanity of our enemies.

    Ultimately, even the Nazis were all too human, and that is the true lesson their history needs to teach us.

    [Response: I once said, a long time ago, that the Nazis did not reveal a flaw of the German character or the European character, but a flaw of the human character.]

    • Need an equivalent for Godwin’s Law for climate denier’s bringing up Al Gore…

      • Gore’s Law

        Gore’s Law states, as coined by Terence of blog “Long Ago And Not True Anyway” in March 2008:
        “”As an online climate change debate grows longer, the probability that denier arguments will descend into attacks on Al Gore approaches 1.[1]

        Immediately after making the post, commenters proceeded to nitpick at Gore — thus proving his point.
        Why Gore’s Law is relevant
        The problem with attacking Al Gore is that he has absolutely fuck all to do with the science of climate change, no matter his carbon footprint,[2] PMRC involvement, Manbearpig, etc. You really can’t find a better instance of poisoning the well. He could live in a mud hut and walk everywhere and they’d call him a hypocrite because the aglets on his shoelaces were made of plastic, a petroleum product.

      • Thank you KiwiGriff!

    • Is it really true that most people automatically associate “denier” with “holocaust denier”?

      I was going to post a reply to Tamino’s question further up the thread, in line with his response to Al Rodger, but snarkrates posted a lot of what I was going to say so I’ll drop my $0.02 here instead.

      I’ve personally been at this fraught endeavour for at least a decade and a half online, and in the early days there was absolutely no association of climate change denial with holocaust denial. It is a confected phenomenon created by the anti-science lobby in an attempt to blunt the growing understanding of the danger of warming the planet beyond the Holocene optimum.

      This strategy seems to have arisen about the same time that Godwin’s rule became widely discussed in the online world, and the confabulators of all types of denial with Holocaust denial well knew that mud sticks, and that in making it so stick they were removing the power of words from the people who warned of climate change. It’s Orwellian Newspeak 101, and it matters not that the original confabulation is fallacious in every sense – all they had to do was to make the spurious accusation and it’s become a meme that cannot die.

      So back before these irrational linguistic associations were created the answer to Tamino’s would have been “duh, no”, but now it is “amongst the cognitively-biased motivated reasoners, and unaware/unthinking uninformed third parties, the association is now automatic”. Check, and mate. “What, you’re protesting an illegitimate move? All I see is your king’s argument captured by Godwin’s pawn. We win, climate science loses, ergo there is no warming…”

      We can splutter and protest the cheat all we like, but the spectators have already walked away from the board. The hard evidence is all around to see, from the Trump/GOP reversal of most of Obama’s progress to decarbonise, through to the empirical signals that the trajectory continues apace, as exemplified by the sea level acceleration that is the subject of Tamino’s post immediately prior to this one.

      We broke the hard deck a long time ago, and we’re still arguing about whether gravity even exists…

    • “They are being told that the mere act of living their daily lives in our society could be rendering our world virtually uninhabitable for their grandchildren! That is a scary prospect, and humans don’t think clearly when they are fearful. For some, the fear is strong enough to cause them to deny reality even when the evidence is presented to them.”

      Plus one to that…

      • snarkrates and Doc Snow: Your point about fear is exactly what I point to as the source of much denial. Including (I suspect) denial by many of us right here about the impending sever reduction in available net energy (and other resources) per capita. And it’s potential if not likely consequences.

        AGW denial is based in large part on the fear of “what if it’s real?!” and IMO is quite different from Holocaust denial. Why the two groups overlap so much is for me the more interesting question.

      • louploup2,
        Researchers have correlated belief in one conspiracy theory with an increased likelihood of believing in other conspiracies–even if the two conspiracies are mutually exclusive. For instance, if they believe Princess Diana faked her death, they are more likely to say it is plausible she was murdered.

  22. It hardly bears repeating that in their oldest English-language usage, ‘deny’, ‘denial’ and ‘denier’ are simple words with clear denotations, as in senses 1.1 and 1.2 for ‘denial’ in the OED. They were always used in conjunction with what was being denied.

    As louploup2 reminds us, however, ‘denial’ was adopted by the clinical and scientific discipline of Psychology in the early 20th century, as a term of art with more specific meanings ‘packed’ into it. The Wikipedia article on ‘denial’ is concise (emphases in original):

    Denial, in ordinary English usage, is asserting that a statement or allegation is not true. The same word, and also abnegation (German: Verneinung), is used for a psychological defense mechanism postulated by psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, in which a person is faced with a fact that is too uncomfortable to accept and rejects it instead, insisting that it is not true despite what may be overwhelming evidence.

    Now, given the strong consensus of working climate scientists, it’s reasonable to apply the psychological term to someone who assertively rejects any of these three key propositions:

    1) the globe is warming;
    2) the warming is anthropogenic;
    3) the costs of the warming are already being paid in money and human tragedy.

    Note that it’s not necessary to explain why the AGW consensus is too uncomfortable for such an individual to accept, for the label ‘AGW denier’ to be applied to him (or her, of course). Anyone who fools himself he is intellectually qualified to challenge a lopsided consensus of genuine experts is in denial, if only of his own incompetence to evaluate scientific evidence!

    • Even a trained and otherwise disciplined individual scientist like Lindzen is fooling himself if he decides he’s right and the consensus of his expert peers is wrong. As a fundamental norm of scientific culture, peers don’t let their peers get away with fooling themselves!

  23. If they don’t like denier, I’m willing to switch to “lying sack of rat feces,” “imbecilic coward” or any of hundreds of other labels. I mean it is all about being nice after all. Kumby-frickin’-ya.

    [Response: I don’t think that serves the purpose of productive dialogue.

    As satisfying as it may be, what is our purpose? Is our goal to heap scorn on those we think deserve it, or is our goal to bring about substantive action?]

  24. Realist are not up against one homogenized blob we are up against a sector of humanity that has only one common trait.
    They deny the implication of our scientifically based understanding of the impacts from ongoing human induced global warming.
    Motivation is not based on the reality of science but on the individuals world view.
    The motivation for doing so has many different sources including Tribal allegiance ,Money ,Religion.Political ideology, Distrust of Authority,

    Trying to understand why an individual denies gives valuable insight into ways of realigning their world view with reality.

    Calling them Denier identifies their common denominator.

  25. Sheldon Walker

    Hi snarkrates,

    Like you, I normally start out civil in a discussion. I am tolerant of minor issues. But if problems continue, then things can go “south”.

    It seems to me, that many warmists feel that they have exclusive access to the truth. So that when somebody disagrees with them, they call them a denier. Truth comes in many shades of “subjective”. Totally objective truth is far less common. Even scientific experiments which use the 95% confidence level, could be wrong 1 in 20 times.

    If somebody issues a death threat against a scientist (or anybody), then I would call them a criminal. Even if you can prove that it was a skeptic who issued the death threat, that doesn’t make all skeptics guilty of issuing a death threat. You need to keep things in perspective.

    I am sorry, but when you say “The thing is that I value the truth, and when someone willfully denies the truth, that is an affront to me as a scientist.”, that sounds a little bit arrogant to me.

    Are you claiming that you value the truth more than I do? I am just a humble computer programmer, but I value the truth enormously. I think that you should work on feeling less “affronted”. If possible, try to see things from the other persons point of view. Don’t assume that they are wrong and/or stupid. They might be wrong and/or stupid, but they might not be, and they might have a valid point.

    Important fact: the other person might not tell you their valid point, if you are treating them like they are evil personified (i.e. calling them a denier).

    You ask, “What should we call people who repeatedly deny established facts?”.

    I think that we should call them politicians.

    But seriously, the first question that you need to ask is, who established those facts?

    – The IPCC? (The group that cherry-picked the scientific “facts” that suited them)

    – Some scientists? (Don’t forget that scientists sometimes disagree – even over the recent slowdown/pause)

    – The 97%. (Don’t make me laugh)

    – The Pope. (Don’t laugh, he seems to be on your side)

    – Leo DiCaprio. (Flying eyebrow artists around the world is far more important than global warming)

    – Al Gore (The man who created the internet)

    – James Hansen (Thrown under a bus by warmists because he thought that global warming was so serious, that he wanted to use nuclear energy to help fix it)

    So please tell me, who is your ultimate authority?

    Repeating your question, “What should we call people who repeatedly deny established facts?”.

    Where possible, groups should be allowed to choose their own name. That stops the other group from choosing an insulting name for them. Humans are experts at taking advantage of the rules. So skeptics could choose the name “warmists suck”. Obviously that is not acceptable.

    You say, “Skeptic is not appropriate, because skeptics attempt to understand the facts they question and change their minds when they’ve verified those facts.”.

    Again, I have to say sorry, you are being a little bit arrogant. I looked up the meaning of “skeptic” on the internet, and it said, “a person who doubts the truth or value of an idea or belief”.

    To me, that meaning of the word skeptic, describes exactly who I am. I agree that a “good” skeptic should modify their beliefs based on the evidence that they see. But a “good” warmist should do the same.

    I accept that there are SOME skeptics who are deniers. There are also SOME warmists who are deniers. It doesn’t help to label the whole group based on a subset of the group.

    I have almost always been willing to discuss global warming in a mature and friendly way. The few times that I didn’t feel like that, were when some arsehole called me a denier. It was done to censor my views. The unspoken message that came with the label “denier”, was “I don’t care what you think, you are a stupid moron, why don’t you go away and screw yourself”.

    I am not going to tell you what my response was, but I immediately took the person off my Christmas card list.

    • Sheldon, you use the term “warmist” quite a bit.

      In case you don’t know, the Oxford dictionary
      defines the term as a derogatory one:
      A person who accepts the proposition that climate change caused by human activity is occurring (used by those who do not accept this proposition)”

      Oxford essentially tells us that the vast majority of people who use the term do not accept mainstream climate science and thus the probability is quite high that a given person who uses the term rejects mainstream climate science. I therefore suggest you reconsider the use of the term (especially while you object to the use of “denier”).

      By the way, by “mainstream science” in general I mean the professionally refereed and reputably published literature in a given field taken in its ongoing aggregate, where the ongoing presentational work of certain organizations in the field (such as the IPCC in climate science) are as good as we have at keeping up with and summarizing this ongoing aggregate.

      This essentially answers your question, “Who established those facts?” That is, the ones who established the scientific facts in a given field are all those dedicated scientists at the highest levels of expertise who over decades create this ever evolving body of peer reviewed literature that while correcting mistakes yields more and more of these scientific facts.

      Our attitude towards this literature is all important. That is, because of the fact that we in the general public almost always simply do not have the expertise to be skeptical one way or another of claims in this literature (since we almost always are not one of the experts in question), the degree to which we do not accept the ongoing aggregate in question has a lot to say about whether the term “denier” can correctly apply to us.

    • “So please tell me, who is your ultimate authority?”
      This question is an interesting one. Do you mean that literally, Sheldon? Do you have an ultimate authority?
      I don’t think most reasonable people will name an ultimate authority. Therefore, my impression is you would not accept an ultimate authority.

      In my view, authority on factual issues is something without an ultimate authority. The evidence goes up to institutions and all the way down to the concrete evidence and persons. In this there is no ultimate ground, but mutual support. Therefore, science is the complicated business it is.
      Nevertheless, this does not mean that any statement can be reasonable. There is the need to reflect on the evidence of ones own belief and the examination into the question if the counterpart might have better understanding than oneself. This need not and should not be carried over to all issues.

  26. Sheldon Walker

    Hi Al Rodger,

    There is something that I don’t like about the tone of your comment. If you try to “brand me as a denier”, then I am going to kick you in the nuts.

    You have no idea what I think the consequences of AGW are. Ask me if you want to know what I think. Don’t prejudge me based on your own prejudices.

    You want me to tell you what I think the ECS is, when scientists and the IPCC can only come up with a wide range.

    In summary, I don’t have to do anything that you demand. If you ask nicely, then I will consider it.

    Please read my reply to snarkrates, to see what my views are.

    Consider this reply to be a warning. Any more disrespect, and you will definitely be taken off my Christmas card list.

    • Sheldon Walker,
      As you say, we are free agents who come here willingly.
      If you look up-thread, I did not ask anything of you. I did not ask but suggested that you set out your position on AGW properly and that, until you do, it could mean you were seen as a denier when potentially you might not actually be one.

  27. There are parts of Sheldon Walker’s 2nd-most-recent comment I disagree with strongly. But rather than go into those, I want to make a request of all my regular readers.

    It’s far too easy to gang up on him in an attempt to “win the argument.” But that only reinforces the “echo chamber” aspect that every blog ends up having, at least in part. He’s giving us a chance we rarely get: to understand his perspective. I suggest that’s even more important than to change it.

    My request is: be completely civil, and focus on understanding rather than refutation.

    It’s rare we’ll have someone who opposes our viewpoint who is willing to come here and genuinely discuss. It’s even rarer to have someone who disagrees with us, willing to be open about his perspective. We have a golden opportunity here (all of us, Sheldon included). Let’s not throw it away.

    As for me, I intend to participate in the discussion as little as possible in order to learn as much as possible — including more about my regular readers’ perspectives than I already know.

    • I hear you, tamino, but try as I might I find it very hard to understand the position that the thousands of scientists involved in the IPCC reports “cherrypicked” the evidence to produce each report in such a way as to not honestly cover the multiple literatures across the field. That is simply a conspiracy so wide I cannot see it. Perhaps Mr. Walker could help me with this.

      • Sheldon Walker

        Hi jgnfld,

        I am happy to help you.

        1. Scope and Approach of the Assessment
        1.1. Mandate of the Assessment
        The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established by World Meteorological Organization and United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) in 1988 to assess scientific, technical, and socioeconomic information that is relevant in understanding human-induced climate change, its potential impacts, and options for mitigation and adaptation.

        Their mandate was only to look for human-induced climate change. This seems a little biased to me. Why not look at climate change from all possible causes?

        If the only tool that you have is a hammer, then you will tend to see everything as a nail.

      • Not sure I understand yet. Wouldn’t a mandate to discover the effects of, say, smoking tobacco on cancer and other disease rates necessarily require as full an understanding as possible of the “natural” rates of change? Nor do I understand how anyone could read the various reports and say that “natural” causes aren’t studied and reported on in excruciating detail.Whole sections, indeed whole chapters, never mention man-made climate change at all. My position would be you are cherrypicking a single statement out of context and inferring rather more from it than is reasonable.

        I simply don’t see how this out of context statement defines any sort of conspiracy among thousands to cherrypick anything.

        In any case your quote is from 17 years ago and has been superseded. The present operative statement which would seem to me to deal with your objections is:

        2. The role of the IPCC is to assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis the scientific, technical and socio-economic
        information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation.

        IPCC reports should be neutral with respect to policy, although they may need to deal objectively with scientific, technical and socio-economic factors relevant to the application of particular policies.

        This would seem to imply that your objections have been noted and properly dealt with.

      • Their mandate was only to look for human-induced climate change. This seems a little biased to me. Why not look at climate change from all possible causes?

        This is an egregious distortion of the truth.

        Human-caused climate change was the focus when establishing the IPCC because the scientific domain prior to that time had already ascertained that the modern warming was largely – if not entirely – the result of human fossil fuel emissions. The IPCC’s task was to collate the information and arrive at the best understanding possible of the problem, and to provide to governments advice describing the ecological, economic, and social significances of the warming.

        In carrying out its mandate the IPCC necessarily and thoroughly analysed all known causes of modern climate change, and accounted for them in its attribution studies. These are well-known and very detailed parts of the assessment reports. Go and seek them out – it appears that you are completely ignorant of their existence.

        I know that Tamino wants a polite conversation, so let me say this as politely as possible – you are lying about the nature of the IPCC’s mandate, and about how its people have carried it out. And you wonder why people here treat you with such derision and disdain…

        If the only tool that you have is a hammer, then you will tend to see everything as a nail.

        Indeed. And when your hammer is denial you will attempt to nail down as conspiracy all the facts and evidence that run counter to your narrative. You can deny as much as possible the validity of climate science and the processes that support it, but you’ll never be able to hide from the empirical manifestation – the laws of physics care not a whit for your ideological objections to their implacable march.

      • The actual mandate for the IPCC is not 17-years-old but 30-years-old and didn’t ask the to be set up IPCC to examine only AGW. Certainly in the preamble it said that the General Assembly was “Concerned that certain human activities could change global climate patterns, threatening present and future generations with potentially severe economic and social consequences.” Yet the guts of Resolution A/RES/43/53 shows it is not concerned solely with AGW but with climate change in general. The UN resolution:

        “Urges Governments, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations and scientific institutions to treat climate change as a priority issue, to undertake and promote specific, co-operative action-oriented programmes and research so as to increase understanding on all sources and causes of climate change, including its regional aspects and specific time-frames as well as the cause and effect relationship of human activities and climate, and to contribute, as appropriate, with human and financial resources to efforts to protect the global climate;”(My bold)

  28. Al Gore never said he invented the internet. This has been corrected thousands and thousands of times on the internet and there really is no excuse for someone still making the claim. He never said it.

    During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet. I took the initiative in moving forward a whole range of initiatives that have proven to be important to our country’s economic growth and environmental protection, improvements in our educational system. – Al Gore

    Two men who actually did help invent the internet, Robert Kahn and Vint Cerf, wrote the following:

    …there is no question in our minds that while serving as Senator, Gore’s initiatives had a significant and beneficial effect on the still-evolving Internet. The fact of the matter is that Gore was talking about and promoting the Internet long before most people were listening.


    As far back as the 1970s Congressman Gore promoted the idea of high speed telecommunications as an engine for both economic growth and the improvement of our educational system. He was the first elected official to grasp the potential of computer communications to have a broader impact than just improving the conduct of science and scholarship. Though easily forgotten, now, at the time this was an unproven and controversial concept.


    Gore secured the passage of the High Performance Computing and Communications Act in 1991. This “Gore Act” supported the National Research and Education Network (NREN) initiative that became one of the major vehicles for the spread of the Internet beyond the field of computer science.

    In all fairness, it’s something Gore had worked on a long time. Gore is not the Father of the Internet, but in all fairness, Gore is the person who, in the Congress, most systematically worked to make sure that we got to an Internet, and the truth is — and I worked with him starting in 1978 when I got [to Congress], we were both part of a “futures group”—the fact is, in the Clinton administration, the world we had talked about in the ’80s began to actually happen. – Newt Gingrich

    • Sheldon Walker

      Hi JCH,

      I actually know that Al Gore didn’t claim to have invented the internet. He said that he took the initiative in creating the Internet.

      So why did I say it? I didn’t want to make a long list of the things that I think he is guilty of. So I let my naughty sense of humour use a “convenient rumour”.

      • “So why did I say it?” It appears you were trying to denigrate him by pointing out a true statement made by him.

        That’s odd.

  29. I haven’t read all of the above, but for my it’s always been that deniers deny a well supported, extensive body of evidence, whether it’s Holocaust denial or climate change denial. Objectively, that does occur.

  30. Sheldon
    Many here have years of experience in the climate wars .
    When you have come across the same dumb zombie myths thousands of times you get a little cynical towards those who deny our scientific understanding.

    One that crops up almost daily is they changed the name from global warming to climate change.
    IPCC est 1988 …….!

    Most arguments don’t even pass logic 101 let alone scientific examination .

    The question is one of risk
    The potential risk is infinite.
    If ECS is on the high side and we fail to act quicker than we have so far human civilization itself is at risk.

    Spending hours quibbling about which sea level reconstruction is the most accurate or if there was a pause when you have such a potential in the back of your mind makes you somewhat negative towards all who oppose action or seek to minimize the risks.

    Don’t internalize the abuse.
    I don’t know you and you don’t know me so who really cares what we think about each other ?

    You seem to want to debate in a rational way and are willing to change your views when presented with evidence.
    In my and perhaps most others experience you are an exception .
    Perhaps we need to refer to deniers and Sheldon .

    Who is your ultimate authority?
    There are many I respect .
    No one source is my authority.
    I try to read widely and attempt to understand what I access.
    I defer to those who have knowledge above my pay scale and rank their contribution on past performance and concurrence with my ever growing understanding.

    No one source is infallible.
    We all suffer from personal bias.

    • Sheldon Walker

      Hi KiwiGriff,

      I also have years of experience in the climate wars.
      I sympathise with you over the dumb zombie myths that you have been subjected to thousands of times.
      Can you sympathise with me over the thousands of times that I have been called a denier?
      Do you realise that they are both part of the same problem. They both happen when people don’t want to listen to what the other person is saying.

      You said “One that crops up almost daily is they changed the name from global warming to climate change.”

      I love this myth. Both sides blame the other for the name change. Please don’t take away this myth.

      Don’t internalize the abuse.
      I don’t know you and you don’t know me so who really cares what we think about each other?
      You can call me stupid, but I prefer a friendly environment to an unfriendly one. If you don’t trust someone, then you probably won’t believe what they tell you.

      You seem to want to debate in a rational way and are willing to change your views when presented with evidence.
      In my and perhaps most others experience you are an exception.
      Perhaps we need to refer to deniers and Sheldon.

      Thanks. I do not claim to be a typical skeptic. But I think that other skeptics might accept more of what you say, if you could only stop calling them deniers. The word deniers causes an emotional reaction which prevents acceptance of warmist information. I am NOT joking!

      You said, “No one source is infallible.
      We all suffer from personal bias.”

      I agree with you 100% on that.

      KiwiGriff, you sound much too reasonable to be a warmist.
      Come over and join me on the Dark Side. We get every second weekend off, and free discount vouchers at Burger King.

      • Sheldon, I get the feeling you’re trying to be funny occasionally (e.g. “KiwiGriff, you sound much too reasonable to be a warmist.” or your comment about Gore earlier) in your posts, and I’m somewhat inclined to give you the benefit of the doubt. But in the absence of any explicit indication of your intent, anyone would be perfectly justified to think that you’re a flaming hypocrite. If you’re coming here trying to convince people who actually understand climate science to stop calling people who deny climate science “deniers” you might want to modify your style of communication.

  31. The real holocaust deniers I have encountered were NOT Nazis.
    After all it was the Nazi of the Third Reich that perpetuated those atrocities.

    They are people who have such an admiration for the ideology of German Fascism that they wish to remove the moral stain of its most notorious actions.

    The irony is that they often express explicit approval for the goal of the holocaust, while trying to refute the method.

    In this they are distinct from ‘climate deniers’ who are not trying to rehabilitate an immoral ideology, but oppose one (in their view).
    AGW contrarians also lack any secret enthusiasm for climate science, or the doppelganger versions they favour.

  32. I’ll bite. Genuine question for Sheldon.

    Why climate change?

    In this world of amazing knowledge, science and culture there are no polymaths anymore. We can only know our small fraction of the workings of the world, so inevitably we take things on trust. I have a superficial grasp of binary arithmetic and computer programming, but no knowledge whatsoever of how to design a computer chip. I take it on trust that the engineers who do design them know what they are doing. I have very little knowledge of the biological sciences, but i mostly trust doctors. I speak no Russian but I don’t doubt that you can translate Russian into English. Now all of those things can probably be improved, done better. But I wouldn’t spend my hobby time criticising a new translation of Chekov – especially given that aforementioned lack of Russian language skill. So why, given all the egregious problems of the world – poverty, homelessness, failing political and economic decisions, war, disease, injustice etc. did you decide that climate change science was particularly weak? Do you think it’s uniquely weak? Has ‘warmism’ affected you personally? I read this site and, rarely, comment because I have been trained in the natural sciences, and get paid for, amongst other things, looking for evidence of climate change impacts. But what brought you here?

    • Sheldon Walker

      Why climate change?

      That is a good question. I started following the global warming story so long ago, that I can’t be sure how it started.

      It was probably after I split up with my wife, after 26 years of marriage. I was living alone, and was very lonely. I started commenting on the newsgroup, probably more for the company than anything else. You couldn’t get a more toxic environment than I haven’t gone back there in many many years.
      My education included mathematics, science (physics, chemistry, and biology), computer programming, psychology (I can tell what you are really thinking), and commerce.
      My favourites were always mathematics and science.

      I love solving problems. Especially maths problems. I will give you a quick idea of what I enjoy. Do you remember the problem about what the temperature of the earth would be if it had no atmosphere? The answer is about -18 degrees Celsius. I wasn’t happy with that answer, I felt that it was too “averaged”. The incoming solar radiation is input over half the planet, and instantaneously output over the whole planet. There was no allowance for the different strength of the solar radiation at different latitudes. So I designed a spreadsheet using the necessary temperature equations, and calculated the temperature changes for each of the 86400 seconds in a day. The short answer is that I calculated the average temperature of the earth to be about -17 degrees Celsius. Not much different to the classical answer.

      Was this a waste of time? No, I had great fun. And I worked out that at the equator, the temperature was above zero degrees Celsius for about 6 hours each day. Even though the average termperature of the planet was -17 degrees Celsius. There was the possibility of liquid water, and life, even if the earth had no atmosphere.

      Since I was interested in global warming, I thought that I should add the greenhouse effect to my spreadsheet model. I didn’t know how to get from the CO2 level to the strength of the greenhouse effect. So I did it another way. I simply reflected a percentage of the outgoing radiation back to the surface. Guess what percentage had to be reflected back to the surface, to increase the average temperature of the earth from -17 degrees Celsius to 15 degrees Celsius. It was about 30%

      I still have the spreadsheet. I can easily plot the temperature at any point on the earth over a day at any latitude.

      How did I know when my spreadsheet model had reached temperature equilibrium. Simple, when the temperature at the end of the day was the same as the temperature at the start of the day.

      I do have a day job, as a computer programmer. So global warming has to be squeezed into whenever I can find time.

      Maybe it is because I have studied quite a bit of science, that I hate being called a denier. Maybe I should thank all warmists, because their name calling is what gave me the motivation the be such an active skeptic.

      • Honest question: Has your spreadsheet giving -17 even been submitted to any qualified professionals for review?

        I can personally point to numerous examples in my small research life where review caused me to see something I missed that moved the needle the equivalent of one degree.

      • “Honest question: Has your spreadsheet giving -17 even been submitted to any qualified professionals for review?”

        Likely reviewed by Wonderin Willis and his gang of carpenters. They probably gave it a stamp of approval.

        There should be an addendum to the Dunning-Kruger effect where nonsense is reinforced by the actions of a mutual admiration society.

        [Response: I’ll remind everyone of what I said earlier: that in my opinion, for this discussion “winning the argument” is far less valuable than understanding each other’s perspective.

        I’m not accusing you personally, but I will add that those who cannot restrain themselves show weakness. Don’t let my insistence on restraint control you, but don’t let the urge to refute control you either.

        I will further add that Sheldon is in a very difficult situation. He’s here, not at WUWT, and he is outnumbered. By a lot.

        Let’s take the high road.]

      • Typo above: That’s “[em]ever[/em] been presented”.

      • [edit]

        [Response: I’m not diametrically opposed to your promoting your book on this blog. But it really doesn’t relate to this post.

        People: we have an opportunity here: to have a discussion in which both sides learn more about the perspective of the other, without the toxic hostility that plagues most of the rest of the internet. We can only do that if we take the high road and stay on topic.

        Am I the only one who views this as a uniquely valuable opportunity?]

      • Sheldon, you state
        “And I worked out that at the equator, the temperature was above zero degrees Celsius for about 6 hours each day. Even though the average termperature of the planet was -17 degrees Celsius. There was the possibility of liquid water, and life, even if the earth had no atmosphere.”

        Allow me to be a skeptic about that statement. My skepticism is based on the phase diagram of water:

        After all, in the absence of an atmosphere, the pressure is essentially zero, and liquid water literally cannot exist. It’s either solid or gaseous.

      • Thought you may be interested because it is largely about stochastic analysis in earth and climate science.

      • Sheldon Walker

        Hi jgnfld,

        You said:
        “Honest question: Has your spreadsheet giving -17 even been submitted to any qualified professionals for review?”

        Answer: No. I just did it for fun. Making things good enough for professional review would take a lot of time. I was investigating the problem for personal satisfaction.

        You said:
        “I can personally point to numerous examples in my small research life where review caused me to see something I missed that moved the needle the equivalent of one degree.”

        Answer: Yes, I can accept that. Because I was doing it for fun, I would be happy if I got within 2 or 3 degrees. possibly even within 5 degrees. I really wanted to check the classical answer of -18 degrees. Given the answer that I got, I have to accept that the classical answer is pretty good. All of the approximations that the classical analysis makes, still gives an acceptable answer.

      • Sheldon Walker

        Hi Marco

        Thanks for the information. You are making a very good point. I never thought about the different phases of water.

        Does that mean that above some temperature near zero degrees Celsius, the ice would turn directly into a gas (vapour)?

        This would be the start of an atmosphere. And it would be a greenhouse atmosphere (water vapour is a greenhouse gas).

        Maybe calculating the temperature of the earth with no atmosphere is only a theoretical exercise. In reality, there is probably always some sort of atmosphere.

        I always like to learn something new. So thanks again for the interesting information.

      • If you drop the pressure enough the boiling point drops below the freezing point so the phase change is directly from solid to gas. This process is called sublimation. At normal atmospheric pressure this is what happens to solid carbon dioxide.

  33. I have a question for those who, like me, advocate taking action to limit climate change.

    Suppose you were scheduled to give a talk on the subject, and your audience consisted mostly of evangelical Christians who identified with the “tea party.” You already know that most of them not only reject the scientific consensus, they are likely to consider it a plot (started by Al Gore and promoted by Obama) to institute world government based on socialism.

    Would you refer to “deniers”? If the talk were in Texas, and these were the people who elected Ted Cruz and Lamar Smith, would you call their elected officials “denier”? Would you refer to the listeners in the audience thus?

    If you felt compelled to address the subject of climate denial, what terminology would you use?

    • Sheldon Walker

      Hi Tamino,

      I have been waiting for the opportunity to tell you about Sheldon’s law.
      It is a bit like Godwin’s law, but more scientific.

      Sheldon’s Law: If you use the word “denier”, then you lose.

      I said this in my reply to KiwiGriff:
      But I think that other skeptics might accept more of what you say, if you could only stop calling them deniers. The word denier causes an emotional reaction which prevents acceptance of warmist information. I am NOT joking!

      If you are talking to a group of warmists, feel free to use the word “denier”. But if you use it with a group of skeptics, then you are shooting yourself in the foot.

      Use the word skeptic rather than denier. Show some respect, and you might get some back.

      • Sheldon,

        “Sheldon’s Law: If you use the word “denier”, then you lose.”

        Yet you’ve used that word several times to refer to “slowdown deniers”.

        “Use the word skeptic rather than denier. Show some respect, and you might get some back.”

        Perhaps if I saw evidence of skepticism I would. I prefer not to use the word denier especially when commenting on WUWT, but I find most of the people claiming to be skeptics are nothing of the sort, at least not in the scientific sense.

        “If you are talking to a group of warmists, feel free to use the word “denier”. But if you use it with a group of skeptics, then you are shooting yourself in the foot.”

        I agree with that. I don’t personally feel offended by being called a denier, but I don’t like giving people an opportunity to dodge the question by insulting them.

        However, it is odd how those claiming the use of one word loses you the argument, yet have no problem throwing words like “warmist”, “alarmist”, “leftist” and much worse, and don’t think that this will lose them the argument.

    • If you were addressing “mostly evangelical Christians” as you describe, to fail to address in some way the evident denial would make the advocating of AGW action a big ask. And if you consider Ted Cruz & Lamar Smith to be a significant feature of that denial within the audience, the Cruz/Lamar denial would surely have to be articulated. But the weapons at your disposal will not be primarily the science if AGW is considered “a plot”,
      So you would be left with identifying what they are able to believe which (given the job done on AGW by the collective deniers) probably won’t amount to diddly-squat with such an audience.
      However, if they accepted the existence of a world pre-4000BC, the ice ages can be used to show that a small decrease in temperature makes a big difference to global climate. And if they accept the global temperature record and the rise of CO2 levels you would have half-a-chance of pointing out that the only explanation that fits the facts is AGW and that a few degrees increase due to AGW is going to make a big difference to global climate.
      Hopefully some would see the incongrueties of their held beliefs.
      But giving such people labels would not be helpful. And insulting them would not be helpful, unless maybe it is used as part of some devilish process for invoking Matthew 5:11-12 as an argument for their needing to suffer a world engaged in AGW action.

    • To belatedly answer your question above, Tamino:

      If I were addressing an audience of Evangelicals, I would use the language of Scripture as much as possible. (That’s if I couldn’t get Katherine Hayhoe to give the talk instead!)

      For instance, the parable of the talents, which can very reasonably be applied to our duty to be stewards of Creation:

      Though I’d have to be careful to differentiate between the literal monetary imagery, and the reality that the ‘talents’ humanity received from God are primarily biological ones. I’d probably quote Genesis on that:

      29Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.

      31God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.

      It’s telling to note that the passage recognizes that ‘beasts’ have needs, and hence value in and of themselves, not merely as chattels to humans–though they are unquestionably considered to be chattels of humans, still they, and the plants are, irrespective of their value to humans, “very good.”

      Would I talk about denial? Heck, no. If necessary, or rhetorically advantageous–and I don’t mean that in a cynical way–I’d use the language of prophecy and obedience to God. For instance:

      Reform your ways and your actions, and I will let you live in this place. 4Do not trust in deceptive words and say, “This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord!” 5If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, 6if you do not oppress the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, 7then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your ancestors for ever and ever. 8But look, you are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless.

      Seems pretty pertinent to today’s realities, don’t you think? It does not, of course, address the issues of environmental degradation and climate change directly. It wasn’t such a large problem in Jeremiah’s day–deforestation and desertification due to poor land use were likely problems, as poor public hygiene likely would have been (though there a good chunks of the traditional teachings that ameliorate some of that)–and refiners and tanners surely created some toxic messes. But causing climate change is certainly *not* ‘dealing justly,’ and I don’t think that demonstrating that is particularly difficult.

      NB.–though I don’t regard Scripture in the same way as Evangelicals do, I do view it as ‘wisdom literature’. Therefore, quoting it does not, for me, involve posing or hypocrisy.

  34. I personally don’t think we should stop using “denier” to describe AGW deniers. They’re offended? Fine with me. We aren’t going to convince ideologues and there’s no reason to try. We are trying to convince people with an open mind.

    Deniers whining about being called deniers is rather like creationists whining about being called creationists. And before you think I made that example up, I’ve seen exactly that from some ID-ers.

    Sheldon is offended that I use “deniers?” I’m offended by his calling me a “warmist.” I’m offended by his lies about the IPCC, Al Gore, and other conservative targets. It’s very clear where his political biases lie, and I don’t have to accommodate his hatred of liberals any more than I have to accommodate his science denial. I’m not interested to trying to reach Sheldon, because however reasonable you find his tone, tamino, I don’t find his POSITIONS reasonable at all. There will never be any convincing Sheldon he’s wrong, and that’s okay. He’s not the people we’re trying to reach.

    [Response: I have yet to see any evidence of where his “political biases lie” or that he harbors “hatred of liberals.”]

  35. The ever excellent Science of Doom on use of the word “denier” after a very similar thread.

  36. I’d be very careful about sanitising language for the sake of ideological sensibilities – following that path fuels the fervour of the censors and leads to the loss of nuanced expression and the ability to describe with clarity, as I noted earlier in my comment about Orwellian Newspeak.

    On the other hand there’s a psychology to speaking with people resistant to particular ideas. Is not fruitful to tell a new audience that they are bad because they are homophobes and/or mysogynists, as this labels the people rather than the behaviours. It is better to instead point out to them that homophobia and mysogyny are undesirable, and to explain why.

    Similarly, the most fruitful way forward with describing climate physics is to point out that it behooves us collectively to eschew denial of tested scientific evidence, especially when we are not sufficiently trained or informed to be able to apply reliable critique. It may also helpt to point out the nobility in being honest with one’s self, and in considering more than just one’s own interests when contemplating the implications of our actions.

    On the other hand, once someone has cast their dice and decided that they want to turn their backs on objective reason, there’s very little that can be easily done to dissuade them from their path. Existential fear and cognitive scotoma are powerful instuments for sustaining self-delusion and the effort that’s required to treat just one individual is disproportionate to the return, especially because for every mind that is clarified there are more ready to resist, or to nacently subscribe to the counterfactual meme. In some ways it’s the sorcerer’s apprentice writ large…

    And it arises from a gap in our evolutionary adaptability. We’ve simply not been required in our evolutionary past to develop as a species the advanced tools of perception that work at this abstract level of understanding, and our social/cultural systems have sufficent gaps that our lizard brains enable a small cadre of self-motivated individuals to continue a centuries-long perpetration of the tragedy of the commons.

    Basically, a combination of systemic and stochastic factors have caused a divergence of the path that we’ve elected to path compared to the one that we should have taken. We still have some choice as to how far from the most secure path we’ll stray, although those choices are becoming ever more limited, and the consequences ever more bruising to future generations.

    I’m not sure that there’s a solution to the problem at this level of abstraction, other than the instrument of natural selection… Sadly it’s probably a bit late at this stage to think about which words to use and/or how to phrase ideas, even if we do it as effectly as possible, and expect them to have anything other than a mildly tempering effect.

    Still, we must try.

  37. Denier is a flatly true statement in many cases, but in the event we don’t wish to tread on many toes, then we can brainstorm:

    1. fake skeptics (I think you started this Tamino)
    2. bad faith actors (doesn’t roll of the tongue, admittedly)
    3. (climate) deceivers
    4. phony skeptics
    5. deluders
    6. prevaricators (break out your thesaurus people)
    7. distorters
    8. fibbers
    9. liars

    To an extent, a variety of these get at a more subtle point that “denier” does not seem to: it’s often not merely an act of whimsical detachment from reality, but purposeful misdirection from the truth. There are indeed some people I would point out as witting liars, scoundrels toward fact. And people who by all rights *should* know better, but still engage in the most irresponsible modes of thinking and language that the only proper term is also “liar”.

    • Directed to Alex not SW:

      For some groups and individuals–especially those who cut their eye teeth in the tobacco/HFC/asbestos/acid rain wars fighting the science for industry–the most descriptive word I have ever come up with is “obfuscators”. It fits because they are not denying the science (liability and all as tobacco found out), they are throwing smoke in every possible direction to confuse the issues for the untrained public. Cherrypicking is their technique of choice.

      But it’s not really very snappy. Perhaps “FUDders” has that short snappy ring to it, but it sounds maybe a bit too close to another negative word.

      • Merchants of doupt.
        Cynical mercenaries.
        They know what they are doing and are paid for it .
        There are a few sources of denial that obviously know enough to distort the picture towards their own aims .
        Thinking of a recent example orf using the surface to100 millibar level radiosonde data to claim no warming.
        Well duh we know the stratosphere is cooling because more energy is retained lower in the atmosphere.
        Few in the target audience would be critical enough to find out what the surface to 100 millibar level represents and why its not surprising that it shows no warming.
        The nearest equivalence for the satellite data would be
        RSS TLS that shows an almost flat trend.
        I am not one for conspiracy but I do believe there are peploe behind the echochambers with knowledge sufficient to manufacture such distortions who do so deliberately for money.

  38. Sheldon,
    I think that part of the problem is that you don’t understand how science is done. The best definition I have been able to come up with for science is “theoretically guided empirical inquiry directed at understanding natural phenomena.” The point is that while empirical evidence is king in science, you need the theory to tell you what empirical studies are interesting–as in which ones could disprove the theory.

    The thing is that there is no theory of anthropogenic climate change. The relevant theory is that of Earth’s climate, and it has a history going back at least a couple of hundred years. This theory has an excellent track record not just for explaining Earth’s climate, but also that of Mars, Venus, and many other celestial bodies. In fact, it has been so successful, that there are no serious alternative theories proposed to explain planetary climates (just as there is no alternative to the theory of evolution).

    That is not to say that all details are filled in for our understanding of climate. There is still lots of active research, but it is not going to alter our basic understanding of climate. That our planet will warm as a result of anthropogenic emission of greenhouse gasses is an inevitable consequence of that theory. In fact, the confirmation of the prediction of anthropogenic warming provides strong evidence supporting the consensus theory of climate.

    So, if you reject the consensus theory, then you had better have another theory that explains the data at least as well. If you don’t, you aren’t doing science

    Your issue seems to be that you are doing empirical inquiry without any sort of theoretical basis to guide you. Thus, you call a fluctuation a “hiatus” in warming. Such fluctuations are not surprising or novel. They are expected. It would be a problem for the theory if they weren’t there. Your lack of understanding causes you to attribute significance (both statistical and scientific) where there is none.

  39. Sheldon,

    Since you’re a skeptic, I’d like to know more of what you’re skeptical about. Forgive me for asking questions I think I already know some of the answer to, but it’s good to have things on the record. My concept of global warming is this:

    1. Climate change is really happening.
    2. It’s almost entirely due to us.
    3. It’s dangerous. I would even say very dangerous.

    I’m especially interested in whether or not you’re skeptical of any of those three propositions. But I’m also keen to know what else there is about it that you doubt about the consensus viewpoint.

  40. Since November last year I’ve been lurking and wondering if the invitation in these posts to engage respectfully and constructively would be embraced. I don’t think there’s been huge progress on that. I know for damned sure I have failed to meet the challenge consistently where I regularly post, even though I completely agree with the message and have encouraged others to do likewise.

    Sheldon’s first post above was one I’d be glad to read from any co-interlocutor whether they shared my views on the topic or not. It included a fair hail to the putative opposition and read like an invitation to consider rather than a scolding.

    I’d like to partly do something here that I used to request years ago – play DA for the opposition. The one time a contrarian attempted it with me, they couldn’t do it. They were too firmly gripped in their POV. I hope to do better than that in the spirit of respect and reaching out. It won’t be much of a leap, because I do have mixed feelings on this topic.


    Of all the terms that aren’t outright pejoratives, ‘denier’ packs a punch. Accuracy aside, it’s a great put-down even without the link to Holocaust denial. It’s got much more rhetorical charge than ‘contrarian’, ‘skeptic’, or ‘fake skeptic’. It’s a catch-all that reduces the opposition with no effort. I challenge anyone to come up with a descriptive noun for the context that equals its rhetorical power. ‘Denialist’ comes closest but an extra syllable steals some pith. ‘Rejectionist’ is my second best effort, but it doesn’t quite make the grade. It still has a thread of nobility.

    There is no descriptive noun that one (putative) side could label the other that both found mutually satisfactory. Try to think of one for the ‘warmist’ side that wouldn’t stick in your craw if the most reasonable Wattsupian in the world approved of it. Has anyone said, “Yep, I’m a warmist”? That’s the mildest term.

    Who can judge over the internet whether a person has a sincere or convenient abhorrence of the use of the term ‘denier’ due to the dark association? It’s easier to imagine the outrage is a general con and spend the mind-time constructing a paragraph to promote that view, or to argue the irrationality of a specific objector’s view, than to make the effort to discern if an individual’s objection is genuinely felt and respond to that. I have never equated the term with Holocaust denial, but can imagine that some people would genuinely make the connection and be offended. Not so much in the country I live, but in the US the dual form has had currency, and a lot of people in the debate are from the US. I don’t use the term – not because I think it’s always inaccurate in the objective sense, but because I want to reach people. I fail to do that in so many other ways, why add to the list?

    The word is charged now as far as contrarians are concerned. That’s a fact. Blame whoever you want for that but: Arguing that it shouldn’t be charged will not change that fact. Arguing that it is accurate will not change that fact. If you think otherwise, you’re a denier.

    (If you felt a little heat at that last remark, the point is made)

    The term is the most favoured not because it’s accurate, though that may be true at times, not because it’s objective, though some may intend it that way, but because it rings. And because it rings it is often used as a short-cut when the actual truth would take 1000 times longer to discover and lay out.

    While we label ‘deniers’ so, we can’t pretend there is genuine outreach in that direction. We can’t reasonably ask Anthony Watts for a more respectful discourse if we call him a denier. It could be the most accurate term in the universe. What are the odds he’ll accept that?

    Charged language in the climate change conversations steps on the difficult nexus between rigorous objectivity and getting an urgent message across effectively (cf Stephen Schneider). I’ve been disappointed to read the term in published scientific papers that weren’t social studies on language and cultural dynamics. If you want it persuade that there is a bunch of people whose intellectually dishonest/self-deluded views should be automatically rejected once they’re identified, then denier is probably the best term out there. You’ll never reach your opposition that way. Maybe that’s not of interest. Maybe you’re using the term deliberately to isolate and demean the ‘deniers’ in the eyes of onlookers and fence-sitters. That’s a tactic. And maybe you genuinely believe that it is a neutral, accurate term that, being responsibly deployed by you, is not or shouldn’t be subject to any other context.

    Whenever I come across handy labels with political oomph that’s usually a red flag for me. Might be another reason why I don’t use it. Perhaps most people (lurkers, say) get put off by such rhetoric, either consciously or unconsciously. I don’t know. Unintended consequences?


    I think the term ‘contrarian‘ is better. I don’t know if it’s more accurate – it probably probably isn’t as a generalization. It may be too kind in many instances. It probably will piss some people off. But it’s a more neutral label that does a good enough job for a (hopefully) more respectful and inclusive discussion.

    • Echoes of my Mind

      Pigheaded adjective uk ​
      showing unreasonable support for an opinion or plan of action and refusing to change or listen to different opinions

    • I was surprised to see so many people here objecting to “warmist”. I’m a warmist, and proud of it. On the other hand, warmista is meant as an insult, and I don’t like it.

      On the other hand, it’s much harder to find an acceptable term for the other side. Skeptic is off the mark. Coolist is nice in that it’s an exact opposite to warmist, but it feels a bit clunky to describe people who are generally lukewarmists (and I don’t much care for that, either).

  41. Susan Anderson

    Here’s a layperson’s version that includes the basic physics with gw/cc. Phony skeptics often use semantic arguments (words are *always* imperfect descriptions of things) to confuse and distract:

    We are accumulating heat-trapping greenhouse gases in our atmosphere, which is increasing the energy (heat) in the system (global warming), which is disrupting our planetary circulation (climate change).

    I believe this is 99+% beyond dispute.

    I mostly write unskeptical “skeptic” (or fake or phony skeptics; the real skeptics are most scientists). Denial has a specific meaning that applies to them and is not the same as holocaust denier, which needs the qualifier to assume the meaning they use to distract. Moving on …

    Two interesting articles at the NYTimes. This Sunday’s Times Magazine will have this: “‘I’m Just More Afraid of Climate Change Than I Am of Prison’: How a group of five activists called the Valve Turners decided to fight global warming by doing whatever it takes.”

    And Justin Gillis, always superb, has dropped back in to provide this: “A Spy’s Guide to Climate Change”

  42. Philippe Chantreau

    you’d waste your time Barry. Contrarian will be made to be another straw man term in short notice if it becomes the designation of choice. Perhaps SW is sincere or perhaps he’s just taking a more skillful approach. He quickly goes on here with accusing the IPCC of cherry picking evidence, without substantiation, and nit picks the 97% figure as if deniers had not started the consensus thing themselves, while talking about liquid water on an Earth without atmosphere. From a guy who has studied “quite a bit of science”, no less. Perhaps there is also a spreadsheet to show areas where there may be carbonic snow…
    Fake skeptics, deniers, whatever you want to call them, launched the stupid myth that there was significant disagreement in the science community about climate change. It is a stupid, baseless myth. However, when showed to be wrong, they move on to argue that consensus means nothing, or split hair as to the level of the consensus, never owning up to the fact that they were wrong with the initial argument. Just like SW has not owned up to the fact that he was wrong with his slowdown stuff.
    There is a pattern that defines almost all exchanges with deniers. The very premise of the existence of the WUWT website was the denial of the reality of warming. It was shown to be wrong within a couple of months, and then again and again, in the literature, including by the guy that they hailed initially as their champion, only to deride him because they were shown to be wrong, again.
    What are we talking about here? Deniers of reality, inspired by the best current mind manipulation methods, managed to exaggerate the meaning of the term so as to then portray themselves as victims when the word is used, even though it is entirely appropriate. Brilliant, sort of. Now, SW is telling the reality based crowd that it’s our fault if the dialogue is poisoned, because we’re using mean words. That’s a bunch of crap. That is twisted, up-is-down nonsense. I’ll add that my readings have shown the level of vitriol and negative language expanded at denier sites far exceeds the usual tone of reality based sites.

    The other important thing to note is this: nobody gets called a denier right off the bat, even when they are obviously at odds with reality. What happens the immense majority of the time is that their source is called a denier, because that source is usually well known for peddling long debunked nonsense. Then the poster turns around and claims to be insulted by association, shifting onto others the blame for shutting off communication. That’s bullshit.

    It is not possible to have productive exchanges with deniers because of what they do, not because of the words used. When presented with evidence, they deny the evidence, attack the source ad-hominem, move the goal posts, pull red herrings, draw non sequitur, make up straw men, etc, etc. The hallmark of deniers is argument in bad faith. It has happened so many times, including on this site, how can we forget that? That is the true core of this whole problem. The discussion has now devolved into attempting to make it a necessary condition to be nice to those who are arguing in bad faith. Slippery slope.

    Despite the seemingly conciliatory tone, it is entirely possible that SW is only attempting to cloak the unreasonable with a thin linguistic veil of respectability, only to gain legitimacy in public exchanges for those who do not deserve any. Perhaps he’s sincere, and perhaps he’s just the best concern troll you’ve seen to date. When I see him attempting to tone things down on blogs where they call for scientists to be hanged or make their addresses public with a suggestion that the audience should harass them (yes, that’s WUWT), I might change my mind. In the meantime, call me skeptical.

    • First question I ask myself before posting, if I’m not locked in too hard to a discussion, is “Why am I commenting?”

      The answer right now is because I’m interested to find out why you commented. We’re all familiar with the tricks contrarians pull. Do we generalize about it again and again out of frustration? Do we do it for lurkers, worried that if we miss an opportunity to draw attention to the intellectual iniquities we regularly observe among those who oppose climate action, that they will never know?

      What motivated you?

      My provisional estimate – knocking these people is a habit. I wonder if regularizing this contest gives them a kind of victory. If the science is on our side, does playing the other game really help?

      I think I can pick the difference between denialism and skepticism, too. I’m not sure how effective it is in the greater scheme of things to use the label. Is it vital? Say we let ‘them’ win by yielding to that one argument. Is that seriously a problem? I don’t know the answer to that.

      What do we actually lose if we give it up? I’d like to know the answer to that question.

      • +++++ Nobody gets called a denier right off the bat, even when they are obviously at odds with reality. What happens the immense majority of the time is that their source is called a denier, because that source is usually well known for peddling long debunked nonsense. Then the poster turns around and claims to be insulted by association, shifting onto others the blame for shutting off communication. That’s bullshit.

        …. The hallmark of deniers is argument in bad faith.

  43. Wow. I’m surprised at the length of the Comments thread.

    Tamino, IMO, is correct about being careful regarding disparaging others, even WUWT. Recently, I, who I think anyone would dub a climate hawk, have found reason to criticize fellow environmentalists, professionals, armchair, and casual, all. Given our situation, and whatever else you might think of him, and even if I sometimes cringe when I read his stuff, I’m having some alignment with the thoughts of Stewart Brand and am, in fact, reading and studying Whole Earth Discipline.

    Yeah, the feeling of doing large scale engineering (not SRM, which I think is an abomination) is wrong: It feels arrogant, even blasphemous. But dumping 30 GtCO2 each year into atmosphere is certainly blasphemous. As is expanding our ecological footprint via suburbs and McMansions. As in artificially increasing Earth’s carrying capacity for people. But, then, despite all the efforts of groups like and Sierra and Greenpeace to stop things like pipelines and energy shipments, you get a town in Connecticut who blocks a 15,000 solar panel build because it entails cutting some 70 acres of new growth forest. (1) New growth forest sequesters no CO2. (2) Where are you going to put it, in the middle of Hartford? Ditto, slogans like “Clean Energy Now!” (Sierra), but don’t build wind turbines along coastlines because their impact to property values and habitat, and new dams in Canada are anathema because of indigenous rights and long transmission lines. And don’t even mention the possibility of Thorium-fueled nuclear power. I’m not saying indigenous rights are not important. They are as is climate justice. But am I the only one who things this situation isn’t being taken seriously, even by the people who are supposed to understand it? Where are the urgings to boycott natural gas? To build commercial development using air source heat pumps exclusively? To build solar farms? People are AWOL on these.

    If we want to improve things, I think there’s plenty of improvement to be had closer to home than among Deniers, at least exclusively.

    And, no, I have no problem with the term at all, although I prefer Science Deniers.

  44. Sheldon Walker

    Hi Tamino,

    I came to your website to try and share ideas, and maybe learn something. So I am more than happy to answer your questions. I will answer them totally honestly, even though people may think that I am a bit strange.

    1. Climate change is really happening.

    When I started to think about this point, I realised that there is a part of me that doesn’t want to admit that climate change is happening (my inner denier). But if I am realistic and truthful, then I have to admit that climate change is happening.

    If somebody calls me a denier, then I feel insulted, and my inner denier becomes a bit stronger. Sometimes I wonder about the possibility of catastrophic global warming. If I am on the internet at the time, and somebody calls me a denier, then my inner denier cancels my thoughts about catastrophic global warming. It even works if I just remember somebody calling me a denier in the past. And it also works if I see somebody else get called a denier. I guess that I must be over-sensitive to the word denier.

    That is one of the reasons why I suggested to you that you should stop calling people deniers. When you do, they feel insulted, and their inner denier becomes stronger. You have just given them another reason to ignore global warming.

    I said elsewhere on this thread, that I believe that the earth has warmed by about 1 degree Celsius in the last 100 years. I am prepared to be more specific than that. I often use GISTEMP when I am analysing global warming. Most skeptics regard GISTEMP as a load of bullshit, because of adjustments. I believe that there are some adjustments, but I also believe that some adjustments are necessary. GISTEMP matches the other land and ocean temperature series fairly well. So I regard GISTEMP as not perfect, but good enough. So if you want to see what I believe our temperature history is, look at GISTEMP.

    2. It’s almost entirely due to us.

    This is a difficult question to answer, because I don’t think that there is any direct way that we can measure this.

    When I first started following global warming, the warming from 1910 to 1940 was generally considered to be “natural”. It is not as long (in years) as the warming from 1970 to now, but it has a similar slope. At times I see warmists consider all of the warming since 1880 as human caused global warming. Which view is correct? I don’t know.

    If you force me to give you the percentage of warming caused by humans, then I would guess somewhere between 50% and 90%. But I am not confident about my answer.

    3. It’s dangerous. I would even say very dangerous.

    This is probably the point which I am most skeptical about.

    The 2 degree limit created by the IPCC seems to me to be somewhat arbitrary. I admit that coming up with a scientifically correct limit is difficult. We are talking about going into unknown territory, so how do we know what is safe?

    I will give you some approximate numbers that I have used to try and work out what a safe temperature limit is. I repeat, this is a difficult exercise. So don’t get upset when you see my figures. I am putting them forward as one way to measure the risk. I am willing to modify my figures if somebody can show me evidence that I am wrong.

    The temperature of the earth varies from about -30 C at the poles, to about +30 C at the equator. Humans can probably survive in permanent settlements from an average temperature of -10 C to +30 C. This is my best guess. Tell me if you disagree.

    So humans, and animals, and plants, can survive over a temperature range of about 40 C. Are we going to die if the temperature goes up by 2 C. I doubt it. Things might get worse, but it will not be the end of humans, nature, or the world.

    If you think about it, it is probably only near the equator where temperatures will go into temperatures which are not currently lived in. And of course, the wonderful thing about global warming is that it is greatest at the poles (the North pole anyway), and smallest at the equator. So the bad area is minimised.

    I know that warmists hate this idea. But the cold parts of the earth are going to get nicer with some global warming. Canada will probably become the next world superpower, because they have so much frozen land which could become available.

    Here is a practical exercise that anybody with a car can do, to check out how dangerous global warming is. The temperature gradient, as you move from the poles to the equator is about 1 degree Celsius for every 150 km driven.

    So hop into your car. Have a last look around in case you don’t make it back. Drive 150 km towards the equator. When you get there, get out of your car and walk around. You are at the 1 degree limit. (actually the whole earth has already warmed by 1 degree C, so I guess you are really at the 2 C limit).

    Hop back into your car, and drive another 150 km towards the equator. Let’s not quibble about which limit that you are at. Let’s call it the 2 degree limit.

    Keep repeating this exercise until you get bored, or you reach the equator. Using this method, you should easily be able to reach the 10 degrees C limit. Are you dead yet? I didn’t think so.


    Being a skeptic, I think too much. You know how people are worried that global warming is happening so fast that the plants and animals won’t be able to adapt.

    I calculate that the average American who retires and goes to live in Florida, has to endure a 3 degrees C average temperature change, and they have to adapt in less than 24 hours (if they fly).

    I have not heard that large numbers of retired Americans have been found dead in Florida, each year. Where are the state officials hiding the bodies?

    [Response: Thank you for being honest and candid.

    I have a lot to say about your response, but I’ll take some time to collect my thoughts before doing so.

    To other readers: let’s try being as civil and polite in response as possible. And remember that for *this post* my primary goal is to understand, possibly to persuade, not to refute and certainly not to vilify. Think before you respond. And think about this: how toxic has the discussion become when I have to request we don’t vilify an honest and candid response?]

    • SW: The temperature of the earth varies from about -30 C at the poles, to about +30 C at the equator. Humans can probably survive in permanent settlements from an average temperature of -10 C to +30 C. This is my best guess. Tell me if you disagree. . . [paragraphs of blather about how inconsequential temperature changes are].

      BPL: We’re talking about the mean global annual surface temperature. The difference in MGAST between now and a mile of ice over Chicago and New York is 5.5 K. We’re talking climate, not weather. A difference of one degree is enough to move agricultural growing belts by hundreds of miles.

      Global warming, under the present continental configuration, also moves the rain. Continental interiors dry out, coastlines get soaked. Neither condition is good for crops.

      Maybe you consider mass starvation a minor inconvenience, but I don’t.

      • The Tropics is the key to understanding one aspect of a ‘steam age’ (the opposite of an ice age) that unmitigated AGW would easily bring.
        The suggested drive to the Equator will obviously take you there, places where humanity lives unkilled so if the question“Are you dead yet?” yielded a “Yes” it would likely be due to a road traffic accident.
        However, what will spread death will be the warming of those Tropical lands with their 100% humidity. The Tropics typlically see average noon-day highs of above 30ºC.(See BEST, for instance Malyasia Add 6ºC to that and with 100% humidity and outside air con, folk will be dropping down dead with hyperthermia, even when well ventilated and at rest in the shade. They would become like the cold bathroom mirror and be used as a heat-sink by their surroundings.
        As noted above, happily Tropical temperatures are not amplified like Arctic ones and also daily high temperatures are not increasing as quick as nightly lows, although land temperatures are globally warming faster than the Land+Ocean global averages. However, I would suggest that converting swathes of the Tropics into death-zones because of AGW would be entirely unacceptable and on that score alone, the limit to acceptable warming should be some (small) fraction of that 6ºC rise.

    • And tamino, why should our response NOT be “to refute?” It’s suddenly wrong to refute wrong and dangerous ideas? The court finds itself unable to follow the alleged reasoning.

      [Response: Go ahead and refute. But it’s not *my* primary goal, and I hope you too put understanding and persuasion first.]

    • MANY scientists have called other scientists every name in the book. [Response: True dat!] In plate tectonics this was rife for decades. Probably some feelings were badly hurt. But the name calling wasn’t what was important in the end. It was the theory and the evidence. Same with steady-state vs. big bang.

      In the end (though US-based petroleum geologists were conspicuously late re. plate tectonics as they have been with climate science) science moves by reasoned theories and evidence for those theories.

      Your description of a person who feels put off by name calling to go back to a _belief_ (as opposed to theory + evidence) is a description of one who is not personally accepting scientific reasoning and methods and is engaging in motivated contrarian reasoning because someone hurt their feelings. Fine. But not science.

      Rollin Chamberlin–a noted continental drift denier–once quoted a colleague who said: “If we are to believe Wegener’s hypothesis we [Note: the colleague of course means “I” here] must forget everything which has been learned in the last 70 years and start all over again.” The early relativists made similar remarks about the resistance they found. Sometimes you just need to be prepared to scrap years of (wrong) thinking. Or as some early relativist was rumored to have said you have to wait for the old guard to just die off and be replaced with younger, more agile minds. In stats we have the frequentists who often do not want to unlearn their knowledge in order to go over to Bayes when appropriate. I may even be one myself though I think my take on frequencies is different from standard hypothetical-deductive reasoning to take in some of them.

      At the risk of repetition, you are in a forum here (science, not just Open Mind) where feelings are not the issue. Theories and data are. You seem somewhere close-ish compared to many others who engage in motivated denial (i.e., allowing your “inner denier” come to the fore), but IMPO you need to close the gap a bit still.

      Last of all “belief” in the absence of theory and data is not enough. This was the failing of the original Wegener hypotheses. Many of his proposed theories concerning mechanism were clearly deficient even using back of the envelope calculations. Your statistical machinations often are pretty much at the same level and usually shown to be entirely expectable as opposed to providing evidence that something unexpected is happening.

      What is your mechanism for 10%-50% of the one degree of warming over the last century? Science has for many decades–as reported in the literature in 10000s of studies and as collated in the various IPCC reports–investigated in detail every possible mechanism for this warming proposed by anyone and has not found a single theory/mechanism to pan out. “Belief” just doesn’t do it in this context.

      • Another example besides plate tectonics, championed in the USA by J Tuzo
        Wislon, is bolide impacts as a geologic process. That was advanced by Eugene Shoemaker and Luis and Walter Alvarez.

    • Sheldon said:

      “When I first started following global warming, the warming from 1910 to 1940 was generally considered to be “natural”.”

      I’m not sure that’s right, though I am sure that many folks would think so. That is, I *think* there’s an important distinction that’s not often noted. But let me set it up.

      Guy Callendar’s seminal 1938 paper on CO2 and climate suggested that the warming trend in question was due to anthropogenic influence. Readers unfamiliar with it can bone up on Callendar and that paper in particular here:

      Most researchers today would disagree that his suggestion then was actually demonstrated by his paper. That’s implicit in the history of the IPCC Assessment Reports: it wasn’t until the fourth report that they unambiguously claimed detection of the ‘anthropogenic signal.’ That history is summed up here:

      Nevertheless, though the bottom-line ‘answer’ of Callendar, 1938, was likely wrong, the paper asked so many scientifically fruitful questions, and made so many significant methodological advances, that it did richly merit the adjective ‘seminal’ I used above.

      But the kicker is that failure to demonstrate influence does not imply an actual absence of influence. One way to support the possibility of AGW is to show to a reasonable degree of significance that observations exceed the range of past natural variability. For the observed warming of Callendar’s day, that case can’t be made: natural variability is pretty large and so has a considerable masking effect on those of GHG forcing.

      It does not follow, though, that the known GHG forcing was in abeyance. In fact, any such conclusion would be unphysical. Does the fact that the human finger is unable to immediately detect a temperature change in a pot of water just set on to boil mean that the water isn’t warming? Of course not. We know to near-certainty that warming is taking place, based on our well-validated model of the physics; we just don’t have a way to detect it given practical limits on our observational capabilities.

      So, we can rewrite the statement quoted above:

      Original: “…the warming from 1910 to 1940 was generally considered to be “natural.”

      Revision: “…the anthropogenic contribution to warming from 1910 to 1940 was generally considered to be indistinguishable from the “natural” contributions…”

      This distinction becomes highly visible in the light shed by investigations into possible effects of human land-use in the paleoclimatic record, such as those of William Ruddiman:

      ‘Proving’, or (better) ’empirically demonstrating’ human influence on climate prior to 1970 is at best pretty darn tough. But believing that it was non-existent would require us to believe that physics doesn’t work except in those instances for which we can actually watch it working.

      That is, I suppose, a form of ‘skepticism,’ but it’s a pretty extreme version of it.

      • D. Archer, R. Pierrehumbert (eds.) The Warming Papers. See Table of Contents here.

        The American Institute of Physics also has (online) available an expanded online version of Spencer Weart’s The Discovery of Global Warmimg.

      • Sheldon Walker

        Hi Doc Snow,

        As a registered skeptic, whenever somebody tells me something, I am legally obligated to consider whether the opposite could be true.

        So if somebody says to me, that “A” is always found with “B”. My brain immediately thinks, “is there some circumstance when “A” isn’t found with “B”.

        It can be annoying, but it often shows that peoples statements are not correct (or to be kind, that they are not 100% correct).

        You should try it. But a warning, if you do it too many times, then it becomes a habit. And then you might get a reputation as an honest and intelligent person (that is NOT a slight on YOUR reputation. Your writing appears to be carefully reasoned and clearly presented).

        Few people know that Guy Callendar had an older sister called Abigail. The two siblings did not get on well. Some say that Abigail was jealous of Guy’s achievements. Whenever Guy would publish a scientific paper, Abigail would publish a paper soon afterwards, which claimed the opposite of what Guy’s paper claimed.

        Abigail claimed that the cooling that took place from 1940 to about 1970, which was caused by the start of an ice age, was generally considered to be indistinguishable from the “natural” contributions…”.

      • @SW,

        Speaking of earned skepticism, G. S. Callendar only had a younger sister, Cecil, who died at age 19 after contracting pneumonia. I don’t know about anyone else, but my personal prior probability on the believability of anything you say just became a Beta density with \alpha = 1 and \beta = 9.

      • hypergeometric,
        As the excellent book you link to sets out, GS Callendar’s sister Cecil Callendar (1895-1914) was actually older (not younger) than GS. His one younger sibling was brother Max.

      • Sheldon and Hypergeometric,
        It looks like you are both partially wrong about Callendar’s family. I did a bit of searching and could not find out the full details but I was able to find that he was the third of three children and the second son. His elder sister according to my source was Cecil. I do not know whether his younger sibling was a brother or a sister.

      • Actually, that has nothing at all to do with my main point.

      • The Fleming book HG linked to–and I didn’t know that that was available online, so thanks for that!–was the primary source for my biographical information on Callendar. The scientific source was the paper itself, which used to be available linking from this page:

        Sadly, it’s been retroactively paywalled. (But I have a saved PDF copy if anyone wants to read it!)

        So, on the biographical content:

        1) Sheldon’s claims about “Abigail” were clearly a little ‘mischievous’ essay in assessing folks’ skepticism;

        2) Cecile wasn’t much interested in science, but was a talented visual artist (one of her charcoal sketches is to be found in the book somewhere);

        3) Guy had not one brother, but two. The younger was named Max, the older was Leslie Hugh (after their father, one of the premier English physicists of the day).

        4) It was–bonus trivia item!–Leslie who was responsible for blinding Guy in one eye with a pin when they were both very young–doubtless to the later detriment of Guy’s tennis game, which nevertheless would be quite formidable at the club level. (Yes, I’m being a little mischievous in mentioning it, but I swear it’s all true!)

      • Doc Snow,
        Your assessment of the ‘Abigail’ anecdote as “mischievous” appears to have been correct as far as its teller was concerned. Sheldon Walker has since described its creation – “I always try to be honest, but sometimes I try to be funny, like my story about Abigail Callendar (totally fake). I have a lame sense of humour.”
        Yet while it could be dismissed by some as being but misplaced humour (and note you have written on the subject so are not as susceptible to the creation of it), where would such credulity-testing blather rate alongside, say, branding someone a ‘denier’ when there is ample evidence presented to support such branding?
        And in such light, should the likes of myself (who consider that there is an element of bad faith attached to the ‘Abigail’ anecdote) react with criticism? If a response to an honset assessment of somebody’s position on AGW yields the response – ‘If you try to “brand me as a denier”, then I am going to kick you in the nuts.’ – I would consider some level of rebuke is indeed required for the ‘Abigail’ anecdote.

  45. How many realists does it take to convince a contrarian to change a light bulb?
    It doesn’t matter…the contrarian has got to want to change….and not get called any names when the realists point out its easier to see in the light.

  46. Sheldon,
    I wonder if what is happening is that your intuitions are leading you astray. I have seen it happen before. Intuitions developed in one field can turn out to be very misleading when applied to another. A friend of mine whose background was safety critical software found it hard to see that for most natural systems the precise specification of a model was usually not critical. There are usually multiple roughly equivalent ways to describe a system and a misspecification does not usually cause a climate model to fall over. And in statistics there are often plenty of models which give similar results. For example if you want a non-parametric smoother then lowess smoothers, smoothing splines and kernel smoothers will give similar results. Also I suspect she might have been concerned about error propagation but that is usually not a great concern when your solution is obtained iteratively.
    You have a computing background and I wonder whether you might be thinking this way too.
    But the main mistake you seem to be making is not being willing to abandon the impressions that a first visual inspection of the data gives if a test suggests that you were wrong. We are good at seeing patterns in the data and can easily see one which is not there. That is why we need to perform statistical tests..
    What Tamino has done is to test for departures from a linear trend over the past thirty plus years. The test results are not statistically significant. This does not mean that there is no departure from a linear trend. It means that whatever departure there is, is too small for us to be anywhere near sure of its existence or of its form. It could be departures at different times and in different directions from those suggested by visual inspection.
    What you have done is to assume that the departures from linearity suggested by visual inspection are actually there and have set out to find them. This has led you to perform multiple tests in search of the pattern that you think you saw without doing omnibus tests for any departures first. This had led to invalid results.

  47. This only works if the contrarian is honest. When a range of tactics are used to change the subject, there will always be a reason to ignore the information. Yes, I’m against the in-crowd-ism of calling people idiots, morons, flat-earthers, or insulting their religion. Here’s an older list of tactics:

    We have the same thing about everything now in the US, with “fake news” being broadcast every time there’s a change that the information might be correct.

  48. Any labeling of people has the disadvantage of being an implicit instantiation of the ‘pars pro toto’ fallacy: nobody is ‘only’ a denier, ‘only’ a warmist, or for that matter (Godwin’s alert!) ‘only’ a Nazi.

    Even “‘only’ a human” is pretty unhelpful in practical terms.

    We are of course stuck with labeling despite this disadvantage, simply because reality is too damn big and messy to deal with directly. But we can try to recall that ‘the finger is not the moon.’

  49. Sheldon,
    There is an old adage in science: “Three months in the lab can save you an hour in the library.” I realize that runs against your “skepticism,” but your skepticism doesn’t negate the authority of the experts.

    Does it not make sense to you that someone who has devoted 30 years of intense study, and who has published research that makes sense of a subject for other experts, might, just maybe, have a better understanding of–and better intuition for–a subject than a rank amateur who has been looking at the subject on and off for a couple of months?

    Intuition unguided by study and understanding can be disastrously misleading. Take, for instance, your idea that we can understand the effects of climate change by simply driving 150 miles toward the equator. To you, it may seem clever, but consider a moment all the concerns that this approach ignores:
    1) Many climate processes involve the interaction of large masses of air over distance scales much larger than 150 miles.
    2) The flora and fauna as one moves south may change drastically–but they may not be able to migrate north because a) they aren’t mobile, b) other conditions besides temperature (e.g. fertility, water availability, etc.) might prevent it, c)…
    3) Many food crops require a period of time below freezing before their seeds will germinate. Large areas of current high agricultural productivity may be rendered worthless by a fairly small temperature change.
    4) Without freezing temperatures, insect populations might not be killed off, and crops may be devastated when they are at their most vulnerable. (Note: the need to get rid of insect pests is a big part of why slash and burn agriculture is still practiced in much of the tropics).
    5) A few degrees tacked on to a heat wave can dramatically increase death tolls.
    6) A few degrees could cause Arctic sea ice to vanish–and that would dramatically change climate in the Northern Hemisphere and possibly globally

    I could go on, but the point is that researchers–experts–have looked at all of these issues in detail. You are of course not required to defer to these experts, but if you find yourself differing from a fairly strong consensus of the experts, you had better figure out why and you had better make sure your understanding of the subject is equal to or better than that of the experts. I can assure you, Sheldon. Your understanding does not rise to the level of expertise.

  50. Hi Sheldon,

    You use the term ‘warmist’. I don’t like being labeled thus, and was going to talk about how I experience it (and ‘alarmist’). But I thought it would be better to inquire before espousing. Seems fair-mined seeing plenty has been said explaining and defending the word denier.

    Could you explain what is meant by warmist? And why it is used. Is it a neutral term or pejorative?

  51. Sheldon,

    I started to write a long comment to address your points. Then I decided that it would be simpler and clearer to deal with issues one at a time. Let’s start with the term “denier.”

    You say that you are insulted by the term, and that it increases your likelihood to doubt. I get that; it’s a natural reaction. But you also seem aware that such is unscientific; what someone calls you is irrelevant to the truth or falsehood of scientific propositions. Good advice to everyone: let your inner scientist dominate your inner “fuck you!”

    When you call me “warmist” I consider it somewhat insulting, but not much (I’ve been called a lot worse). I wonder: what is your goal? If it’s to persuade, do you think abandoning use of the term would be helpful?

    I’m more insulted by terms like “leftist” (what does politics have to do with the truth or falsehood of AGW anyway?) or “warmista” or “commie” or “eco-terrorist” or “fascist” or — what started this thread in the first place — “Nazi.” Although I regard them as insulting, they don’t really bother me; perhaps others are more repelled by such labels.

    I’ve noticed you post often at WUWT, and although I don’t recall your ever having used those terms, you must know that the comments (including those to your posts) use them liberally (pun intended). What do you think about that? Do you object? If so, have you ever thought about objecting to such terms on WUWT where it counts?

    Another question: I have a clear definition of “denier” — it’s someone who is in denial of reality. What, exactly, is your definition of “warmist”? (Just as I was posting this I found that barry has asked the same question above.)

    Thanks in advance for your reply.

    • Why are people here annoyed by the term “warmist”?. I had to do a bit of introspection to pin down what grates about the term.
      I think many here see it as implying that that those who are concerned about the danger of Global Warming do so because they have taken a side rather than because they have become convinced that there is a danger and that they support actions because of that. They see it as an implicit allegation that everyone is driven by tribal motives and find that claim insulting.
      Are there people who support action for tribal motives? There certainly are. But I doubt there are many on a blog that is looking at the nuts and bolts like here. Those who do not understand and are not interested in the science will find this blog too hard going.
      I know that not every one who uses the term “warmist” has these motives but it is seen here as a danger sign.

  52. Sheldon Walker

    Hi Tamino and Barry,

    When I use the term “warmist”, I mean somebody who believes in global warming (AGW) and/or climate change.

    Names or labels are needed so that communication is more efficient.

    I would prefer to write:

    “Warmists think that this is true”, rather than

    “The people who believe in global warming think that this is true”.

    Given that I might want to use the term “warmists” 20 or 30 times in an article, it represents a considerable saving.

    Using the term “warmist” also makes it easier to read.

    Barry, you ask if it is a neutral term or pejorative?

    The problem is, that everybody has there own opinion.

    I may use it as a neutral term, but somebody else may see it as an insult.

    I may use it as an insult, but somebody else may see it as neutral.

    I can not control how other people see it.

    Any word can be turned into an insult. Go up to a female friend, and say with a sneer in your voice, “you are a girl”. Quickly duck for cover, and explain that your boss told you to do it. The word “girl” has a clear and precise meaning. But it can easily be turned into an insult.

    As a matter of interest, I used to mainly use the term “Alarmist” to refer to people who believed in global warming. I thought that it was a fairly neutral term, but I realised that it could be seen as an insult. After seeing Alarmists react to it in a negative way, I changed to using the term “Warmist”. I know that I will never make everybody happy, but I am doing the best that I can. I don’t want “warmist” to be seen as an insult, because if you insult people then they won’t take notice of what you are saying.

    Tamino, I believe that when people make decisions about things (like global warming, but also about EVERYTHING else), there is an emotional component, and an intellectual component. We like to think that we are rational, and that the intellectual component dominates.

    Richard Feynman said, “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself — and you are the easiest person to fool.”

    (Sorry, my emotional component is forcing me to say, “Was Richard Feynman fooling himself, when he said this.)

    Lame humour aside, did we just make a decision based on science, or did we just invent some scientific reasons to justify what our emotions wanted?

    Did you eat that piece of chocolate cake because you love chocolate, or because the piece of apple pie has more calories. Or did your emotional component want the chocolate cake, and your intellectual component invented an excuse to justify eating it?

    Did you really need to eat anything? Did your emotional component and intellectual component just gang up on you, and get you to break your diet. Did Richard Feynman just come in and eat the apple pie?

    What I am about to say is just my opinion, but I believe that when the emotional component and the intellectual component are disagreeing, the emotional component wins most of the time. It takes strength and perseverance to make the intellectual component win over the emotional component. So if you don’t like the group who are claiming that global warming is happening, then it is hard to accept global warming, even if you think that their science is correct.

    Humans are emotional animals, even if we don’t want to admit it.

    Good question, Tamino. Could I abandon the word “warmist”. I think that I need some word. I would be happy to allow all warmists to vote for the word that they wanted me to use. But I can’t cope with 6 different words for different sub-groups. The reality is that I don’t see a vote happening. So if anybody wants to send me their suggested replacement for “warmist”, then I will consider it. Until then, I will keep using “warmist”, because that is the best option that I have.

    I post articles on WattsUpWithThat because it is a popular website, which is sympathetic to the skeptical point of view. In recent articles, I think that I have always used the term “warmist”. In earlier articles, I may have used “Alarmist”. I may have occasionally used other terms. It is normally my intention not to insult people. But I am human, and there will have been times when I used an insult against somebody who I thought deserved it. I have never claimed to be a Saint, but I do try to do the right thing.

    I have no control over the people who post comments under my articles. Sometimes it seems that 80% of the comments that are posted under my articles have got nothing to do with my article. I don’t think that anybody would take any notice if I tried to stop somebody from using certain words.

    Tamino, you may not like me saying this, but one of the attractions of WattsUpWithThat is that they have a fairly relaxed attitude about what is posted. I believe that they will allow warmists to post comments, as long as it meets the site’s terms and conditions. I believe that they will remove really bad posts, like a death threat to somebody.

    So Tamino, can I start publishing articles on your website now? Don’t worry, I am only joking. Your website is based on your view, and you have built it into what it is. I check your website regularly, and I enjoy many of your articles.

    • Thanks for the reply, Sheldon.

      I appreciate that you personally don’t use the term warmist pejoratively.

      I noticed with surprise a couple of people welcoming the term warmist. I’ll tell you why I don’t.

      Firstly, it’s the feeling of being tagged at all. There is no ‘ism’ that I ascribe to on this. No club that I belong to. Ultimately my opinions are my own, and I think I’ve subjected them to internal scrutiny as much as I can. But I can and do accept that we have to yield up the granular truth to such short-cuts in order to make our comments digestible, and to trust or hope that the user isn’t actually writing off the possibility that your views are discovered rather adopted.

      “When I use the term “warmist”, I mean somebody who believes in global warming (AGW) and/or climate change.”

      Secondly, none of my views on any field of science are ‘beliefs’. I weigh the evidence as best I can and come to a provisional understanding. Whatever conclusion I reach is only the best so far. Being labeled a warmist suggests that I’m part a cult, or ideological mind-set. Someone who doesn’t rigorously question. Labeling me a warmist sems to me like I’m being cast as a person with a mind-set rather than a well-tested opinion.

      Thirdly, years of duking it out has made it clear that plenty of people do use the term pejoratively, such as described above. From the moment it’s dropped, if not before, it’s clear that I’ve been cast as a ‘believer’, and/or someone who needs to be part of a tribe.

      Most of the time it’s easy to ignore being labeled and stick to substance, just as its (almost) automatic to quarantine snipe and invective and reply to content. But it’s also automatic to sense that my co-interlocutor is hostile (they’ve put me in an opposing tribe) and won’t give my comments any respect (because I’m just a believer),.

      So the pigeon-holing bounces back.

      I am, of course, as prone to labeling and short-cuts as anyone else. It’s nearly impossible to do better in the climate debates. Well-meaning, respectful ‘opponents’ are hard to come by, and I welcome them the more eagerly as a consequence.

      I’d like to believe that this is what you are. So I’ll request Tamino open a thread for an honest talk about the science with you, seeing as this is not the venue for that. And recommend he be ruthless about admitting only posts that are snipe-free, especially from regulars.

      [Response: An honest talk about the science? Snipe-free? But at the same time ruthlessly evidence based? One in which everyone is not just at liberty, but *encouraged* to ridicule ideas and claims without ridiculing people?

      Maybe even one in which folks have to be prepared to face the painful process of change, and/or making admissions? A discussion which might actually make some progress?

      That’s a good idea. The post will appear today.]

      • Kudos from here, too.

        There is another aspect, however. Dobzhansky wrote an article once, intended to empower teaching of evolution even (or especially) from the perspective of one person of strong faith. (There are others I greatly respect, and, in fact, influenced me in my personal life, like Professor Ayala disagree on the compatibility, even if they strongly agree with Dobzhansky’s point there.) I would paraphrase and say

        Nothing in Physics makes any sense except in light of blackbody radiation, the quantum discontinuity, and quanta.

        Accordingly, if that is challenged in some way, as might a claim that radiative forcing from a greenhouse gas was inconsequential, (1) it’s quite natural to expect the challenge to produce overwhelming evidence, (2) natural to expect the challenge to introduce a superior alternative on the spot for all the phenomena which now are not explained without that forcing, and (3) to vigorously oppose the scientific disruption such a challenge poses if it is not obviously an improvement. In other words, the arguments need to be on the order of those offered by J Tuzo Wilson for plate tectonics, or Einstein for the Photoelectric Effect. In other words, it can’t be easy.

        The impacts — essentially, How Bad, How Fast? — depend upon what’s looked at, where you look, and what measures are most relevant. The current consensus explaining things is Knutti, Rugenstein, and Hegerl (2017), summarized here, with a sidebar on transient climate response here. I think that sidebar is an excellent excellent example of a good and proper non-controversial scientific exchange, where ATTP is responding to Nic Lewis, one worthy of emulating.

  53. Sheldon Walker

    Why I became a skeptic, and not a warmist.

    I accept all of the basic climate science. I accept AGW, and believe that the earth has warmed by about 1 degree Celsius in the last 100 years.

    So why am I a skeptic? Surely I should be a warmist.

    When I first became interested in global warming (about 10 years ago), I had a neutral attitude to it. I had heard about it, and I wanted to find out if it was true.

    I started reading and posting on the newsgroup. Looking back, this was a bad place to look for information. Conversations were antagonistic, and the atmosphere was toxic. But I didn’t know of a better place to go. Participating was exciting.

    My early impressions of global warming, were that things were being exaggerated. So I sort of believed the basic theory, but I thought that it was being overstated.

    I will tell you about one particular incident that is firmly etched in my memory.

    It was at a time when there were terrible bush fires in Australia. They had been burning in 2 main areas for nearly a week. Every day they would report on the temperatures, and the impression was that these were record temperatures, and that the bush fires were worse than normal because of that. Of course, global warming was the reason. Pretty soon, all of Australia would be scorched and bare.

    I decided to do some detective work. I went to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) website, and found a page where you could search historical temperatures. I searched for the 2 areas which were currently burning, and found that there were record temperatures in the 1920’s and 1930’s. These record temperatures were greater than the current bush fire temperatures.

    I made a short post on explaining what I had found. I just said that there were record temperatures in the 1920’s and 1930’s which were greater than the current bush fire temperatures. I included a link to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology website, directly to the webpage that showed the historical record temperatures. I wanted to be sure that people could check/verify what I was saying. I didn’t expect anybody to just take my word for it.

    The first person who replied to my post was an Australian woman who posted under the name of Fran. She simply stated that I was a liar. I don’t know whether she followed the link to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology website, or not. But she KNEW that I was lying.

    The second person who replied to my post was a gentleman (warning, that reference may be sarcastic), who said (and this is NOT made up), that I was like a holocaust denying pope.

    I was gob-smacked. For reporting a simple fact, I was like a holocaust denying pope.

    Things got worse after that.

    My memory of those long ago times, is mainly of the nastiness from the warmists, if you questioned any of their beliefs. That nastiness pushed me into the arms of the skeptics.

    There was no discussion or questions about global warming allowed. You either accepted what they told you, or you were the most evil mother-fucker in the world.

    With skeptics, I found that you could at least discuss things. They might not always agree with you, but we could usually agree to disagree.

    I am not implying that the people who post on Tamino’s website are like the warmists from I have posted to several people here, and in general the reaction has been good. I do sense a slight hostility, but that is to be expected. I am a strange foreigner, and you do not know what I am like. I would like to thank Tamino for making me feel welcome. I was not expecting such a generous gesture.

    Perhaps this shows that there is some hope for cooperation between skeptics and warmists. After all, we are all people, and I think that we all want a better world. Please feel free to tell me things, or ask me questions. I don’t bite (or do I?).

    • So…you got your feelings hurt and that informed your scientific analyses? Um, OK.

      You are loosely describing Kahneman’s work as most recently summarized in his book Thinking Fast and Slow. But I think you are missing his key point: That experts _in a specific field_ can–painfully with many hurt feelings :-( from harsh peer review and outright disagreement along the way usually/often–come to much more accurate conclusions than individuals using fast thinking. Anyone who is the product of (or a reject from) a grad research program knows ALL ABOUT those nasty hurt feelings. Trust me on this one.

      Back to Kahneman: Interestingly, experts in one specific field often perform at quite low levels in a new field until they slowly get their bearings–sometimes by getting their feelings hurt by people already in the know in the new field. Mueller might be a good example of this in terms of the temperature series. He certainly got his fingers burned if not his feelings hurt though he tried hard to put a positive spin on it. Interesting point #2 is it appears it is during this work on BEST where Curry first(?) got her feelings hurt and let that override the theory and data. She talks a lot about hurt feelings you may noticed as opposed to theories and data.

      Which person would you think is better to emulate in coming to a correct conclusion?

      Much of the point of Enlightenment thinking on the subject is that science often results in hurt feelings but that over time from the clash of hurt feelings something solid emerges. At least among those able to take the heat, so to speak.

    • Unfortunately what happened on that newsgroup is all too believable. Taking a position on the science because it is your political side’s position is not confined to one side of politics.
      But I think most here see WUWT as having few genuine skeptics and a lot of denialists. The difference is that denialists have an intended conclusion and cannot for whatever reason bear for it to be wrong. So when given evidence that they are wrong they seek some other reason to believe that they are right rather than being willing to change their beliefs. And of course there are the attacks on the integrity of climate researchers. These are seen as being in bad faith. They are just so implausible that they can only believed by someone who wants to believe them. And wanting to believe in another’s dishonesty is a temptation that the honest do their best to squelch.

    • Sheldon, in your previous reply, you wrote: “When I use the term “warmist”, I mean somebody who believes in global warming (AGW) and/or climate change.”
      Now you write: “Why I became a skeptic, and not a warmist.” And: ” I accept AGW, and believe that the earth has warmed by about 1 degree Celsius in the last 100 years.”
      Your statements are not compatible.

  54. Sheldon Walker,
    Are you frickin’ kidding me? You became a “skeptic” because you got your fricking feelings hurt on some site on the Intertubes? Really?

    You didn’t think that maybe you could go to some site where actual scientists talk about their research or read news summaries of the research in reputable journals like Science and Nature or that you could read reviews of the research by distinguished panels of scientists from the National Academy of Science, the Royal Society…

    Sheldon, the problem with your approach is that you reject the value–perhaps the very existence of–knowledge. There is shit we just know! We know it because it has been so thoroughly established by scientific inquiry that if it were proved false, it would mean that everything we know is false. Knowledge forms a fabric. It has warp and weft. In the language of science (via Ed Wilson’s excellent book The Unity of Knowledge), it has consilience.

    You feel free to doubt any fact supported by strong scientific evidence, and at the same time, you servilely lap up the lies and half truths like your assertion about Guy Callendar’s family life. Sir, you are not skeptic. You are at best selectively gullible.

  55. Sheldon,

    I was going to take longer to respond, and I still intend to, but from some of the responses you’ve received I feel compelled to make one point right off the bat.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that you’re not a denier. You’re a skeptic. I think your skepticism is flawed — but, so is mine.

  56. Sheldon Walker

    I don’t think that I made myself clear in my post “Why I became a skeptic, and not a warmist”.

    I probably would have always become a skeptic. It is in my nature. I am skeptical about everything, not just global warming. I constantly question even my own beliefs.

    The warmists on just sped things up, by repelling me from the warmist side.

    There are 2 things that I always try to remember.

    1) That I do not know everything (I don’t believe that anybody knows everything).

    2) That I sometimes make mistakes, and that I am sometimes wrong (This also applies to everybody).

    3) That when I make a mistake or I am wrong, I should accept it, try to learn from it, and then move on.

    Wait, there are 3, 3 things that I always try to remember.

    1) That I do not know everything (I don’t believe that anybody knows everything).

    2) That I sometimes make mistakes, and that I am sometimes wrong (This also applies to everybody).

    3) That when I make a mistake or I am wrong, I should accept it, try to learn from it, and then move on.

    4) That I should listen to other peoples viewpoints. They may know something that I don’t know.

    Hold on. It’s not 3. There are 4 things that I always try to remember.

    1) That I do not know everything (I don’t believe that anybody knows everything).

    2) That I sometimes make mistakes, and that I am sometimes wrong (This also applies to everybody).

    3) That when I make a mistake or I am wrong, I should accept it, try to learn from it, and then move on.

    4) That I should listen to other peoples viewpoints. They may know something that I don’t know.

    5) That deniers have an almost fanatical devotion to Anthony Watts.

    Stop. Stop. There are 5 things that I always try to remember.

    1) That I do not know everything (I don’t believe that anybody knows everything).

    2) That I sometimes make mistakes, and that I am sometimes wrong (This also applies to everybody).

    3) That when I make a mistake or I am wrong, I should accept it, try to learn from it, and then move on.

    4) That I should listen to other peoples viewpoints. They may know something that I don’t know.

    5) That deniers have an almost fanatical devotion to Anthony Watts.

    6) That not everybody knows the Monty Python Spanish Inquisition skit.



    you said:
    “I’ve come to the conclusion that you’re not a denier. You’re a skeptic. I think your skepticism is flawed — but, so is mine.”.

    When I read that, I don’t feel insulted or offended. It sounds like a reasoned judgement. You could even be right.

    When somebody calls me a denier, it feels like they are saying that I am a liar, or too stupid to understand the science.

    Your statement makes me want to know why you think that my skepticism is flawed. I can accept fair criticism.

    The other people that post on your website don’t seem quite as willing to accept me. That is ok, I am probably not an easy person to accept. I am sure that many people think that I am arrogant, when they read my posts. That is partly because I am posting in an unfriendly environment, and I don’t want to appear weak.

    The first 4 points that I made above:

    1) That I do not know everything (I don’t believe that anybody knows everything).

    2) That I sometimes make mistakes, and that I am sometimes wrong (This also applies to everybody).

    3) That when I make a mistake or I am wrong, I should accept it, try to learn from it, and then move on.

    4) That I should listen to other peoples viewpoints. They may know something that I don’t know.

    I genuinely believe these points

    When I come up with ideas, like comparing global warming to moving to another latitude on earth, I am not trying to offend people. But some people seem to get offended. It is difficult to imagine what global warming will be like, I try to find something which we can relate to, which might give us a clue.

    I know that there are many intelligent people who post on this website. I am not just trying to ingratiate myself with the people here. If I only surround myself with skeptics, then I won’t be exposed to as many ideas. Not many skeptics would reject an idea which rubbishes global warming, even it was wrong.

    Anybody who wants to, is welcome to tell me what they think, or ask me questions. I may try to give them a hard time, but that is all part of the fun. I always try to be honest, but sometimes I try to be funny, like my story about Abigail Callendar (totally fake). I have a lame sense of humour. I am a huge fan of Monty Python. I believe that Monty Python should be taught in schools. I like programs like “The Big Bang Theory” (nerd or geek humour). I am a huge fan of Star Wars and Star Trek (beam me up Scotty).

    That’s all for now. Over and out.

    • I think that “warmist” could get a definition – One who is too ready to believe that humans are changing the climate, that it will be very, very, bad etc.
      For example, after the very hot year of 1998, there were people extrapolating future temperatures and getting alarming results. Because they weren’t being skeptical, just looking at an apparent trend and extrapolating.

      Most people who think that AGW is something to worry about a lot (me included), now try not to make outlandish claims, but to look carefully at the data and underlying processes. We have to because there is an army of (ahem) denialists who will tear us to pieces if we make mistakes.

    • @SW and others,

      I find the “Men’s Smoking Club”-style of banter about these matters far too casual for the circumstances we are in. To remain civil, when push comes to shove, I withdraw from discussion. That does not mean I am disinterested.

      Facts are, I see no one of significant authority taking the situation as seriously as they should, and I very much include the UNFCCC, the IPCC, Al Gore, or even climate scientists, e.g., at MIT EAPS. Given that, why would anyone with less knowledge take the situation and question seriously?

      Personally, given the costs of response should the Collective Underestimate of Risk be wrong, I perversely hope for an unprecedented natural event, unequivocally tied to climate change, early, and hope for transitions to zero Carbon energy sources — and believe in some magical force which will convince that companies and investors should abandon fossil fuel generation early, before depreciation lifetimes. (Yes, I called it magical.) Failing that, we’ll just have to see.

      But, if nothing is done, while I cannot approve of it, I entirely understand a future generation unleashing violence, destruction, rebellion, and murder against a system, Constitutional or not, which brought them into these circumstances.

      There are risks here far greater than merely violating philosophical consistency.

      • Yes, the sad truth is, almost nobody is really doing *enough* on climate change, given the risks involved. A fairly knowledgeable commentator on RC said there that ‘No-one is talking about 20-year net-zero emissions trajectories.’ I had to jump in to point out that, yes, I’d been talking about just that, and that the reason for such an aspiration is that 20 years at current levels gets us to < 1/3 odds of exceeding the 2 C buffer. (Forget about 1.5 C, which would, it is generally agreed, be a considerably safer buffer figure; our budget for that will be exhausted in just 5 years or so.)

        He said he wasn't that interested in that corner of climate science.

        But I can't pillory him: I'm not doing enough, either. Oh, my participation on various fora is daily, and I do quite a bit of spreading information gleaned there. I've done a fair bit of writing on the topic toward that end, and I'm taking (rather against my own inclinations) a leadership role in some community organizing toward a more sustainable society. My lifestyle is fairly Spartan (though quite satisfactory to me, on the whole) and we are planning ways to make it greener yet.

        But it's not enough. I still make many small decisions every day which result in carbon emissions. And while my efforts to educate and organize are made in good faith, I think, how little it seems in the context of what is coming toward us! There are constant compromises with life: some because I've already saturated the capacity and willingness of my audience to listen, some because I've saturated my own ability to deal with the problem constructively. Some, just because I'm tired or scared. Some, because I don't have the resources needed to take a step I'd like to take.

        I don't put on sackcloth and ashes. We're all human. But sometimes I think we're almost all of us in denial to some extent. Because we don't like existential threats, and we don't like being the bad guys, and because personal change is hard, and systemic change even harder.

        I have just one hopeful thought on that. We are accustomed here to the idea of nonlinear physical change. However, it is a strange reality that most of the commentary I see nevertheless assumes linear change in in social matters. But the lesson of my lifetime of observing social change is that it very often isn't linear at all. I understand hg's 'perverse' hope for a catalytic event that would force understanding upon us as a society. But I don't think it's always necessary. At some point, perceptions just 'tip'.

      • @Doc,

        Regarding sackcloth, ashes, nonlinearity in social systems, and all that.

        Yes, there’s hope things could turn around quickly on the social side, but I fear that this would only happen if there was some unequivocal, Natural, and big signal that it was needed. To move the people who matter in such decisions, it would need to cost financially. My favorite is some very abrupt sea level rise event, primarily because it will cost dearly, and, not being a storm, being would have time to get out of the way, so no or very few lives would be lost. Of course, such a thing cannot be arranged, but that is the nature of hope. It could be an event that was much worse.

        As you indicated, the window on +1.5C containment is rapidly closing. Given that reducing emissions to as close to zero as possible will take at least as much time as the +2C or even conceivably +3C window size, it’s unfortunate, but I think the technically minded need to begin addressing options beyond mitigation by zeroing emissions, that is, various negative emissions technologies. These are, at present, prohibitively expensive and, so, it will take quite some time to get them ready for at-scale testing. It’s important to realize they all effectively assume emissions have been nearly zeroed, because no negative emissions technology can keep up with our present rate of outgassing, let alone make sense given its prohibitive cost. And, most importantly, the conversation needs to begin about how this might be done and run on a global scale, with the full understanding and appreciation that whatever we do will have large environmental consequences. I think it’s fair to say large scale deployment of wind, solar, and storage will have large environmental consequences, especially if done rapidly, but this has to happen and, now, we really don’t have a lot of choice. So that could be the basis for entertaining the scale of negative emissions.

      • Here’s the source my personal values system judging this, Prof Sheila Widnall of MIT. (BTW, Widnall happens to be a co-author with Prof Ray Pierrehumbert.) Based upon the Columbia Accident Investigation Board and previous findings, the responsibilities of engineers were enlarged to encompass the social organizations which implemented their recommendations, findings, or designs. If a system fails because of the latter, Widnall argues, it is the responsibility of the engineer to identify and fix those failings as well as the more narrow technical failings of an unsentient system.

        It is natural that the same ethics ought to be extended and applied to scientists engaged in climate science and its implications for society, as uncomfortable as that might make them, or as inconsistent with what they viewed their jobs might encompass.

      • HG, on non-linearity usw–

        Well, given that I have only very limited control over the tipping point in social attitudes toward climate change, I am 1) trying to make the most of the influence I do have, and 2) hoping that whatever the cause, change comes soon.

        Yes, I think that research into ‘drawdown technologies’ is a very sensible idea, given where we are today, and for just the reasons you put forward. Even though there is today nothing that we can yet rely on to be affordable and scalable, there are ideas in play at the pilot project level, and they should get a hell of a lot more encouragement than they do. (And by ‘encouragement,’ I mean primarily money.)

  57. Sheldon,

    I’ve decided not to respond to your scientific issues, not in this thread at least. We can do that ad infinitum other times and places, but I want to get to the bottom of the labels.

    I think we’re using some of the same terms, but attaching different meanings. My impression is that you use “warmist” and “skeptic” to refer to those who do, and those who do not, accept the basic tenets of global warming (and therefore believe we should take action).

    To me, the word “skeptic” refers to one who doesn’t accept ideas without evidence. Solid evidence, even. This requires not only that one not accept, but that one not reject either. In part, I agree with Neil deGrasse Tyson’s statement that “A skeptic questions claims, then embraces the evidence. A denier questions claims, then rejects the evidence.” That’s why I concluded that you’re a skeptic; I have yet to see evidence that you reject evidence — just conclusions.

    Evidence that you have a different meaning for “skeptic” is in your last comment, where you say “Not many skeptics would reject an idea which rubbishes global warming, even it was wrong.” By my definition, they’re not skeptics; they’re drawing conclusions based on what they want or don’t want to be, not based on evidence. Some would call it “motivated reasoning.” In any case, it’s not skepticism.

    I am a skeptic. Big time. It’s my nature, too — so much so that my wife teases me about it. My skepticism isn’t perfect, and I find myself indulging in motivated reasoning myself. For instance: when I read something on WUWT along the lines of “Bombshell: global warming proved wrong” I try to find the flaw in the scientific part of the argument. If I don’t find it right away, I keep looking — “It’s got to be wrong!” At my best, I realize what I’m doing and try to change the question from “How do I show it’s wrong?” to “Is it right?”

    Incidentally, there’s a value in trying very hard to poke holes in ideas. It’s one of the things that makes science go farther and faster. But carried too far, it becomes denial.

    My only objection to “warmist” is that I usually interpret it as intended to insult. Absent that intention, I don’t see anything insulting about it. There is, however, a tendency by many to turn it into “warmista” which is designed to be insulting. As for “eco-fascist commie nazi,” well, that’s pretty obvious.

    Skepticism is extraordinarily valuable for scientific research. Denial is poison. That’s why I use the term, I think it’s important to call things by their right names. My opinion: Anthony Watts is not a skeptic. He accepts some truly ridiculous (by which I mean, worthy of ridicule) claims without the slightest hint of skepticism, as long as they promote his agenda. So I call him a denier, and will continue to do so. It has nothing to do with holocaust denial. As for the person who long ago called you a “holocaust denier pope,” that person was in denial too. I won’t let him/her, or Anthony Watts, control the language.

    Regarding the flawed nature of your skepticism, I was thinking of your insistence on the reality of a statistically significant “pause” in global surface temperature. We can debate its reality or lack of, later. I’m just pointing out that I see you trying so hard to prove it, I have the distinct impression that you’ve let your real skepticism be overcome by motivated reasoning.

    I will mention, for everybody’s benefit, that it doesn’t make you a “denier.” None of us, even the most naturally skeptical, is perfect. I think we need to keep some perspective and think twice before applying labels like that. If someone makes a habit of denial, if it becomes the modus operandi, then yes call him a denier. If someone works hard to base conclusions on evidence, but occasionally lapses into denial, an appropriate label would be “human.”

    I have an idea for you to consider. Rather than hang around on blogs like WUWT (which I call a “denier” blog), hang out here. Visit, and comment on, other activist blogs. I know it’ll be difficult to put up with the insults that will come your way — and I know they’ll happen. But if only a few of them learn something, if just a few can reduce their level of motivated reasoning (i.e. denial) and up their skeptical game, I think you’ll accomplish more than you will by feeding the denial of the WUWT crowd. And I’d suggest that we need more skepticism. I’d say that the WUWT crowd needs it a lot more than we do, but we still need it, and I suggest that we’re more accepting of genuinely reasonable contrary ideas than they are.

    I’ll close with a purely practical suggestion. Get the R statistical language (it’s free, and runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux systems). When it was first suggested to me, I resisted because I like to write my own programs. That way I have total control over how the analysis is done. Turns out R gives you the same control, but also includes so many built-in functions that it makes life a lot easier. I know there are many analysis functions in Excel, but not nearly as many as are built-in to R, and I find Excel quite clumsy to use for analysis, while R is nimble and was ridiculously easy to learn and get used to. It also produces the best graphics. Excel is “OK,” but R is great. I think you’ll enjoy it.

    • Also Excel is not a good place to store data, no spreadsheet is. It is too easy to unwittingly corrupt the data and it is too hard to extract what you want. The best place to store data is a data base. Statistical packages such as R are combinations of a data base with a powerful computational package.

  58. Doc Snow,

    I enjoyed your scripture quotes. Here are some more which may be relevant. In general, on the idea that the Earth is the Lord’s and not ours, the following verse is from Psalm 24:1 — “The Earth is the LORD’s, and the fulness [sic] thereof.” The same phrasing occurs five more times elsewhere in the Old Testament.

    Then there’s this passage from Ezekiel 34:

    18 Seemeth it a small thing unto you to have eaten up the good pasture, but ye must tread down with your feet the residue of your pastures? and to have drunk of the deep waters, but ye must foul the residue with your feet?

    19 And as for my flock, they eat that which ye have trodden with your feet; and they drink that which ye have fouled with your feet.

    • Thanks, Barton! I don’t recall the Ezekiel, though I thought I’d been pretty much cover-to-cover in the Bible at one time or another. I’ll revisit the Book.

  59. Sheldon wrote: ” I probably would have always become a skeptic. It is in my nature. I am skeptical about everything, not just global warming. I constantly question even my own beliefs.”

    That’s exactly why the term “skeptic” should not be used to describe the contrarian position. It let’s people like Sheldon kid themselves that there is a default, a priori respectability for the contrarian position. All he is doing is questioning – what could be misguided about that? The problem is, the generally healthy attitude of questioning everything should lead us to question the contrarian platform, as well as the consensus. The difference between the two is that the contrarian position rapidly falls over when examined and the consensus position remains robust after decades of well-funded attacks.

    In this thread, Sheldon has given us remarkable insight into the extent to which he chooses his position on the basis of fuzzy emotional triggers rather than rationality. He has admitted he jumps to the contrarian position whenever he feels insulted, and that he has a psychological bias in favour of whichever camp is considered/labelled “skeptic” because it matches his desire to think of himself as questioning.He also thinks that, if he can picture himself as the victim of an ad hom attack, this absolves him from addressing criticisms of his argument.

    Another bias that this likely to be present in Sheldon’s approach, but which he has not acknowledged, is that his mediocre knowledge of stats could only ever find positive reinforcement at a place like WUWT – anywhere else, he would be dismissed as just one more person who doesn’t understand statistical significance. So he has adopted the side that routinely that welcomes poor statisticians; there is little incentive to switch camps.

    Furthermore, he attributes simplistic psychological tribalism to his opposition, thinking that when he is labelled a denier this is a simple, thoughtless rejection that merely assumes he is wrong-headed. We don’t need to make assumptions about his wrong-headedness – we’ve seen the quality of his arguments in his posts, and these cast him in a much poorer light than any pejorative label.

    It’s time he realised that the truth or falsity of a proposition and the quality of his reasoning have nothing to do with his own psychology.

    For what it’s worth, I think “contrarian” is a neutral term, if you want to engage with those who reject the consensus.

  60. …bias that is likely…
    …that routinely welcomes…

  61. Sheldon Walker

    Hi Tamino,

    I don’t have a lot of time at the moment, so I am just going to make a short post.

    I liked your last post, and I agree with a lot of what you said.

    I have been thinking a lot, about why I am skeptical about global warming. One of the things that I thought of, is “disaster overload”.

    Every week there seems to be a new doom and gloom story. I would describe myself as being mildly pessimistic. I am the sort of person who can usually see the negative side of something.

    I can’t take any more “we are all going to die” stories. I have to shut it off, in order to survive.

    I will work on a longer post about this.

    Thanks for the suggestion about R. I will look into it.

  62. Tamino, it might be worthwhile setting up a thread for Sheldon to discuss the science of AGW with regulars, seeing as this isn’t the thread for that and that conversation is already trying to start. Could be a good experiment. And be ruthless about admitting posts – no snipe whatsoever, no carping about deniers or warmists. Just substance, nothing else.

    You wrote to Sheldon:

    I have an idea for you to consider. Rather than hang around on blogs like WUWT (which I call a “denier” blog), hang out here. Visit, and comment on, other activist blogs.

    For every post I make on ‘activist’ blogs, I make maybe a thousand on contrarian blogs. No exaggeration. It can be incredibly frustrating at times, but testing your views against people who vigorously disagree with you can be a much sharper whetstone than hanging out with like-minded people, and lessens the risk of getting too comfortable with your own opinions. I second your recommendation to Sheldon.

    [Response: I salute you. Not only are you avoiding any possibility of the safe refuge of an “echo chamber,” you’re also putting your ideas to a severe test. I admire the fortitude required. You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din.]

  63. Sheldon Walker

    Hi Leto,

    I don’t think that contrarian is an insult, but to me, it describes a person who deliberately takes the opposite position to you, no matter what you say, without looking at the evidence.

    You say “good”. The contrarian says “bad”. You say, “you are right, it’s bad”. And the contrarian says, “no, it’s good”.

    That is NOT what I do.

    If skeptics are contrarians, then warmists should start saying that global warming is NOT happening. All of us stupid contrarians would then say, “global warming IS happening”.

    Your post is mildly critical of me. That didn’t bother me, because I think that you are being genuine in your criticism. You didn’t just call me a denier (unless I missed it). But you justified your comments. That is a reasonable thing to do, and it gives me the chance to address what you said.

    You said, “The problem is, the generally healthy attitude of questioning everything should lead us to question the contrarian platform, as well as the consensus.”

    You quoted me at the start of your post. I said, “I probably would have always become a skeptic. It is in my nature. I am skeptical about everything, not just global warming. I constantly question even my own beliefs.”

    Notice the bit that says, “I constantly question even my own beliefs”. Doesn’t that mean that I would question the “contrarian platform”, if I had a contrarian platform?

    I am human. I have emotions. Do you have emotions?

    I can accurately describe my emotions. And I can make an objective decision which disregards my emotions.

    Can you do that?

    Tamino asked me if climate change is really happening.

    I said, “When I started to think about this point, I realised that there is a part of me that doesn’t want to admit that climate change is happening (my inner denier). But if I am realistic and truthful, then I have to admit that climate change is happening.”

    See how I described my emotions, “there is a part of me that doesn’t want to admit that climate change is happening (my inner denier)”.

    But I then made an objective assessment, “But if I am realistic and truthful, then I have to admit that climate change is happening”.

    In another post, I quoted Richard Feynman. He said, “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself — and you are the easiest person to fool.”

    Leto, are you fooling yourself, do you think that your emotions are not controlling you?

    You dare to insult my stats knowledge. In 5 days I taught myself about autocorrelation. I made a simple mistake in the article that I wrote about it. But as soon as people pointed out the mistake, I checked and found out what I had done wrong. You should be very worried, Leto. I can learn.

    I am currently developing an AR1 regression model, based on the real GISTEMP temperatures from 1970 to 2017. I am generating 100 year runs of temperature, and then analysing them for slowdowns and speedups. Does that sound like I have a mediocre knowledge of stats?

    Leto, I will finish with an example of my “fuzzy” emotional thinking. and my lack of rationality.

    I am not sure how long ago, but probably at least 5 or 6 years ago, there were a lot of scary articles about how global warming was going to cause a large increase in malaria in many parts of the world. I thought about it, and I decided that although it was possible, it was probably scaremongering.

    I read an article recently which said, “over the past 15 years, malaria deaths have almost halved.”

    • Sheldon: A fact for you. You did NOT teach yourself a professional level knowledge of autocorrelation as applied to the analysis of real world time series data in 5 days.No knowledgeable/professional statistician would EVER make that claim.

      That is simply ridiculous to any practicing professional. It’s the statement of a denier or a fool. (Sorry if this hurts your feelings.)

      BTW: You cannot even teach yourself a professional level of knowledge of the far simpler concept of correlation in 5 days either as it applies to real world collections of data. The things that real world data can do to confound things is amazing as is the immense range of things the concept allow one to do with real world data.

    • Sheldon,
      Everyone here has emotions. Emotions are important. They motivate us. They inform us if we feel threatened. However, they are a piss poor basis for making decisions. Decisions should take emotions into account, but proper decisions require reliable information AND an assessment of the underlying motivations and situations that give rise to our emotions.

      I am going to give you some Dutch Uncle advice, and I urge you to pay attention, because this is sound advice. I think the area where your analyses break down is that your “skepticism” does not allow you to accept authority, even in situations where your level of expertise makes you a poor judge of the verity of that authority.
      Experts matter. They matter not just for their knowledge of their subject matter, but for their understanding of it, which allow them to assess new claims and place them in context. In science, the scientific method and an understanding of the tools of science and their proper use forms part of that general understanding.

      Take your malaria example. The fact that malaria deaths have decreased in no way contraindicates the conclusion of the paper that climate change will increase prevalence of malaria. There are confounding factors–the efforts of governments and NGOs to decrease areas where the anopheles mosquito can breed, better antimalarials, better access to care, and so on. None of these factors in any way negate the likelihood that climate change will decrease the areas where frost kills these mosquitos and thereby increases the range where malaria is endemic.

      There is also the fact that the original technical underlying the report you read was probably not written with you as an audience. It was written to threat mitigation experts to alert them to a potentially significant risk that should be considered in the calculus of climate change risk mitigation. The PR flacks and journalists who picked it up may well have given it an alarmist spin, but that doesn’t in any way mean that the threat is not real. BTW, I’m quite familiar with malaria. I was in the Peace Corps in Africa. I’ve known people who died of the disease. It isn’t a threat to be taken lightly. Even when it is not fatal, it is a serious drain on the productivity and healthcare resources of an affected country. It is right to be alarmed about its possible spread.

      So, my advice to you is to try to understand better how science works and how it gets done. Learn enough to distinguish which experts you can trust and to do a basic assessment of their claims, because no one can be an expert in everything.

    • @SW,

      Regarding the downplay via malaria stats — potentially a cherry-pick, but I don’t have malaria trends at hand to judge — I would draw your attention to the section beginning on page 16 of this document, hardly a group of people who tend to exaggerate or, in the current administration, have anything to gain by bucking its prevailing priorities and viewpoints. I note they also report in that section,

      The frequency and diversity of disease outbreaks have increased at a steady rate since 1980, probably fueled by population growth, travel and trade patterns, and rapid urbanization. Ongoing global epidemics of HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis continue to kill millions of people annually.

  64. Sheldon,

    I’ve been as accommodating as I’m able, and some of my regular readers might be wondering whether I’ve lost my mind. Maybe they suspect I’m so eager to change the poisonous nature of discussion that I’ve gone too far. Maybe they’re right.

    So, maybe it’s time to play rough.

    Real skepticism requires that you test your own ideas severely. When you post at WUWT, you don’t do that. When you tell them what they want to hear, the bulk of them will lap it up, maybe even heap praise on you, and reinforce your ideas whether they’re correct or not. There are exceptions (Nick Stokes comes to mind), but far more at WUWT will only criticize you for not going far enough into denial territory — witness the comments that insist you’re foolish to use NASA data because they say it’s fraudulent. If you want to wear the mantle of “skeptic” proudly, I suggest you stop doing it there.

    I think you also need to recognize that expertise exists, and that when it comes to statistics you don’t have it. Yes, you assimilated some of the impact of autocorrelation quickly, and yes, I’m impressed. But there’s a lot more to it than just calculating it, and a lot more than just AR(1). Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you didn’t get as good as you are as a programmer in a day either. If I spent a week learning the nuts and bolts of object-oriented programming, then declared myself expert, you might think me a fool. You might even be insulted that I would put myself in the same class as you, when you’re a genuine expert who worked hard at it for years to get where you are.

    As for the “pause” — you haven’t faced the multiple testing issue. It negates your claims of “proof” of the “pause” but you haven’t even mentioned it that I’ve seen. And your recent post seeming to show it by fitting a lowess smooth and noting what looks like a pause, is just another case of being fooled by “looks like.” Anybody can fit a lowess smooth with a smoothing time scale that produces pauses — far more than even you would believe are real. That’s why we don’t accept “looks like,” we subject claims to rigorous tests.

    This blog is a place you can test statistical ideas severely. I’m arrogant enough to consider myself an expert — and I have some evidence to back it up. There are others here, too — “hypergeometric” is at least as knowledgeable as I am, and certainly more practiced in the art and science of Bayesian statistics. You can learn from him … and I can, too.

    You need to stop using the word “skeptic” the way you are. No, the bulk of the readership at WUWT are not skeptics. They are the opposite: gullible as hell, and not just prone to motivated reasoning, but ruled by it. Calling them skeptics is not being honest — with yourself.

    Facing one’s own limitations is hard. Learning from that is painful. There’s some truth in the adage, “No pain, no gain.”

    • When life gets less busy in a few days I hope to talk to a real skeptic in the next thread. Thanks for setting it up.

      [Response: I hope some real skeptics show up!]

  65. Sheldon wrote: “I don’t think that contrarian is an insult, but to me, it describes a person who deliberately takes the opposite position to you, no matter what you say, without looking at the evidence.”

    I don’t read the term that way at all. I read it as someone who adopts a view contrary to the mainstream, without reference to whether their stance was chosen for valid reasons.

    You suggest that, as a “skeptic”, you question the contrarian position. That’s fine, if it’s true, but you have already said that you were probably destined to adopt the contrarian side because you are a naturally skeptic individual. That shows muddled thinking. Innate skepticism as a personality trait may open you up to the possibility that the mainstream has got it wrong, but it should not bias you to one side or the other. I personally came to this debate quite prepared to believe the consensus had got it wrong. I found a consilience of evidence on the consensus side and lame, simplistic logic on the contrarian side. After years of watching the debate, I’ve not really found any evidence of deep, sincere thinking on the contrarian side. Instead, I see people who are prepared to embrace any superficial sound-bite that points in the direction they like, or people like you who know enough stats to get confused, but not enough to contribute meaningfully to the discussion.

    As for your other comments in response to my post, I don’t think they change anything, and I don’t think anything of value can come from rehashing what I said. Choosing or defending what you believe about objective reality invariably involves some subjective influences, but a good scientist strives to minimise these by concentrating on logic and evidence. Your problem is that you proudly proclaim your emotional influences, without even showing an awareness that this makes you look foolish, and you even announce that you’ll drop an argument at the first use of the word “denier”. You show little interest in logic and evidence (aside from mathturbation over “the pause”), which should be the main focus of discussion..

    And I’m sorry, but your stats knowledge as demonstrated so far is useless – just enough to let you throw numbers around without realising how little they mean in your hands. I’m no expert myself, but it doesn’t take much expertise to see that you don’t know what you are talking about. You’ve shown some willingness to learn, which is good, but you’ve shown far too much DK hubris for me to take you seriously. This thread has let me see some of the reasons why you have waded in out of your depth but, in the end, you’re still out of your depth.

    I won’t be adding to this thread again.